Fourth Republic Senator, Adebayo Ayoade Salami, who represented Osun Central Senatorial district at the National Assembly, spoke to Yinka Kolawole on life after office, the political situation in Osun State and the growing insecurity in Nigeria. Excerpts:
How do you rate the present administration in Osun State?
The greatest gift you can give to any human is hope. When a human does not have hope, his situation is worthless. What this government has given to the people of Osun is hope in all ramifications. I was amazed by the O’YES programme. I am sure those drawing that scheme did not know what N20, 000 entails; it was when they want to implement it that they will know that it is daunting because, I know by the time they came up with 20,000, they would have thought they would train them before they were deployed.
There is no facility in Nigeria that can train 20,000 in a single place. Then there was the idea of training them in the three senatorial districts and they again found out that there was also no facility to train 8,000 in a district and that would have been why they came down to the local government level. Though they call what they are being given stipend but multiply that by 10,000 Naira that is N200million injected directly into the economy of the state.
With the idea of Osun Rural Agricultural Empowerment Programme, I have seen millionaires being made. The school system has changed for good. In terms of provision of grant to schools, it has increased from what it used to be. An average Osun indigene now knows that to walk is an exercise to healthy living. These and many more are things that are being inculcated into the lives of people and it has become a way of life.
Considering the spate of insecurity in this country, especially the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram sect and kidnapping, how do you score the federal government?
One of the things the government should be concerned about is the security of life and property. All other things come after, but these Boko Haram and militancy that you are talking about emanate from poverty. I am sorry to say that if you have a wrong leader at the helm of affairs for eight years in a state, the effect will not be during the period of those eight years, it will be after.
Without mentioning names, that was what happened in Borno State and the spiral effect is all over the country today. I want you to go and look at Borno State just for 20 years, a government came in Borno for 8 years doing nothing and what you have has affected the whole country. It first started in Borno and then Yobe. Yobe was created from Borno. Later it was in Gombe. So long as you have one central police, Nigerians cannot be protected. The question I ask is, ‘because states are going to misuse the police, should we jeopardise the security of 150 millions of Nigerians?’ However Jonathan tries, but as long as we continue to do it this way, you cannot achieve.
Recently, Senator Iyiola Omisore, accused the state government of propaganda and frivolity: do you agree?
The O’yes, O’reap, O’yes tech, O’school, O’meal are propaganda? Not only that, the walk to live itself is propaganda? This government did something and people never commented about it which is creating an identity for the state. This is the foremost programme I have seen in Aregbesola’s administration. That is one legacy he will be leaving behind. He has been able to register it in the minds of people that good virtue matters a lot. “Ipinle Omoluabi” that is what we are in Osun now.
It is possible for another administration to come after 30 years and say ‘this programme, I am not doing it again’. But can he say we should not be “Ipinle Omoluabi´ again? What does he want to call us? Honestly, I am not one of the people that will praise-sing Rauf Aregbesola if he was not doing well.
I will not only criticise him. I will walk up to him and tell him he has not done well. The truth is Osun is no more for grabs for anybody who doesn’t have what it takes anymore because the strides we have recorded in this state, no Osun person will want to reverse our trend. Honestly, Rauf is doing well in all ramifications.
As an accountant, don’t you think that the governor should prioritise his projects?
What is going on in Osun is what you call financial re-engineering. In a lay man’s language, it means I want to do N4billion project that will take the contractor 4 years to complete and I then say before I can start the project I have to get the N4billion; the contractor is not going to take the total sum from me at once. What should matter to is cash flow. At the time 100million is given to that contractor, when money is required we will still be able to provide for the contractor. The idea of paying huge money is outdated.
That is why I said Aregbesola is doing things outside the box because new trend and vision requires new reasoning. If they are not opening up these roads, if they are not doing all these projects, these areas will be impassable in another year. I don’t know if you remember what traffic used to be in those days in Lagos? Population is increasing and there is no infrastructure to match it. We are going to be in a chaos. The infrastructure is already needed.
The idea that they are opening up so many roads is not even there. The idea that he has dabbled to so many projects is not a new concept in finance. What they should be working on is the cash flow. And let me tell you, I have seen an administration in this state that was very prudent with resources; the resources they left, another administration came and squandered it without anything to show for it. If the economy is opened up drastically, your Internally Generated Revenue will increase, people will pay taxes and all other thing will just follow.
You have been relatively silent on national issues after you left the National Assembly in 2003, why is that?
I don’t want to believe that I have been so silent. I have been associating with political parties and I have always been playing my part in whatever association that I find myself. I am in a position to thank God that my vision for the State of Osun has materialised at the end of the day. So you cannot call that silence at all. I have come to realise that the best to happen to each state is to emerge from decadence, by then Nigeria will be a better place.
When we went to the National Assembly in 1999, we went with so much hope that it was a new beginning after the Abacha regime; Nigerians had so much hope that we were having a new start and that things would change, but at the end of the day, we discovered that not much had been achieved. So, I came to the conclusion that things are not done the way we practice the democracy that we copied. I now have new focus and my new focus is Osun.
Specifically, what were some of the hopes dashed in 1999?
Everybody thought we were going to practice true federalism, and when you talk about true federalism, you are talking about optimising individualism in each Nigerian in their respective places, and you are talking about moving away from the unitary system of government. The problem with us today is that we are neither practising federalism nor unitary system of government. What does the centre represent? The centre represents aggregation of the states.
Once a president emerges, he is the president of Nigeria, and he is not the president of any political party. If you want to construct a road in Osun for example, all the federal government needs do is to agree on the design and other structures and channel down the money to the state concerned instead of giving in to a consultant from another state. If Nigeria continues with the way we are going, we may be far from achieving what we desire.
These are some of the reasons why I refocused and pray that Osun will get out of the doldrums and I am now happy for the leader that God has given to this state. My belief is that if you want to actualise any serious vision, you have to do it outside the box. I call it working outside the box; you call it an unusual government. But with the trend that I am seeing in Osun now, we will soon get there.