Ondo: Why I Want To Replace The Current Governor – Adelami
Chief Olayide Owolabi Adelami, who hails from Owo in Ondo State, is a retired Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly and philanthropist. He recently declared his intention to run for the governorship of the state under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In this interview, he speaks on his antecedents and plans for the state if elected.
As a retired bureaucrat, what legacy did you leave in the bureaucracy, particularly your impact on the National Assembly?
I was one of the pioneer staff of the National Assembly. We grew from about 50 staff to what the National Assembly is today. I found myself in the Finance Department, managing the resources and rose to the Director of Finance and pioneered the Procurement Department before becoming the Deputy Clerk of the National Assembly. The legacy I left behind there is that of good name. Everybody that came my way over the years can attest to it that they gained one or the other from me with the type of exemplary leadership I exhibited throughout.
What motivated you to join partisan politics after retirement and why did you choose APC as the party?
Well, let me say it was not calculated. I didn’t really plan that I would go into politics after retirement. It just happened. God has a way of ordering our steps. From nowhere, I was called when there were crises in APC. I was drafted into politics by APC through the Presidential Support Committee, a platform created by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The mandate of the PSC is to promote democracy and ensure there is peace in all the states, reconciliation of warring parties or aggrieved members of the APC as well as harmonization of various support groups in the party to ensure victory for the President. So, I was made the coordinator for Ondo State and that was my first foray into politics. We set up our office in Akure and had structures across the 18 local government areas of the state and we were holding meetings regularly. From there, I got to know about the yearnings of our people and the level of disenchantment among members of the party due to the way things were being run in the state. The level of poverty in the state is alarming. I had the opportunity to meet with the people and I saw that the problem is so pervasive in the state. So, the welfare of the people takes precedence over any other thing.
What is your impression about the leadership of the party in view of its recent crisis?
Well, my involvement with the PSC gave me the opportunity to see how things were going in the party. There are too many aggrieved members of the party. They are more than the people that are happy in the party. There are people who feel they worked and were not recognized or rewarded. There are people who feel they were manipulated out of various primaries. I agree that there is no system that is perfect. However, when such situation arises, you try to pacify the people and give them a sense of belonging, not grandstanding. I think the way out is to ensure there are justice, equity and fair play within the party.
Why are you running for the governorship of the state?
The function of a Governor is to manage the resources of the state for the benefit of the people. So, all over the years of my career, what I have been doing is management of resources. I have managed money, materials and people and I have done it very well to the best of my ability. So, if I have been able to successfully do this, especially in a sensitive place like the National Assembly, which is a mini country on its own, I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that I will bring that experience to bear on Ondo State. We need judicious management of resources. Our people are yearning for development. For a long time, Ondo State has been tagged a civil servants state. We want to change that narrative. We want to leverage on our national and international exposure to bring all round development to this state. Ondo State needs a selfless leader that will not make governance about his inner circles and family alone. I am not coming to government to make money. I am not rich but I’m comfortable and I have made good name for myself in the country. I am coming to bring that good name and goodwill to bear on this state.
Does that mean you share the claims of the opponents of the governor that he has not done enough in the last three years in office?
Yes, that is what I feel. Well, I give it to him that his focus is on roads, constructing and rehabilitating roads across the state. But development is far more than that. We are bringing development that is sustainable. Most of those roads are city roads and not rural roads that can synergize the economic activities in the state. I will rather focus on rural roads and open up those rural communities so that farmers will be encouraged to increase the scale of their farming since there will be roads to transport their produce. There are many things that could easily be done better than they are being done at the moment. Since you are from Owo as is the current Governor, there will be insinuations that your ambition is to jeopardize his reelection. How do you react to this?
No. I don’t think this is about sentiment at all. For five people to come out from Owo local government to want to contest against the Governor, that has spoken volume and your guess is as good as mine on why that is happening. It is not about the Governor himself as a person, this is about the state, about the people. This is not just about Owo. There are many people from other parts of the state that believe they can do more than what he has done. So, Owo is not an exemption. We have to take away the sentiment of Owo vs Owo; the people are wiser than that and the people of Ondo State know what is good for them.
What will be your major focus if you emerge as Governor of the state?
My major focus will be industrialization. We need to rebuild the economy of the state and we can do that by promoting investments. Industrialization will provide jobs for our youths because the youths have been neglected and there is no way we can develop if we continue to neglect the youths. We need to rebuild our education system. This is not just about rehabilitating structures. The content of our education in the last few years is nothing to write home about. We are living on past glory. The state has not employed a single teacher in 11 years and all our public schools are lacking teaching staff. Take my alma mater, Imade College as example. The school needs 155 teachers but only has 55. That is a shortfall of 100 teachers. Since 2014, I have been paying the salary of a Mathematics teacher for the school and there are other alumni who are doing similar things. If that could be happening in a school like Imade, you can imagine what is happening in other public schools across the state, especially in rural areas. We are going to develop quality education here. We are going to establish three ICT centres in the three Senatorial Districts of the state to make Ondo State an ICT hub. All our unemployed graduates will be absorbed and retrained there in so many areas of ICT to enhance their employability. We are going to reorganize our forestry policy in order to generate employment. We will have a policy that will ensure that if you cut one tree, you will have to plant ten in its place. We will have a law to back this up. On Health, we will introduce the Health Insurance that will capture the informal sector of the state. Right now, the NHI law only captures the formal sector and it is only about two or three percent that is enjoying the insurance. We are going to create Ondo State Universal Healthcare Agency that is going to be a parent body that will harmonise the informal sector and bring them into the fold of health insurance. This will capture the parents and children in each household. Our Government will also give prominence to programmes that will benefit women. This current Government does not give much recognition to women, we are going to change that to ensure that our women occupy their rightful place in government and governance. Our youths will be engaged. Our local government will get the needed element of autonomy to function well. By the time we begin campaign, we will go round the nooks and crannies of the state to capture the needs of the people.
There are factions in the party in the state, ahead of the primaries. Don’t you think this could affect the chances of the party in the Governorship election?
No; not at all. We have the Aketi Group and we have the Unity Forum but the Unity Forum has about 80 percent of the membership of the party in the State. That is where the majority is. By the time the flag bearer of the party emerges, you will see that the remaining 20 percent will come to join the majority. Whether you belong to 80 percent or 20 percent, the overall interest is to develop Ondo State.
What do you think are your chances of getting the Governorship ticket of the party in view of the interests of many other gladiators from across the state?
My chances are very, very strong. First, I have my structures across the 18 local government areas of the state. This is not new; we have had people on ground for a few years. Then, my score card in the National Assembly speaks for itself. People are making references. We have been going round to meet the people and the reception has been massive. This is not about those who have contested before or those who are new. What we need is to get the best candidate. The idea is not to run, it is to win. So, I am participating in the process and I am convinced that I’m going to win.