Tunde Poonle is chairman, MicCom Wires Limited, Comic Holdings and MicCom Golf Hotel, Osogbo, Osun State. Poonle was former chairman, West African Portland Cement Company (WAPCO). In this interview with select journalists in Lagos, he spoke on transformation work of the current administration in his home state, Osun; politics in the state ahead of 2015, among other issues. Zebulon Agomuo was there. Excerpts:
What’s your impression about the Centenary celebration?
I wouldn’t know the reason for celebration, but as a Nigerian, I think for a country to progress, it has to go into manufacturing, not buying already made materials from all over the world. Here, I am talking from my personal experience; we don’t encourage manufacturers.
In India, a developing country like ours, if you are a genuine manufacturer, you have a very generous subsidised interest source to pay the bank; in fact, you pay interest rate of about 3 percent. But here, if you take any loan from the bank, you pay interest of between 25 – 30 percent and if you are in trouble because you are not patronised, nobody cares for you, the government too does not care for you. In my factory today, I make a borehole, have 3 or 4 giant generators yet I am providing employment for over 250 people. We need the government to encourage manufacturers, to become a productive country, then we can celebrate centenary, not before.
Are you satisfied with Jonathan’s government?
I am an ordinary Nigerian, what can I say? Jonathan talks nicely; has good comportment but we want more action. The ministers and aides are not doing well enough, they don’t do what they ought to do, that is why we are where we are today. Jonathan needs to focus more on bringing in those who will bring meaningful contributions to his government.
Why is the government not getting it right with the Boko Haram?
Unfortunately, the Boko Haram menace has developed into guerrilla warfare. You don’t know when and how they are going to strike next. As a result, efforts of the government are being thwarted when the government forces are in one location, the guerrillas are in another and it goes on. I think the government should continue to engage Boko Haram in talks. Boko Haram is against western education, yet their equipment, their weapons and lot of other materials they buy are western made. This is enough for government to demolish them. Does Boko Haram want us to be primitive for life?
But how are the insurgents able to penetrate the emergency measures in the three troubled states?
If security is as it should be, Boko Haram should not penetrate through the emergency lines put in place in the three states. Maybe, there are some disloyal members in the country’s military ranks. Since we have emergency and borders are closed, unless the security officials are sincere and loyal, the borders will become porous again.
How do you assess the performance of government in your state?
My state governor has never been this good; we have never had such an active and productive governor. I am not a politician, but when people perform, you must appreciate them. Go to anywhere in the state, go and see the roads. It is in Osun you will see that government can do good roads. During the military era, a road of 10kilometers was completed within 3 months but 6 months after, it becomes as bad as it was before. In Osun State today, you will see real construction, you see serious people, you see serious government and that is what leadership is all about. It means in this country, if we have good leaders, Nigeria would move forward. After all, the people working in Osun today had been there before, but because they have dynamic leadership now, everything is going on very well; we hope it continues that way.
It is not roads alone, go to education – the schools have improved, and in agriculture, you see vegetables, rice farms and others all over the place despite the fact that the state has no money.
Despite these efforts you listed, the recent controversy over school uniform was almost becoming embarrassing; what is your take?
Listen, like anywhere in the world where there is change, some people have to be dissatisfied. No serious change comes without problem. The problem we have in Osun today is because of drastic changes everywhere. Take for example, the uniform you are talking about, everybody wants an identity, that’s because I ask why are you getting this uniform free of charge and you are complaining? Why is change of uniform a problem to you? The answers are as ridiculous as it can be. The background of it is that some mischievous people alleged that the government made money from uniform which I don’t think is true. They said they wanted some identity, which is okay but they should give the government some time, maybe next year when they are making uniform for government, they should say for Baptists – make blue, for Catholics make red and so on. But they are just starting and if they don’t start, they will not see where the problems are.
So all the schools wear the same uniform?
Yes, for now. That is why they are complaining, but the government asked to be given sometime to rectify some issues. It is a new thing being introduced, so there are bound to be mistakes here and there.
How do you distinguish school during an event?
For now, it is not possible, but they are now saying there are ways they will devise apart from colours, they will use caps to distinguish the schools and the logos for every school, but I think the way they will probably deal with the situation is that for instance, all schools in Oshogbo should wear blue and so on.
But if they get the type of schools they are getting now and if the remuneration they are getting now and all that, the matter of uniform will come as a natural thing.
The government is accused of nurturing islamisation agenda, how about that?
Every one of us thought so, but if you have the opportunity of meeting him one to one, you will know that this governor is a real radical who does things most conscientiously. Until he wanted to marry, he didn’t believe in any religion.
His Muslim wife engaged him and told him to choose one religion; that was how he became a Muslim and has since become more fervent than his wife. He is definitely not a religious fanatic; all he wants is a change from nonchalance to progressive attitude.