AKINMADE: MIMIKO IS NOT MOVING TO REPLACE DEPUTY GOVERNOR
Prominent journalist and Commissioner for Information in Ondo State, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, is difficult to pin down for an interview. Our Correspondent MATHEW STALORE had been on his trail for weeks before the opportunity eventually came last Wednesday. In an interview that turned out like giving the scorecard of Governor Olusegun Mimiko in the last five years and some months, Akinmade fielded questions on a wide range of issues like his image-making work for the governor, Mimiko’s alleged moves to oust Deputy Governor Ali Olanusi, the governor’s campaign for President Jonathan’s second term, the inconclusive by-election in Ilaje/Ese-Odo and of course the recent election of a female speaker in the state…
How do you describe Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s approach to governance?
His approach is pragmatic and scientific. He is methodological in his handling of governance and implementation of government policies. That is why he has been able to carry everybody in the state along and we can all see the results. The people have been very generous with their support for the Mimiko government because they can understand the direction of the government. They share the vision and also believe in the personality of the man Abayomi Rahman Olusegun Mimiko as a credible and sincere leader. He had been with them for a while before he became governor; they knew his pedigree and that was the reason they supported him to reclaim his mandate when he was robbed of it initially. Only a trusted leader could get the kind of support he also got to return to office for a second term. Don’t forget, most people believe it was impossible for any governor to get a second term mandate in Ondo State but the people made it happen because of the trust and belief they have in Mr. Governor.
How has the Mimiko administration intervened in the agricultural sector?
When Mr. Governor assumed office, he discovered that the agricultural sector was not what it ought to be and he set out immediately to implement the progamme he had to revolutionise the sector. So, in no time, he was able to make appreciable impact on the sector. Initial 18 Mobile Farm Service Centres were provided across the state to attend to the immediate needs of established farmers in the state. Soon after, the government introduced a farm produce buy-back programme through which N25m was provided for the buy-back of excess produce from farmers. The government procured 12 tractors with disc plough, burrow, ridger and tipping trailer and established Agricultural Villages to encourage fresh graduates to go into farming. The Agricultural Village initiative gave birth to the Agricultural Village in Ore, Odigbo Local Government Area in December 2010, being one of the three integrated villages established in the state for crop farming, animal husbandry, mushroom farming and oil palm revolution.In March 2011, the Ore Caring Heart Agricultural Village took off with 1,500 graduate resident farmers. Other areas of intervention by the government in the agricultural sector include the disbursement of N32.8m loan to farmers across six local government areas, the establishment of Farmers Field School and training of 720 farmers, production of fingerlings, fish seed production and pond construction for 200 fish farmers, distribution of one million cocoa seedlings, 90,244 oil palm and 5,000 coconut seedlings to farmers, procurement of N3 million veterinary drugs and the payment of N60 million counterpart fund. Other areas include the building of Fadama Headquarters Office in Akure, the disbursement of N93.7million grant to Fadama farmers in 2010, and additional N42.6m grant. The government also introduced Inputs Revolving Fund of N241 million to provide an unhindered fund flow for the purchase of inputs as soon as they reach reorder level. Government also increased the level of subsidy on farm inputs including fertiliser from 25% to 30% and 50% on cutlasses and files which are considered as universal inputs, even as speed boats were procured for Ilaje and Ese-Odo riverine areas for community development. Government also did the renovation of buildings and constructed the perimeter fence of the Ondo State Government/Leventis Foundation Agricultural Training School, Ido-Ani, replenished the depleted forest reserves by planting 420 hectares of teak and indigenous species of trees in Owo, Akure and Oluwa Forest Reserves in the North, Central and Southern Senatorial Districts with about N35.3 million released for raising ornamental and fruit tree seedlings as well as the release of N59 million for fire tracking, conservation planning, demarcation of core area and patrol at Ose River Park. The governor believes so much in curbing unemployment through agriculture and, because of this, the government has embarked on what has been termed cocoa revolution in the state. To this end, the government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a United States consortium, SPAGnVOLA Chocolatie LLC, on the establishment of an academy, where Ondo State indigenes will be trained to process cocoa to chocolate. Under the scheme, indigenes of the state will be trained on how to convert cocoa to various end products, particularly chocolate, which will transform farmers from mere producers of cocoa beans to manufacturers of end-products. Mr. Governor also inaugurated two Fadama Youth Vllages in the state in August 2013, in a bid to create employment for youths in the state. The villages, located at Legiri in Ondo West LGA and Asejere in Ile Oluji/ Okeigbo LGA, quickly absorbed 3,000 unemployed youths. The villages also serve as training bases for a new generation of farmers. As part of the Mimiko administration food security programme, the government came up with a rice project, which commenced with 50 hectares of land allocated to it at Ogbese, while a company in Malaysia, Maditech, was contracted to oversee the project. That was last year. I remember the consultant to the firm during a tour of the farm, saying their mission was particularly to assist the state in the Malaysian ways of planting rice for maximum yield. The beauty of the project is that 40 of the 50 hectares earmarked for the rice cultivation belong to farmers who in turn will train other farmers on rice production.
The education sector has also witnessed a turnaround with the introduction of Mega Primary Schools. What other efforts have been taken on the development of the sector?
No doubt, the efforts of Mr. Governor have yielded bountifully to the extent that the state’s laudable programmes have become a benchmark for Africa. The governor accorded the sector priority in his 12-point programme tagged ‘Caring Heart’. The aim was to reposition the education and restore its lost glory. This led to investing in physical infrastructure in schools all over the state with the realisation that the environment in which learning takes place has an overwhelming effect on the learning process. The structures in public primary and secondary schools inherited by the administration were nothing to write home about and could not guarantee the desired standard of education as they were in a state of total disrepair. The walls in several schools had given way while many of the schools had had their roofs blown off.
This made the intervention of government in infrastructure in the schools necessary. The challenge was approached from two ways. The first was the building of model schools tagged ‘Caring Heart Mega Primary Schools’ while the other is massive renovation of existing schools. The idea of the Mega Schools was to make available a world-class facility with state-of-the-art instructional materials. The Mega School innovation is second to none. But beyond the mega schools, government procured N60m science and mathematics equipment for schools in addition to robust incentive package for teachers. Nine principals were elevated to the status of Tutors-General. The Tutor-General position is the equivalent of the Permanent Secretary. Outstanding pension and gratuities of over 1,551 retired primary school teachers and the local government staff were paid while Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko was repositioned with improved funding. Apart from the approval of 27.5% Teachers Salary Scale (TSS), government has renovated and reconstructed over 100 dilapidated schools and N145 million paid for the registration of candidates for NECO/WAEC examinations in 2008/2009 alone. For the quality of education in the state to be guaranteed, government established the Quality Assurance Agency. N330 million was spent on scholarship and bursary for 2008/2009 academic session while N77.03 million was set aside as running grants to junior and secondary schools. It is also important to mention that N23m was spent to sponsor 11 students of Ondo State origin on Seafarer Course B.Sc (Marine Engineering) in India. The state took the first position at the International Olympic Literature and Essay competition held in Lagos and Mr. Governor rewarded 18 outstanding teachers with N100, 000 each for their outstanding performance during the 2009 World Teachers’ Day. Whereas four special schools in the state got N132 million for the purchase of instructional materials, feeding and maintenance, the state also sponsored a contingent to the Annual National Reading Competition, which came first as the representative of the South-west zone. Ondo SUBEB won the 2009 South-west UBEC good performance with a star prize of N100, 000, 000. The SUBEB also represented Nigeria and came first at the Junior Engineering and Technician Scientists (JETS) Exposcience International Competition held in Paraguay in 2009. All these feats were recorded at the inception of this administration, and we are all witnesses to how far the state has moved on since then. That is why every state in the country and beyond is now coming to understudy what we are doing.
Community development is a major sector that has earned popularity for this administration. What made this possible?
The 3Is initiative of Mr. Governor is one policy of government, which derives from an enduring pact with the people. When Mr. Governor assumed office, he perceived disconnect between government and the people. The 3Is programme was to bridge this disconnect so that government can crystallize the environment that engenders development. The Labour Party, which he represents, is a social democratic platform; in the ideological spectrum, it belongs to the left. We believe that government has a responsibility to the people. We believe that government has to make the private sector thrive so that profit can motivate the people to grow the economy. We also believe that government has the responsibility to ensure that equitable opportunity is given to people in the society in a manner that they are carried along in the development process. This is the first administration in Ondo State that asks the people what they want government to do for them and goes ahead to do same. Using the philosophy of the 3Is, the Ministry of Community Development and Cooperative Services ensures that every nook and cranny of the state feels the impact of government through the execution of self-selected projects. It is no wonder then that the people have come to trust this government. They know that when Mr. Governor says government will do something, that thing will be done. In strategic terms, the state government is driven by the idea that increasing the capacity of the people positively through the implementation of a variety of development programmes (including free community health services, free education, skills acquisition and training, micro-credit, natural resources and environmental management, women and youth empowerment, provision of basic infrastructure including roads, transportation, water and sanitation, housing , commercial innovations and creating an enabling environment for partnerships and investors thereby turning Ondo State into a commercial centre) should begin from a recognition of the rights of the people to determine their future by choosing those projects themselves. This aligns perfectly with the overarching vision of the Awoist socialist ideology, which is to equip the people with the raw materials to take charge of their future. Therefore, since the projects executed are dictated by the people themselves, within the overall design of the state government to make the state a model for Africa, the disconnect between government and the people is eliminated, while cases of sabotage arising from dissatisfaction with executed projects are largely non-existent. In addition, the programme of looking at key issues and laying the framework for an enabling environment that will attract funding for rural and community development programmes has been a unique success. The programme rests on a tripod, with phase one focusing on getting preliminary information through baseline survey of all communities in each local government area in the state, consultations and engagements with key stakeholders, developing community needs assessments and community development plans and implementing confidence building projects within the communities. Phase two focuses on establishing holistic community institutions from within the rural communities in order to build the capacity of community members and existing community institutions, while phase three is concerned with developing a longer term development strategy for a period of four to eight years or more. The 3Is initiative is unique in a number of ways. Since it is based on the concept of multiple stakeholder partnerships, its opportunities for collaboration include capacity building workshops for government officials and community representatives on community development tools and techniques and skills acquisition centres; baseline and needs assessment in over 450 communities by community change agents; the Adopt-a-Community project, where companies, as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR), philanthropists, non-governmental organisations and international donor agencies are invited to focus on one community of their own choice in the state to ensure development in all sectors; provision of social amenities based on the community needs assessment carried out, including, for the health sector, construction or renovation of basic health centres, provision of medical equipment and drugs and capacity building of health personnel and, for the education sector, the construction of primary and secondary schools, provision of additional classroom blocks and furniture to existing schools and provision of teaching aids and educational materials to students. There are also, in the area of commerce and Industry, the provision of open market stalls, lock up shops, agro-processing plants, agricultural inputs and access to micro-credit and, in ICT, the provision of telecommunication network, ICT centres, among others, while, in the water sector, emphasis is on the provision of mono pump and solar powered boreholes, water treatment plants, as well as sensitisation on hygiene and sanitation methods. It is clear that the 3Is initiative is comprehensive, focused, and total, being a deterministic outgrowth of an all-inclusive, mega human development plan. An important corollary of the foregoing would be the zero or near zero cost to the people, of the life-changing projects, and what we should call the zero burden of social development, since the people are not being uprooted from their ancestral habitations.
As the Commissioner for Information, do you think the Mimiko administration could be rated high in terms of information management and media relations?
It is not in our character to blow our own trumpet. We believe that the good works of Mr. Governor eloquently speak for the administration, and the people are in the position to assess the government based on the transformation that has happened in virtually all sectors of Ondo State over the past five years that inevitably earned Dr. Mimiko the sobriquet ‘A Caring Heart’ Governor. Nevertheless, my team and I are doing well in terms of our relationship with the media. I am, in fact, proud to say that our input, output and outcome on media delivery are robust though there is still room for improvement. By and large, we are determined never again to wink in the dark so that every activity of the state must be well covered and projected.
The business of image-making becomes easier with the performance of one’s client. How true is this postulation considering your position as the Ondo State image-maker?
We have a good brand to market. Governor Mimiko is a brand that is sellable following his unmatched achievements in the state. We have a good brand to sell. A brand that is acceptable. He has integrity and character and that makes the job easier. When you are managing a performer in government, a disciplined administrator whose words could be trusted and a newsmaker then the job is as good as done and Mr. Governor combines all these qualities and he is a journalist’s delight. The fact is that he, as an achiever, makes our job as government image-maker easier.
Governor Mimiko has pledged that the good works would continue in Ondo State. What is your advice to the people of Ondo State in terms of their support and discharge of their civic responsibilities?
When Mr. Governor assumed office way back in 2009, he promised to work for the people. For four years that his first tenure lasted, working to transform the lives of the people became a passion for him consequent upon which he was re-elected in 2013. The re-election came with renewed vigour to work for the people. All that Governor Mimiko has done has been made possible because of the support the people have been giving to his life-changing programmes. I want to ask the people to continue to support the Mimiko administration because the best is yet to come. They should support the government by fulfilling their civic responsibility of paying their tax because, without money, Mr. Governor’s dream of taking Ondo State to greater heights will be impossible.
There has been this hint that Governor Mimiko is rooting to replace his deputy with a vibrant and young individual. Would you confirm this and moves by the governor to replace his deputy?
There is no iota of truth in that as reported. Mr. Governor and his deputy, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, are enjoying their relationship, which I can describe as been cordial. You can recall that they contested the last gubernatorial election together and they were sworn-in together. Presently, I can tell you that there is no animosity between the two friends. Those who are peddling the rumour are satanic agents who are not particularly happy with the peaceful coexistence between Mr. Governor and his deputy as well as the tranquility we are enjoying in the state. The deputy governor is doing very fine and performing his constitutional duty diligently and Mr. Governor is happy with him. You can recall that the relationship between Mr. Governor and his deputy goes beyond Labour Party (LP). The deputy governor was Chairman of the PDP when Mr. Governor was SSG to the late Governor Olusegun Agagu. When Mr. Governor was denied the opportunity of contesting governorship ticket on the platform of the PDP in 2007, he left the party alongside the Chairman of PDP who is now our deputy governor to form LP. Five months to the election, the party that hitherto had no structure was able to build structure that produced Governor Mimiko and his deputy. You can see that they are political friends. Just like I have told you, some interests want to create disaffection between the two of them and I am sure they can only try but they cannot win.
Of recent, Governor Mimiko has been going public to campaign for re-election of President Jonathan. Does it mean that he will be joining the PDP or the LP has suddenly discovered that the two parties are pursuing the same course or it out of the fear that he is loosing grip of the LP in the state as opposition has said?
Thank you very much. We are members of the LP and not PDP but you will recall that in the last presidential election, our party decided not to present a presidential candidate. That is to say that we are at liberty to vote or adopt presidential candidate of our choice. Mr. Governor, a few days to that election, announced to the people of this state to vote for President Goodluck Jonathan. The beauty of a political party in a democracy is not only about fielding candidates in all positions from the local government to the federal level. So, Mr. Governor has the legitimate right to campaign for President Jonathan or any candidate of his choice. Now that the LP is not having a presidential candidate, we have the right to adopt any presidential candidate that we think can help us achieve our goals and objectives for the people of Ondo State. Again, there is no empirical evidence to show that we are losing grip of our members in LP in Ondo State. Forget about what some people are saying out there. In the last gubernatorial election in Ilaje Local Government, the PDP candidate, Olusola Oke, defeated LP with about 11, 000 votes. He won in Ilaje because he is from Ilaje. In the past, all the elections that had been conducted in the area were won by LP. You can recall that the late House of Representatives member representing Ilaje/Ese-Odo was a member of LP. You also know that the Senator representing the area, Senator Boluwaji Kunlere, and the two House of Assembly members representing Ilaje are members of the LP. So if anybody says that we are losing ground, that person is mischievous and economic with the truth. In the last so-called inconclusive election, the LP defeated PDP with over 4, 500 votes, which shows clearly that people that voted for Olusola Oke in the last gubernatorial election voted because of the fact that he is a son of the soil. This is empirical evidence that LP still hold firmly in the state. Can you now say we are losing or winning? So people who are saying we are losing grip are rabble-rousers. We are solidly on ground and we will continue to propagate the social philosophy of the LP. We want to use the instrumentality of government to improve the living standard of people.
The opposition has been picking on the Mimiko-led government that he has refused to make public the funds accruable to the state on regular basis unlike the previous government consequently not accountable to the people. How will you react to this?
I can describe that as the ranting of ants. We are responsible to the people of this state and we are accountable to them. They should go and meet their brothers in Ekiti, Osun and Lagos and ask them to publish how much they have received since they assumed office. If you want to remove stone from somebody’s eye, you will first remove the log in your eye. Everybody is aware that the resources of the states they are controlling are going to the pocket of their godfather and they are not talking about that. There are procedures for making public activities of government as far as finances is concerned. It is appropriate and expedient for government to publish its audited accounts and we have not failed in doing that. We publish the one for the year 2012 and the one for 2013 will be published at appropriate time, which is usually in June/July by all states. Members of the House of Assembly equally have the right to call various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to order if there are issues. But some people who are busybody, talking without thinking, believe that once they talk about finances, people will listen to them. We are accountable and we will continue to be responsible to the people. Let the opposition continue to say what they like. We have record of their antecedents and we are resolute never to have them in this state again to manipulate the system against the people of this state to their personal advantage. We are not going to serve foreign gods.
How will you react to the emergence of the first female Speaker in Ondo State?
It is a welcome development and it shows that we appreciate the importance of gender. She is a right peg in the right hole. She is very cerebral. Her election shows the magnanimity of our men in the House of Assembly where two men contested with female and all the men voted for female Speaker. As government, we are very happy and we are sending signal to the whole world that we are gender sensitive and that our tenure will bring transformation to the history of governance in the state.
It is believed that the governor influenced her election?
That should come from pit of hell. The election was opened to everybody and everybody I mean all members voted to elect candidate of their choice. It was keenly contested among three candidates. The Speaker has 13 votes, the second person has 9 votes while the third candidate scored zero. We must shy away from sentiment. Mr. Governor cannot run the House for them. I have worked in the National Assembly and I know the workings of the House. Will anyone say that it was government that influenced the emergence of Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives?
Are people not there when she was elected?