Undoubtedly, Engr. Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, is one of the front runners in the June 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State.
Although he recently moved to the party where he is flying the gubernatorial flag, the former governor few days ago in Lagos, spoke on the forthcoming polls and why his party, the SDP will win the race. CHARLES NWAGBARA was there…
We learnt there was an incident at Efon Alaaye few days back during your consultation rounds?
It wasn’t really consultations as such. We are in a new party and we know that the people have shifted to where we are and we believe that it was right for us to go and meet them as a way of familiarizing ourselves to one another. We believe it was necessary to meet with them at their terrain and encourage them to continue to be one. That’s what we were doing. When we got to Efon Alaye we were attacked by some hoodlums. We thank God there were no serious injuries to anybody
How do you intend to build a winning structure for the SDP considering its position in the state right now?
I hope to build a strong structure because people are already in it, they are ready for it, that’s why we have to go round to them and encourage them to do what they are doing. Right now in the eyes of the public, we are already number one even though we are just starting.
What are your concerns for the election?
What are my concerns? The major one has come out in Efon Alaye-thuggery, security. We are appealing to the law enforcement agencies to stand up to their duties. Everyone knows how to procure violence. Its not hat difficult but some people don’t want to procure violence. I don’t want to procure violence. It is not because I cannot afterall those who are procuring it are people like us, But they have a different orientation. We are saying don’t let us destroy the younger ones because you wont be there. I have been in dire situations like that a couple of times, some of them have never been to any so they don’t even know what it is, that these young people suffer. We are appealing to law enforcement agencies, don’t let us waste our younger ones. The government created the poverty that the young ones are battling. Just consider it, how much are they paid, how much is a thug paid? They’re in the job because they don’t have anything to do. Even in their own eyes, the worth of their lives is very small. So we are appealing to the security agencies to do their jobs. When they do their jobs the propensity of these thuggery and violence will be curtailed.
You are literarily contesting against principalities and powers in Ekiti. You have Fayose and the PDP on one hand and the governor and the APC on the other hand with federal power behind them. Do you think you can surmount them?
The people are on this side and with the people, we will surmount anybody that regards himself as principality and power(laughter). All these are about the people. And if anybody thinks he can push the people aside, who will he embrace? Politicians are always quick to forget the fact that without people there will be no politics and now, the people have made up their minds that this is what we want. What are you going to do to them? You must have the right attitude. I remember Bill Clinton. As governor of Arkansas, he was running for re-election and he lost. What he did was to go back and now be asking the people, “I must have done something wrong, what did I do wromg as your governor that made you say no to me?” The Nigerian politician instead of adopting that attitude, will rather believe that it’s the people that are wrong. These people that are doing ‘otoge’, what I want us to do is find out why are people doing ‘otoge’ to us, why are the people rising up against us? The Nigerian politician will believe that its maybe we have not given them enough money, maybe we did not deploy the rigging tactics as we should. We are waiting for them. You see their antics will not win against the people because politics is about the people and the people have made up their minds as to what they want to do. That is why I put up a billboard to let them know they have gone wrong. We are on the right side of history. They are the ones who placed us there. It is their misrule that placed us as the right side of history and if anybody wants to remove us from the right side of history, it is not by thuggery and violence, its by going to the people to find out.
Are you concerned about vote buying?
Yes we are concerned about vote buying and we believe that’s one of the evils that must be uprooted. Don’t forget these guys have afflicted the people with extreme poverty that one meal to some people is like life and death. Therefore if you go to some people and say “dibokosebe”, vote and cook stew. But with education, this people will begin to ask questions, this vote you want from me, how long will it take for you to utilize it before you come back for renewal? Four years. This stew that you want me to cook, how long will it take me before I am looking for another stew-four days maximum. So you see, we can’t trade four years for four days and they know they have really gotten it all wrong and nobody will want to continue to sink into poverty. But the people who have afflicted them with poverty knows that is the only way to continue to manipulate the system.
You said you had the people behind you. What makes you so sure of that?
We know because we interact with the people, we all live here, we all are Ekiti people and we are on the right side of history. People are saying it and people are flaunting it. And that is the beginning of the revolution to come.
Has there ben a survey to this claim sir, even if it is informal?
There have been surveys and surveys. You have to accept the result of the surveys. What the people are saying is that they want a new terrain.
What is your unique selling point. Besides, we hear that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is in support of you, what do you have to say?
Let me start by saying that first I believe that all politicians that want the good of Nigeria, the good of society, will be in my support because they know that what I represent is politics of development. My unique selling point is my integrity and the fact that I THINK. And I must tell you that it is not empty boasting-I think. Any of these problems can be resolved by thinking. I believe we can make Nigeria better. It is not difficult after all, it is the activities of people that created the problems of Nigeria today. The activities of human beings can also reverse or change it and I believe it can be reversed, it can be changed. When we were going to school, we were going to school because we believed that through our education, through our experience, we can make our terrain better. We were not going to school just to learn and not change anything. That is the attitude I took to governance. We changed a lot of things. A lot of things improved. People saw it and they are asking for more.
What do you want to do to boost the economy of Ekiti state knowing fully well that the IGR and the federal allocation are not much?
I boosted the economy the first time. Let me give you some statistics. The human development index report published in 2009 analysed Nigeria by states. You can go to the UNDP library to find out. At that time, Ekiti was number 34 on statutory allocation out of 36 states. Human development index called us number 24 on GDP per capita. If our GDP was only on allocation of course we will probably be number 34 or 36. It means there was a very in-depth work on IGR being done. Moving further, the same human development index report that gave us number 24 on income per capita with a paltry 360 dollars per annum when placed alongside states like Bayelsa and Rivers who were over 5000 dollars, the same report made us number 10 in the human development index in Nigeria so you can see it went beyond money. It also went to show what people can do by thinking. Number 34 on allocation, number 24 GDP per capita, number 10 on overall human development index. And I can tell you at that time, Ekiti was said to have the highest life expectancy in Nigeria then. We didn’t have UCH we didn’t have LUTH, but people were living longest in Ekiti. We just applied our thinking. We try to water down the capacity of human beings to help themselves and to improve their lot. Most of the time, the concern is money and so on. We were prepared to go as high as we can and we know number 10 was not as high as we should go. When we go there again, we hope the UNDP will do another human development report that they will bring down to Nigeria. By the time we have spent two or three years, we will compare. This job requires a lot of thinking, innovation, developing processes that will make things happen. What we do most of the time we have a problem, is to go to the fundamentals. By the time we arrive at the solution, some people will not know when we started solving them.
Let me give another instance, we wanted to bring digital experience to schools, we wanted the children to be friends with the computer. The first thing we did was to bring back boarding schools. When we said we wanted to bring boarding schools, our opponents then, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, was going round and telling people, don’t put your child in boarding school. Those schools that agreed to do burden school benefitted. You know we couldn’t give a laptop to a Day student, by the end of the week, half the number will have the laptops taken from them or when they got home, there wont be electricity to power it. So when boarding school started, we made the schools Vsat enabled, we installed Vsat in every school and gave them laptops. The teachers said you have not taught us how to use them to teach. But we said this is not about teaching. This is about these children finding their way and becoming a friend of the laptop we have given to them. Nobody taught Zuckerberg about what to do to arrive at Facebook. I said these children will find their way. Of course, we put school content in there. We did not tell them. We knew that when they searched they will get all those school content. And they were discovering and discovering. Our vision was that in three years of staying and being addicted on the laptop, they will start developing ideas both the ones they need and the ones the world will purchase off them. I am very happy hearing about the few tech apps that made a breakthrough recently. This is the kind of thing I was expecting Ekiti boys and girls to be doing that made me put that programme in place more than 12 years ago. So, thinking is it. At the time if I didn’t do roads, they will say he didn’t do roads, but I did more roads than anybody, otherwise you would have been hearing we do not have roads, we do not have water, but I was going deep down. I brought a sports development programme that brought greats to Ekiti likes of Chief Onigbinde and other accomplished names were involved, even coaches from America.
Your Excellency, in this battle, you must agree that money is very important. How deep is your pocket?
Well, we don’t have a deep pocket. If we wanted to have a deep pocket, we probably would have stolen the place dry. Some people have a deep pocket because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. There are governments in Ekiti that went all over the world in searching for foreign investment. You journalists have not asked them, where is the foreign investment? Because if any foreign investment comes into Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria will know. Where is the CBN report on the foreign investment? And if you go all over the world and scored zero on foreign investment, do you think the peoples money has been well spent?
Sir, there is this trend in Ekiti whereby governors do first term, go away only to return years after for the second term. Its like an ND and HND progrmme. How do you see it?
(Laughter)Well, whatever you call it. Initially, I didn’t want to contest election again again. I was very clear where I was going because I won election back to back two times. I won election, they ordered rerun. As far as I am concerned there was no infringement. The court of law said I should vacate. The first time it was about red biro, they said they ticked the accreditation sheets in red biro and nobody considered the process at which red biro will become so material in the declaration of results. The same Court of Appeal that said I should go and do a rerun because of red biro, in Lagos here, in the case of Agbaje versus Fashola, they said the red biro was of no particular significance. So it was significant and fatal for me but it was not significant in another jurisdiction in Nigeria.
Your moving from one political party to the other looks like desperation?
Look let us face it, the way we are managing political parties now is still short of expectations. I was national vice chairman, very close to the top in one party. In another party I was deputy national chairman, right at the top. What I can say is that these parties can be managed better. A party for example that has no sure source of revenue cannot be a political party. They will rely on governors to put down money. That money belongs to me and you. And that money means that he who pays the piper dictates the tune. Then we will sit somewhere and be shouting, the governors are overbearing. Why won’t they be overbearing? If you put your money in a business venture, won’t you like to be there when critical decisions will be taken? The truth is that these political parties have not done much on their revenue case. Yes, when a political party starts, it must rely on donations, but for how many years. Some of these parties have been here for over 20 years but they have no ideas of how to raise their revenue base. ANC the oldest political party in Africa does not rely on donations. They are big shareholders in MTN. Each time you are recharging your MTN phone you are patronizing ANC. They have substantial interests in some mines. You compare with these political parties that we have here, they have been here relying on donations. They are not even taking membership dues serious. If it is N3,000 that you want members to pay per annum, they are not projecting it. No one is even thinking about it. And you will accuse someone of moving from one party to the other. In my own case, it is because I am looking for a viable solution. That is who I am. I am looking for an alternative that will proffer the real solution and until we get there, there is no stopping us.