He is not so tall but 44 years-old Social Democratic Party (SDP) gubernatorial candidate, Akinloye Ayegbusi, says he is the underdog that is about to upset all calculations as he is set to change the course of history in Ekiti State. He spoke with Assistant Editor, Jide Babalola
YOU are 44 years old and running for governorship of Ekiti State on the platform of SDP. Do you really see the passage of the Not Too Young to Run Bill into law as a potential source of encouragement for daring young Nigerians?
As much as possible, any nation that plays with the destiny of its youths is actually playing with its future. If you look at the trend worldwide now, we now have 29-39-years old becoming presidents, which shows that the world is actually handing over the mantle of leadership to the young generation.
Unfortunately, some of the African countries and Nigeria in particular are so used to the old faces that it is as if they are legends that will never fade away. When I was in primary school, we were reading about Obasanjo, Gowon, Buhari and in my early secondary school days too, we read about so many of these old leaders and yet they are still there.
The question is when will the youths take over the mantle of leadership and will the country ever move forward?
How long have you been in politics and how did you emerge as SDP governorship candidate in Ekiti?
There was no godfather of any kind. I will say it is just God at work. I had never been in politics before. In fact, as at March 15 this year, I was not thinking about politics at all as part of my plans for this year. I was thinking about something else. But then, the calls came and with the pressure from everywhere, with people saying ?You can do this?. So, I decided to give it a try.
When I got to the party, I met four very strong people on ground. One was a Former Deputy Governor and a former Managing Director of Wema Bank; the other was a former ambassador of Nigeria to Canada and another was a Secretary to the State Government to Segun Oni, while the last was a former Deputy Inspector General of Police and a serving member of House of Representatives. So, I was the only greenhorn and real underdog among them.
When we started, I was grounded because I didn?t have anything but I was very aggressive about it by going round all the local government areas and 177 wards. I visited everywhere. We had campaigns and town hall meetings and we went to all the campuses. I had to let the youths know that this is the only opportunity that we have; it is either now or never. It is either you take your destiny in your hand or never. There is joblessness and there is no policy of industrialisation to move them to the next level.
Don?t you feel intimidated by the existing structures of APC and PDP in Ekiti State, especially with people like Governor Ayo Fayose?
Fayose is a spent force; Fayemi is a spent force too. Quote me, they said they are sending 77 men to help him for election. He didn?t ask for 77 men to come and help revamp the economy in Ekiti, he did not seek 77 people to come and address the hungry people in Ekiti. I know what they call them in Ekiti.
So, what do they call you in Ekiti?
They call me David. I am the David that will bring down the Goliaths of Ekiti.
What are your plans for the people of Ekiti; what do you intend to do to make a difference?
We found out that presently, the state is generating less that N400 million as Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR) per month. And that brings Ekiti State to the position of being second to the last in poverty index in Nigeria. Out of 36, we are number 35. We need to move Ekiti State forward. One of those things that we found out is that over time, when Awolowo was working to develop the Western Region in those days, he saw that human capital will be generated in Ekiti. But because we did not harness our blessings and potentials very well, we ended up becoming teachers and lecturers.
I was at a professor?s house (in Ekiti) and you will be shocked with what I saw there: the level of poverty he is going through while he carries a big title! This is supposed to be one of the highest paid individuals in the world. When you get to places like Abeokuta, their focus is more entrepreneurship inclined and that is why you have all sorts of businesses there and they are still thriving but in Ekiti we do not have anything.
We need to open up the economy of Ekiti and we need to open up the minds of the people in Ekiti. We have to tell them that you cannot earn ₦18,000 minimum wage continuously and break even. Sise sise, omo aseje; s?owo s?owo, omo ase la. We need to encourage people to do business and prosper.
How do we intend to achieve that?
I am sure you heard about the Yunis Foundation that trained and developed a lot of microfinance initiatives worldwide. We intend to bring such to Ekiti and establish microfinance initiatives everywhere in Ekiti so that a woman that wants to start a small scale business of selling palm-oil or kola nut which is wasting away in Ekiti will be empowered. That is the only way we can generate higher IGR. We can empower women who can package various products to other parts of the country where such is in high demand.
How much is the debt profile of Ekiti State?
The debt profile of Ekiti State is over N57 billion, which is a lot of money whereas Lagos is generating over N50billon every month and Ekiti is still on N400 million and we have cashew seeds everywhere in Ekiti and nobody is doing anything about it. These are things that make real money anywhere in the world. If you make people realise the economic value of those things, you will see supply and demand.
I heard sometime that Nigeria is exporting yam. How can we be exporting yam when we can supply it to pharmaceutical companies to produce starch here. We can add value to it here and make much more from it and spend less to export the value-added product instead of the raw yam. And then, a whole Minister of Agriculture was celebrating the exportation of raw yams!
Will you be considering asking the EFCC to step in and investigate the preceding administrations like that of Fayemi and Fayose as well as the management of resources in Ekiti State?
I don?t want to distract myself with the investigation of past leaders because I will have so much to do than looking for scapegoats. It is not part of my agenda. If they have problems, they can sort themselves with EFCC. The level of deprivation right now is terrible; both graduates and skilled employees are being exported to different parts of the world while some graduates are here riding okada; it is sad. It is so sad that the only way that many leaders empower the youths now is by buying them okada. An honourable member of the legislature, after my visit to his constituency and being well received, the next day, he gave the people there 100 motorcycles (Okada). Things have gotten so bad that even the little children don?t have role models any longer. There are just so many problems that we need to address.