•Popular OGUN Guber Candidate, ROTIMI PASEDA
Otunba Rotimi Paseda is the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Ogun State. The Omu-Ijebu-born politician recently spoke on why he left the UPN for the SDP plus his plans for the state, if given the chance to lead in 2019. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Why did you leave UPN for SDP?
It’s just a matter of looking at the best platform to achieve one’s goal and a platform that shares similar ideology of where I’m coming from and I found out that SDP is the closest to UPN. These are offsprings of Awolowo’s type of politics and that is why I joined SDP to increase the chances in 2019. I also joined SDP to do something differently. To provide good governance to the people, because SDP has masses oriented manifestos. This is a party that loves the people in terms transformation agenda, this is a party that has human feeling and ready to render good governance to the downtrodden. SDP is not a political party where selected few individuals run the affairs of the party and state, it is a party that brings everybody on board to share ideas and execution. It is the party of the people, the party of the masses, not a party of few selected elites who have no human face, whose policies are for themselves and their families alone.
The campaigns have started, what has been your message to the electorate?
The electorate should open their eyes and learn from experience. They should let the past educate them on the future. This is a tenure of selfishness. My advice to the people is to be selfish. Selfishness in terms of voting according to their conscience not because of money. They should make up their minds to suit themselves not because of one godfather. No electorate should fight because of any politician. We are friends and we will reconcile after the election. That is the fact.
What has Otunba Paseda got to offer Ogun people?
There are lots of developmental programmes we intend to bring to Ogun State. Yes, one of my personal agenda is free education, but we have the party agenda too. Wherever I go, Free education is mandatory for me. I intend to bring back and increase the scope of free education in Ogun State, so, it covers all levels. It is just a matter of choice whether the people really want to be educated not because they are forced because they don’t have money to further their education. It provides a level playing ground for everybody and that is why I’m committed to do it.
Most of the people were of the belief that free education is not possible again considering the economic situation and the huge resources involved, but from a business stand point, there’s no such thing as impossible. For anything that you do, once your brain has the capacity to carry it, then it is possible. People get limited because they don’t have keen interest of doing it. The amount of money we spend on bridges and flyovers, in other countries they will tell you it is impossible but we are doing it. If you ask somebody from a more civilized country and tell them the amount to be spent on bridges, they will tell you it is impossible. So, basically, it is just a matter of re-engineering our budget.
But there is something called “Self help” in education. If the higher institutions are empowered or are given a platform for which they can generate income for themselves, it will make them dependent and self-reliant. I’m not only going to provide free education, I’m also going to empower the institution whereby they generate income for themselves for the sustainability of the institutions. We help them to be more creative.
Apart from Education, I am also focusing on Health, Agriculture, rural integration, job employment for the youths, and revamping our sports sector. Sports in Ogun State is dead. What we have now is individual glory. The state is not receiving recognition in terms of sports, but the athletes and other stakeholders are getting personal honour because of their zeal, love and passion for the sector. The last time we went to National Sports festival in EKO 2012, the gateway state came seventh. Our stadia are in dilapidated condition. Go to Ilaro stadium, Dipo Dina Stadium at Ijebu Ode, MKO Stadium in Abeokuta, you will agree with me that, the facilities we have in those stadia are in poor condition which does not help our athletes to have better facilities to train with. Just recently, the paralympics athletes staged a protest to the governor’s office for their outstanding allowances and poor facilities. We are losing our best athletes to other states because we cannot motivate these sportsmen and women. What has happened to boxing, football, most especially the Shell Cup competition, Governor’s Cup, Principals Cup? In fact, God’s willing if I am elected in 2019, I will introduce new dimension into the sports. Our sports sector shall come alive again. Where is Gateway football club in the last 8years? The basketball team are not heard off. Private organizations have taken over the squash team, in fact, Sports will receive new breathe in my administration.
On Infrastructure, I do not intend to concentrate on new one for now. My interest is to maintain what we have now. I don’t believe we should build new schools. What we have is sufficient enough. We only need to revamp them and remodel it and give the teachers adequate training. If the teachers are well equipped and well educated, I believe they will have more impact on education than new buildings. I will return all schools to the missionaries. The Muslim schools to the Muslim missioners, the Christian schools to Christian missioners and the state will fully take over and fund the state owned primary and secondary schools. So, the choice will now be for the parents to decide where their children will go.
On Health, many people see health as what they shouldn’t bother about, but unfortunately it cuts across everybody. It is a matter of life and death, what has to do with human lives, shouldn’t be joked with. So, I intend to bring what I called “Means Tested “ health system. Means tested as regard Individual capacity. If it is Means Tested, if you are a low income earner, it’s free, if you don’t have any income, it’s free, if you are old, it’s free, if you’re a retiree, definitely health is free, but if you are a full time employee like banker, civil servant you will have to pay.
We have so many schools of health, like the College of Health at Ilese, and our School of Nursing across the state, what I need to do with these schools is to equip them and put the students under intensive training. I don’t want to divulge much on that. You see, our people die not for lack of knowledge, but for lack of interest. We don’t lack knowledge. The knowledge is there. We have intelligent people in the state, but what we lack is interest.
In terms of Agriculture, I intend to concentrate more on agro-development, agro-economy. Invest in the cottage industries and be the industrial hub in the nation. Amosun is definitely going and anybody that means well for this state should complete what he has started. And local government autonomy must be complete not partially. It must not be partial. When people talk about local government autonomy, they only talk about the money going directly into the LGs account, that is partial. We must be able to empower and equip them to carry out their statutory functions. They must also make decisions of what they want to do with the money. Let the local government manage their budget and generate tax themselves to reduce the burden on the state. Local government should be able to construct their locality roads, equip their primary health centres, pay for schools under them to make them viable and functioning.
You are taking another shot at Ogun governorship, what is your advantage over others?
What distinguishes me is because I am doing the impossible and I have basically come to really shake politics. That which has never been done in the past is going to be done. In my type of governance, the people of the state are going to be accorded equal opportunities; I will have members of the APC, PDP, SDP, Accord and other political parties in my cabinet. So, by and large, those who need to worry are those that want to do things the old ways. Those saying ‘if Paseda wins election, everything in the state would belong to him and his people only,’ if that is what you are thinking, do not bother to vote for me, because I am not promising you that. What you are going to get from me is if I want a Commissioner for Finance and the person who can competently do the job is in the ADP, I will look for him and persuade him to come and serve. I will not give it to anyone else because such a person is my party member or friend. The state cannot progress if we do not put a round peg in the round hole.
What else are you bringing on board that is different from what the state currently has?
Another thing I am going to do so differently is that the initial decisions of the state would be made from my cabinet and I am going to have a cabinet that is not constitutional, there is a normal cabinet structure but those that will really do the job for me are the youths. They are my special assistants, they are my think-tank team. Yes, commissioners will be there, but when I sit down and want to make some critical decisions, my think-tank team would be my special assistants, they would be there for me and they are going to come from every local government area. I am picking them, not by party affiliation, but by personal reputation and qualification and as soon as I am done, I am going to send them for a three to six months sabbatical in India and China. Their job is to come back home, each person with a minimum of five (5) cottage industries, if you fail, you are fired because you will be living there for months.
The idea is for you to bring me a toothpick manufacturing company, sign an MOU with them and they must come and establish one in Ogun State. You will also be mandated to bring me aquaculture, I cannot divulge all these things now, they are the real workers, everything else is administrative, the House of Assembly, others would still do their jobs, according to the constitutionally laid down regulations, but as for Paseda, my special assistants are the youths, I would listen to them because I want my state to be a capital of cottage industries and manufacturing in Nigeria, it can be easily done .
The other thing is that I see no reasons why we cannot have a two-tier of government that happened during the Obafemi Awolowo era, because that is where I am arriving at. The state government and traditional rulers must work side by side, the state shouldn’t make any final decisions on projects without involving the monarchs, and they know what are needed in their local communities. Although, they would have offices too, but the palace is for the monarchs as they have a thorough job to do, being a king isn’t a job, it is like an entitlement, a custodian of culture. But in the socio-economic development of our state, it is a different thing, we need their inputs and wise counsel .So, the Oba-In-Council will ensure that the town hall meetings are brought back because if I divide the state budget into 20, I am talking about capital expenditure which is for 20 local governments, the one out of the 20 of what I have put to a particular local government cannot be spent without the state and the monarchs agreeing on what to do with it.