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Ogunbiyi: I Will Industrialise, Revive Osun State’s Economy

Ogunbiyi: I Will Industrialise, Revive Osun State’s Economy

The Chief Promoter, Founding Managing Director/Chief Executive of Mutual Benefits Assurance Plc and governorship candidate of Accord Party in the forthcoming election in Osun State, Dr. Akinade Akanmu Ogunbiyi in this interview outlined his economic plans for Osun State and his chances at the election. Eromosele Abiodun presents the excerpts

What are the economic resources in Osun State and how will you leverage them to develop the state?

First and foremost I will say the human capital in Osun State, I can say is second to none in this country. You can talk of Ekiti State, you know there is this common saying, which can literally be translated as, “If a human turns to a book, Ekiti person will read it”, but despite all that, the number of academician, the number of intelligent people, the number of highly educated people within Osun state, even if it is not number one in the entire country, I will say it is extremely high. That is the first thing that we really need to leverage on.

 So will my government leverage these resources?

To start with I always say, agriculture is the mainstay of the entire western region, and agriculture is the mainstay of Osun State. What have the previous governments done in agriculture? That is the first thing. There are so many things you can do with agric and agro related industries and this is where I come in. Agriculture, that is number one.

Look at the area of education. I have talked about human capital development but what is the status now since the last 10 to 15 years. Our development in the area of education has actually gone down. If you use WASC as the yardstick, you can see that they have totally bastardised education. Within education, they don’t have education that is tailor-made towards current realities. They are just teaching and teaching. Yes Osun is endowed and we have about 21 higher institutions within the state, Polytechnic, Universities, College of Education etc but what are they teaching there? They are teaching conventional things. Even teachers so to speak now go and teach with lectures prepared 20 years ago because there is no research, there is nothing. The universities are not doing what they are supposed to do. The polytechnics are not producing the kind of graduates that will be relevant to today’s economy. So there is practically nothing on research and innovation.

Again when you look at, you say you want to develop infrastructure, the focus on infrastructure has always been on roads. Who are the people plying the road? Is it the people that are hungry, even the civil servants, going to work has become a burden to them. Because as they are going to work they are not sure of what they are going to get, they can’t even plan on anything. If you are on level 10 and somebody is paying you a level six salary, and even that level 6 salary you are not even sure when it is coming in. Again what other thing. Osogbo, the state capital is known as the ‘Ilu Aro’ (Home of Dye). Osogbo is endowed with Aro (dye). Aro is what they use to produce Adire fabrics.

So when we say Osun State has a lot of potential, a lot of opportunities out there, it takes the discerning eye, it takes the intelligentsia, it takes the man that has the capacity, it takes an entrepreneur like myself to be able to identify them, and we have identified them. I have produced what I can call a manifesto. I don’t think Osun people have seen a manifesto in the last 15 years. We have produced a manifesto, which is my contract of engagement with Osun people, and it contains, what and what, which area we are going to touch in our first term.

Again, in the area of partnership, it is not the government that brings in industries. And I am not saying I will bring in industries or that I will fund industries under my government but we will have private sector partners coming into Osun. I have just mentioned the area of Adire. Adire (dye) alone is a multi billion naira industry.

Look at sports. We have Osogbo stadium, when was it last used? Tell me one person that has been produced in Osun state either in athletes or in boxing or in football or in Judo, and it is because they have totally killed that industry.

They said they dont get money, where would they get money from? Doing what? They are not doing anything. So where would they get money from or you want to say somebody who is reluctant to be governor, is that who will have the creativity to think for you. So there are so many opportunities out there in Osun state.

In the entertainment industry. When they did the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP some years ago and Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, that is when we realised the importance of Nollywood. Look at our numerous graduates who are unemployed. But we can do a lot with Nollywood. For example, how many studious do we have in Osun? If I become governor by the grace of God, I will gather all these graduates, train them and retrain them, so that even if they dont use what they have by way of education, they can use their talents. Education frees the mind, education gives you the maturity and broadness of mind. For example, I read agriculture. I had a second class upper in agricultural economics but I went into insurance and I have done very well. So many of them can do so well.

And do you know what gave me that opportunity? I entered a lift, that was 1986 or I think 1987 when the Babangida administration just introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and the collapse of the economy that followed, and there was no job anywhere. I went to NICON, and I was looking for a job. I joined a lift on the 6th floor, the door closed and somebody cracked a joke and people smiled. Within that short period of 10 seconds I replied with a better joke and people laughed. And that is how the man grabbed me, when we got down, he said to me, people say I am humorous but I can see that you are more humorous than myself. Then he said, which school do you graduate from? I said University of Ife, he said yes I went to Ife and graduated with a first class degree in mathematics, in response I exclaimed and said, I doff my hat for you o.

Then he said, what are you doing here?” I answered that I came to look for a job. And the man said I think I can employ you because I have seen what I needed in you. The talent I am using today is my mouth. I read agriculture. But that is what the man saw, he said I can use you in insurance and he gave me his card.

So there are so many graduates that we can help to diversify. So Nollywood is another thing. Osun State is a home of culture and we can train all these young people and empower them. If I become governor and by the grace of God I will become governor, I will create nothing less than 20 to 50 studios even if it is not standard, you can create these studios and bring all these Nollywood people to come and train people, and by the time they train them for four weeks, six weeks, and even if it is one person they have identified, you can imagine the employment he will create.

Also these are our local drummers, if you organised them into an orchestra, that is also job creation but this needs somebody that has the creativity, who knows what he is doing. So there are so many opportunities out there for us in Osun State and by the grace of God, in four years we will capital on these opportunities.

At this crucial point Osun State cannot afford to go another four years of the current administration. They lack ideas. If the ideas were there, he has been there for 12 years now. So if somebody comes and says the current governor is managing Osun state within a state of non-existing resources, it is an unfortunate statement.

What is your economic agenda for Osun state and how do you want to execute it?

We have five key areas. First and foremost, reform education. Education is my priority and by the grace of God our first year budget will reflect that. If our secondary school students cannot boast of good results, then what are we producing? So I will focus on primary and secondary schools. I don’t want to promote the current government but Osun state university, with the little I have seen, I think they are doing so well. The only thing is they need to change the focus of their teaching so that they can produce graduates that will be relevant to society.

Apart from that, they are doing very well. But look at primary, secondary schools, that is the foundation of education. So I will focus on education. There will be compulsory free primary education for all our children. Look at what Jakende did, of blessed memory. When he started those things, people were making jest of him. They thought it was about providing big classrooms. If you look around Osun state, you will see big primary schools. Like the one here, the primary school I graduated from, do you know that from primary one to primary six as big as the school is, they have just 40 pupils. So we need to reform and refurbish our education. That is the priority, so that we can sustain that high level of human capital development.

Of course the same thing goes for secondary school. When I become the governor, by the grace of God, after two years of my government, you will see that Osun state will come first or second in WAEC. And if that is standardised, the other thing can run on autopilot.

Secondly, I mentioned agriculture. Awolowo used agriculture to develop the Western region. But what has our government in the last 15 years done in the area of agriculture? Nothing. We have cocoa, which Awolowo developed and deployed massively. But how much cocoa are we selling now? Who is buying? I went round Osun and this is the second time I am doing so. In 2018 I went round the nukes and crannies of Osun, sometimes I get to a location and I will be crying. Are these things so bad? And again I have gone round, we have all these cash crops that are wasting away, and I will link them to agric related industries. Oranges, for example, come, but nobody harvests oranges again. Mango, nobody harvest mango again, the little we have is only for consumption. If you buy mangos now, I hear four go for   N200. If you buy four, if you don’t finish the four immediately, by the following day the remaining is spoiled. But we have companies who depend solely on fruits. I went to this Songhai Farm in the Republic of Benin, where they process fruits. I will not encourage the government to go into what private companies can do. But we will create an enabling environment so that they can come in.

Like I said, civil servants, we need to retrain them, we need to actively retrain them because without effective civil services no government can succeed. And I will pay attention to that. I will motivate them to be at work. What is the point, you are earning salary, the Bible says every worker deserves his wage but when the wages are not coming forth what will the labourer do. So I will guarantee payment of their wages. People who are due for promotion, we will promote them, and ensure payment of their pension. So all these things relating to workers welfare, I will give it priority because you can’t develop anything without effective civil services. I will make civil servants my priority and make them effective and productive.

These people are very productive. If they get the right motivation they are ready to work, they are ready to develop Osun provided you have the right leadership that will make them do it. So that is the third point.

We will bring in agric related industries. Look at oil palm. God given, natural gift, or have you ever seen somebody who planted these old oil palm trees, they are still there. Malaysia came in 1969 to take oil palm seed, today Malaysia is the largest exporter of  palm oil. What are we doing? I went round, there is no village I went to that I did not see this small scale palm oil processing by the people using what we call ‘eku’. We can’t get mills, look, it is not rocket science. I don’t need to buy mills and dash them; they don’t even want to be dashed.

So every available resource will be channelled into productive activities. What is missing now is, one, there is lack of initiative in the area of productivity. When the initiatives are not there you cannot talk about getting things done. So when we have a government that has initiative, I will use my network to bring in private sector people who will put in money in these various things.

Again you talk of agriculture, do you know that there is the medicinal part of agriculture. All these people graduating from medicine there is so much that they can do. Do you know that if you grow just two seedlings of bitter kola, do you know what can be produced? What you can use it for, a lot. So there are a lot of ideas and they are low hanging fruits that we can quickly pluck.

Now in the area of industrialisation. How do we want to industrialise Osun State, apart from agro allied industries, do you know that Osun State has 26 commercially viable mineral resources? Ask the government, who are the people mining our gold? Can you identify them apart from Segilola? And they mine raw gold, and it is the purest anywhere in the world, 98% pure, and you can put a structure around that gold so that Osun state will earn 13% derivation revenue. We can take a cue from the oil producing state. I have had engagements with people in the Ministry of Solid Minerals in Abuja, in fact when they saw my manifesto; six of them came to me here to talk to me, how serious am I. It is about $6 million to do a standard gold refining and processing plant, why can’t we have it?

Today you cannot say this is how much gold that is coming out of Osun.

Whoever gets a licence, we would supervise the licence, we will know the quantity of gold that is available, the records are there, go to the Ministry of Solid Minerals, get the records. Okay you have a licence, this is the quantity of gold that is inside here, so as you produce, we monitor.

We know that mining is on the exclusive list but there are things you can do collaboratively with the federal government. Zamfara is doing it now. So if you produce gold, we will know the quantity of gold you are producing and FG takes it, then I can now request for 13% derivation revenue. How much is the resource? Do you know that the medium of exchange in the world is the dollar but gold has taken over.

Gold can never rust. So when they say that Zamfara is producing gold, if you produce gold, you earn it, you do it, you refine it, you take it to CBN, you can take money against it, it is an asset.

So all these areas we say we don’t have funds for, instead of borrowing. You know, Osun is the second or the third leveraged state in the entire federation of Nigeria, but those who are leveraged, Lagos is the most leveraged state in the entire country but does Lagos have the resources? Yes. America is the most leveraged, the greatest debtor in the world today is the USA and it is also the most prosperous. So we can take a cue from all this. This is where my experience, my expertise, my knowledge, my education would come in for Osun. I can go on and on but like I said I have a manifesto that speaks to this. Again look at the area of empowerment, it will interest you to know that all my years in Mutual Benefits Assurance, when we wanted to differentiate ourselves from other players, we did it through retail insurance. That is why  they call me the Apostle of Retail Insurance.

And the backbone of retail insurance is empowerment. So all these market women, when you see me this is how you will see me except for Mondays that I will wear a tie because we are going to have an executive meeting but  the rest of the week I am in my jeans. You will find me in Abattoir, you will find me with women selling ewedu, you will find me with people selling tomatoes in Oyingbo. The people in motor parks, spare parts dealers, you will find me there. Look, I bought 25,000 pieces of Okada for people in the North, for empowerment.  Okada is the standard mode of transport there, it is the status symbol, but how did we do it for teachers? We said let us have the list of people that have gratuity, and we saw that their gratuity is more than the price of okada. So we bought each Okada for N65,000  and not a dime was added to it, and we gave it to them at 7.5%, and added  insurance of N5,000. 

The same thing with NURTW, we partnered with them. If you go round all the functional airports in Nigeria, you will find these cars on hire, we bought 400 for them, they repaid the money. So when it comes to empowerment I am the master. So there is a lot on the table, which we can discuss today but I want to encourage Osun people to please free themselves from the bondage of poverty, to free themselves from bondage of an unsecured future. Here is the Akin Ogunbiyi and Accord party and I have brought them hope. And the greatest thing anybody can live on in Osun today is hope for a better tomorrow. Our children are suffering, the parents are suffering, everybody is suffering in the midst of plenty. So Osun state has resources to leverage on. So I disagree vehemently with my brother and my good friend Governor Fayemi who said he is thanking the current governor, Oyetola, for being effective in the midst of a state non-existing resources.

Given the fact that Osun state is broke, with a huge debt overhang, how are you going to raise funds for these projects?

Thank you. I have just said it. How did Awolowo raise funds? I have talked about agriculture. In fact, when God created heaven and the earth, he created the Garden of Eden, the first thing He made sure He did was agriculture and He secured those plantations by putting forth streams within it before He created man. Everything in this world emanates from that same agriculture.

You said how am I going to raise funds, I will create commodity bonds, I will go the way of Awolowo, I will standardise the price of cocoa, I will standardise the price of palm oil, I will standardise the price of rubber. All these cash crops, we will sit down with the farmers. I have identified 50 farmers’ groups. Look, my working paper, my operational manual for Osun is as big as this.

Within the first six months, they would see the sincerity of our government.  I will not go to borrow, it is not wrong to borrow money. Yes, Osun is leveraged, I have told you America is the most leveraged country in the world and it is still the most prosperous. There is nothing wrong about borrowing money but when you borrow money to do A, let the entire citizens know ‘we want to do this project, this is how much it is costing, we are taking this loan and this is it,’ and the project will pay back over its lifetime.

I told some people, I said within the first four years Osun will have a budget of over a trillion naira. The guy said how do you want to do it? I said look at all I have laid down, it is not the government that you are going to use and fund them. If you say we are spending so much on education, all we need to do is to be transparent with it. We have intervention funds in trillions of dollars out there that we can attract to Osun to come and help us fund primary education.

If we talk about free healthcare, of course, I have in my plans free healthcare for the children, for pregnant women and for old people who are 60 years and above. Look, once you establish it, how do you want to fund it? If the donor people, if they first give us…they can say okay take this first $20 million, you may realise that out of that $20 million, only $1 million is cash, the rest are materials and if we can judiciously explain to them how the $1 million dollars they gave to us and how the materials are utilised, we will get more. So, when we are talking of free healthcare, free medical care for these people, it is not government money. I just need to create an enabling environment. Let me say this, governments everywhere in the world have two principal purposes: security and welfare, welfare and security; the two are interwoven. So, I am not going to get involved in making Coke, in making this, in making that. All I need to do is to ensure their security and provide welfare. Once I provide an enabling environment for each sector, you will see people and people will trust me because of my antecedents in the private sector, they will trust me.

I started a company from scratch, I took a loan of N5 million to start Mutual Benefits. You have been working with us, reporting us for these while. I left and the company is still growing; we are in Liberia, we are in Niger, we are in Cameroon and the company is no longer just an insurance company, it has become a conglomerate, we went into transportation. I am sure you know we got the LagBus franchise; I bought 140 buses. I was never corrupt. We are into oil and gas, crude oil production. A company approaches us, we analyse it and we see that this was a good business, we financed it under my leadership.

We are now into real estate. What we first did was to identify various lands that can be developed for real estate. We bought and then we went to NAICOM, the National Insurance Commission, we laid down our plans and they approved it. Look, we have all the real estate development agenda. We got 10 or 11 awards within the first five years we took over. There is so much that can be done. Osun State needs somebody who can actually think out of the box, we need somebody who is creative, we need somebody who is innovative and of all the people who are contesting now, there is no other better person than Akin Ogunbiyi. We’ve seen what the current government can do, he has been there for 12 years so what new is he going to do?

What are your plans for the state in terms of security and welfare of the people, especially job security?

When I said the function of the government is security and welfare, security and welfare, there is none that is more important than the other but without the first one the second one cannot function. You can’t guarantee the welfare of people if there is no security. And when I say security, it is not the conventional security. Yes, you have the bandits, you have Boko Haram, you have herdsmen, the kidnappers which are the outcome of a failed government. Those people wouldn’t have come into existence if the government had not failed in its duty, in its welfare duty. But outside that you have job security, you have financial security, you have family security, you have food security. If all these things are not put in place, what is the welfare…can you talk of the welfare of your people? So, you can see they are all inter-related. And by God’s grace, we will address all these.

There is no ethnic group that is not represented in Osun. If you have a Hausa/Fulani man who is raising his third generation in Osun, is that person not a citizen? Am I better than him to claim that I am a citizen of Osun State? No! He is an Osun man. Would that person now want to kill? No.

I have visited all the Hausa communities in Osun. I am going to go to Igbos. The major ethnic groups, I am visiting them, talking to them; you are part and parcel of us. My father, Baba Tobi mi, was a herdsman, physically, he would carry cows from Sokoto on foot. They would spend three months, six months before they would get to Oyo, my father. There was no crisis. But when…Well, there is a common saying that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. The most common way of making cheap money now is kidnapping. Our boys are doing it. When you call them bandits or whatever it is, what I know is they are citizens of Osun; Igbos are there, Yorubas are there, Ijaws are there, Fulanis are there. When you don’t have a job, you will look for an alternative. And once they do it once and they succeed, you know it is not small money to come about, one million naira, as bad as the naira is now, one million naira is a lot of money. And you did one action, the five of you, you got N40 million, you got N50 million..ah, this is it o! There is a lot that can be done, it is not a matter of making mouth. We have seen it done elsewhere and we are going to do it for Osun.

What are your projections in terms of number of jobs that you will create?

To start with, again, when you start from the beginning, chances are that you would not be wrong. I keep saying that agriculture will be the bedrock of our administration. People say young people are moving out of agriculture, it is not now. In the last 20 years, young people have moved out of agriculture and we are left with people using hoe and cutlass and those ones even 80 per cent of their products are wasted, where it is not wasted, it is disposed of at an uneconomical value. If you come to our market here in Iwo, Idioro around early August or mid August to the end of August when farmers want to pay the school fees of their children, you see them with 120 tubers of yam that you can buy for N5,000-N7,000.

Like I said, we are going to create a commodity market, I will reintroduce the commodity board. So, we will make it so convenient for farmers, for young people to go into farming. When I was in Zimbabwe, I went to check…when I was about to start my commercial farm, I went to Zunga, in Zimbabwe, I saw equity farming. It was beautiful, lovely. You have just two tractors clearing over 10,000 acres of farmland, cleared, prepared it for planting and they gave seed, maize, they gave it to the farmers, they gave them pesticide  and they gave them fertiliser. They cost all those three items – the clearing, the fertiliser and the pesticide  – they cost it and they give each farmer one acre, two acre, depending on your capacity. You see people, they are living on the farm, you see them living on the farm. All they need to do is, maybe two-three times a week to go and check on their farms, they still do other little little things, maybe petty trading and when the thing was ready, government takes it off them, it is not compulsory but if you want to sell to the government, this is it.

But once you sell to the government, they deduct the prices of those things and you take your balance and you go. So, for cash crops, we are going to do commodity bonds, for the other ones, we will structure the marketing. Look, there is a silo in Ilesha, I can’t remember the capacity, not a single maize has gone into it in the last 12 to 15 years that they have created it. I see what people in the North do, now maize is coming, you will see them coming from the North to come and buy our maize from the farm, direct from the farm. Because our people need money, they would buy it cheaply, they would take it back to the North and during the dry season, with the cost of transportation and everything, by the time they bring it back, it becomes a lot of money.

So, when you say how do we create employment, this is how we create employment. We will ensure we develop this agriculture. We will give an enabling environment to our young boys to be able to go into agriculture. I am not saying I will solve all the problems within the first four years, no, but we will create plans, we will execute plans that we can now grow with. The focal point is productivity for Osun State from day one. Let me give an example, we have not had local government elections in the last 16 years ago and it is provided in the constitution that local government must be autonomous yet these people have refused to do local government elections. So, there cannot be development. I will guarantee what is in the constitution of Nigeria…the minimum the constitution of Nigeria provided—autonomy for local government. Within the first six months of my election, we will do local government elections, in which case the local people will be the ones participating in the election of who should be their chairmen.

If we do that…To start with, I will create over 4,000 jobs across the local governments in Osun. Number two, in those days, it was the local government that was responsible for the payment of the salaries of primary school teachers. I won’t allow anybody to touch the local government fund. When we put somebody who is knowledgeable, look at Rivers State for example, there is nobody who became the governor of that state that has not passed through the local government. That is the kind of standardisation that we will bring into our elections. I am not going to impose anybody but we will do the job/position specifications so that whoever you want to pick, whoever is your local government chairman is equally capable of being the governor of the state; that is the starting point. In those days, I don’t know whether you experienced it, but here when I was growing up, I knew that at the local government we have the grader, they have all these equipment, maybe three or four.

They are the ones that will be responsible for the development of the community. But when there is no election, what can you do? To start with, in the local government, we are going to create over 4,000 jobs and I think in the first year, I should be able to create about 100,000 to 150,000 jobs. Look, from all I have said, by the time you do gold processing and refining, and also do agro-allied industry, we should be able to create at least about 100,000 jobs and people will be seeing it; we are going to be very transparent. It is not going to be an exclusive government, people will have access to our government, they will have access to information. Every now and then, when something is done, we will address it. You can as well be my Commissioner for Information. It is not going to be only about writing stories or using the press release to publicise what our government is doing. Look at how it is done in America, if there is something important, we can have that press conference thrice in a week depending on what.  So, we will give out information.

Like I said, if we need to borrow money, we will let the entire world know we are taking so much. Look, all the pension arrears and everything that is not being paid, what stops us from creating a bond. We can take a 10 or 15 year bond to clear this. That would reflect in the economy of Osun State immediately. You can see that there is a difference between somebody who has seen it all and somebody who reluctantly became something. So, we will create it. And if I tell Osun people N70 billion is the money we are owing you in pension and from the bond we can start paying, the people will be happy. For N70 billion to come to the economy of Osun State, you can see the massive impact. That kind of money will bring at least nothing less than N10 to NI5 billion back into the purse of the government. We will create employment, we will create opportunities, we will empower people.  There are so many ways and manners that you can put two and two together and the answer will still be 16 or 20 instead of four. But the most important thing is, I am very passionate about everything I am saying and I am very transparent and I have integrity to back all my claims.

What’s your motivation for seeking this office and what are your chances?

My motivation for seeking this office is pure: to give Osun State a fresh start. Osun state that they claim to have no resources for the government to leverage on when I can see opportunities abound. I am very passionate about that. And let me say, I was a member of Osun Development Association; I was their Vice Chairman for 18 years where we interact with various governments. I have a clear understanding of what goes on within Osun State and I have the intention, the desire and the passion to give Osun State a new start.

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