Senator Adebayo Ayoade Salami represented the Osun Central Senatorial District at the Senate on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) between 1999 and 2003. In this interview with select journalists, he speaks on topical national issues, developments in Osun State, among others. OLUWOLE IGE of Tribune brings the excerpts.
After you left the National Assembly in 2003, you have been silent on political issues. Can you tell us why?
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 in. I thank God that my vision for the State of Osun has materialised. When we went into the National Assembly in 1999, we went with so much hope that it was going to be a new beginning after the Sani Abacha regime. But at the end of the day, we discovered that not much had been achieved, so I came to the conclusion that the way we practised the democracy that we copied was wrong. I now have a new focus and my new focus is Osun.
What were some of the hopes that were dashed in 1999?
Everybody thought we were going to practise true federalism. When you talk about true federalism, you are talking about optimizing the individualism in each Nigerian in their respective places. 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 an 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 to do is to agree on the design and other structure and channel down the money to the state concerned, instead of giving in to a consultant from another state. My own belief is that if anybody is going to make it in this country, he has to work outside the box.
If we continue with the way we are going, we may be far away from achieving what we desire. Few days ago, the Federal Government denied Lagos State the power to distribute electricity. If you care as government and you want to give everybody electricity, you will not mind who you gives it provided he givse it to the people optimally. But political consideration is what we always think about. Those are some of the reasons why I refocused and prayed that Osun would get out of the doldrums and I am now happy for the leader that God has given to this state. I believe that with the trend that I am seeing in Osun now, we will soon get there.
Why did you single Osun out from all other ACN states?
Let me tell you, I was in Lagos yesterday and I saw something unusual. I saw ‘A yes’ and when I looked at the ‘A yes’, it was Abia Youth Empowerment Scheme. I have seen ‘YES O’ and I am now seeing ‘A yes’.
But the Federal government too has SURE-P and others?
The Federal Government is not a serious government. There is no need for SURE-P. If you want to create a youth empowerment scheme for all the states of the federation, if it is 20,000 that you want to engage in SURE-P programme across the federation, all you need to do is to say “Osun, if you are able to do 20,000 youth empowerment, we will merge it with another 20,000 for you, so this money for 20,000.’’ The same thing for Abia and other states in the country. There is the possibility that we wouldn’t have all these insurgency that we have around. Where does this problem rear its head most? In areas where poverty is prevalent, that is where you have the problem.
When you look at the indices of poverty in Borno and you look at the insurgency there, you will know that it is not a coincidence. You cannot solve the problem of poverty unless you give people education and gainfully employ them. It is not all about beating around the bush. Solve the problem of poverty and all other things will fall in place.
What has the present administration in Osun been able to achieve to make life better for its citizens?
I don’t know if you know that the greatest gift you can give to any human being is hope. When a human being does not have hope, his situation is worthless. What this government has given to the people of Osun is hope. Our youths now feel that they cannot wake up in the morning and start thinking of what do I do for the day. I was amazed by the OYES programme. I am sure when they were drawing that scheme, even those drawing that scheme did not know what 20,000 entailed. They call what they are given stipend, but 20, 000 multiplied by N10,000 is N200 million injected directly into the economy of the state. This is not such money that you will earn and go to Ibadan or Lagos to spend because you have to use it to provide for yourself, so it will circulate round the state. With the idea of O-REAP (Osun Rural Agricultural Empowerment Programme), I have seen that, with the poultry started, millionaires have been made. The school system has changed for good, in terms of provision of grant to schools, increasing from what it used to be. The average Osun indigene now knows that to walk is an exercise for healthy living. These are things that have been inculcated into the lives of people and they have become a way of life.
I have attended some functions with big wigs of the previous administration. Someone told me that he didn’t know that when you dredge rivers, there wouldn’t be flooding and that he was amazed. He said he has a poultry farm and during the last administration when there was a flood, it took away all his birds. But when this government came, it dredged almost all rivers but he couldn’t ask them to come and dredge his place but he hired an excavator and that taught him he would no longer experience flood. Osun has been given a new hope in all ramifications by the present administration in the state. You can mention whatever programme they have done and I will analyse it to you to show how hopes comes into it.
Recently, Senator Iyiola Omisore said that all your party is doing in Osun is propaganda and that the present government is frivolous?
Let me just talk about the system and not about personalities. Omisore is my friend, but the wherewithal to run this state, quote me, he doesn’t have it. I will not even try to comment on Omisore saying that all the government is doing is propaganda. Are the OYES, O reap, OYES Tech, O School, O-Meal propaganda? Is the walk-to-live propaganda?
This government did something and people never commented about it, which is creating an identity for the state. This is the most important programme I have seen in Aregbesola’s administration. He has been able to register it the minds of people that good virtue matters a lot. ‘’Ipinle Omoluabi’’ is what we are in Osun now. It is possible for another governor to come in 30 years’ time and say “ I am not doing this or that programme again.’’ But can he say we should not be Ipinle Omoluabi´ again? What does he want to call us?
Honestly, and you can quote me, I am not one of the people that will praise Rauf Aregbesola if he is not doing well, if he is not doing well, I will not only criticize him, I will walk up to him and tell him he has not done well.
That’s a rare quality…
Honestly, I am happy that he came into Osun. Let me tell you this, I met this gentle man in 2005. He came into this compound and that was the first time I thought I was meeting him. He came from Lagos and said that he wanted me to travel with him. On the road along Ada, he was commenting on not seeing business activity along the road. I kept my cool as he was analysing so many things. Few days later, he made me realize that he wanted the mandate of the party to be the governor of the state and I said “if all that you were saying in the car is what you can achieve, I will give you my support.’’ It was later when were discussing that I got to know that he was a corps member in the company where I was once working as an accountant in Kaduna. Osun is no more for grabs for anybody who doesn’t have what it takes 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.
Culled from Nigerian Tribune