…says Labour Party will join GNU
Governor Olusegun Mimiko may have become a political phenomenon given his ideological perceptiveness to socio economic development. He is presently the only Governor on the platform of the Labour Party in the country. Despite what he confesses to be challenges of his political isolation, he affirms a determination to pursue the realization of his vision of enhancing the lot of the citizenry who he believes were in the past pauperized by the mix of capitalism and corruption. He spoke with some journalists in Lagos on his efforts so far. Excerpts:
By Emmanuel Aziken
What is your take on the Government of National Unity as being proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan?
I have always believed based on history and based on my own personal experience and I have been engaged in Nigeria political space for sometime and you know where I am coming from – I have been commissioner twice in my state, I have been Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and Minister of Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have the belief passionately that until we have credible election in Nigeria, we will not get anywhere.
I hold this conviction dearly to my heart. In fact , we had a 10,000 man walk to sensitize people on credible election, that the democracy, one man, one vote is a must in our state. And we made it abundantly clear, that if Nigeria must have something to reckon with globally, we must have credible election. Credible election, invariably when it come with people who have the love of the masses at heart, who have passion for development.
For every politician, you must worship something. If you got there through godfather, the chances are that you worship the godfather, but if you got your mandate through the people, no matter how bad you are the chances are that the concern of the people will be uppermost in mind.
After the National Assembly elections, I heaved a sigh of relief because I was one of those who believe that if we don’t get it right in 2011, we should probably forget about the Nigerian project. But after the National Assembly elections, I came out convinced that God is Nigeria and that there is a great future ahead. And I was one of those who made it clear that one of the reasons I advocated that we in LP should vote for President Goodluck Jonathan was that I found him a man that can rise beyond party politics because ordinarily, judging by the history of the PDP, and ““do or die election mantra in Nigeria””, nobody believed that 2011 election would come out the way it came.
In the international domain, we have never had anything positive about this country. You remember the 2007 general election, the International Community said that even with the regional standard, we failed woefully. Now, four years after, the International Community are applauding us, and say that we have gotten it right, something positive is coming out of Nigeria.
I am sure Nigerians abroad would even want to come home now, once we can sustain it. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, we have a president who has a pan Nigerian mandate. This is our decade if all hands are engaged, and suddenly every Nigerian is hopeful that we can do it. Suddenly, we are talking that in the next 10years where we will be? One thing I know about this country is that we are about the most resourceful, the most resilient on earth. If we can galvanise and change this energy and goodwill in the direction of development and tackle the power problem, security and public transportation, Nigeria will be the best place to be. I believe that we are getting it right and the press is doing a wonderful job.
If we continue in this direction in the next 10 years everything being equal, Nigeria will be great, even the investors are now coming back to Nigeria. We are 150million people, the most resourceful black people on earth no matter what anybody says. I think all hands should be on deck. I don’t know what the Government of National Unity means, but Labour Party before the election came out as a party to endorse Jonathan.
We didn’t have a presidential candidate, and we said of all the presidential candidates, Jonathan is the best and we asked LP members all over the country to vote for Jonathan for president. If he invites us to join his government, LP will join him because from the beginning we believe in the best. LP supported him because we have no presidential candidate. I don’t have problem with those who don’t want to join the GNU because they want to provide an opposition. For us, at the beginning we made it clear that Jonathan was our candidate. We didn’t equivocate about that.
So LP will be part of GNU?
Even the so called GNU, it will be at the realm of conjecture, it won’t happen. Those who say they want to provide credible opposition, I have no objection. But remember all those parties had presidential candidates and LP had no candidate, Jonathan was the candidate we adopted. If you recall that before we adopted him, we had what we called our minimum agenda that we presented to him in Abuja. If he could do it, fine, but the moment he diverts from the course, we will pull out. But if he is on course, we will continue to support him.
You are the only governor of Labour Party in South West and Nigeria. There is this story that you are likely to join ACN and some people are saying you have soft spot for the PDP, what is your take on this?
Being the only Labour Party governor in Nigeria is a challenge, I must confess, it has its ups and downs. For me, Labour Party actually, was a creation of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). And in the ideological spectrum, in every society, Labour Party is always on the left. And people have said there is no more ideology in the Nigeria political space.
And in Ondo State, we have proved that as close as ideologies seem to be, that there is still a line to be drawn because the issue of ideology is what are the choices that you are making. On the extreme right if it trickles down ideological perceptiveness grows the economy, eventually the benefits will trickle down to the masses.
But we believe that the masses would have been dead before it trickles down.Our own approach is to grow the economy and also grow the underprivileged, so that there will be a convergence. Our own is convergence. We have always made it clear that we will continue to run a government to create an enabling environment for the private sector, but in terms of basic social services, I will give everybody some modicum of equality of opportunity in the society.
We believe that as a Labour Party government, we owe it a duty. I give example in my healthcare programme, it is the example I have given very often. When we started, we said we want to build the best hospital in Nigeria in terms of resourceful services, quality services in a very ambient environment and that it will be free of charge. It was like a paradox. How can you build the best hospital that will be free of charge, but today, I don’t want to sound immodest, one and half years down the line Mother and Child Hospital, Akure is probably the best run public institution in Nigeria if not in Africa. We have been acclaimed by World Bank, in fact, I am supposed to go to Washington, Ford Foundation has been there to see the excellent , quality service we run free of charge.
Today, we are one of the busiest maternity centres in Nigeria taking 25 birth deliveries in a day on average. That is a choice, it is an ideological choice, that is the point I am making. We went to the communities, identified local governance to the communities, we asked for their needs. As I speak with you, I have completed over 200 rural community projects in one and half years, projects that are touching lives positively, life changing projects.
We have deployed almost N2billion in community development, much more than what has been done since the creation of Ondo State, that is an ideological stance. So, for me being the only Labour Party governor, it has a special challenge to demonstrate that ideology is still alive in the context of our polity, if we must develop our people.
What we are doing in term of urban renewal in Ondo State, and you need to come and see it, like I tell my people, the usual thing to do is to get the people out of street, get bulldozer to bulldoze the shanties and build nice shops. But on the ideological perspective, we recognised the historical imperative of guerrilla trading on our street, it never used to be so.
Because we are Labour Party, we are Social Democratic Party, we analyzed (and asked) that why are there no longer stalls and pantries in houses. We grew up to know stalls and pantries in our houses.
How many houses now have stalls? Since the Structural Adjustment era and deliberate international financial conspiracy against us, that SAP that removed subsidy on social services, since that era everybody was eating on daily basis. By 5pm you have not made enough money to cook and put something on the table.
From that historical ideological perspective, we say we will not get these people off the streets without providing alternative. That is an ideological decision. So, what we did is that we took an inventory of our street traders and provided modern market facilities, that is an envy of those who hitherto considered themselves as privileged in the society and relocated there.
Mike Murdock when he came to Ondo State said that we have turned street traders into entrepreneurs. That is based on ideological position. So, for me being the only Labour Party governor in the country is a special challenge for me because I don’t subscribe to 100 per cent market driven economy.
Because in such situation, your economy could be growing seven per cent annually without the commensurate benefit to the people, more people will be having private jets and you are deepening poverty in the country. That has been the experience with 100 per cent free market economy, and we are redefining it.
When Chief Obafemi Awolowo democratised education in the South West by the deliberate policy of free education, more than 50 years after, in term of regional disparity we are still leading the rest. We are deliberately re-creating society along those paths.
What of being the only Labour Party governor, are you comfortable with that?
So the issue of being the only Labour Party governor, I must tell you one thing, by perception of Nigerians, most people will tell you that ACN is a progressive party, I don’t want to go into details, but I know that Labour Party is progressive party. I want to watch the choices of ACN governors outside Lagos will make. Lagos will not be an ideal place to actually know the ideological tangent and trajectory of ACN. Lagos State has an IGR of N18billion a month, that is much more than what I will take in almost a year. So, they can afford the choices they make. Lagos can afford to bulldoze Tejuoso market and rebuild it for N2 billion.
Are you saying that is too much?
I ‘m not saying it is too much for Lagos, but you compare life. Now, Oyo, Ekiti, Osun in terms of population, size, land mass, tradition, history are almost the same and the choices those governors make would also give us the true character of the ideological spectrum. And they have started well, I must tell you that. Governor Rauf Aregbesola has employed 20,000 people in Osun State and he is paying them. This is a good development and I want to believe that the governor meant well for the people. We started with 5,000, but our own 5,000, apart from training them physically, we deployed them to community job, we have also given them new skills.
We have deployed our graduates to 21st century farm settlements with modern farm implements, in fish farming, poultry and mushroom farming. Some of them have been deployed and trained in Advanced Computer programming.
But the whole idea of governance is that you must tackle unemployment, that is an ideological stance. So, the tangent and trajectory will be clear one year down the line. But we are progressive, they progressive, there shouldn’t be competition, there shouldn’t be you must come to ACN, I must not come to ACN. There are many areas of collaborations. Like I said somebody asked me question on the regional integration thing, they are mooting, I don’t have anything against it. It is an exciting prospect, if the South West we can integrate regionally.
But it must be integration not based on political parties, it must be based on shared values and economic imperative. Now, we belong to the same region and share the same history, wouldn’t it be exciting if we can get a rail line go through Ibadan to Ondo and get it to Edo. Wouldn’t it be exciting if we can generate enough power from one single source and distribute it? Wouldn’t it be exciting if we can join hands to build 21st century university, instead of everybody having glorified secondary school that they call university.
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