Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, Group Chairman of a Conglomerate firm with nine subsidiaries, is seeking to contest the Osun State governorship election under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In an interactive session with select Journalists, Ogunbiyi speaks on debt profile of the state, the burden of godfatherism and monetisation in politics as well as other national issues. LEADERSHIP Sunday was there
How do you think this worrisome issue of killer herdsmen can be solved?
It is really sad and inexplicable at this modern age that this is happening in Nigeria. I am sorry to say, yes, I am gunning for a political position, because I am convinced that leadership can make the difference in everything. They will tell you that people is the most important when it comes to factors of production. But, I tell you, it is having the right people, not just people, but the right people. I don’t know how a country so blessed when you see the biblical country flowing with milk and honey, I have not seen any country in the world that fits into that description but God just decided that we won’t have the right leadership. Communal clashes here and there, religious war, for crying out loud, we have to talk about what people need. I will be 56 in the next couple of weeks. We grew up in this country. I am a village boy to the core. My primary, secondary, modern school, my university, everything was in the village. My father’s best friends, especially in my town, Ile-Ogbo, were from the Hausa community. My father was a herdsman. They thrived and they lived in harmony. You find Igbo community; you find in virtually every locality within the South-West. You say Kano is a no man’s land just as they say Lagos is a no man’s land and you get to Kano in those days and you find every ethnic group represented and they lived as if they were in Umuahia or Ile-Igbo. You get to Kaduna, it is the same thing. Is it not the same country? It is all about leadership. You have leaders who have the capacity to lead well but they choose to do other things. This leadership issue we are talking about, they have the capacity to do the right thing, but they’ve decided to do otherwise.
The big question is what has changed? What’s the way forward?
This is just political. The day our leaders come together and say we are one and so let us line up as one, all these will be over. What else do we talk about? We are using ethnicity to divide ourselves. What do you say of India, a country of 1.3billion population; over 300,000 ethnic groups and their ethnic groups are as much as their religious beliefs. It is unfortunate. I can only appeal to our leaders. When people fail to give the deliverables that are needed for the common man to live a decent, peaceful life, they will look for alternative to engage and distract us. This is exactly what is happening.
As a private sector individual going into politics, how do you hope to deal with the violence that is often associated with political activities?
Am I going there to go and fight anybody? I spend an average of N50m every year, picking people from the streets, supporting indigent students, and engaging in talent hunt. If you take these ones off the streets, who will the politicians use to engage in violent acts? And what do they give to them? If you give anybody N200 in my village, that is a lot of money. Our parents gave us quality education from their meagre resources. When our leaders have failed to give us the deliverables to ensure a decent quality of life, they find something to engage us. Unfortunately, because of poverty in the land, they are able to use people to perpetuate violence.
We have always had people show so much commitment and passion about how to develop the nation when they are coming into politics, they espouse the same passion you are exhibiting now, but as soon as they get there, they change. Why is this so and what do you think you will bring that will be more beneficial to the people?
There are a thousand and one people like me who are very passionate about leadership and know what to do. But it is either they are not bold and courageous enough when they get into office or they got there using the wrong platform. Nigerian politics is dominated by some clear factors, mainly god fatherism and monetisation. No matter how principled you are, if you use the wrong platform to get into political office, you will become crippled from day one. I am seeking to occupy the governorship office but I can tell you, by the special grace of God, though monetisation and god fatherism are in politics, I stand on God and what I represent as Akin Ogunbiyi; what I represent to my God, what I represent to my family, that is what I am taking to politics. As long as that independence is maintained, as long as you are able to align your thoughts, focus and energies to the goals of helping the people make a decent living, you will surely deliver. We can complain and complain, good people had gone into politics but the platform of getting there is the issue. Somebody said to me ‘you want to run for governorship of Osun State, do you have N3billion to N5billion to throw away?’ I said I am not going into politics because I want to go and throw N5billion away. If I need to spend N5billion, I want to know why I am spending that amount of money. Remember that what I know how to do best is to sell pure water N10, N10; buy a bag for N10 and find a way to sell and make N100. I am not used to free money. If I have to spend N5billion to make it happen, it has to be N5billion that I can walk away from if something else happens. I am not desperate. It is not the N5billion I am relying on one god father to give to me and tie my hands. If I win it and spend N5billion it is not an investment that I want to recoup; whatever I am deploying to get to the office, they are part of the sacrifice, I think the society needs such sacrifices. And that is part of the problem of this country – people are not ready to make sacrifices.
Looking at the economy of Osun State today which is heavily indebted, will you still be able to work within that kind of environment?
One of the things that spurred me into taking this decision is because of the common man on the streets of Osun State. For the past eight years, it has not been what it ought to be. They always say if it is not broken, don’t try to fix it. But what did you describe now, you said Osun is indebted. We don’t even know how much the debt is: Some say it is N400billion, others say its N200billion. The government itself said it is N143billion. But for eight years, this is the best that government can give. There is nothing bad in borrowing, the question is, what did you use the fund to do? We know that Osun State is heavily indebted and luckily for all of us, there is no hidden place any longer. Debt management office, every month publishes the statistics. So, there is nothing that is hidden. Not everybody would ride a car in his life time. Not everybody would build a house in his lifetime. Not everybody would buy bicycle or wear rubber slippers in his life time. But good leadership dictates that everybody must have access to the basic needs of life in order to live a decent life. My parents, your parents, under the leadership of some people, they had access to that and we are what we are today.
Let me take health care for example. My mother gave birth 16 times. She got married in 1944 to my father, before then she was married to somebody else where she had given birth 10 times. What do you think was responsible, poverty! When her in-laws advised that you have suffered enough with us, why not go and try another man, may be through another man, God would grant you grace of another child. In 1944, she married my father and with my father, she gave birth six times before. Let me tell you something about health facility, in 1962 they set up Iwo Medical Centre, General Hospital. My mother said she had forgotten about child bearing. She was just nurturing the only one remaining, my sister, when she saw her protruding tummy and thought it was fibroid. She said there was nothing they didn’t do to about my pregnancy until February 1962 when the Iwo Medical Centre was established and my father said, ‘let’s take you to the clinic in Iwo’. The reason was that she was pregnant but our people thought it was fibroid so they attempted to dissolve it not knowing that it was pregnancy. They took her there where she was told that she was 6½ months pregnant. And here I am today, to the glory of God, employing over 5000 people, creating value here and there. That is the power of a good health facility when made available to the people and the people will always pray. They have done, their best, let posterity judge them. I am fully aware of the challenges on ground but my life has been that of entrepreneurship. I always start from ground zero. The grace of God is more than sufficient, we have more than enough resources in Osun. I am not saying it is going to be easy. It is going to be tough. But where there is a will, there is a way. I know how to create wealth. I know how to drive value. I am going to take Osun as a country that is indebted and has nothing and then start from ground zero. Look around, can you see greens everywhere. Green means life. Green means wealth. Mineral resources are there. The 4m people of Osun is a market on its own. So, there is work to be done. For somebody like me, by the grace of God, it is going to be tough but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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