Senator Adegbenga Sefiu Kaka was Deputy Governor of Ogun State between 1999 and 2003. He is now aspiring to govern the state come 2019. In this interview, he speaks elaborately on his plans for Ogun State among other issues as they affect his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the nation as a whole. OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU brings the excerpts:
You have been serving Ogun State since you were very young, as commissioner, deputy governor and has been to the Senate. Why is it that now you are interested in becoming the governor of Ogun State?
Something that is certain is that you can’t get experience in the market and you can’t get to read it up in a book. The cumulative experience I have garnered over the years is not meant to be interred with my bones when I am dead, it is supposed to be shared and applied for the betterment of the society. When you discovered that over the years one has seen that we have been taking one step forward and two steps backward, then you will realize that we really need this experience. We need the resilience of able, capable and experienced hand to actually, right the wrongs, more so when the stage at which we are in now, especially in Ogun State, is for us to go back to the basics. The solid foundation earlier laid by our forebears had been destroyed and we are now trying to build our castles in the air, rather than relaying the foundation and build our future on a very solid, rock steady foundation. And it is in the light of that, looking at other contenders that I felt it is going to be an injustice to the people if I decided to keep the experience I have garnered to myself rather than make use of it for the betterment of our state.
When you were a commissioner and later Deputy Governor, you must have had certain dreams for Ogun State. How fulfilled is that dream now, or put differently, looking back, do you think Ogun State is in its rightful place?
Don’t let me arrogate any special thought to myself. If you were referring to the time I was a commissioner, I didn’t plan to be commissioner, I was with a multinational corporation, Livestock Feeds Plc, we had our headquarters in New York, and the combination was for human and animal health, as well as livestock feeds. So the totality of it was for the welfare of human being. I was enjoying it, and I was moving prettily well. Within eight years, I had crossed from Area Sales Representatives, to Area Sales Manager, to Group Product Manager and National Sales Manager. It was at that stage that the military came calling, I didn’t have any connection with the military, they requested for somebody with solid agricultural background. And the people they sent out to source found me suitable.
I was recommended, the announcement came on radio and I put in my best. During that period, we put in place the first agricultural policy by any state in this federation, that was in 1989, barely one year I got to the office. This is because we discovered that we didn’t have any agricultural policy. People were just doing what they liked, in the traditional way and we said no; we need to profile the soil, we need to know the various advantage of the various strata of soil that we had, the vegetation; the ecological advantage of various vegetation over the others. How can we blend the plant agriculture with the animal agriculture to get the best blend and get the best for our society? We put it in place and we backed it up with implementation strategy. Unfortunately, soldier go, soldier come, the person that appointed me, Admiral Lawal, left within one year.
The person that came after him, though he retained me as commissioner, decided to second me to Lands and Housing. Though related, it took me out to go and learn a new experience. So, when you look at it, it is different from having a mandate of a definitive term of four years and then having your manifestoes, having your programmes and agenda and executing it in the context of available resources. You can see that there are a lot of differences. Then as the Deputy Governor, yes, I coined the idea of a ‘spare tyreism’ because of the latency of that position, lack of provision in the constitution and again, the whim and caprices of the Number One. So, it is a general phenomenon, it is not peculiar to me.
The best I could do was to give the maximum support to whatever programme my boss was having. As a senator, that is national experience and of course legislative experience. So, in the course of all of these, I have passed through the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Lands and Housing, the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, and then on top of it all, the Ministry of Health, by being a member of the Committee on Health, Trade, and Commerce. So, I am in the very best position to turn the fortune of Ogun State around. That is why I am picking the challenges thrown to me by genuine people of Ogun State, asking me to come and avail the people of Ogun State my accumulated experiences. And that is why I said, it will be an injustice to the society If I decided to turn down the request. So, I have had a request, I have offered myself, it is now left for them to say that they are ready.
While one is not saying you should leak all the programmes you have in mind for Ogun State, what are the cardinal points of your agenda for the people of the Gateway State?
Well, the programmes will be unveiled at the appropriate time, but they said the taste of the pudding is in the eating, so people should have a taste. I am not just saying we are going back into the basics, when I said we are going back to the basics, I assessed the situation. In term of agriculture I discovered that, we don’t have reliable data. The same thing happening to human population and distribution. The same thing is happening to other resources available to us. So, within that context I believe we will go back to the basics, and if I am to take it one by one, let us take it from education. Yes, we can have approximate number of enrolment we have in our schools, from primary, to secondary and to the tertiary levels. Yes, we can have approximate number of teachers in our enrolment, but the teachers’/students’ ratio, are we meeting it up? The answer is no.
The carrying capacity of various schools and classrooms, are they within the acceptable level? The answer is no. So, in order not to build our castles in the air, we are going to confirm all these and get accurate data, so that the lacuna, the shortcomings could better be fixed while going ahead with the private–public partnership. You know right now we are having more private universities than public, ditto for secondary, ditto for primary. That is telling you that the government is more or less abdicating its responsibility. And if we are abdicating our responsibilities on the future of our youths, that means there is no future for the nation. So, we have to go back, get it done and meet the expected standard. In terms of funding, without money there is no good idea that can see the light of the day. So, we are going to ensure that as bedrock of any development whatsoever; education will be given its right of place.
Then we will go into partnership, as it was done by late Papa Olabisi Onabanjo, in such a way that the public schools that will cater for the majority who happen to be the downtrodden will be more attractive than the private schools. They are going to live side by side, but we will make them more attractive, more affordable, that people will see no need to take their children to private schools. Secondly, healthwise, the last time Ogun State had a turnaround in the health sector was under Chief Olusegun Osoba, when we procured African Development Bank loan to turn around the 12 General Hospitals in the state and improve the primary health centres we have. Since that time, it has been the Federal Government helping us with the primary health delivery, but this is supposed to be the responsibility of the local government and the state. But, whether it is federal or state, the most important thing is for the people at the grassroot to get health care delivery.
So, we are now going to ensure that every ward should be able to have at least two primary health centres, so that primary health care delivery will be accessible to the people, most especially, the rural areas. We don’t need gigantic and elaborate structures. I have surveyed most of our rural areas, within the farm community, you discovered that they have huts, mud houses, you can secure as simple as two rooms to make available a primary health care centre. It is not the hood that makes the monk. The human resources, their level of sophistications, their level of IQ and their level of training is what is required to serve at the primary level. Just get two rooms in various farming communities, in rural areas and make it as decent as possible, just to take off and improve on it in subsequent years.
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