In this interview with newsmen, former banker and governorship aspirant in Ekiti State under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Oladele Aiyegbusi, believes he can cause an upset in the forthcoming polls. He also speaks on some issues affecting the state. He spoke with CHIBUZO UKAIBE
You’re a youth and you want to be in the helm of affairs, without mentioning names, are you satisfy with youth leadership in this country?
I am disappointed. Their performances are very below expectations. But you known taking up a challenge is different from when something is given to you unprepared. We have worked for so many years, we have worked with so many people to come to this decision to say, it is the right time to throw our hat into the ring. I personally, I’m not impressed, without mentioning names.
And you believe you can make a difference?
I am going to make a difference.
We believe this is your first foray into politics?
Yes, I have not been in elective politics before.
Why did you decide to go into politics, what gives you the courage?
I’ve been in banking since my youth service years, until I recently left the sector. I am an indigene of Ekiti State but grew up in the north. But one thing I find disheartening recently whenever I visit home is if you park your car, before 3 minutes, people will gather around, able bodied young men, they will ask you for N500; the next minute, you will see them in beer parlour, drinking. Of course, Ekiti is not an exception because if you go to the north, we have youths into drugs. And it is like we are breeding a wasted generation. So I said to myself, if nothing is done, we are sitting on a time bomb that will consume all of us. That is the reason why I took it upon myself that I need to go into politics. If I can be what I am, they can be better.
The major challenge young persons have today is that they seem to be disconnected from the grassroots. How much of a grassroots person are you in Ekiti State?
I have always been in touch with my people back home. I have tried as much as possible to tell many of them that we can do better than what we have today and that the future is in our hands, a collective responsibility that shouldn’t be left to government alone. I make them understand the business opportunities that abound. I tell them about Igbimo Rice, which is one of the best you can have in the world. Lagos State has 20 million population. If Lagos State is taking Ekiti State rice every day, that would run into billions. We can generate revenue of over N1 billion. Where was Ekiti State when Lagos State was investing in Kebbi Rice? So we need to look inward.
There is a cave in Ekiti that can take over 400, 000 people. We hardly find things like that anywhere in the world. We have Ikogosi, that have hot water … I think there are only two places like that in the world. So, why won’t you make this so that Nollywood will be acting their films there? Take a lot of investment there. But we seemed to be contended. Everybody you meet in Ekiti will tell you he’s a politician. So I say to them that at the start of every four years, they will come, give you money, for instance, they give you N2, 000, if you share it number of 365 days times four, how much does it give you? It can’t even feed you in a day. And in the next four years they will come back again and give you peanuts without development nor growth. We can’t continue like that.
A lot of aspirants usually sound very optimistic when they are vying for political office especially about things they hope do. In the case of Ekiti State, how do you hope to create employment for the teaming youths?
We will look at agriculture and I will give you one simple analogy to help explain what I want to say. Olams is a company in Nigeria, registered as a Cocoa Trading company but recently that same company invested $150 million in Kaduna to buy Gulder, so why would we not have a company like that in Ekiti state? What are the government and the Ekiti people doing ? You can take up partnerships with companies like that and say okay farmers need money to grow their crops. You can partner with such companies and introduce Agro-credit scheme so that you give loans to the farmers which will be guaranteed by the government to ensure that farmers will grow crops and eventually sell to them. You give money to the farmers and they use it to plant cocoa and at harvest they sell to them at a particular rate. When you are engaging in this forward and backward integration between farmers and cocoa sellers, a young man that knows that he has less than a month to harvest his cocoa, dry it and sell it back to Olams, I don’t think you will see him on the streets drinking and wasting away his life.
There are so many cash crops in Ekiti State that if we concentrate on that alone, we would be one of the richest states in Nigeria instead of being second poorest state.
Are you talking about government investing into agriculture?
No, what I mean is Public-Private Partnership. Again, we have this world Bank project, like the Fadama programme, that helps to promote farming. All that is needed is to create the awareness and enabling environment, let them form associations so that they can access this funds to produce all kinds of agricultural products. There is going to be a lot of investment in-flow both locally and internationally in the agriculture sector.
You are still a green horn with little or no experience in running a government at any level, don’t you think this may be a disadvantage?
Let me explain, in banking, a philosopher once said that “he who manages money, manages all”. Sitting on my seat as a banker, the person who wants to go into farming, telecoms business, export business or any other legitimate venture consults me. So, I have been exposed to so many fields and facets of society. In fact, some times things gets so bad that some men who have problems with their wives, come to me for solution because they know I manage their finances. So the banking job has really prepared me over the years for situations like this. But I don’t want to see my governorship as an administration, I want it to be like a movement.
How popular is the SDP in Ekiti State?
The governorship contest in 2018 is going to be between SDP and others, this much I can tell you. The APC and Governor Ayo Fayose’s PDP, will clearly fight themselves to finish. Recently, 79 members defected to the SDP from PDP, and we are still counting. By the time they finish their primaries, a lot of them will come to SDP. So SDP is actually the party to beat in the election. As it is now, the Ekiti people have said that they are tired of PDP and APC and that they are ready to try something new.
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