Alhaja Maryam Bimbola Ogunlade is the deputy governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Ekiti State. In this interview with Akinbami Faloye, she speaks on development in the state. Excerpts:
How do you feel with your nomination as the running mate to Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele?
I thank the Almighty God for the opportunity to serve. In fact, I appreciate my nomination to represent the entire women in Ekiti State as the deputy gubernatorial candidate to Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele. I also appreciate the Labour Party (LP) for accepting my nomination. The party set criteria in the choice of running mate: LP wanted a Muslim, a woman and a civil servant. So, I feel elated and happy when I was nominated.
Since your nomination, how have you contributed to the growth of the Labour Party in the state?
I have been able to galvanise support of the Muslim community, women and civil servants to the side of LP. You know the entire Muslim community in Ekiti recommended me. The civil servants are in my support and the women at large. Women form the larger part of the electorate in Ekiti State, so everybody is just coming out to give their support to Labour Party in the state. Ekiti people see hope in LP and its flag bearers. Hence, the people are ready to vote out the Kayode Fayemi-led government come June 21, 2014.
You said Ekiti people are ready to vote out the government in power. Why do you think so?
It is because the programmes of Labour Party have been rolled out to them during the campaign rallies. LP programmes have human face and better than any parties participating in the June 21 governorship election. And because of our programmes, Ekiti wants a change of government.
What are the specific programmes Labour Party wants to give to Ekiti people?
Labour Party has designed its manifestoes. In terms of agriculture, we have a lot of packages for the farmers because we want to embark on modernised agriculture in the state. Our government is going to embark on aggressive empowerment for women and youths. Today, like in the past, we have a lot of our youths roaming the streets, having nothing to do. The Labour Party government in Ekiti is ready to empower them through acquisition of skills and vocational training, setting them up in trade and economically positioned them.
Also, we want to make education qualitative and affordable for everybody irrespective of class. What we have in the state is that the cost of education is on the high side. In the state university, EKSU, our students paid up to about N150, 000 as tuition fees, whereas in Ondo State, which is a state governed by the LP, the students there pay N25, 000 as tuition fees. So, if Labour Party is elected on June 21, we will reduce tuition fees to N25, 000 in the state.
As regard the civil service, we have a lot of packages. The Labour government will embark on capacity building of the state workforce. There will be motivation of staff through prompt payment of salaries, allowances, training and retraining. We will ensure that pensioners are treated well. The era of having accumulated pension arrears will be gone. There is no sense punishing people who have served the state meritoriously. In all, we will reposition Ekiti through good governance.
But Governor Fayemi has done well in the payment of pension and social security?
We have lots of pension arrears and gratuities. We met pensioners about two weeks ago and these people presented their case and we looked into them and we are sure that this present government has a lot of outstanding to pay pensioners.
Why do you think the Labour Party will defeat the incumbent and the PDP in the election?
The flag bearer of Labour Party in Ekiti State for the gubernatorial election, Bamidele, is currently a member of the House of Representatives representing Ekiti Central Constituency II. He has done a lot within the constituency. When we visited the constituency for our campaign, we were inaugurating one project or the other and the people were happy.
Even within the traditional rulers in Ekiti State, he has been doing wonderfully well because as we move from one town to the other for our campaign, the monarchs used to commend him for reaching out to them from time to time since he became a member of the House of Representatives.
Everybody has benefitted from him; he has been assisting the youths and empowering them. Even the widows and the less privileged in our society in Ekiti State; all of them are just singing his praises everywhere. So, I am sure that he will win the election.
LP is relatively unknown in Ekiti; how do you plan to contend with an incumbent and PDP?
You know in a place where the incumbent is popular, incumbency may be a factor. But what we have is a situation where the incumbent government is not popular with the people and that he has disappointed Ekiti State because he has not been able to meet their yearnings and aspirations. So, he is not popular with the people.
Talking about PDP being sponsored by Federal Government or that it has federal might; there is no problem about that. What I can tell you is that Ekiti people are determined; they want a change and Labour Party is their alternative.
You mean you don’t see the incumbency factor as a threat?
If the incumbent governor is popular, then you can talk of being a threat to other parties but he is no longer popular in the state.
Why do you say a sitting governor is no longer popular in the state?
He is no more popular because lots of students have been disappointed because he called the entire students in Ekiti State when he was inaugurated and told them that he would reduce their school fees from N80, 000 to half but unfortunately he later increased the tuition fees to N150,000.
And few weeks to election now, he said he want to reduce their school fees. Even the teachers has been collecting there 27.5 per cent increment in their wages and when he came in, he removed the package from their salary and now he has returned it because of election. You can see all those things.
You talked about disappointment; in what areas has Governor Fayemi disappointed Ekiti people?
We have about four dams in Ekiti State and you cannot find any tap running water in the state. It is a big disappointment. During our campaign, the traditional rulers and the people were all calling on Labour Party to give them water when they are in power. So, that formed the major request of people for the Labour Party. For a sitting government; a government that is still in power and people said they are unable to produce this or that for them is a big disappointment.
In the area of tourism, road construction, health and social security, Fayemi is adjudged to have done well. Isn’t it?
In term of social security, a lot of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are running social security in Ekiti State. I have a foundation, Yewande Ogunlade Foundation. I reach out to the less privileged, especially the widows, the aged whom I used to distribute foods and give them money monthly within my environment. I didn’t know that I will go into politics.
But this is the first time a sitting governor would be giving stipends as monthly allowance for the elderly?
Yes, but because he is aware that some NGOs are giving it out in the state; that is why he has come around to make it a policy.
What is your expectation on June 21?
What will happen on June 21 is that people would use their power; I mean their votes. They will speak with their votes and I am sure that they would vote Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele and me as governor and deputy. I can tell you that Labour Party would take over the governance in Ekiti State come June 21.
How do you see the violence that has been going on with the campaigns?
People are aware that the APC are the violent group. What happened after the mega rally in Ikere-Ekiti speaks volume because after we left the campaign ground, the APC thugs came around and destroyed the AIT crew gadgets and they started chasing people, destroying vehicles. So, they are violent and people are now aware of the fact that they are violent because of their desperation to stick to power in Ekiti State.
You said the Muslim community nominated you as the running mate; to what extent has the Muslim community been able to support you? Also, what is the population of Muslims in Ekiti?
The population of Muslim community in Ekiti State is about 35 per cent and I am sure they are in my support because it is their wish that they have the deputy governor in the government of Labour Party.
The Muslim community has been supporting our aspiration. In fact, my aspiration is their aspiration. It is our aspiration in the state, I mean the Muslim community. So, they cannot nominate and drop me in the middle of the game because no one will shift the goal post at the middle of the game.
How about your former constituency, the civil service?
I retired as a deputy director in the Local Government Service and these people are proud of me and they really support me. They are given me every support so that they too would be able to beat their chest and say: this is our person, this is our man and this is one of us. So, it is a thing of joy and thing of pride to them.
What is your message to Ekiti people as you approach the governorship election?
I want to enjoin the entire Ekiti people to vote massively for Labour Party on June 21 governorship election. To tell them that Labour Party is the only party that would care for their welfare because we have a lot of packages for them as our programmes and I am sure that the change that Ekiti State have been looking up to would definitely come on June 21 through the enthronement of the Labour Party government.