Chief Raufu Aregbesola, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate for the 2011 gubernatorial election in Osun State has promised to transform the state into one of the richest in the country if he wins the election. He spoke last week in Lagos during a courtesy visit to the BusinessWorld Newspaper.
Aregbesola, who was the candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in the 2007 governorship election in the state, said he would use the most mundane things neglected by the people to develop the state. According to him, these mundane things have economic potentials adding that it takes a visionary leadership with bright ideas to tap them for the development of the state. He spoke to CHRIS UBA .Excerpts.
On His Economic Programmes for Osun State
WE chose your organ in spite of your deliberate hibernation. In spite of that, we sought you out and found you. Why are we here? We are here because we know that society is where economic interaction takes place. The basis for societal existence is economics. Social comes out of the economics. That was why Karl Marx said it is the material existence that defines man. Not social existence. It is what and how you live that makes you who you are. Not some other things.
So, to your question: We have carried out research and found out one most important needs of a large number of people in Osun State and several other parts of Nigeria is employment. We will employ at least 20,000 youths in the first 100 days in office. Then, there is a caveat. The caveat is that because the people have been laid off prematurely, who might still want to be part of the workforce, we are making allowance of 5,000 to cater for those prematurely laid off staff who still wants to join the workforce. That will be our immediate response to the problem. Because the people and the economy are very important to us, we equally plan to put in place employment generating ventures that might grow the economy of the state and employ up to 200,000 people in the first one year.
In addressing some of these problems, I will start from the most mundane. The mundane thing as I have found out is that close to 75 per cent of Pentecostal organisations, I mean Pentecostal church organisations leaders in this country, are from Osun State, Ilesha in particular. Baba Adeboye, Kumuyis, Abiaras etc, all of them are from Ilesha. Each of these men has large followers running into thousands. I say to myself, why can’t I go to borrow money and build a large convention ground that can accommodate over 200,000 people. We can invite any of these men to come and minister on the convention ground. We can meet Adeboye and say we need prayer here; come and organise convention here, even if it is once in a quarter. And I know that when large number of these people come here, the economic activities of the state will be boosted. Buying pure water, buying akara (bean cake), buying recharge cards are economic activities.
You know what it means when over 200,000 people are involved in buying and selling. If each of the 200,000 spends just N1, 000, that means N200 million entering the economy of the state every week. With that, the economy of Osun State will improve, because, in no time those who have eye for investment will be coming to the state build hostels and hotels to cater for these people, who must come every week Because if Adeboye does his own, Abiara does his, Kumuyi does his own, Babalola, his own. There will be no free week around.
On the Policy Approach
I found out that it is through these little things that you grow an economy. What is an economy? Economy is basically about business transactions, economic relationship. That N100 you pay to the taxi driver, to an okada rider, to a fufu seller is the economy. Because the fufu seller is selling very many raps and will engage some other people and life goes on. With that, several other layers of jobs will be created.
Another plan is that we want to build a new Ife, which traces the history of Yoruba to 500 years back and begins to project the Yoruba light 500 years forward and serve as a must-visit-place to all blacks in the world. So, if I succeed in bringing, in ultimately, one million people to the state a year and I get them through various inducements, there are people who will go away with the soil of Ife because Ife is said to be the origin of black people.
If I can get them from the United States, Brazil, Cuba and the entire South America, you know there are many blacks in Diaspora dying to be here in their live time. If I can sell one bottled soil or whatever to them; If I can get them to spend just $1,000 here; that multiple by one million visitors is $1 billion. If that is multiplied by N150, that gives you N150 billion. If N150 billion could enter Osun State economy in a year, we are made.
Then on this, I will tell you something that we do not even consider here. I believe that within the Yoruba states, we can join efforts that give rise to the construction of a rail line, which will make it possible for a worker in Lagos to live in the farthest Yoruba settlement. Indeed, the United Kingdom people live in Bristol and work in London. The distance between Bristol and London is more than the distance between Ilesa and Lagos. Why it is not popular today is because there are no train tracks or the technology to make it possible to move between Ilesa and Lagos within 45 minutes. We will do it. Through that, we decongest Lagos, send the professors of the University of Lagos to the hinterlands and grow the wealth of the people.
That is why we here, to let you know that really, our under development is largely because of the fact that we have nincompoops, who have no vision and idea.
On His Association with Tinubu
If associating with Tinubu will make some people hate me, I want to proudly say that Tinubu is such a personality who is actually committed to politics of purpose, politics of idea, politics of progress and development that can never be shied away from. So, Tinubu represents, to me, the political ethos. This is not only my own perceptive but a total representation of my own politics. So, associating with him therefore represents to me an asset. I happily, genuinely and totally identify with him. I identify with his ideas, with his politics, with his views of life.
Though, those who are oppose to him are the enemies of our people, who despise people on our land and the people who desire good life, good government, freedom and liberty. Tinubu does not owe them any apology at all. It is because of them that we are born to Osun to bring light to the state. We are in mortal struggle with them. Here we have succeeded in displacing them. There, we are locked in a mortal battle for survival. It is not a question of whether they will go. The issue is when will they go? After all, we defeated them.
We are certain that our mandate will be retrieved as we will be declared the authentic winner of the mandate of the people, which we sought and got in 2007. I don’t need the support of those who feel that Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be the leader of this current action to sanitize our region. We must clean (that is the reason for our broom), sanitize, re-orientate and move forward for the progress and development of our people and land.
It is not in ensuring that we will displaced them, we have displaced them. You can confirm whether it is true or not with what happened in the last election. PDP was beaten in every polling boot in Ikirun in spite of their hooliganism, intimidation, their hostility, victimization and their harassments. It is unfortunate that proving the truth in Nigeria is difficult. It is such that obtaining justice in Nigeria is difficult otherwise that question would not have arisen. I won the election. The only town in Osun State, where we did not have Inec affirmation of the victory is Ife. It is not as we are not popular there. People, who would have voted for us were never allowed to vote. A good example is what happened on that day on the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, where students who had been sent out of the university since February and did not return to the campus of the university until July of that year were said to have voted in that election when students were not on campus. Over 3,000 votes were said to have been recorded in that polling boot on the campus.
That is not the only proof of their illegality and their malpractices but also the question is: is it possible for any polling boot to record more than 2,000 votes in an election that took maximum of 10 hours if you allow the extra three hours allowed? Ten hours of 60 minutes per hours, 600 minutes. So if these voters used one minutes to vote, how many will that be? Where did they get their 3,000 votes? That is to tell you that they have outrageous figures written by themselves. This shows the problem of the Nigerian judiciary, I won’t say they are corrupt, in its wisdom has not deemed it necessary up till now to give us justice. We will get justice.
On His Educational Programme
I like to tell you the economic aspects of our programme. We found out that part of the problems of our society is that our education is not functional. It is not skill oriented. We want to develop what is called the life academy. There are nine federal constituencies in Osun State. In each of these, we will have what is called life academy. Why do we call them life academy and what are they for? They are called life academy because all that you need to do to enter life academy is ability to read and write. And there is no limit to enter the academy. If a professor wants to come, he or she is welcome. It is for people who want to be the master of their environment. In that academy, we will orientate everybody. We will give them life supporting cure with which they will live their lives.
I will tell you one thing that most of us are taking for granted. We all do not want to die in any automobile accident. But we do not care about how our drivers are trained. We just want driver. None of us care about how our drivers are driving including myself. To ensure that your driver is not just a man that can drive but a person that can assist you in your ability as well ensure that it is not just your life but his own too, must be protected.. We will include driving in the programme of the academy. We will encourage people driving who are so inclined to driving and who can drive as well as assist in the day-to-day activities, save their lives, as well save your lives and guaranty that in doing that job, behave as complete human beings.
Today, Shell pays drivers between N200,000 and N300,000. Only a few people know this. In that academy, we are planning to have officers, who will go to Shell and will tell them, we are different set of drivers. We have people, who can double as assistants to whomever executive you give them to as well as drive them safely and defensively. This is example of one of the things that the life academy will do when we reclaim our mandate.
The basic aim of the academy is to make every human being a productive person in the society. We are going to create nine resourceful centres within our first year in office, to show our people the duty of production and productive life and use them as agents for economic growth and development. That I believe will go a long way in changing the general attitude to work for societal development. That is what I will tell you. And that is why we are so popular. Ordinary people appreciate our message and understand our programme.
On How He will Increase the level of Political Awareness in the State?
If I want to answer you the way you asked this question, I would say that we will not be fair to the voters in Osun State if we say they are not informed. We won’t be fair to them. Let me tell you on April 14, 2007 election, more than 20 people were killed. They were not killed carrying cutlasses and guns; they were killed because they wanted to ensure that ballot boxes are not stolen. Saheed Adebiyi, who was killed, was from Ikirun, Ifelodun Local Government. He was an HND holder, agent of my party, who refused to leave the polling boot and my opponents ordered their orderlies to shoot him.
My opponents supervised the deaths of all our people including Seun Olarenwaju, that was killed in Ife during the election. Those people did not want to die. They just could not stomach the hopelessness of their stations. The best they could was to say we have voted, you can’t take it away and they shot them to death. They killed three in my town, Ilesa. They killed one in Ikirun .They killed one in Ife. They killed one in Igbajo, Ayo Oni. They killed one in Ede. They killed one in Ede Omu. They killed one in Ila. All these people were AC agents.
After that, the government dispatched soldiers to my town. They were there for one month. My town was under a military siege for a month because they are not able to correct the anomaly. My answer is that it is not for lack of sophistication or knowledge. It is that there are despotic set of people, mindless, conscienceless, and totally unconcerned about the people. Their own quest is power and nothing must stand in their ways.