Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria is the flag bearer of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), for the forthcoming governirship election in Oyo State. In this interview with Akinwande Soji-Ojo, he speaks on his emergence, why he went into politics, his kind of campaign, vote buying and other issues. Excerpts:
How does it feel being the flag bearer of the SDP?
In the next few weeks, the 2019 general elections will be upon us. I am running for the exalted office of Governor of Oyo State, the Pacesetter State and our dear state on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). This was the same platform on which the Sage, Late Chief MKO Abiola won the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. I am grateful to the members of the party who have found me worthy to run on their ticket and mandate.
Having made a name in the legal profession and being a successful legal luminary, why did you go into politics, is it because of money?
Money should never be an incentive to go into politics. That is why the amount being spent by other candidates is absolutely insane. It is like they are investing and hoping to reap when they get into government. It is a shame that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) does not strictly control and regulate campaign funds. First of all, I remain a highly motivated professional having been a lawyer for 33 years and having been a Senior Advocate for 13 years. I have a chamber that will run itself with three other partners and 25 other lawyers if I go into government. My passion for politics is to work for the emancipation of the masses, to improve the environment and eradicate the slums that characterise our cities and villages. I want to see education become a liberating tool. I want to see a demystification of office holders. A governor should not be an emperor or a king who solely controls the wealth of the people and every one runs around at his beck and call. Let us return the dignity of the people.
Can you share your thoughts on awareness of your candidacy and what you stand for?
In the coming weeks, we shall be faced with challenges that only the grace of God and the mind, attitude and determination of the good people of our dear state can surmount and overcome. Already there is talk of the massive war chest to be deployed in this race. I ask the question; why do you need a massive war chest to achieve victory in an election to present yourself for service. Yes the logistics of travels, securing the services of agents and perhaps the funding of media access to propagate your ideas will require adequate funding but not the unholy figures that they talk about. Therefore I appeal to our leaders of thought, our educated elite and opinion leaders, I appeal to our enlightened youth and all that want the best for our dear State to consider all the parameters and weigh the options available. You can lead and influence the masses. Holes dug in spending N10 billion to secure an election victory will be filled by such victor in government with our collective resources. Let us change the narrative over the next few months.
Growing up, one came across the odd beggar or street urchin. Now our towns and villages are filled up with tens of thousands of men and women now popularly called Area boys and girls. These are young people whose destinies can still be changed for the better. None of us wishes this for our children. We should search ourselves whether we want a continuation of a system that encourages servitude of the masses, a system that produces Area boys and girls in tens of thousands. It is going to be very tough. Both the elites and the masses have to break the mentality that cedes power to oppressors and emperors who take over government with money. Our jailors should not be our heroes and our captors should not be our role models. We have a responsibility to make a change now on how the resource of our dear state is deployed so that we can emancipate our people. Their freedom from oppression can only make our dear state a better place even for us. Let us not fear that patronages will cease if we take a stand, we all a have a greater responsibility to our children, the youth of our dear state and generations unborn.
What are your plans?
I have been sharing my ideas on education, agriculture, impactful infrastructural development, the rule of law, revenue generation and budgeting, the civil service, health care, housing, tourism and other segments of government. My views are totally in line with the manifesto of the SDP which is premised on good governance and social justice for all.
I have also looked at some brilliant ideas being suggested and propagated by some other progressive platforms and this conversation must be inclusive in order to take our dear state to the next and desired level. In doing the above, I also welcome ideas on governance on the different segments of government. I am encouraging this bipartisan approach so that we can jointly achieve the best.
The government that I intend to lead will aggregate ideas, agree on policy directives and implement the directives to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders and the masses. I am presenting myself as an administrator of your resources for the benefit of all. I do not intend to govern as an emperor or all knowing authority. Even the notorious security vote must be audited on a monthly basis and made public.
It forms part of our collective resources and cannot be put in the hands of one person to disburse as he likes. You will have a right to determine whether such expenditure actually comes under the purview of security once published. It cannot be at large as it has been all these years. Please ponder on these and let us do this together. It is possible to collectively enthrone good governance and responsible government.
How do you intend to connect with the grassroots?
We are already connecting with the grassroots. We have a system in place. You do not need to be a professional politician to be part of this revolution. We will be sharing a link soon where you can identify your Local Governments and Wards. If you have difficulty with specifics, we have a team to help your enquiries. You will get information about our local government officials and ward officials who are already part of our structure all over the state. You will be able to support your local governments and wards with ideas and direction where needed. Your experience and participation in this process will be invaluable to this collective project. This applies to all of us who care about our dear state whether we have parental ancestry or we are deeply connected with our dear state. We all have a stake to turn our dear Oyo state around.
What are your thoughts on vote buying?
Vote buying is evil. We will not buy votes because anyone who does is only buying the office of the governor as a commercial venture. We will run a campaign that is real; we will go to the people, knock on their doors and explain to them to vote their conscience. We shall appeal to them to vote for us because we are bringing sincerity to governance. We shall be asking the electorate to choose between us and others who have jointly with their sponsors put our people in abject poverty despite the enormous resources at their disposal. We shall demystify government. Our administration will be people oriented and all inclusive.
How can vote buying be eradicated?
I will call on the media to enlighten the public not to sell their votes and mortgage the future of their children. We rely on the media to educate the people not to sell their votes, to say no to vote buyers who cannot mean well for our people. Let us all be vigilant with our electoral agency, the Independent Electoral commission (INEC), the Police, Army, DSS and other security agencies, we all have a stake in the future of our state and country.
What is your assessment of Ajimobi’s administration?
I have always refrained from assessment of the outgoing government. However, you don’t need to be an analyst to accept that going forward, things could be much better. We are bringing a new sense of urgency to our dilapidated polity. We need a people oriented administration that will make the residents of our dear state feel the impact of governance.
Government has become a drain on the people and residents and the good people of Oyo state has no business with being poor or in want as the state is blessed. I will be running a campaign of ideas and policies while I reorder the priorities of government from a contract happy one to one that focuses on the people. Oyo state is not poor; we are suffering from leakages due to diversion of funds to wasteful ventures. Past governments have made finance and inability to pay workers’ salaries an issue of regret and pain for the people particularly in the civil service. There is no rocket science in dealing with this. We shall reduce cost of governance and public procurement.
And you can block the alleged leakages?
As I have been saying, transparency shall be our hallmark. If we plug wastes and don’t indulge in grandiose projects, you will be surprised at how easy it will be to pay salaries. If there is no waste and corruption, the resources of the states, including internally generated revenue, will be sufficient for all. Transparency and integrity are hallmarks of leadership and that is what I am bringing on board.
Infrastructure development must be impactful on the people. We shall eradicate all slums in our cities. Innovatively, we shall form a partnership with local government and resident associations all over the state to tackle environmental issues across the state. It must be centred on agriculture; we will set up a strong cooperative movement to be managed by the farmers and open up farm roads. Governance is simple, it is simply about the people and individual community needs.
How do you intend to convince the people on this ideology?
Well, like I said earlier, it is what our campaign is about. I reiterate that we shall run a campaign that is real. We will go to the people and knock on their doors and ask them to vote for their conscience. We shall appeal to them to vote for us because we are bringing sincerity to government. We rely on the media to enlighten the public not to sell their votes and mortgage the future of their children. We rely on you to educate the people not to sell their votes; to say no to vote buyers who cannot mean well for our people. Let us all be vigilant with our electoral agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, army, DSS and other security agencies. We all have a stake in the future of our state and country.
What will you do differently?
I repeat that transparency shall be our hallmark. If we plug wastes and don’t indulge in grandiose projects, people will be surprised at how easy it will be to pay salaries. If there is no waste and corruption, the resources of the states including Internally Generated Revenue will be sufficient for all. Our vision includes infrastructural development that revolves around priority areas as infrastructure development must be impactful on the people. We shall eradicate all slums in our cities. Innovatively, we shall form a partnership with local government and resident associations all over the state to tackle environmental issues across the state. Our focal points of will be on education, agriculture, health, environment, law and order, youth support, waste elimination, justice delivery system and infrastructural development that will be impactful on the people.
You are adamant about shunning money politics; do you think you can succeed with this ideology in the present political terrain?
Yes, I am sure of success. The SDP is a party founded on social justice, equity and good governance. You will agree with me that money politics cannot produce what I just listed. What is money politics? Money politics simply means vote buying. Vote buying is evil. We will not buy votes because anyone who does so is only buying the office of the governor as a commercial venture. We will run a campaign that is real; we will go to the people, knock on their doors and explain to them to vote their conscience. We shall appeal to them to vote for us because we are bringing sincerity to governance.
How do you then intend to go about it?
We shall be asking the electorate to choose between us and others who have jointly with their sponsors put our people in abject poverty despite the enormous resources at their disposal. We shall demystify government. Our administration will be people-oriented and all-inclusive. Government has become a drain on the people Residents and people of Oyo State have no business being poor or in want, as the state is blessed. We will be running a campaign of ideas and policies while we will reorder the priorities of government from a contract-happy one to one that focuses on the people.
Do you think SDP has what it takes to defeat the leading parties?
We are at a major crossroad. SDP is a trusted platform but the electorate will be looking at the individual candidates, they will vote according to their perception of the kind of candidate that brings a focused leadership; even political stakeholders are looking in the direction of giving us their support. Our intention is to form a unity government that will accommodate the best brains and those with integrity to govern the state, so it should not be a one man show. Defeating other parties is not the ultimate but getting all that love our state to come on board to form a government for the people
What influenced the choice of a deputy from Ogbomoso?
Many factors played out. Firstly, we believe in gender equality and diversity in our approach. Secondly, she is well educated and a community person. Being from Ogbomoso is not the only factor; she brings to the ticket a positive attitude towards governance
What will you do if you don’t win? Will you quit or continue to seek an elective post?
I believe in Nelson Mandela’s words which say that I can never lose; it is either I win or I learn. Politics should never be a do or die affair. Our aim is to serve. I am seeking to make a difference in the way government is run