Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, in an interview with journalists (including GBENRO ADESINA) in Ibadan, speaks on the achievements of his administration
What is your view concerning the removal of Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the CBN governor?
If I were President Goodluck Jonathan, I will not remove the CBN governor. There is no need to remove the man. CBN is supposed to be an independent institution and it should be treated as such. It has not been established that the CBN governor has broken the law. There could be allegations but they have not been proven and until that is done, I don’t think he should have been removed the way he was removed. One thing we should not forget is that some of the issues that Sanusi has raised are still begging for answers.
How far has your administration gone with its transformation programme?
Ibadan was the capital of Western region where Chief Obafemi Awolowo administered the whole western region. We are noted for the first. We have the first television in Africa, the first university in Nigeria, the first stadium, the first tallest building in Nigeria, the largest teaching hospital and many other firsts. All these culminated in christening us as a pacesetter state.
By the time we assumed office in 2011, we found out that all these firsts that we were known for had been destroyed. We found out that even this same Ibadan that we boast of being intellectual capital of Nigeria, where free education first started, became a place where our students took 31st position out of 36 states in the examinations of the West African Examination Council, WAEC. It was very disheartening. We checked the other sectors; agriculture, tourism and culture, sport, infrastructural development and we found out that it was the same sorry story. We then came up with a tripod of development that is based on restoration, transformation and repositioning. When something has been destroyed, the first thing is to repair it and restore it. Having restored it, we believe the next is to transform it to the level of the modern time. It is not enough to restore but we must upgrade it to a contemporary level.
We believe we must reposition it to be a preferred state among the Nigerian states. To this, safety becomes necessary. There is nowhere in the world where development can take place without safety, without security and peace. It is a foundation and fundamental to development. At the pyramid, we established security. After that, we deployed our energy into revamping the social infrastructure, health, education, electricity, water, and other basic requirements of the modern society. We pay so much attention to physical infrastructure: construction of roads, renovation of schools and building of institutions. So far, we have done commendably well. In terms of security, we can have first class.
Oyo State is now becoming a preferred destination for investors. Still on social infrastructure, we provide water for our people. For the past 17 years, there are some taps that are not running. We didn’t have water in many places. Recently in the last three months, all the taps that used to have water before now have water running in them. Now we have started confronting the challenge of pipe burst because most of them are rusted and we are changing those rusted pipes. We are also extending our pipes to the new areas. In terms of water, we have done well. Electricity is still being managed by the Federal Government but we are trying to have arrangement with power generation companies to ensure that we have stable electricity in Ibadan. Under social infrastructure, we have made appreciable progress. We have introduced free medical services, we are refurbishing hospitals, we are establishing mobile clinics all over the state, and we are providing health services in some of the remote areas.
In the physical infrastructure, we are modernising the roads; we are making sure that our roads can stand the test of time. Any roads that we build, we ensure that vehicles can use it at least for the next 25 years without failing. We constructed the first civilian bridge in Oyo State, the Mokola flyover. Virtually, all major entries into major cities are being dualised. We have restored our pride. Oyo state is becoming cleaner. We have brought in professionalism, integrity and make sure that people are proud of what they are doing. We have restored and transformed. Now, we are beginning to have what we used to have. First instance, in Ibadan now, we are seeing malls, big shopping centres, we are building a leisure centre at Agodi Garden where we are going to have recreation facilities, and botanical garden. We will have a place where you can do massage etc, and we will have chalets.
That place will be what I call one stop shop where once you go there in the morning, you will spend the whole day without knowing. It is about 60 hectres of land in the heart of the city. It is going to be Agodi Leisure Centre. That is the reposition.
What is the current situation of the state university your administration wants to establish in the State?
The technical university is the first of its kind in Nigeria. This is because it is the university where you will do two years here and two years in University of Texas and you can earn both certificates. This is because about 40 per cent of our faculty members would be from Texas University. The university will run specialised courses. We have gone very far. We are citing the main campus along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and if you go there, you will see some buildings already being constructed.
The second part of it, which is campus two, would be at Ajoda. We will start academic activities in September from Ajoda while we will continue to construct what we have in the main campus which has a very unique design. With that design, we must take our time. It requires huge money and we are already getting partners. We are going to have Public Private Partnership, PPP, arrangement where people will build certain part of it for us. CBN is building some, some other Nigerians will build some and we will also build. While that is going on, with the good structure we have in Ajoda, we will admit and have the first intake in September. The school will resume in September.
It is a university that will give bursary awards to top students but average students will have to pay their fees. It is not a university that only the state will own. The state is a share holder. The market is specifically targeted at those people that go to study in Europe, Ghana and other countries, spending foreign exchange. We believe they can spend the money here.
As regards the ongoing road projects in the state, they will all be completed before 30th April except the second phase of Adelabu Market to Podo and the second phase of Ogbomosho road. We will award Iseyin-Okeho road before end of March.
With the elections getting closer, how do you ensure that crisis which the state is known for is not resuscitated especially from members of National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW?
The NURTW are Nigerians like you and I and they are decent people but politicians are misusing them and making them to make trouble. Well, we have bought some buses for them and we are bringing more buses. Once they misbehave, we will just keep our buses. Because they know this, they are behaving well. However, when you see violence coming from NURTW, it is the politicians that are using them. If the government of the day is not using them, the opponents are using them. As you rightly observed, elections are coming and we are already hearing that they are grouping and gathering up and that they want to start problem in Oyo State. Let us just pray that they don’t start it. But if they start trouble, we will deal with them and we will tell the whole world those that are using them to cause trouble.
What is your government’s policy on sports because there are allegations that you are not doing much on this?
When we came in, the first thing we did was to restructure the Ministry of Youth and Sports. We examined the facilities on ground as well as the organization and we made some changes. We upgraded Lekan Salami Stadium and today it is a good place to go. We have had teething problems with the administration of sport and the players, coaches, referees and so on. But recently, we effected some changes for the betterment of football. So far, we are making progress. Apart from soccer, we are also doing well in other aspect of sports where we have won trouphies. But generally, in soccer, we are not at where we want to be. During the time of Awolowo, many things were in place, there was discipline. Soccer was not so much of money but of name, image, and reputation. Now it is all about money and you begin to ask yourself what is happening.
Sometimes Yoruba says, “Eniyan ko ti ri orun sun, aja n han orun”. It is when you have eaten and are satisfied that you will begin to run or look at running. “Eni to ba jeun yoo, ti inu e dun lo n sare” (It is only somebody who is well fed and comfortable that runs or plays football). Many people believe that when you are playing soccer, you will play it to make money. But for the state, the question is what will sport give us in terms of money? Until we professionalise soccer, a lot of people will not go into it.
In a state where we are still talking about infrastructure, talking about agriculture, where we don’t have water, where we don’t have employment, we tend to look at sport from the angle that when we get there, we will do more for sport more than what we are doing now. But so far, I think we have beginning to reposition sport. But I must confess to you, I have not given it as much emphasis as I have given education, health and others.
How far have you developed arts and culture?
Arts and culture bring revenue faster than sport. We are doing a lot in this sector. We have done the Samodun festival where we brought in all the states in the South West to participate. It is a festival that is promoting our culture. We are planning to bring all twins all over the world to Oyo State. We will have a place to do cultural display. We have identified some tourist centres like the suspended lake along Ago Awaye and other areas, Bower Tower and others and we have started rebuilding them in order to attract tourists to the state.
In the light of the fact that at the inception of your administration, you had cordial relationship with Senator Rashidi Ladoja, is the relationship maintained?
The funny thing about politics is that you and your twin brother will disagree if you are looking for the same position. Former governor Ladoja is my senior cousin and I respect him a lot. We have good relationship. I attended his daughter’s wedding where we sat beside each other, wined and dined together. But don’t forget that if your father wants to take your wife, you will fight him. If we are looking for the same position, it is natural that we have to fight. As for all the bad things they are alleging that Senator Ladoja is doing against me, he is not the one doing it but the political jobbers around him. How many times have you seen Senator Ladoja coming on stage to abuse me? He will not do that. I have good relationship with him. He wants to run; we will meet on the field. We are ready for him.
The indiscriminate citing of event centres all over the place is causing problems. It is so bad that whenever there is an event in any of these centres, there will be chaos in the area whereby vehicles will be parked everywhere, causing terrible traffic jam and at times, people of that area will not be able to go out because there is no way to pass. What is your government doing to phase out this problem?
I totally agree with your point. We even have challenges with indiscriminate erection of churches and mosques and the worst of it is disturbing the neigbours with their noise. Near my house, I have one. If they start thir Holy Ghost night, you can’t sleep. There is nothing wrong in having your church but let your speakers be inside your church. Don’t put it outside the church for the noise coming from them to be disturbing your neigbhours.
Such problem exists in traditional settings like our own. Event centres now are the fastest way of making money. Let us thank God they are not stealing, let us thank God they are not armed robbers. As of today, our physical planning ministry are looking at all cases related to this and will take appropriate action. Even hotels, beer palours, you see them all over the place. Some are close to the government house and we hear their noise in the middle of the night when they are dancing. A good general doesn’t fight wars in all fronts. We are still fighting with people selling on the streets. We will not start fighting with event centres owners, mosques and churches. If we fight with everybody, who will vote for us?
Let the event centre owners continue to enjoy themselves; the same thing with motorcyclists, okada guys. People are saying that we want to drive them away. No, we don’t want to drive them away but we want to regulate them. We want them to have uniforms, we want them to be registered, we want them to park in well structured places. We want to train them.