Mercy Ayodele is the governorship candidate of Restoration Party of Nigeria (RPN) in Osun State. She is the first female to be nominated by a party for the governorship election of the state, which comes up September 22. She told PREMIUM TIMES in this interview, that as an accountant of many years, she has what it takes to bring the state out of poverty and unpaid salaries.
PT: You are the first female candidate elected by a party for the Osun governorship election; how are you coping with the campaigns?
Mercy: What actually pushed me out was the situation of the state and the country as a whole. The rate of poverty in the land is just too much and as a mother, I can’t bear it any longer. I can tell you, being the first female candidate, it is very challenging. You have people who appreciate what you are doing and you have people who will tell you, ‘go and sit down, women belong to the kitchen’, of which, we are more powerful than that.
PT: Now you talk about poverty; there is a government on ground which claims to have done so much to improve the lives of the people.
Mercy: They have done that. Their best is not our best. We are going to improve on whatever they have done. We can do better than that.
PT: What experiences do you have that make you think you can govern Osun State better than other contestants?
Mercy: Professionally I am an accountant and I have been in it for almost two decades now. The experiences I have garnered in the course of doing my job is what I am bringing into governance. Managing a home is challenging enough. If a woman can manage a home, she can manage a nation.
PT: Given the kind of politics we play in Nigeria – money politics, vote buying and violence – as a woman, are you ready for this?
Mercy: We are not going to get involved in vote buying. We are going to go to the field with what we have for the populace. If they love us and they want a change, they are going to vote for us. We are doing that because we know one day vote buying in Nigeria will be a thing of the past. We are going to get there, but it is going to be gradual.
PT: Do you see the Osun voters having a change of mind, and rejecting inducements from politicians to vote for candidates like you who?
Mercy: Osun people are a very intelligent people and they are going to do the right thing. Whoever gives them money, they may collect it, but they will vote with their conscience.
PT: Your party is relatively new. What are you doing to make sure that the party is popular enough to get the needed support to put you in the government house come September 22?
Mercy: Our party is one of the newest parties in town, but let me tell you, among the newly registered parties, Restoration Party is the most popular in Osun State as far as this coming election is concerned. We have been to some media houses and the result we are getting is very fantastic because of the programmes we are putting forward to the people. With that…a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, so we are hoping we will get there.
PT: Corruption is a major problem in governance in Nigeria. Do you see any way out of this, as you approach the governorship of Osun State?
Mercy: Yes. It all begins with the head. When people know what we stand for, they want to follow that trend. If a person makes a quotation for a biro for N20 and another estimates N70, you cannot tell me that the one who quoted N20 is not going to make a profit. So, if you stand for the truth and you are seen to mean well for the people, the people will follow you. We have lovely Nigerians.
PT: What are some of the programmes you are presenting to the people?
Mercy: We have five programmes. The first one is youth empowerment, talking about small scale enterprises. Youths make up the largest part of the population both in the state and in the country. So we will give them loans without interest and look at how we get the small scale enterprises operators to be involved in the pensions scheme, such as the contributory pensions. Also, we are going to take seriously the welfare of workers. We are going to ensure the payment of salaries as and when due. We are going to pay full salary.
Also in education, Ogbeni (Governor Rauf Aregbesola) has tried, we have a good structure on ground, but we are going to work more on human resources. We are going to invest in our teachers, give them incentives so that they give their best to their jobs. This is because, the research I did last, I discovered that Osun State has gone backward, about five northern states have overtaken Osun State in terms of education. We are going to work on that. On admissions, we are going to give free uniforms to our children, which would be sown by our local tailors.
We are also looking at rural development and agriculture. We are going to go to our grassroots and construct roads that will be linked to the towns so that all the produce in the farms would be made available at the markets. The last one, we are looking at our health sector. Most of our health facilities are not functioning effectively. We will equip the hospitals and ensure that salaries for medical personnel are made adequate. That is our five-point agenda.
PT: There is an issue of unpaid salaries in Osun. There has been the cry of lack of funds. Is this something you can handle as governor?
Mercy: We are not going to sit back and wait for money from Abuja. We have resources on ground that we can work with. We know we have some debts and backlogs of workers’ salaries. Actually I don’t know the figures. But we are going to sit down and renegotiate with those we borrowed the funds from in such a way that we can pay it at our convenience so that it does not affect our governance.
PT: What kind of support do you have from your immediate family, especially your husband, on your ambition to become the governor of Osun State?
Ans. First, I will like to give it to my husband. He was the one behind me. He said to me, you can do it. So, I give it all to him, and I give it all to God. I know I can go places. My family is right behind me. My friends at home and abroad are right behind me.
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