BARRISTER Morohunkola Thomas is the Executive Assistant on political matters to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state and one of the governors’ aides eyeing the Agodi Government House.
The commissioner emeritus in this interview with Mega Icon Magazine spoke about his ambition and plans for the state.
Thomas, who confidently described himself as the most qualified candidate for the Agodi Government House assignment irrespective of political faith, also tagged a leading gubernatorial aspirant under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engineer Seyi Makinde as political illiterate. Excerpts
Sir, is it true that you are eyeing the most exalted seat in Oyo state?
It’s absolutely true. I am in the race to succeed Governor Ajimobi in 2019 by the grace of God and as you are well aware, I am eminently prepared, I am eminently qualified for that position. I have served in different capacities, I have seen the in and out of government, I know where Oyo state was coming from and where it is today and I know where the state should be tomorrow.
So, there is no one that is more qualified than me in any of the political parties. I have served my tutelage, I have paid my dues, I have taken a thorough understanding.
Having served in various governments, are you saying this places you ahead of other aspirants?
It gives me an opportunity to understand the dynamics of Oyo state politics and that is an edge over others. You may say they are technocrats, I am also a technocrat and well educated, I attended many Universities in three continents – Africa, America and Europe. I am more qualified than many of them. I am an expert in development, I am also an expert in public administration, so I should have perfect knowledge of Oyo state tomorrow more than those who have a faint knowledge of the political economy of this state . I am an expert in governance.
Obviously you are close to Governor Abiola Ajimobi , but there is an impression that the governor deliberately instructed some of you to join the guber race so as to add credibility to the primary he planned to stage manage to favour his anointed candidate. What’s your take on this?
As far as I am concerned, the governor did not ask me to contest, he didn’t ask me to do so and as much as I know this governor, he wouldn’t ask you to go and do anything that you have no interest in. I have been piloting my own political career in the past decades, about two decades now and I know the right time.
I was waiting for this time. In 2003 people came urging me to contest and I felt it was not the right time, but this is the time for me to do so, this is not about Governor Ajimobi using anybody to put credibility on any process, Governor Ajimobi himself is an eminent democrat, the man who believes in the progress and development of this state and the man who believes that whatever you want to get you must work for it so, if you think everybody in the cabinet are coming out and he is doing so to put credibility to the process, that is not true.
I am a serious candidate, I am in this for seriousness, I believe in Oyo state and I have the capacity and the capability to take Oyo state to the next level. I am part of the current process and I want to sustain this legacy and build on it to make this Oyo state an envy of all. I don’t know of other colleagues who are in the cabinet, I don’t know what has prompted them but I am saying that it is not the governor that is prompting me.
Governor Ajimobi will go for the best, he knows what is good for the state and he will realign himself with whatever process or candidate that will make Oyo state greater and I can say that I am fit for that position.
Considering the inexhaustible number of aspirants jostling for the party ticket, do you have any alternative plan (s) in the event of not picking the APC ticket?
I have come a long way in politics, since 1979 to this time that is about 39 years now. Let me say it categorically here that it is only God that enthrones a leader. You cannot force yourself on the people. David was somewhere in the bush attending to the cattle when the prophet demanded that he should be the one to be ordained as king, it is God who ordains King, HE is the one that will make a governor or a president at the appropriate time.
If it happens that I don’t get the ticket , I will not leave the party, and I will not abandon Governor Ajimobi. I am one of his disciples, and I am a very prominent member of his political caucus, I am not going to abandon him just because of primary election, I am going to work very hard to get the ticket, and I am sending a message to the party members that I am a party man, I am not an outsider, I am an insider.
I know where we are going, I know where we are coming from, I know where we are and I should be the best , if God decided that I should be, I will also thank God if he decides on the other way. I will thank him and carry on with my life in the party.
If you eventually emerged as the governor of Oyo state what will you do differently from what others have been doing?
Every regime is different from the other, but if I becomes the governor, I will pay more attention to some issues, particularly in driving the economy of this state. We must take this state from the level of a civil service state to an economically buoyant state, there are many sectors of the economy that we must touch to bring about life into this state, we must look at agriculture, not the basic one, but we must look at Agric and its value chain, Agric business, not just the planting of crops alone. But we must look at agric as a business that must grow this economy, we must also look at sports it can help in bringing about a developed economy.
When you look at Brazil, some forty, fifty years ago, Brazilian’s economy was in shamble it was soccer that was used to develop its economy. Today, the Brazilian economy has so much been diversified. We must organize an integrated economic approach in the development of Oyo state and we must look at all the critical sectors. So, my major agenda that I will purse as governor is to take Oyo state economy from this level to the level of high productivity and specialization.
The level that unemployment will be reduced to the bearest minimum, the level of bringing in new technologies into production activities in Oyo state and you must lay down the policy to do that , you will see that in my economy blueprint. In the same way I will look at the social sector and ensure that it is well organized, the educational system that we are running today needs a new impetus, this current governor has initiated the policy of School Governing Boards (SGBs) which is now helping in management of the secondary schools now. I will go beyond that level, we must make our school IT and Technology based so that our children can compete anywhere in the world . We will organize primary education in such a way that even if a child terminates his education at the level of secondary school he can still use his life in a good way . I will bring about science and vocational education, and ensure that vocational education is affordable in such a way that people will have to learn one trade or the other which will prepare them for self employment .
The health sector in this country, not only in this state is actually in limbo, that is why health tourism is common, all over Africa what we are going to do is to modernized the health sector, we must work in partnership with the private sector to lift up the health sector.
University College Hospital, Ibadan (UCH) is a little bit better than what the ministry described as a mere consulting clinic in those days and in our hospitals we have the doctors, but do we have equipments, are the facilities not decay? Even our doctors, are they having the opportunity of training and retraining, we don’t have we must look at the health sector and collaborate with the private sector so that we will be able to uplift the sector. And now that Governor Ajimobi has been kind enough to bring about the health insurance, that health insurance must be perfected in such a way that the hospitals will be able to survive.
What is hampering the hospital is the shortfall of cash. The scheme when popularized to the grassroots it will generates necessary funds for the management of the hospitals and not only that, our budgetary allocation to the health sector must be increased, when you do that you will now be able to start afresh, build more hospitals, yes we have had a number of primary health care centres but we must build secondary health care centres. I want to have a collaboration with investors in the health sectors, turn it to money making avenue if properly organized. People don’t have to go to Israel, London, Germany and if they have kidney problems , Liver problems or cancer, they should be able to treat it here, we must set up first class specialists hospital in each zone of the state , that means seven first class hospitals in Oyo state and that will happen within my first term in office as governor of Oyo state and with that we will be able to make more money through health tourism and it will earn us a lot of foreign exchange, that is part of our integrated economic approach.
A prominent PDP governorship aspirant, Engineer Seyi Makinde recently alleged that Oyo state is heavily indebted, and that the present economic reality which is dwindling in the price of oil is one of the limitations that hinders development and if that were to be true how do you intend to raise funds to execute these lofty ideas?
Let me start with Seyi Makinde’s issue. Don’t regard Seyi Makinde as a politician, he is a philantrophist, he is a man of very little knowledge about politics and its unfortunate that he has hired retired hands to do his PR and that is why politicians of note have left his party. PDP is a skeletal party now, its in carcass, it is a political dead end for people. PDP is not meant for people who are serious about politics, the guys that are serious about politics have moved out of that place.
Some of them have come to us and some are still coming and I am saying it because what information does Seyi Makinde has? The moment I gets the ticket, the PDP will be depopulated, many of their people have promised me that they are going to leave the party once I gets the ticket.
Governor Ajimobi is a first class public and financial manager, he has managed the economy of this state very well. He is not owing one year salary. At the beginning of January 2017, Ajimobi was owning about 8 month salaries as of today, he is owning July salary, kudos to him. That shows sound economic management and he has not borrowed money to pay salaries and look at all the infrastructures that is going on in the state, he is managing the resources of the state without borrowing money and I want to challenge Seyi Makinde to let us know which money was borrowed. This guy is calculating bail out funds, he is a political illiterate who doesn’t know anything about governance.
That is why I am saying, it is not about people having money, people think being a billionaire is a qualification for leadership, its not. Any idiot can become rich, but not just any idiot can become a leader, you have to be intellectually and politically endowed to lead , if you want to make such an allegation, you must do your research. I want to see his evidence, the debt management of the presidency is there, no state borrows money without the approval of the DMO that is working under the ministry of finance and that place is open. Don’t forget we have a freedom of Information act that is operational, why is he lying to the people of Oyo state? He is playing this old politics that they used to play in those days, telling lies like they do against Akala, Ajimobi, they are still telling it again and the people of Oyo state are tired of these lies. Any politician that want to convince the people of Oyo state must have his facts . Ajimobi has managed this state efficiently and effectively and I think he has done well.
This is not a banana state , this state is not indebted as far as I know, the bailout fund was given to all states in Nigeria. The Federal government considered it as a loan and you are calculating it as a debt . These guys should go back, face their philanthropic businesses and leave politics to those who are interested in public administration and who have an understanding of the system.
Remember I said Agric Business should be our major focus. As commissioner for Agric in this state I increased the revenue to this state from forestry. Forestry is a major and very significant source of income for any state that is interested and we planted ticks and oil palm plantations. My vision is to expand the scope of economic activities to generate more revenue . The oil is improving but the major source of income is Agrciulture, the other economic activities that will bring so much money here is solid minerals. Oyo state is highly endowed, in places like Itesiwaju and parts of Ibadan, the government can go hand in hand with private companies and invest in these sectors .
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