On the heels of his first anniversary in office, Governor Ajimobi in this interview reviews his challenges, achievements in office and the direction he claims to be leading the Pace Setter State. Excerpts:
CONGRATULATIONS on the anniversary of your first year in office. Against the backdrop of your battle against the PDP during the electioneering process, how do you feel being one year old as governor of Oyo State?
Thank you for this visit. The greatest glory for my being the governor of Oyo State can only be given to the Almighty God who, in His infinite mercies, decided that I would be sitting on this seat today. I do tell people that the battle for the April, 2011 elections in Oyo State was like that of the biblical David and Goliath. In terms of physical size, I was not in any way near the size of my co-contender.
In terms of money, I was not anywhere near his accumulated war chest. Even in terms of ability to rouse the security apparatus to his electoral advantage, I was almost nil. But my most prized possession was the people of Oyo State and the Almighty God who had promised to bring our government and party to rescue the people from their forced labour. So ultimately, it was not me but those two unassailable factors. While they relied on their ability, their money and power of coercion, we relied on the majesty of God and the immeasurable love of our people to become the occupant of Agodi Government House.
As governor-elect, the then incumbent shut all doors against our transition committee from accessing the state of affairs of the state so that we could have a pre-government blueprint of our administration. But my brother, we did not envisage the level of rot that we eventually confronted when we assumed office. Virtually everything had broken down.
On the first day of my visit to the office that I was supposed to sit and administer the state, what we saw shocked us. The rug was threadbare, cobwebs hung on the book shelf and we saw snails and rats by the Secretary's office. These were clear signals to me and my team that we had a lot of work to do.
And in all facets of administration of Oyo State, we were to confront that replica of the rot of the office of governor that we saw. So our first six months was spent facing the challenges of the degradation and trying to bring Oyo State from its Ground Zero level. By the grace of God, when we finish our first tenure of office, we hope to have significantly altered global conception of Oyo State which used to be that it was a state administered by and bedeviled by a failed leadership.
What will you say, in concrete terms, you have been able to achieve as governor in the last one year?
Thanks for that question. In the area of the intangible aspect of governance, I will say my administration's greatest achievement of the last one year has been making Oyo State peaceful again. You will recall that, by the time we were coming into office, we inherited the typecast of our state being perceived in all parts of the world as a place where unprovoked and unwarranted violence takesplace, almost every other day.
If it was not politicians shedding their factional blood today, it would be motor park miscreants fighting for legitimacy and spatial hegemony. You will particularly recall the most audacious one when a factional leader of the state NURTW called Eleweomo was brutally murdered in a supremacy battle and some politicians within the same PDP were alleged to have had a hand in the murder by the past state government.
It was so bad that it was alleged that one of the factional leaders of the touts was sleeping in the Government House and state machinery was being deployed to stoke the violence in the state. When we came on board, we looked dispassionately at this crisis and concluded that the only missing gap was a dispassionate leadership. Even though it was alleged that one of the factional leaders of the NURTW worked for us, we decided that whether you were Auxiliary or Genuine, whether you were Tokyo or Osaka, the government of Oyo State would not abet or fan schism in the NURTW.
We also showed the world that we would not spare any mastermind of violence, no matter how highly placed they may be. Our mantra of rule of law and justice is our governmental abiding principle. This we demonstrated when a member of our Pilgrims Welfare Board was alleged to have had a hand in violence against his Chairman. Yes, we like the person in context; yes he is a member of our party but we asked the court to do its job.
In the interim, we removed the person from his position. If the court thereafter says he is not guilty, so be it. In concrete terms, we have also succeeded in changing the face of the state. Even though our mileage ought to have been more than this, but we were operating in peculiar circumstances. We had no template of good leadership to build upon.
But many people have criticized your bringing into your cabinet members of opposition parties. What is the philosophy behind it?
Well, permit me if this is immodesty, my exposure is at issue here. First, I have worked round the whole place, especially in the oil industry, where I was a major player for upward of 30 years. I have met diverse people. I am not totalitarian in my view of government and governance. I believe that I don't have a greater share in this government than the man in Action Alliance party for instance.
I am just fortunate to be administering the state at this particular time. So why should I act like a totalitarian? Yes, they were in opposing parties but they were not in an opposing state! It is still the same Oyo State. So immediately we came on board, I called all of them, nominate your people into our government but I gave a caveat: it must be your best brains.
My attitude or if you like, my philosophy is, if I can make use of the best brains of Oyo State people and infuse them into my administration, who takes the ultimate glory? Is it not God, through me? So why should I not throw the door open to those who can help us develop our state via their deposit of human capital?
Wherever I can find excellence, I go for it and I do not allow party affiliation or tribe to inhibit me. I do not allow the usual gulf that exists between governments and opposition to deter me in the administration of our state.
Once I conceive an idea or a member of my cabinet conceives of an idea and we subject it to intellectual scrutiny in our cabinet that is made up of technocrats and intellectuals, once it passes the litmus test, it goes for implementation.