His strength lies in his power of ideas. His integrity cannot be disputed by rivals. His dedication to the growth and development of Osun State is an added advantage. Tested and trusted, Gboyega Oyetola, governorship flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has a vision for the state. Having served meritoriously under Governor Rauf Aregbesola as Chief of Staff and stabiliser of the administration, he is pushing for a government of continuity. His reason: a competent successor should build on the legacies of the hardworking governor as from 2019.
To Oyetola, an insurance guru and businessman from Iragbiji, Aregbesola has fought and won the infrastructure battle. Yet, he acknowledged that the work of development cannot end with a regime. He made references to new roads, new schools and feeding programme that has become a model for the country, better hospitals, revamped agriculture, better security, and other accomplishments. Also, the dividends of democracy cut across the three senatorial districts. “In this area, the administration has done very well, far better than all previous administrations,” he said.
In the view of the flag bearer, the legacies must be sustained, adding that only a competent successor who has been part of the success story is fit to step into the governor’s shoes.
“I have been part of this government for almost eight years now and I share the vision that government should touch lives. First of all, the essence of government is the security and welfare of the people. I have seen that a government provides a platform for you to be able to serve a greater part of the society; and having been in government for about eight years, I believe there is need for continuity. We should not stop at where Governor Rauf Aregbesola will stop after the expiration of his tenure,” he added.
Oyetola is on the weighing scale. So far, the perception is that he is the best among the contenders. Thus, Osun people take him serious. His message is clear. His party still fills the public consciousness. Discerning indigenes are of the opinion that his 30 year-experience, both in private and public sectors, will be most useful in post-Aregbesola period. Echoing the views of many Osun leaders about his candidature, Oyedola said: “I am the best to continue from where Governor Aregbesola stops.”
However, governance will not be a tea party from 2019. Many challenges will confront Oyetola, if he becomes the governor. “There is a challenge of finance or funding. But, this is not peculiar to our state. It is a general problem,” he acknowledged.
Indeed, only a few states are financially viable. No fewer than 27 states are affected by the paucity of funds. Oyetola, who is the only financial expert running on the platform of a major party, said Osun will survive by the grace of creative financial engineering. “One of the ways to address the funding challenge is ramp up Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), through innovative ways. First, we need to block all the leakages, particularly in tax collection. When we talk of increasing IGR, I am not talking of imposing higher or more taxes on the people. But, we can ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes. If I ensure all other people, now avoiding tax, pay because it is a civic responsibility, then, the revenue base increases. So, once we are able to do that, we can clearly increase the revenue without necessarily imposing high taxes on people, particularly the poor,” he added.
Oyetola also believes that diversification is the key to development. Agriculture, he said, should be vigorously pursued to provide a value chain. “If we encourage farmers to plant cassava and there are cottage industries where cassava can be processed into starch and ethanol, we will be creating jobs and empowering our people,” he said. More importantly, the APC chieftain said his government will provide a conducive atmosphere for agriculture and other businesses to thrive. He said government must support artisans and attract investment, both local and international, to the state.
To observers, the contest will not be a walk over for Oyetola. It is about the survival of the fittest. There are hurdles to cross. Zoning, more than in the previous dispensations, is generating controversy. Some people have intensified their agitation for power shift to Osun West Senatorial District. But, the APC candidate is from Osun Central. His main rival at the primary, Moshood Adeoti, has left the party for the Action Democratic Party (APD) in protest over zoning. Adeoti is from West. What is the implication of the controversy for the poll? Oyetola said: “Usually, I don’t enjoy talking about this. But, I will be guided by the fact that zoning is not in the APC constitution. So, as long as it is not in the constitution, every zone is free to contest the governorship position.
“Historically there was no time that zoning had ever been introduced, starting from the day the state was created since 1991. So, it is in line with the constitution of the party that every zone should be allowed to compete and whoever wins should be supported. Having said that, I believe all the zones in the state should compete freely for any elective position albeit democratically.”
Oyetola is confident that the controversy over zoning will not affect his chances at the poll. He said the aggrieved parties have been reconciled. To him, reconciliation, crisis resolution and consensus building are very important, adding that members can only begin to think about positions when the party is retained in power. “I have seen genuine efforts at reconciliation. Virtually all the contenders have actually congratulated me. We have been having meetings. They have resolved to work with me to ensure victory of our party come 22nd of September. And I believe they are very sincere, except for an individual that has left the party. That should not be a reason for anybody to believe that singular episode would affect the fortunes of our party. It is a party affair now. The party cannot afford to fail.”
During the APC primary, direct primary was also a bone of contention. The method adopted by the party leadership was beyond the control of the aspirants, including Oyetola. But, he said the controversy was unnecessary. In his opinion, the party followed its constitution. Urging party members to study and understand the benefits of direct primary, he said: “I took my time to study the constitution of the party. There are three options through which a candidate of the party could emerge. We have direct, indirect and consensus. The direct primary gives room for party members to participate in the choice of the flag bearer. Direct primary is open and it is more participatory; and the outcome is always the expression of the wishes of the majority of the members of the party.
“All the party members are given equal opportunity to choose their preferred candidate. In this system of selection, majority of the members of the party are allowed to speak as opposed to indirect primary where just a fraction; less than two percent of the entire membership of the party; would decide the faith of all others. Indirect primary is cumbersome, more expensive and it gives rooms for a lot of manipulation. If you have money you could easily pull through. So, I will endorse direct primary any time, any day because it is so transparent.”
To the political class in Osun, Oyetola, unlike Aregbesola, is a quiet politician who prefer to work behind the scene. How would he cope with the murky waters of politics and the challenge of governance? Oyetola applauded his boss’ sagacity, saying that he is an enigma and a unique personality. But, he clarified that he is not new in politics, having been a member of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress (AC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), although he never ran for any elective office before. Oyetola said he will cope by drawing from his experience in the last eight year, particularly in policy making and implementation.
”I have the experience, not less than thirty years in private sector and about eight years’ experience in governance and public service. So, I could leverage on the synergies, between the public and private sectors, to make things work. In the area of governance, yes, I think I am well equipped. I know what it takes to deliver on promises. I know my people and their needs and aspirations. I have been part of the core team that fashioned processes and policies to meet the needs of our people. I am the man needed to keep the engine of development running,” he added.
Also, his social and professional background notwithstanding, Oyetola said he will survive in politics. “I have survived it for eight years and it is interesting. I went for the primary and ran a very engaging campaign. I visited all the wards in the state. I have 332 coordinators. I visited all the 332 wards when I was campaigning. I have engaged 31 coordinators in all local governments and the area office. I have canvassers in all the units. So, it is interesting. My experience in the private sector has actually helped. For me to have the kind of structure in my campaign, the private sector experience has helped.” Oyetola added: “True, it used to be very dirty, violent and thuggery-prone. But, nowadays, it is brain and competence, not brawn and money. Decency in politics is possible and I have a decent mind-set, focused on the politics of good governance and development. All I need is a number of patriotic and dedicated citizens of Osun, who will join me in making the state greater. Of course, the people is where power derives.
Oyetola said he looked forward to a god contest between him and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenger, Senator Ademola Adeleke. He predicted victory for himself, saying: “I see victory around the corner. We have demonstrated to the people that PDP is not a choice. Our stewardship is evidential. Our commitment to the welfare of the people is unquestionable. Our developmental strides are unparalleled in the history of the State Of Osun.”
The APC candidate noted the worry over vote buying, saying that he will not encourage it in Osun State. He said if a candidate is popular, his programmes will attract votes that will take him to power. “If the people believe in you, they will vote for you. I think that is what should be encouraged. This was why I even preferred the direct primary adopted by my party, the APC, to elect its governorship candidate. I am not for vote-buying. It is not ideal and I will never participate in it because I don’t believe in it,” he stressed..
Oyetola called for a free and fair election. He listed the conditions that will guarantee a credible poll. His words: “First of all, we must have adequate security. When people know that they are provided with adequate security, they won’t allow miscreants to hijack the process. So, voters should be allowed to exercise their civic responsibility, freely without any intimidation or harassment.
“Even, the presence of security operatives around will guarantee safety; and would encourage a lot of people to come out to vote. Once we are able to curb violence, people will naturally and voluntarily come out to vote. So, there won’t be a question of vote-buying.”
On his programmes for youths, Oyetola said: “This is a big challenge, not only in our state. I want to say that what we are experiencing in the Northeast and other parts of the nation is as a result of youth unemployment. One of the many ways of standing up to this is to encourage our youths to go into farming, with the government providing some incentives. We have some farm centers and we will ensure they have adequate amenities to encourage the youths to want to be engaged in farming. We will make amenities available in both the urban and rural areas. “Through this, we can create many jobs, direct and indirect. The cottage industries will be allowed to spring up to create job opportunities for the youth. From farming alone, we will ensure associated activities and create a value chain system that will further empower the people. Also, we will encourage technical and vocational education to make our youth acquire skills. Some of these youths don’t have skills.” To make them employable we will encourage vocational education. The skills they would acquire will make them self-dependent. If they have skills they will be able to create jobs and even employ one or two hands. We know that small and medium enterprises drive the economy very fast. We will look in this direction with utmost seriousness to support our youths to be economically viable. When we talk of carpentry, bricklaying and so on we don’t need to go to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic and Togo to source technicians and artisans for many constructions going on here. We have done well in the area of conventional education but I will look into technical and vocational education to ensure skill acquisition.