Adebayo Adelabu is the gubernatorial candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State. In this interview with Premium Times’ Atanda Adebayo, the former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) speaks on his plans for the state if he wins the March 2 election.
PT: What has been your experience in partisan politics since you left the CBN last year?
Adelabu: In terms of day to day interactions and operations, there is a whole lot of difference between the corporate world and the political terrain. Number one of those differences is the fact that in the corporate world, we are dealing basically with the elites. But when you come to the political world, it’s a different ball game. You are dealing with the whole gamut of people in the country; from the professor to the stark. Here, everybody has a voice because the vote of the professor is one while that of the cleaner is also one. So you don’t segregate, you don’t say this set of people are more important than this. So, the political terrain is more complex.
PT: As an economist and a trained banker, you give account of every kobo spent. But politics is different from this. How have you been coping with the demands?
Adelabu: l have been funding my electioneering campaign by myself. The only thing is that I will not stress myself beyond what I can afford. I have my budget for this particular process and I am trying as much as possible not to exceed my budget so that I don’t regret my actions afterwards.
PT: How far have you been able to douse the post-primary challenges in the APC?
Adelabu: I am going to be frank. Our party being a political party in government, attracted a lot of aspirants wanting to occupy various positions. However, we are happy at the calibre of people that showed interests in aspiring for offices. For example, the gubernatorial aspirants we had then were about 22 that showed interest. At the end of the day, eight people bought the nomination and expression of interest forms. If you look at the calibre of these eight people, they are all competent people that have made their marks in their various careers. But the position is reserved for just one person. The expectation of the general public is that our primary election was going to be turbulent; was going to be tough. But we disappointed them by having the best and most peaceful primary election throughout the country. It was devoid of complaint, protests, you understand? And on the field that day, you would see that majority of the aspirants stepped down and the delegates were happy.
That goes to tell you that the person they stepped down for was quite acceptable to the majority of the people, if not all the people. Immediately after the primary, we set up reconciliation committees that called all these aspirants, and we appealed to them that now that we are done with the primary election, our party remains as one, and that everybody should try as much as possible to contribute to the success of party at the general election. Everybody agreed and they were all happy with the reconciliation process. Beyond the governor talking to them, I also did, the party chairman and the party excos also intervened in the reconciliation process. At my level as the candidate, I have called a lot of people to let them know that the party must not be divided and that it is the unity of the party that can give us electoral victory. And I can tell you that everybody is working with us now. All the major aspirants are working with me, we talk to ourselves every day. Eruobodo, that’s Olusola Ayandele; Chief Niyi Akintola SAN; Joseph Tegbe and Dr. Owolabi Babalola. I can tell you that APC in Oyo State today is one at all levels.
PT: But the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, is challenging your victory as APC candidate?
Adelabu: The Minister of Communications who happens to be my egbon (elder) and a party leader did not challenge my election as the party representative for the gubernatorial election. The case he instituted was against the National Executive Committee of the party that screened him out. They said he was not qualified to be given gubernatorial form for reason of not having observed the NYSC. So, it doesn’t have anything to do with the state at all. He sued the national exco of the party and the case is in court, whether not having NYSC certificate is a ground for disqualification or not. That’s not for me to decide, that’s not for the governor or the state executive to decide, it’s for the court to decide between Shittu and the national exco.
PT: He said he won’t support your ambition and won’t campaign for APC in Oyo State?
Adelabu: He doesn’t have to support my ambition, he’s just one person out of about over seven million people in Oyo state. Someone that likes what you have will not support you, of course. Do you want him to be gathering drums and be drumming support for me? Because he likes it, at least something he has thirsted for for so many years, you understand? And I am getting it with the support of our party, which to him was on a platter of gold. Do you expect him as a human being with blood flowing through his veins, you know? So let him feel the way he feels. If you don’t want someone to cry, please don’t beat him. The moment you beat the person, please leave him to cry. You cannot control the two.
PT: There were insinuations that you bribed the governor with ten million dollars to secure the ticket.
Adelabu: Let me tell you, we live in an environment where rumour mongering thrives. But before I react to any rumour, I also expect right thinking people to also evaluate how sensible the rumour is. You are in my house now, do I look like someone who can buy governorship primary ticket with ten million dollars? We are talking about N3.6 billion, for what? Do I look like someone that has such money?
PT: People say you are very rich, arguably the richest among the contenders.
Adelabu: That’s relative. I have worked for about 27 years and I have occupied top positions in all my career. And you know what it means to occupy top positions in the largest bank in Nigeria; as Executive Director of First bank for over five years? As General Manager of Chartered Bank, within and outside the country for three years and as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for over four years. And as an accountant, I also know how to add one naira to another one naira and make it three naira. But I can say I am just comfortable. You said I am the richest? That is just insinuation, nobody sees the other’s account balance. I am comfortable. Number two, do you think the governor looks like someone that is so lowly in terms of integrity that he would want to sell the ticket of gubernatorial candidature of our party? On the field that day when my name was announced as the preferred candidate, you were there as a pressman, you saw the loud ovation that welcomed my announcement as the preferred candidate. That means I must have given all of them, all the party members, money as well. So, I think it is a distraction that we should just avoid.
PT: What are the chances of your party winning the general election?
Adelabu: I keep saying something that Rome was not built in a day and they say the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step in the right direction. No pain, no gain. If you trace the history of the economy of the country in the last 16 to 19 years, we all know what caused what you are seeing today. And fortunately, I was also in public service when all these economy downturns set in.
And I can objectively say that where we are today, in terms of the infrastructures and the potentials of the economy to get better, we’re better off than what the APC government met. We may not have been seeing these dividends of democracy in the manner that we expected, but I am very sure that it will soon come. Because all the things that are supposed to be in place for it to come are already being put in place, in terms of infrastructural supports and all the social benefit programmes. This government has only spent three and a half years, and they are almost at the verge of reaping the fruits of all the hard work they have put in the last three and a half years. Allowing the government to continue for another term will surely enable them to reap that benefit, and the people will feel the impact of all their policies and their programmes. But if you cut it off now and another party comes in, they are going to suspend everything that APC has been doing and start all over again. So we will even start from square zero not from square one, it will be from the frying pan to the fire. That is what I believe.
You can see the roads are all being completed, the major roads, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Ogbomoso-Ilorin road, and a couple of other roads like that. You’ve seen all the rail projects that were initiated by the previous administration and abandoned being completed. Abuja-Kaduna is working, Lagos-Itape to Warri is working now, Lagos-Ibadan, they are almost completing it, and they are doing Port-Harcourt to Maiduguri. Look at the second Niger Bridge, they are almost completing it now. I mean, these are pointers to the fact that this government means well for the people, and by the time all these are in place, that dividend that we’ve been expecting will now come up. So I am just appealing to our people that they should exercise patience, and all these things they are expecting, they will surely get it.
PT: What are your plans for the people of Oyo?
Adelabu: It presupposes that there is an assumption of a level of attainment in all the political sectors of development in the state. For me, the critical sectors where I will anchor my programmes are security, agriculture, housing, education, health, environment, transportation and transport management system. Those are the seven key areas that we want to focus. We have identified three major areas of priority based on what the current government has achieved. Those three areas of priority, in fact, four areas of priority are agriculture, education, health and housing. The housing part of it is going to prepare us to be able to take advantage of what we expect from Lagos. So that a lot of people will leave Lagos to come and live in Ibadan, once we’ve completed that road and the rail. So I want to ensure that thousands of people stay. So, when we talk about security, I’ve told you that it’s about now using technology to build our security. I will not say too much on that. We already have CCTV, we’re going to have command centres, we’re going to have call centres, and we’re going to have plate number recognition so that when we scan your plate number, all your details as an individual and as a resident of the state will be available. That is what obtains overseas.
When we talk about agriculture, we are going back to the years of farm settlements. We’re going to have farm settlements across the state. The farm settlements will focus on arable farming, because of the fertility of our land. We have the largest arable farmland in Nigeria, having 28,454sq kilometres of land in Oyo State, which is bigger than all the five south-eastern states put together. The vegetation is good, the climate is good so we can do a lot of arable farming. Cassava, cashew, cocoa, maize, you know, we’re going to have livestock too. In terms of large animals, that’s poultry, rams and cattle ranching, we can take advantage of that because Lagos is close to us in Ibadan here. The cow meat requirement per day is so huge; we can also take advantage and supply to them. We’re going to have silos, food silos so that we don’t waste our agricultural harvest from year to year. What you see now is that the wheat that gets to the market from the harvest is still less than 40 per cent. Every other thing gets rotten and damaged in the farmland because of bad roads. So, our road is going to be extended to all the farmlands and we’ll have, which is silos across the state. Then lastly is the issue of processing. We want to ensure that we don’t stop at the production of primary agricultural products alone, we want to move to the next chain which is the processing. We have cassava, we can manufacture ethanol, we have cocoa, we can do chocolate.
We can do a lot and that is what will actually ensure the creation of jobs for our youths. So all these industries are going to be formed along the farm settlements too. In each of the farm settlements, we will make everything available for them so the farmers will not want to come to the city. Good roads, power, water, good schools, hospitals, police station, recreation centres, shopping malls, everything, will be made available to them at the farm centres. People will even be encouraged to have country homes along these farm settlements.
In terms of housing, we want to create mega estates in Ibadan and the major cities in the state. Ibadan, Oyo, Ogbomoso, Saki, Iseyin and probably Eruwa, whereby people can have affordable decent housing. And we’re not saying you should buy in cash, we will now try to create a mortgage for our civil servants, for our public servants, to be able to buy these low-cost houses with communal facilities. That’s housing.
Then education, I can tell you that we have the best of schools in Oyo State. We will resuscitate structures of the schools, we will modernise the teaching equipment and we will motivate the teachers. The teachers must earn a bonus, over and above what other civil servants are earning, to motivate them, to propel them to be able to give our children the best. I want to be seeing the situation whereby a lot of children will be leaving the private schools to come to government schools. That’s for education.
In the tertiary institutions, sincerely, I cannot lie to you, my idea of a tertiary institution is that they should be self-funding. But we cannot achieve this overnight, as we have them today, their expenditure is more than the revenue they can generate. That has been wrong from the foundation. And that’s why government subventions come in on a yearly basis. What I will ensure is that government will continue with the subvention, but we will start taking steps from the revenue perspective and from the cost perspective, to try to increase their revenue gradually, in a manner that will not be injurious to the payers of these fees. And also try to reduce their costs in terms of overhead, in a manner that will also not warrant laying off staff, doing this or doing that. But at least look at their overheads so that in the next two to three, four years, we will be able to achieve a match between their revenue and their cost, and the government will then take away its hands.
Number two is that our institutions, our tertiary institutions need to be supported by NGOs, by donor organisations. Go to most universities across Europe and in the US, they are supported by foundations, through donations, subscriptions, scholarships and all that. We don’t have that here. We need to start doing that to add to the revenue. Some schools will have research grants so that our only source of revenue will not be school fees. No, that can kill parents. It should not be only school fees. We could source for funds elsewhere, research grants, development funds, World Bank to assist our institutions.
Our institutions can also become commercial. We can engage a lot of enterprises. What is the essence of an agriculture training institution that does not run a farm, from the primary production of agric products, livestock and even processing? What is the essence of a technology institution that does not run any technology-based commercial? So, they should also go into business to generate funds for themselves. That’s the way I think our institutions need to be run and they will not be a burden to the government and a burden to the parents.
My last point on that is that there must be loans available, education loans. That is what they do overseas. People pay commercials fees even as indigenes in the UK, not less than nine thousand pounds. But you have access to commercial loans, so that you know that you are using this loan to fund your education. When you start work, you start paying, a long term loan. It makes you to be more responsible as a student, and the burden should not be on the parents. The burden the parents and the government should carry is primary school and secondary school. When it is tertiary, it is the burden of the student, it is for his own wellbeing in life. It’s what I want to become, I want to become a lawyer, I want to become a doctor, I want to become an engineer, I want to become an accountant. He must have a part of this burden, if not all. The primary and secondary school education is not for the parents of the students alone, it’s for the benefit of the society itself and of government, for you to be a better citizen, to understand government function, to understand your own responsibilities, to be a better citizen, to be able to read signs and then to be able to relate outside; not to throw refuse into the canal and all that.
Then health, we are blessed with lots of health institutions, from the UCH to Adeoyo Yemetu, to Adeoyo Ring Road, to Jericho nursing home, to St. Mary Catholic Hospital, to Catholic Hospital and all that. Then we’re going to come back to our primary health care system, the PHC, we should introduce our dispensaries in each of the local governments, we should introduce our maternity homes in each of the local governments so that the farthest health institution, the nearest to your home is not more than one kilometre. We should reintroduce recreation centres and parks across all the local governments.
We should continue with the school feeding programme for children, if possible, introduce it to secondary schools. When you eat well, the level of sickness becomes low too. You know, we should renovate all the tertiary health institutions, we should introduce modern health equipment to them and we should also motivate our health personnel; the doctors, the nurses, the radiographers and all that. Those are the kind of things that we want to do for health. And same thing with environment, we are going to have a green environment in Ibadan, we should be able to light up the entire Oyo State.
We should be able to convert our waste to wealth, make money out of it. And our flood control programme, which is effective, we’ll also improve on it. Next is the transportation system. This government has done a lot when it comes to that but we will build on that. We will now take the roads from those trunk roads to the satellite roads, to the feeder roads, then go into the core areas and also go into the rural areas where our farm products are brought into the city. Then across all these my seven points agenda, I have three drivers. Before the drivers, I have special focus areas, which is sports, tourism, entertainment, which I believe are also social stimulants used to engage our youths and also to reduce crime and encourage tourism. Then we now have enablers. Enablers are the use of ICT. I’ve talked about technology, being used for security, information and communication technology. I have talked about improving our IGR, internally generated revenue and lastly creating employment for our youths and so on.