Interview

ONDO STATE NEEDS HOME BASED GOVERNOR IN 2024- Otunba Benji

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Otunba Benji Oloye, the Bashorun of Owo Kingdom is a Community Leader and Social Commentator. He speaks with the PATH NEWS on President Tinubu administration, Akeredolu’s ill- health, 2024 Governorship Election in Ondo State among other issues.

Some critics of Mr. President believe removing fuel subsidy on the first day in office is starting a government on bad footing; do you share this sentiment?

To start with, nothing good come easy. If we want to enjoy petroleum product in Nigeria, subsidy has to go and if the government of President Tinubu took the bull by the horns by removing the subsidy, definitely Nigerians will go through pains and hardship but in the long run, we are going to enjoy it. But one thing I know is that, with competition in the market, the price of PMS will fall. I can only appeal to Nigerians to bear with the president on this policy of subsidy removal which is no longer sustainable. Some cabals in the industry have turned fuel subsidy to conduit pipes of milking the country dry. It takes a courageous man like President Tinubu to remove the subsidy.

Organized Labour are agitating for palliatives that can cushion the effect of subsidy on Nigerians; what kind of palliatives should the Federal Government be looking at?

My area of argument with the Organized Labour is that instead of looking for palliatives that would cushion the effect of the subsidy on their workers and Nigerians, they want to antagonize the government. They should make it a duty for any organization that has more than 20 staff to have Staff Bus, this will ease the workers of transportation cost. Mr. President has said it in his inaugural address that, there’s no going back on subsidy removal and what is expected of the Labour unions is to dialogue with the government and come out with policy that will cushion the effect rather threatening government with industrial action.

One of the demands of the Trade Union Congress is increment of Minimum wage to N200, 000; do you think Nigeria government will subscribe to this bogus wage increment?

If TUC is talking of fat salary, inflation will take 90 percent of the money, it doesn’t make sense. N200,000 as minimum wage is outrageous and I don’t think any government will agree to it. What the labour leaders should be discussing with the government is palliatives measure and not bogus salary increment that is not sustainable. They should be talking of Staff bus, Housing Estate for workers which would be on mortgage, students loan which the president has approved among other palliative measures. Their demands shouldn’t be centered on salary alone but more of what would be of benefits to the entire country.In less than one month in office,

kudos and knocks to some of the decision President Tinubu has taken; in your own view, so far, how would you assess the performance of the president?

In my previous interview with the press, I said that Mr. President needs to kick the ground running on his first day in office and l wasn’t disappointed, he did. He has started on good footing moving in different directions be it economy, infrastructure, security, education, agriculture among others. In a matter of days, the ministers would be appointed and I can trust his judgement of picking the best cabinet members that will work with him. Sentiment apart, Mr. President has proven to Nigerians that they made the right choice with the manner he has started.

What is your take on the sacking of Service Chiefs and replacement by new ones; would this in any way boost the security architecture of the country?

When I saw the names of the new Service Chiefs, I know that Mr. President has first class information about the performance and ability of these gallant Officers before appointing them. Take a look at the Chief of Army Staff, General Lagbaja, this is a man that will go to the warfront and never an arm chair General. He gives the Junior Officers at the war front sense of belonging, discuss and allow them to air their views while he documents it for further actions. These junior officers are the one facing the war and in better position to tell the Army General situation of things; I believe with Lagbaja as COAS, the insurgent will soon become thing of the past. To win the war against insurgent in Nigeria, loyalty is very key because many of the ambush laid for the soldiers have informants within working for the terrorists. When you have loyal officer, he does his job, execute and get desire results. General Lagbaja is a combatant soldier that knows his onions as far gorilla war is concern and I believe he will deliver. Other Service Chiefs appointed are capable in their various fields and have what it takes to win the war against insurgent.

This is not the first time Service Chiefs would either be fired and new ones appointed; what should these new Service Chiefs do different from their predecessor in office?

Firstly, synergy among the Service Chiefs will help them if they want to have a head way in their new assignment and loyalty to Nigeria and not their pockets. If they are loyal to the country, a lot will be achieved. Before, huge amount of money was budgeted for logistics, equipment but this money is channeled to either private pocket or other means than what its met for. If the new Service Chiefs channel the budgeted money to the right place, buy equipment, pay allowance of soldiers as at when due and all the security apparatus work together as a team, in no distance time, insurgent will become history in Nigeria.

What is your take on the sacking of the CBN Governor and EFCC Boss?

The economy of Nigeria is nosediving, courtesy of the CBN Governor, so if such person is sacked, what is wrong with that? The Former CBN Governor is said to have been linked to financing terrorists and no government will close his eye to this heinous allegation. The sacked EFFC Boss was not doing his job as expected and several financial allegations of under hand dealings were hanging on his neck. For a government that means serious business, Emefiele and Bawa have no business being in office considering the weighty allegations of high handedness levy against them.

What criteria should the president be looking at as he forms his cabinet?

Mr. President is the master of the game when it comes to assemble capable hands; while he was the governor of Lagos State, he picked the best of the best as cabinet members, that is why under his eight years’ administration, he was able to turned Lagos to Mega City and laid the foundation of good governance for his successors. President Tinubu knows how to harvest best brain and capable hands, we have many of them in Nigeria and he knows their pedigree and he will definitely go for the best.

Ondo State contributions to the victory of the president in the February 25 Polls is massive; do you think this could earn the state the portfolio of a Senior Minister in President Tinubu’s cabinet?

This is politics and in politics, it is a question of numbers and loyalty. While campaigning for votes, if President Tinubu was given conditions or price by certain states, he will definitely take notes of that and if some states voted and supported him on loyalty without price tag, he will also consider it while giving portfolio to states. In Ondo State, our governor supported his ambition wholeheartedly and he was at the forefront championing Southern Presidency. In 2019 Presidential Election, Ondo State lost to opposition party because of the anti-party and division among the APC but in 2023 polls, it was one house championed by the governor and Ondo State recorded the highest votes for the president in the South West. I believe Mr. President will reciprocate this kind gesture of the state by giving us not only Senior Minister but better portfolio.

For a government that wants to deliver, would it be right if President Tinubu go outside Party Politics to pick some of his cabinet members?

There is nothing bad in going outside party’s patronage to pick the rightful people for the job provided it is for the good of his administration. As earlier said, he is an experience man when it comes to recruitment of the best hands. He can pick from the opposition parties and even extend his search to the technocrats who are not politicians. Nigeria needs results and the formation of his cabinet will either determine the performance or failure of his government.

What could you fathom out of the politics being played with the health challenges of Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State in the past few weeks?

A lot of people are saying Mr. Governor ought to have handed over power to his deputy due to his health challenges before now forgetting that the State House of Assembly saddle with the responsibility of approving the Governor’s letter was at a time having leadership crisis. What the governor did was to study the situation at assembly before doing the needful and immediately the dust at the assembly was settled with new leadership sworn in, he transmitted his letter of Medical vacation to the House and Aiyedatiwa became the Acting Governor. The constitution is very clear on when and how power could be transmitted to the Deputy Governor. It is an open secret that Mr. Governor is facing health challenges which led to the handing over to his deputy according to the constitution; since the governor has done the needful and Aiyedatiwa is now in charge, all the politics that transpired before now is immaterial.

Do you agree with some school of thoughts that the recent political crisis within the corridor of power in Ondo State is more of 2024 governorship election?

I don’t down play that, some politicians eyeing the seat of power in 2024 might be doing that to feather their political net but the health challenge of the governor shouldn’t be used to play politics. It is expected of these of politicians to be praying for the quick recovery of the governor rather than turning Ondo State into political theatre of war. We can only pray for the governor so that he can complete his second term in office. Ondo State has unwritten constitution on rotation of the governorship among the three senatorial districts and if this gentleman arrangement has not changed, the South should produce the next governor and it’s eft for the South to present candidate that will succeed Akeredolu; this is my submission as a layman because I am not a politician but for equity and justice, it is the turn of the South.

The immediate family of the governor is being criticized for showing lackadaisical attitude toward the ill-health of the governor while outsiders are praying fervently for his quick recovery; do you perceive frosty relationship among the members of the first family?

I think the family of Mr. Governor are seeing what the public or critics are not seeing. They are in the best position to access and know the true position of the Governor’s health. If the health condition of the governor is improving, they can go ahead with their planning for the 70th birthday of the First Lady and if otherwise, it won’t speak well of the family before the prying eyes of the public. What should be paramount to the family of Akeredolu is the health status of the patriarch of the family, like I said, the wife and children are better positioned when it comes to whether the governor’s health condition is improving or not.

There’s speculation that some cabal so-called ” Owo Cabal” has hijacked governance since the governor became sick, is this a wishful thinking of some people that Ondo people shouldn’t take serious?

I don’t know what you mean by Owo Cabal; I am from Owo, though not in government but Owo People in government, I don’t think they form any cabal than doing the job assigned to them by Mr. Governor. We all know that the governor tenure ends in 2024 and the Deputy Governor is now in charge in acting capacity, so where are the cabals? It just a mere speculation to hit up the polity of the state by few individuals who are seeking political attention. Has anybody prevented the Acting Governor from acting? Or challenge his authority? I don’t see any cabal as far as I am concerned.

Ahead of 2024 Governorship Election in Ondo State, what is your projection on kind of person that should succeed Akeredolu?

The kind of personality I am looking at is a home based politician that live with us. Governor Akeredolu is an Owo man but based in Ibadan, married from the East, children grew up in Ibadan, meaning their immediate friends are from Ibadan, Lagos and not from this axis. Therefore, you may not be able to access them like a person that is residing within the state. This time around, Ondo people should not look at somebody who is a home grown politician alone but whose family is close to the grassroots; this is one criteria we should look out for as we move toward 2024 governorship election in the Sunshine State.

In spite of the huge investment in security in Ondo State, there are still pockets of kidnapping, killings in the state; what are your charge to the security heads in the state?

Insecurity in Nigeria has become recurrent challenges every state of the federation is battling with. Ondo State is not exceptional but kudos to the governor for the little he was able to do with the formation of Amotekun Security Network. In the state, we have Nigerian Police Force, NSCDC, DSS, Army, all these heads of security agencies should work together as a team in order to flush out these criminals’ element in our Forest Reserves. They should comb the forest using technology and the Army that are well trained in gorilla war should ransack the bushes and forests across the state. All they need to do is to divide the forest into two or three; while combing the forest, they should drop electronic gadgets that will be monitored from the Control Room to know the movement of the kidnappers inside the forest. They can now seek for the assistance of the JTF to bomb the criminals and their hideout; they don’t have to wait till people are kidnap before swinging into action because once they have victims with them, it will be hard to throw bomb because they will use them as shield. Erect Forward Operational Base (FOB) in these forests to monitor the kidnappers and not until we do these, kidnappers will continue to terrorize our forests. As we speak today, farmers are afraid of going to farm because of kidnappers who have turned our forest into permanent abode. Let our security operatives be proactive and take cognizance of some of these security tips.

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