The political terrain in Oyo State is bubbling and one of those making this happen is Barrister Akeem Agbaje, one of the several gubernatorial aspirants eyeing the ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In this chat, the brilliant lawyer gave reasons for wishing to become the governor of the state. Read on…
You are a legal luminary, but, in politics, some observers refer to you as a greenhorn. What do you make of this tag?
The definition of greenhorn will not apply to me. This may be my first time of contesting for a political post, but in terms of participation in the electoral process, I have consistently done this as a lawyer representing candidates and being part of a think-tank of elected officials that were successful. There is really no government in this state, both civilian and military, that I have not had a very close relationship with. Also, there is no local government in this state that I have not had significant interaction with. There is no local government that I have not been to for at least five times, since 1999. So, in terms of understanding of this environment, I have reasonably good knowledge and experience. I have also had good physical interactions with several politicians.
How do you intend to achieve your ambition of becoming the governor?
The process was first for me to tell my leader and father which is the governor. After, I informed my ward, which is Ward 3, Ibadan North West Local Government and I visited my local government and then the state executives. I informed the party secretariat last year and it did not have to be a jamboree. Moreover, campaigns have not been officially lifted by INEC and we will still go to the party office to pick nomination forms. It is the new entrants into the game that feel they have to celebrate going to the party office, but it is a long journey and everyone has his or her own approach.
But you are also a new entrant
When I mean new entrant, I mean those that declared their intention in the past two to three months not those of us that did it last year. In the political landscape, we probably have one or two that are not new; majority of us are new. In terms of when we informed the state executives, I am not new.
Your campaign is tagged, Sustaining the Legacy, what are the legacies of the Governor Abiola Ajimobi led administration that you intend to sustain?
One of the key words of our campaign is sustaining the legacy. Hardly will you find a government that has not impacted on governance in one way or the other. The policies of this administration were determined by the challenges of those times, like insecurity. The current administration has brought about a credible level of security; in terms of infrastructure, he has also done significantly well. He has put in place a lot of policies, like in the civil service, and the results will be felt with time. They are not immediate but once he lives office and a competent administrator comes in, the significance of his policies will begin to manifest. That is why you need someone who is very knowledgeable about the state. For me, education is key, agriculture is key, health is key, the judicial system is also very important. We need to focus on infrastructure, in terms of gas and power. We need to develop that and make it manifest in our economic development, we also need to deal with housing.
In the name of sustaining the legacy, what do you make of those arguments that Ajimobi’s successor should rather emerge from within his cabinet and not outside it?
I think that, with due respect to members of the cabinet, for better balancing, fresher ideas that can build on what Ajimobi has achieved, bring additional value to what they have done, it is better a neutral I comes into governance.
The peculiarities of this moment must be different from those when Ajimobi came to power. What should be focus of governance in Oyo State after Ajimobi?
We need to rebase our developmental trajection. We are not Lagos or Ogun State, but we have other values that should drive us like agriculture, education, our judicial system; we can also improve on the level of security that Ajimobi has started. It is only when you have all these in place that you can begin to attract the kind of investment that we need to take us to the next level.
Recent experiences seem to point to an increased practice of money politics, do you have the needed resources to outwit other big spenders for you to emerge the party’s flag bearer?
I have been involved in the politics of Oyo state over the years. Not in one instance has the highest spender won the election. Right from the time of Bola Ige to Kolapo Ishola, Lam Adesina, Rasheed Ladoja, Abiola Ajimobi, it wasn’t the highest spender that won the election. Our politics is different, our people are more politically sophisticated, they are not easily swayed by the immediate benefits they will get. They look at the aspirants, their background, pedigree, the relationship they have had with them. In some places, it is easy to spend money but not in Oyo State. I have not seen the highest spender win election in Oyo State. Politics is local, the drivers of the politics of each state differ. If it worked in Ekiti State, it may not work in Oyo state.