Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Ondo State, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, says the state has become a national benchmark for standards in good governance, courtesy of the commitment of Governor Olusegun Mimiko. Shola Oyeyipo presents the excerpts:
At the inception of Governor Mimiko’s administration, he promised to work for the people. In your candid opinion, can you say he has fulfilled the promise?
I can say with every sense of conviction that the Dr. Olusegun Mimiko-led government has kept faith with the promise to work for the people of the state. Today, Ondo State is not only a global benchmark in a couple of initiatives, the diligent and sincere implementation of our programmes has attracted the commendation of statesmen throughout the nation even across political divides, and elicited public acknowledgement of our modest achievements.
Some of these initiatives include, but not limited to the Abiye Safe Motherhood Programme, Mother and Child Hospitals, Trauma & Surgical Centre, Kidney Care Centre, Urban Renewal Programme, modern neighbourhood markets, the ultra-modern Automart, Water supply schemes, Housing Estates, School Free Shuttle Scheme and the emplacement of over 600 community-driven projects among others. The State now has an International Event Centre otherwise known as The Dome, which is fast becoming the cynosure of all eyes
There are speculations that the governor is grooming an anointed candidate to succeed him. How true is this?
Let me simply say I am not aware of any anointed candidate being groomed by the governor. What I however know is that the governor will always want the best for his people, someone that will build on what has been achieved, someone that will help the people achieve their dreams.
What are the qualities you expect from the next governor of Ondo State?
This to me is a personal and direct question, and I’ll answer this also as a critical stakeholder in the project Ondo State. I am in my middle age and have young children. My expectations like the average indigene of Ondo State are very high, considering the current economic downturn which stares Nigeria in the face. All these and many more dictate that the next governor must be God-fearing; he must not rely on the arms of flesh because that will certainly fail. He will definitely require inspiration from the Supreme Being to be able to navigate the current challenges on our country.
He must be able to inspire and challenge the people to dream, have hope and work assiduously towards taking Ondo State to the Eldorado, giving the quantum leap which the state has experienced in the last seven years. The next governor must be a bridge-builder, who will take every indigene as his own, without undue favouritism to any group of people. The next governor must be able to leverage on the gains achieved by this administration.
The APC is itching to wrest power from the PDP next year?
Well, if wishes were horses, beggars will ride. In 2012, the boasting was more and they finished distant third, so wait and see. But you must know that the people of Ondo State are politically advanced and educated.
So, what is the governor’s succession plan?
You can see that aspirants have started showing up and proving their mettle within the various political parties. One thing to be stated clearly is that no matter how fierce a succession plan is, the decision ultimately resides with the people. The thinking, as it stands, is a dispassionate one. The desire is for the emergence of a people-centric government that will continue with people oriented programmes. This is to sustain the achievements already recorded in Education, Health, Agriculture, Urban Renewal Initiatives, and much more.
It will be a calamity for somebody to come on board and reverse the transformation programmes, for instance in Education, by turning our pupils out of the Mega-Schools and converting them to something else on account that the schools are too good for primary education. It will indeed be a disaster for the School Free Shuttles to be turned to Molue and the students deprived of the comfort of free commuting to and fro school while the burden of transport fare from which parents had been relieved are brought upon them again.
As it were, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is leaving no stone unturned to put forward its best. Though the governor is the leader of the party, he has refused to meddle with internal democracy of the party and as such everybody is being given the opportunity of fair contest, so that nobody with interest is cheated and nobody is given undue advantage.
A level play ground is what obtains in the party and that is why some people have continued to bombard the governor asking from him where they should go and who to follow, but the governor, being a democrat will not abuse his power, and therefore has left everybody to make up his/her mind and when a consensus emerges through a democratic process, the governor can then throw his weight behind the party’s candidate.
How about the alleged zoning lacuna?
You must understand that zoning is for administrative convenience and balance in the body polity. The most important issue is the quality of leadership. Merit ought not to be sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity. Leadership must have a large heart, good following; must be a rallying figure, who will not sacrifice progressivism and good governance on the altar of nepotism and favouritism. Having said all these, the PDP and the government are on the same page on the need to consider all the issues including zoning and quality leadership. The issues must be mutually inclusive for Ondo State to get nothing but the best.
How do you do reconcile that with the allegation that the governor has incurred a huge debt for his successor to inherit?
There is no truth in that claim. It is a frivolous allegation. We are constantly and consistently meeting our obligations to our creditors. Ondo State is one of the least indebted states in Nigeria. Without casting aspersions, there are some big states in the South-west owing 100 times more than Ondo State. The allegation is very far from the truth. We are the least borrowed in the whole of South-west. If you take a look as the bailout, salary arrears, loans etc., you will see that Ondo State is doing well. As we speak, we are credit worthy in banks as we are able to access loans from them unlike other states that are unable to access such facilities any longer.
Why did the government wait till this time to decide to hold local government elections?
The court litigation by the old PDP as it were then prevented the conduct of the local government polls. The coast is now clear. The Labour Party and the PDP in Ondo State had fused into one and now the election can be held.
Will the defections from PDP to APC not affect the chances of the PDP at the governorship poll?
Defection is not a new thing and in any case, defection is both ways from PDP to APC and from APC to PDP. You will recall that, when some people in fact, those being regarded as big wigs defected from PDP to APC in the last presidential election, the PDP surprisingly rose to its feet and trashed the APC in the election, the following week. It is the people that will decide – the market women, who were formerly trading under the scorching sun and rain but now trade under conducive and befitting structures.
It is the pregnant women, who had their lives endangered but now have access to free quality health care facilities for them and their babies. Those who will decide are car dealers, who now trade in beautiful environment; the artisans who have been empowered; the youth who now fair better and could dream of a better future; parents whose children are in better schools and who have been relieved of school transport fare because their children now enjoy free school shuttle. The election is for the masses and they will decide.
Why is reconciliation between old and new PDP members difficult?
You are probably talking in the past. That was at the teething stage of the merger, when strange bedfellows began to work at cross purposes. To still talk about harmonisation problem now is a figment of imagination. The PDP as presently constituted in Ondo State is one. The composition from the grassroots to the state is solid and without division. The PDP is poised to win election in Ondo State.
How do you think a free and fair governorship poll can hold in the state?
INEC should be an unbiased umpire. No political parties should get undue advantage. The federal government must create the atmosphere for people’s votes to count.
What’s going to be the focus of the Mimiko administration in this last lap of its 2nd and final term?
This year is for consolidation. It is a consolidation on the achievements that have been recorded in the last seven years, which have stood out as development benchmarks not only for sister states but also the developing world. These efforts would also form the take-off point for the incoming administration. You will recall that the Mimiko administration has recorded a number of firsts, not only in Nigeria but beyond, such that the projects were endorsed by the World Bank and the United Nations as a benchmark for the continent.
For instance, the various health initiatives like the holistic intervention in Maternal and Infant mortality (Abiye the Safe Motherhood Programme), and the apex tertiary health facilities Mother and Child hospitals now operational in Akure and Ondo are testimonies. Don’t forget that we have the Orirewa programme, and the recent is the conglomerate of tertiary health institutions at the Medical Village, a health tourists centre, now the University of Medical Sciences in Ondo.
You will also remember that the state won the Bill-Melinda Gates award in the fight against Polio among others. The list of firsts in health is endless just as the present administration blazed the trail in Urban Renewal Initiatives that fetched Governor Olusegun Mimiko the United Nations Scroll of Honours award.
Let me equally inform you that the creative ingenuity, doggedness and commitment of the governor has brought a new lease of life into the Education Sector with the Caring Heart Mega Schools, a novelty in education that breaks class and strata barriers by delivering quality education to the doorsteps of both the urban and rural poor, where they live and play. The mega schools have quality manpower and are equipped with facilities of the 21st Century as obtained in advanced countries. Therefore, there will be a consolidation of all these projects to emplace them on sustainable footing.
Today, Ondo State is not only a global benchmark in a couple of initiatives, the diligent and sincere implementation of our programmes has attracted the commendation of statesmen throughout the nation even across political divides, and elicited public acknowledgement of our modest achievements