Prince Olawale Rotimi Paseda contested for the governorship of Ogun State on the platform of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, in the 2015 general elections. He bares his mind to FEMI OYEWESO on some of the projects executed by the Ibikunle Amosun’s administration and why the state should run a completely free education and health care system.
There was this rumour that you planned to collapse the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM. How true is that?
That is not true. You see, nobody builds a house and abandons it, particularly, when you have it almost completed with just few decorations. We are visually, physically and structurally present in 19 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and we are about to build the rest. So, abandoning a project like that, which has taken my time, my money will be foolhardy. I am not someone who will abandon such a project. I came into politics because of two things and I am not going to abandon those reasons for anybody; they are non-negotiable.
First, education in my state, Ogun, needs to be completely free at all levels; I mean completely free. I am committed to it and I will deliver it. Secondly, access to qualitative health care must be free. Some people are dying needlessly. These are the reasons why I am here; I’m not here for any pecuniary gain.
What I have expended on politics was enough for me to probably buy a private jet and be flying around if I have not spent it on politics. But who knows whether such private jet would have ended up killing me! So, my coming into politics is beyond what the people are looking at. I am not a kind of politician and that was why I charged the people, particularly the media, to go and dig out about who am I.
When you find out who I am, then you will understand that no one can buy me. I am ideologically unrepentant and I am not desperate to change my belief in that ideology just because I want someone to do me a favour or I want some people to support me. No!
So, this idea of me abandoning UPN, the political party which I built, is far from the truth. It is the imagination of somebody’s dreams. I have not gotten to where I am by being lily-livered. I’m confident in myself and what I want. I am comfortable. The only thing I want is that legacy; that’s all! So, for me to have that legacy, I must not fail my people. I will be failing myself if I should fail my people.
So, the idea of starting a business and not assessing your strength and weak areas in what you’d call doing your SWOT analysis first, is wrong. By so doing, you’re only setting yourself up to fail. I thought by now, the party would have grown a bit more than what we have now. But I have also had to sit down to assess and re-appraise the journey.
People were saying why don’t you leave the other 18 states alone and concentrate on the one we have here in Ogun. But what they forgot is that you cannot have a political party in a state alone. There are certain rules that political party must fulfill before it can be registered. First of all, you must be visible in all the states. I’m glad that as at today, UPN cannot be de-registered because right now, it has elective offices in two states: Gombe and Sokoto. So, we are here to stay.
When I came in, I said ‘let me give it a shot. I didn’t want to say ‘if I had known, I would have tried’ and to the glory of God, I can now say that I have tried and this is my result. So, in terms of people thinking that I have abandoned UPN, no! But with what is on ground now, no one single political party can win the elections; none.
Are you talking of the presidential or state level?
Both levels! You see, I make business decisions in several billions and I can’t just make decisions of the cost because if it fails, it can bring you down. The same thing applies in politics. When you make the wrong decision, it would be difficult for you to reverse it. You’ll just have to keep on compounding the error. You can’t go out there and someone would say ‘oh, I want to be the president of Nigeria.’ I will tell him ‘no; you can’t win the presidential election with what we have on ground. So, why wasting your time?’
I’m talking of the presidency here. So, in view of this, what is next for us as a party is to look at structures that have the capacity to deliver and back them up. That is what you do in terms of presidency. You don’t do anything else. Anything else is just numbers. All these mushroom parties that say ‘we’re gunning for the Presidency and so on and so forth,’ look, we’re going to be here in 2019, it’s a waste of time! People just want to show off and say ‘I vied for the Presidency of Nigeria.’ That’s what some of the people are out there to do, but who are they deceiving? Some people are out there to negotiate for appointments or financial negotiations. ‘Step down, we’ll give you this: join us, we’ll give you this.’ Those are the set of people. I stand to be investigated.
I will support whosoever that I can support not for financial reason. You cannot buy Paseda! Just forget it; they can try. I’ve had offers, but I can’t be bought. It’s not that I have it all, but I have integrity: my name is too important to be sold so cheaply and my generations yet unborn will see traces of some tone-dropping history because their father or grandfather had done something wrong. No! My parents didn’t do that for me, if they had, I won’t be able to do what I’m doing now. They would have told me the history of my father or great-grandfather. I didn’t inherit that and I won’t leave any behind for generations to come. The name “Paseda” is synonymous with integrity and it’s been known for good. I challenge anyone to go out there and bring me a Paseda that has negativity. We may not be big but we have very good name.
You have spoken about the Presidency; now let’s talk about the state level…
You see, some of these people jostling to be governor of the state are just joining the bandwagon without knowing why they want to rule the state. There is a lot to it than wanting to be governor. You want to be governor, to what end and for what purpose? Take for instance, economic development. What is the long term plan for an economic stability of the state that you have?
Among these politicians jostling to be the governor of our state, I have not seen anyone of them who has got a minimum of 10 year blueprint for the economic development of this state. I have listened to majority of them, not a single one has. All of them; short term thinking!
I’ve heard many say ‘I am going to generate employment for so, so, so and so number of the citizenry;’ nothing but a lie; failure! You create employment, you don’t provide employment. You want to provide employment for how many people?
But what someone like me will do: my state needs to be a country of its own. Ogun State needs to be a country independently that will be able to provide for itself regardless of what the government at the centre is doing and we must have a long term blueprint enacted. These are all errors! You see, my father used to say that ‘my son will not fall.’ It’s not that the son will not fall, but he would have study the errors of those before him so that he would not make mistakes.
In essence, are you saying that all those aspiring to govern Ogun state lack vision?
They are clueless! Two things they’re looking for; a name and that toga of ‘I contested.’ Self-aggrandisement; that is all it is, nothing else! The first thing that should be on their mind, which unfortunately, is the last thing they’re thinking is ‘what am I going there to do?’
Why build a house on the place where you knew that the state has already earmarked for road? But because you want to build a castle in the air, yet you went ahead and erected a magnificent structure there. But in 10 to 20 years’ time, they’re still coming back to knock it off. This is what majority of those coming out to aspire for that office is doing. It is a bandwagon.
You have hinged your vision for Ogun State on completely free education and free health care delivery. Do you think that these are achievable in the face of the present economic realities of the state?
That is a failure type of thinking. There is nothing impossible; nothing! Let me go back to the country where we tend to be copying; unfortunately, we are not ready for it. If I were the President of Nigeria, I don’t want to be interested in the way United Kingdom or United States of America run their countries. I should look at the situation and the policy that suit my people locally; specifically for our people. We are different, we are unique. Our socio-cultural composition is different from that of the US, UK and the rest of the world, which we are trying to copy.
That is why I like the Chinese model. They put their type of governance together to suit themselves and that is what we need. I am saying that we cannot be who we want to be unless we actually take step for a long term planning. Let me take it this way: technically from the period after the administration of Chief Olabisi Onabanjo. Let me take it from the period when we started going downward. During the administration of Chief Olusegun Osoba, who did fantastically well. We should have documented most of the things he did well, put them in a compendium and at the same time, research into them and see how we can incorporate them into a long term planning. Then we now go to the next governors till we get to the current Ibikunle Amosun administration.
Amosun also started some things that are good, although I’m of the opinion that lots of them are well ahead of our time; we don’t need them yet.
Can you mention some of these performances that you said are ahead of our time?
We have too many structural developments going on; bridges and roads. Yes, we need bridges and roads, but not in those volumes at which he has built them. And sometimes, they are totally unnecessary! There are places where we have road expansions, but the economic realities of those road expansions do not justify their existence, all they do is give glamour to the state. We don’t need to be like London, we just need to be like Ogun State. We’re not UK, we’re Ogun! And our geophysical setup, socio-economic setups are totally different and the way they relate with themselves are different. Why are we looking as if we want to be like the whites? When we pick up some of the things he is doing that are good, we document them for future use. We have already started from Osoba, to Otunba Gbenga Daniel and then to Amosun.
These are my intentions and all these past governors too must also be on the seat with me, because I want to do the unthinkable, the undoable; those ones you’d think that will never happen will be happening, because I don’t see why I cannot be meeting with all the former governors once every quarter. They have done it, they know better than me, because they have experienced it. I am about to go and experience it.
Running a big business circle does not mean that you can run a state. Although, running a state must be like running a business, but that is a tiny percentage of what it takes to run a state. So, where you have the will, the intention and the qualification and business acumen to do these things, you need those people that have the hindsight to bring their experiences into fold so that when you make those decisions, they would be on point. What is it that I know about monarchy? Yes, I am a prince, but there is a limit to what I know.
One of the governors that have run a system that embraces and incorporated the traditional side of governance was former Governor Daniel and he did it perfectly well. So, I want to incorporate that like Awolowo did and bring those people back to be my mentor; I mean OGD! It’s not bad! I have to do that if it requires me going to beg him to come and mentor me on that.
There is this argument that one of the factors responsible for the backwardness of the country is that incoming administrations often abandon the policies and programmes of their predecessors in office. Are you trying to corroborate that?
That is what I am saying! You try and research into that, you’d hear them saying ‘I’m going to finish what Amosun started,’ rubbish, lies, because they know they’re not going to do that. But some of them are going there to play god; some of them are going there to be vengeful, like maybe because Amosun has done something against them.
But those are very shallow type of thinking; we need to have moved above that. If you know that the governor’s policy has done something that is wrong, when you get there, you correct it and not revenge. Don’t get there and say ‘Amosun knocked my family house down and so, I am going to knock down his own father’s house too.’
For what? We’re just destroying our state with that kind of action and also destroying the very fabric of what makes us the Yoruba’s ‘Omoluabi.’ And that also is what is killing the spirit of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC. When you put people in position, they keep doing the same rubbish; OPC was designed to protect the interest of the Yorubas and as an Oodua, you’re not supposed to touch another Oodua. If you should lay your hands on another Oodua son or daughter, you have committed a sacrilege: ‘o ti je eewo!’
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