Q: Happy birthday GNI and how would you describe life at 56?
A: I will say, without hesitation that life has been fair to me and really, I only have to appreciate my creator for how far He has brought me. As it is common to all men, life will present to you measures of the good, the bad and the ugly, but it is how you rise up to the challenges that comes your way that will determine what becomes your fate eventually. So for me, I have had my fair share of life challenges and at this juncture, I have a good story to tell, despite my humble beginnings.
Q: Specifically, has life been fair to you in terms of your family, career, health, politics and so on?
A: Well, a philosopher once said that the secrets of men are in their stories; and for me, I have come a long way and have many stories to tell. I come from a humble background, growing up in Imeko, where I spent the first sixteen years of my life before venturing out to pursue higher education. Those periods had its peculiar challenges but I was focused on the future I desired; and that was enough motivation for me. Also, going to the 'Great Ife', now Obafemi Awolowo University, where I Obtained a first class degree in Accounting, presented a lot of challenges in terms of the new environment, academic rigour and needed support structure which was not readily available; but in the end, I came out with top honours through focus and determination. This became the foundation for subsequent academic attainments and a career path that traversed the banking sector, stockbroking and Investment management at both private and public sector levels. I am also involved in politics and I am still very active in it. In all of these, it wasn't easy, as they say, but I took what life threw at me and made the best of scarce opportunities. I have enjoyed very good heath and have the benefit of a good, stable family. For these two specifically, I thank God.
Q: In all that you have just said, would you see yourself as a fulfilled man at 56 and in which areas are you still expecting fulfilment?
A: Far from it that I will claim fulfilment at this point in my life. There are lots of goals to achieve, many projects to pursue and many values I desire to add in order to leave my generation better than I met it. Of course too, I have a lot to still learn and knowledge to acquire for personal and societal benefit. Without delving into many specifics, I would say that my further life objectives are in two broad areas - personal goals and public goals. Personal goals will mean getting more academic garlands (like Chief Obasanjo who just became a Doctor at over 80 years), expanding my businesses to uncharted territories and seeing my children do well in their careers and raise good families. Public goals will mean that I am able to use the platform of politics to effect positive change in society and add value to the lives of as many people as I possibly can. It is until I am able to see all these happen that I may begin to claim fulfilment. However, I am glad with what I have achieved but I still have a lot to do.
Q: Talking of one of your life goals, you have aspired on two occasions to govern Ogun State. Is the ambition still there or over?
A: Oh, the desire is still very much there and Iet me say, without mincing words that I am contesting a third time; and it is to win this time around. If your medium have followed my recent activities, you will realize that I and my team have not relented but we are daily driven with a vision and passion to bring to reality, our ultimate desire to make life more abundant and enhance the social and economic welfare of ogun citizens. I am constantly on the move, interracting with the electorate, building needed networks and patnerships and selling my brand and ideas to the populace. Having contested twice, it brings a recall and probably some empathy in the mind of the electorate and added to all that I am currently doing, victory is in sight come 2019.
Q: You are from Yewa, a zone believed to be a minority and where gubernatorial aspirants over the years refused to agree a common front. Will this perception not stand as brick wall to your aspiration this time?
A: Firstly, I think the tag of minority and the often trumpeted issue of disunity among Yewa-Awori People is most unfortunate. I really will not go into the fallacy of these assumptions but I must say that it is not true. Ogun state is built on four divisions, Remo, Ijebu, Yewa-Awori and Egba; all making the three senatorial districts. Each division have its unique strength and character; and they all complememt each other to make a viable State. The simple way to test the fallacy is to extricate Yewa-Awori west from the current map and you will see the state substantially reduced in terms of land, commerce, agriculture, mineral resources and industrialization. I believe that the reference to minority has to do with the zone not having produced a governor and I think that will change by next year. Secondly, Yewa-Awori people are always united but the variables that conspire to determine the gubernatorial destination have not been favourable to us, but I think they will add up in favour of Yewa-Awori this time around. The aspirants are now talking and a united front will be achieved this time. Besides, I am not contesting on the theme of a particular zone. I am a pan-Ogun state aspirant and I represent the interest of all deprived ogun people who desire a better life via good, responsible, responsive and people-centred governance. Therefore, the Yewa-Awori identity is not an obstacle but an advantage; among other positive factors.
Q: Among other aspirants in the state, what qualities do you think stands you out?
A: A number of things stand me out which are basically about my brand. First, I have contested twice and over the years demonstrated via my manifestos that I have clear ideas on how to move ogun state forward and this is no longer in doubt. Secondly, the people have also in these years observed my antecedents and have defined me by intelligence, character, integrity, humility and demonstrable capacity for the job at hand. Thirdly, I have been here all my life and understand the needs of the people, having been to every corner of ogun state in no less than three occasions; and this is really significant. More importantly, there is a new paradigm in tranformational leadership which the people now crave for and I believe I represent and embody the hope of the masses. All these stand me out and will give me the edge next year.
Q: If you emerge as the governor of the state, what would be your take on the issue of cattle colony for all states of the federation as being proposed by the federal government?
A: I do not subscribe to cattle colonies because of the unpleasant potentials that is inherent in such a policy. I as the Chief Executive of ogun state will advocate ranching in preference to grazing reserves or colonies. We have to recognize that we have an unusual herding situation on our hands, which now borders on outright terrorism. The level of human carnage in the name of itinerant cattle business is unacceptable and one of the ways to curb it is to limit the movements of these herdsmen. Let them stay in unitary locations and bring in the food for the cows; after after all, it is private business. It is also instructive to note that the Federal Government is in no position to prescribe a one-fit-all solution for the country. Each state, being independent units should look for solution that are peculiar to it and take full responsibility to protect locals and the herdsmen alike, within the purview of extant laws. This challenge is one of the things that restructuring will address.
Q: Recently there have been letters from elder statesmen asking President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019 just as there is an ongoing political realignment among gladiators. How would you react to this?
A: Well, the letters are personal admonition from elders to another elder and it is within their rights to do so, for which no one can begrudge them. It is also within the inalienable right of Mr President to decide whether to contest or not, even though he is constitutionally eligible to do so. He will decide that at the right time with his team and party. For those of us watching the trend and for Nigerians in general, it is for us to look at the content of these messages and see where there can be hope for this country. It is not in doubt that governance is alarmingly ineffective and the political system is broken at the moment. The economy is unproductive, corruption is rife and insecurity is prevalent. To these extents, a new political system is needed to rescue Nigeria from the precipice and it is only normal that alignments of positive forces would happen to bring about the new order. We now hear of movements and coalitions to save Nigeria. It is the right way to go as the people deserve better from elected leaders and if those in authority are making a mess of governance, the people must rise up to confront the status quo and chart a new path towards sustainable socioeconomic and human development. This is in line with the objectives of The Believe Movement (TBM), which is a sociopolitical mass movement based in Ogun State which I have championed for about two years since its official launch in December 2016. I and my team saw the failure of the current system both in Ogun state and nationally; we then put up a mass movement that is predicated on civic enlightenment and values orientation around patriotism, integrity, community development, delayed gratification, shared prosperity and good governance. That there is now an emerging national consensus towards mass movement as the way forward, is a vindication of the rightfulness of what we have seen and been doing for a while with our own movement in Ogun state.
Q: Narrowing down to Ogun state, how would you assess the current administration and what will you do differently?
A: I will maintain that full campaigns have not started and a lot will be revealed by then, but for now, I will say the government has operated within the limits of its capacity. For me, resources are always limited and thus, the primary focus of any responsible government will be to protect and enhance the social and economic welfare of every citizen; suffice to say, governance must be about the people. We have seen major efforts at building new bridges and expanding roads, especially around the state capital but like I said, we must reconcile these capital projects that have consumed the highest monies with how it helps the people in terms of quality education, effective primary healthcare system, access to water, access to affordable mass housing, rural integration through good roads and power. We can also check if it has helped SMEs grow or boosted industrialization, for the purpose of bringing down the high unemployment rate in the state. We also have to relate it with the current fiscal management in terms to utility, budgets and debt profile. Natural resources exploitation and using technological innovation to drive development in agriculture and manufacturing are also areas to see if the current focus of government is helping. For me, these areas are important and will form the fulcrum of my revised manifesto which will be unveiled soon.
Q: Finally, what will you birthday wish be?
A: It will be that the Almighty God continues to give me good health, keep and increase my family and grant my desire to be an instrument to ensure the growth and progress of the people of Ogun state and Nigeria in whole.