John Adebunmi Ayoade, a Professor of Political Science from the University of Ibadan and former Deputy Director, Centre for Democratic Studies, is the Secretary of Governor Rauf Aregbesola’s Re-election Campaign Committee. Ayoade speaks on the selling points for Governor Aregbesola in the August 9 governorship election and why the incumbent will win the poll convincingly. Excerpts:
What are the selling points of your candidate, Governor Rauf Aregbesola, in the August 9 governorship election?
His selling point is that Governor Aregbesola is a man of ideas and has put the ideas into practical use in Osun. He has implemented many very important projects that are firsts in the history of Osun State. Firstly, when you look at our cities, there is urban renewal that is going on in the state. New roads are being constructed. They are rehabilitating the existing roads. The governor is systematically building education not only in terms of infrastructure development but also in terms of curriculum and quality of teaching, which has brought a lot of improvements. It is also important to look at the programmes put in place in schools. The attention of the children have been shifted to feeding, clothing. These mean a lot to the children because if the school children, especially those at the elementary level, are not well fed, it is most likely they are not going to perform as expected and might not be able to learn properly. If the children are hungry, underfed, they are equally prone to health challenges. Looking at the totality of the education, not just the teachers, students but the learning environment and the multiplier effects on economy, I think there is a lot going for Aregbesola in the August election.
Despite the picture of Aregbesola performance in education that you have just painted, higher number of students still fail SSCE. What can be responsible for that?
Well, you are judging by end result and when you look at the end result, we are using the education system of 6-3-3-4 and when you critically look at that, you are judging with the people who started six years ago. Our candidate got to the office three and half years ago. Definitely, the poor background some of the students might have had some years ago are just coming to show now. For you to be able to assess properly, you have to look at the children who are now in JSS 3. Those are the ones you can use to judge our performance and that will be in the next three years. Some of those you are talking about are the people we inherited from the old system and the fact that you have the result as better as it is, was the result of the reform and changes that have taken place in the system. Otherwise, the result would have been much more woeful than what you are talking about. But I assure you that in the next three years, you would have seen the result of the changes Governor Aregbesola has made in the educational sector
The grouse of the opposition against your administration is that it borrows heavily and inflates contracts. What is your take?
First, let me remind you that the Debt Management Office under the watch of the Presidency has just put an end to that spurious lie that Osun has not borrowed beyond its capacity. Those peddling that rumour of heavy debt are just not being honest and mischievous. It is not true that the state has been plunged into debt as claimed by the opposition. They are just bandying figures as they like. The fact is that Aregbesola borrowed and has not borrowed beyond the capacity of the state and we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the borrowings are justified. There will not be infrastructural development you are witnessing if Aregbesola has not taken that bold step to rescue the state from the previous stagnancy and absence of social amenities, which had before his coming derailed the economy of the state. Even the developed nation borrow to develop their country. The question they should be asking is the capacity of the state and what the government is using such fund for. The simple answer is that the government is using it for massive infrastructure development and transformation of the state. Those who are alleging contract inflation could not make distinction in the quality of job Aregbesola is doing. During their own time, they were constructing roads that could not last six months. There is no road that Aregbesola is constructing that will not last for 20 years. These are clear issues they fail to address.
During your campaigns, the governor always encourage voters to arm themselves with the traditional weapons on the day of election when they are going to vote. Is that not a violence incitement to cause pandemonium?
I’m not sure that such incitement exists. Is it a crime for a candidate in an election to tell his supporters not to go to election with guns, cutlasses and any dangerous weapon but should go there armed with the potency of their faiths? If you are a Muslim, Christian, or traditional religion worshipper, don’t you leave your house everyday calling on something? That was what he said and only mischievous minds would read other meanings into that. What the governor is simply saying is that people should be vigilant. As Yoruba people usually say: Oju la lakan fi sori (The crab watches with its eyes for its own security). Everybody is already aware of this and anybody telling people to protect their vote is not inciting anybody. He is just telling them to be alive to their responsibilities. I believe that it is only a fool that will take an advice that is not favourable to him and in this circumstance, we are talking about adults and reasonable people. Nobody that is able to vote is below 18 years and anybody above 18 should be able to decide on what is good for him. So there is no argument of incitement. Another area we are not talking about is the fact that there is poverty in the land. With poverty, people are easily called into action and that is what we are campaigning against for people to reject monetary inducement to cause violence. Our governor is peaceful, our party is peaceful and all we are going to continuously ask for is peaceful election and one man one vote.
Your candidate is a beneficiary of a judiciary pronouncement but still attacks the judiciary on the unresolved murder of Chief Bola Ige. The same thing Senator Sola Adeyeye, the Chairman of your committee does. Have they lost faith in the judiciary?
I don’t believe that speaking on the unresolved murder of Chief Bola Ige is an indictment on judiciary. Rather, what that reminds us is the need to grow a just society because many of the problems facing us as a country arose from injustice. It is just to sound a note of warning that the public are watching the judiciary. Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria agreed and accepted that there are bad eggs in the judiciary. I don’t think we should give clean bill of health to all judges, otherwise the National Judiciary Council will have no reason to be monitoring the behaviours of the judges. Recently, some judges were sent away by the National Judicial Council. Therefore, such statements is not an indictment. We are just trying to build the system and not presume that those people are innocents so as to let other people know that they are being watched in order to be fair and just. I don’t think talking about the unresolved issue is an indictment on the judiciary but to put judiciary on their toes and understand that they swore to an oath as the last resort for the common man.
Some parents protested on the school uniform, demanding the decentralization of selling of the school uniform against the monopoly of the Ministry of Education. What are you doing about this?
First, we have established the fact that no genuine parent was among those who protested. They were just hired people from outside Osun, who stage managed a protest for you journalists to take their photos and make it look like Osun people are against what Aregbesola is doing. It is all propaganda. On what you called monopoly, those who criticize the single uniform policy do not even look at the industrialization aspect of it. That factory making uniforms has provided jobs for about 3,000 people. Let me say that when you start a system, you study the system because there is no perfect system and you can improve on the system. At one time or the other, every system will have to be looked at again. If there are problems with the school uniform, the government will look into it. You are aware that before, no one was asked to pay for this school uniforms and when it was the time to pay for it, it was not more than what a committed parent should do for his child, who is also enjoying free meal in school and other benefits, including now being taught under ultra modern classrooms. I must correct one impression: I don’t know where they got their own figure. Some people are so mischievous on this school uniform issue that they carry about wrong figures.
Some political parties are allegedly purchasing voter cards, photocopying them, which are equally raising apprehensions on the unclaimed Permanent Voters Card from the Independent National Electoral Commission. What implication would the trend have on the general conduct of the election?
Yes, our party has been shouting about the attempt to corrupt the INEC data base by those collecting the Voters Identification Numbers of registered voters. There is a form they called Omo Ilu Foundation form, which they have been throwing about to deceive people to collect their voters identification numbers. This is fraud and that shows you that the opposition knows it has no support in Osun and the only thing they have resorted to is fraud, propaganda and cheap blackmail. I think it is the responsibility of all citizens who have registered to go and claim their cards and there should be a political education on this. What is important is for INEC to serve as the faithful keepers of those cards and make sure it does not get into the wrong hands.