Former governor of Ekiti State and candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 18 governorship election, Segun Oni, said having failed on every other indices, the only legacy President Muhammadu Buhari must insist on leaving behind is that of free and fair elections. He spoke to OBIRE ONAKEMU.
Have you been able to market your party ahead of the governorship election?
No doubt, SDP is a new platform and I prefer it that way. A lot is wrong with politics and what is wrong with politics in Nigeria is the capacity to manage big political parties. And I can say authoritatively because I have operated in the top echelon of party administration in the PDP as National Vice-Chairman, for the Southwest and for the APC as the Deputy National Chairman for the South.
What I see is that we are not applying foresight into the management of political parties. And parties are dying in our hands because they are just managed like any other entity. The political party is a product. It has a life circle and I said at Uyo workshop of the PDP that the party I saw as at that time was already in maturity and at maturity the next thing we should be expecting is decline. And it is beginning to show signs of decline and that that decline will lead to its death. And now, it is left for them to know whether they would be able to rescue it from death. I said it and if they go through their minutes, they would still find it there.
So, we have to manage parties much more than we are doing now. Our young new party gives me an opportunity to incite people to understand that we need new ideas. And I believe that we would do that. The party is new, young and a place to grow new ideas and assess the future positively. And I can say that I didn’t design my way into this, but sometimes, God moves in a mysterious way!
What are the governance challenges you want to deal with in Ekiti?
If only those who have governed have met the expectations of the people, I wouldn’t bother to come back to governance.
I am not going to campaign for them and I’m not going to talk about them but if only they have done well, I wouldn’t be in this contest.
We are going to work on building a new future by changing even the attitude of governing and that of governance. We are packaging development now around women, youths, the elderly, the active ones and people with disability. We want to ensure that we can actually develop every programme in such a way it touches on these people and the society generally.
I hope to come to Ekiti with a drive; a new drive that would ensure that we effectively and efficiently manage the resources of the state much more than before. The last time, we managed it more efficiently than anybody has ever done and that is why people are clapping for me this loud, nearly 12 years after I left governance.
If there had been better choices, since I left, I am sure the ovation would not be this loud. I didn’t pay for this ovation; I didn’t pay for it, it came voluntary from the people; it is not the work of propaganda; it is not the work of advertising.
So, I don’t just want to come and tarnish my legacy and my reputation. I want to do far better than I did the other time! And I know I have the capacity and of course this time I have to work with much younger team of people whose ideas would also complement my own and together we would usher in rapid development for Ekiti!
What were those fond memories you still keep of your first time in government?
Looking at the human development reports of 2009 on Nigeria, of the 36 states, we were rated as per Gross Domestics Product (GDP) per capital at No. 24, which means we did a very good job.
And moving up, we were No. In average life expectancy in Nigeria when average life expectancy was put at 55. We were able to achieve that, in the eyes of the world and not in my eyes, as a result of the way we manage the affairs of the states.
Now, let me go to some concrete achievements. I did more roads than anybody else in the history of this place. And you can try and find out! And the roads I constructed are still there after 12 years. Subsequent governments try not to touch them.
I established an eye centre; the best one in Africa using technical support from Cuba. And in the few months that the hospital operated we recovered many failing eyes. You can equally try to find out!
As for the school system, we provided computers for Senior Secondary School students that were in boarding schools, individual computers that they didn’t pay one kobo for. And the reason for that was very simple. I was already envisaging ICT boom will happen and young people will need to be conversant with their computers. And I gave them and wanted it to be a policy then that once you are in boarding school, from SSI, you have a laptop. Whatever you like, you do with it and I know that some who were curious would have produced a few Apps by now. And these Apps would have created wealth for them.
I brought into the school system a sports development programmes that by now would have produced soccer administrators, highly rated professionals in athletics, tennis etc.
I equally turned around the water situation in Ekiti and people would still remember that in Ekiti before I came water was an issue. Some people were fetching water in tankers to deliver to the masses.
And Ekiti people would always remember that it was Segun Oni that paid the arrears of gratuity and pension that dated back to 1994 – before Ekiti State was created from old Ondo State. And I paid it up to date and ensured that we put in place a process to guarantee payment of gratuities three months after retirement, so that you can plan for it. If you are planning to retire in a year’s time; you know that, in a year and three months this amount of capital will be available for you to invest and so on. I did it!
What we did there is unparalleled, unequalled and nobody has done anything near it! We are very proud of our achievements and people are saying it and that is why I am motivated to say I want to come back. I want to say it again that I am not in this race for want of what to do.
Are you willing to consolidate on what the two governors after you have done?
I am never that kind of person who does not want my predecessors to have achievements. If only I see any achievement of them, I would enhance it. If I see anything on ground that any previous government has invested government money on, it is my responsibility to make it succeed further. I will never be the type of governor that will cancel a university; that will see a world-class hospital and drive out the technical partners and allow the hospital to sink. I am not that type! And if anybody has done anything for Ekiti that is worth enhancing, I will enhance it and not feel ashamed to continue to refer it as a legacy that we got from such a governor. People who know me know that I am not a person that suffers inferiority complex. I don’t have it!
What are your fears regarding the election?
The challenges confronting the election are mostly in areas of insecurity. We are hearing some people beating drums of war, saying the election will be won by force and not by the decision of the masses. I hope they remember History and they shouldn’t drag Nigeria back to the 1993 election date. That insecurity is one challenge!
The other challenge is that of vote buying! Vote buying started in this terrain a couple of years back. And I’m sure journalists and political historians would know how, when and who are the dramatic personae. Thanks to God that the new electoral law has criminalised it and we hope that the law enforcement agencies would do their job right. That is the challenge and I believe we would overcome it!
Apart from this, the challenge of people not doing their job right will always be there, regarding people that the government entrusts with the responsibility of ensuring that there will be free, fair and transparent elections. I hope they will do their job right.
The last time I personally contested years back I haven’t seen much improvement with what we have today. But we hope it would be better. There is a new law now; let’s us see how it is applied and let’s hope that things would get better!
With the situation in Owo and everywhere, how do you rate the APC on its promise tackle insecurity, corruption and the economy?
First, as for security, the performance has been very bad, very poor. And it has thrown all of us into fear, panic and mourning.
And secondly, for the economy, I may ask how much you exchange the Naira for the Dollar? When this administration came in, it was below N200.00, now it is very close to N600.00. And for that you can award a mark yourself. The economy has never been managed right at all! It is a total failure!
If the people believe that government officials are clean, they would see it and say it. But what people are saying is that corruption under this government has reached its peak. That is the situation right now!
But I want to say that there is still a legacy that the President may leave. And that is the legacy of free, fair and transparent elections. If he gets this elections right, from 2022 to 2023, then, we would be writing his name in gold as the president who did not tamper with votes. That would also make Nigerians forgive him for whatever else he did not right.
I will end this interview by thanking God for His infinite mercy and in bringing us thus far! And that Nigerians should not lose hope; for where there is life, there is hope, and in Ekiti, hope is not far away.