Victor Adekanye Olabimtan was the Speaker, Ondo State House of Assembly between June 2003 to January 2007 during the government of late Olusegun Agagu. The Supare-Akoko born grass root politician who represented Ondo, Edo and Kogi States in the Federal Civil Service Commission, Abuja from 2009 to 2015 recently made his interest to govern Ondo State known. In this interview with Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, Olabimtan speaks on the current state of governance in his state and his plans for the people of sunshine state if elected.
What can you say about the current state of governance in Ondo State?
Well, this is my personal view, and I also think it is the view of the greater majority of the people of Ondo state. The incumbent came into power with much popularity. The people of Ondo State believed their messiah who will liberate them from whatever they think was their problem because the then government of now late Agagu was providing good governance. Let me say expressly that the past seven years has been harrowing for the good people of Ondo State. I think the people of the state now know better that they have either by error of commission or omission allowed the mistake of 2007 to destroy Ondo State. The Ondo State of today is far worse than the Ondo State we had before the February 2009. It is a state that is wallowing in abject poverty. This government inherited a buoyant economy but today, the economy of the state is hemorrhaging and bleeding satanically. Mimiko inherited a civil service that is second to none. He inherited a teaching service that had successfully ended the age-long dearth of teachers in Ondo State. He inherited an Ondo State where most of the roads are in a good condition. Iroko, as Mimiko is fondly called inherited an Ondo State where water scarcity has been religiously fought to standstill. However, seven years after, we have an Ondo State that is deeply indebted. We now have an Ondo state that is the worst hit among the 36 states as far as the federation is concerned. We now have an Ondo State where no single teacher has been employed in the last seven years. The last time we employed teachers in Ondo State was in 2008/2009. As I am talking to you, many teachers have retired. Many have died in service. Many have resigned and till date, and they have not been replaced. Forget the propaganda of mega school that you read online, please pay a visit to our schools, you will be marveled by the condition under which the leaders of tomorrow are receiving lectures. The entire AUD Primary School at Itaogbolu has just four teachers. Just of recent, because of acute shortage of teachers in primary schools, what Mimiko did was to draft those who have NCE in local government to teaching. Imagine sending someone who has not taught for the past twenty years to classroom to teach. Mimiko inherited an Olokola that was bubbling. The OKNLG was sited there (Olokola). Dangote wanted to build a refinery there. Contractors were about moving their equipments to site when court truncated the reign of Agagu. Mimiko came in, instead of pursing these projects and ensured they came to fruition, nothing was done. Today, ONLNG has been removed from Ondo State and taken to Delta State. Dangote has taken his refinery to Epe in Lagos State. The economy of those states would be booming now while ours is unfortunately retrogressing. When a state depends so much on the money from federation account, such state is bound to collapse when the income from federation account starts dwindling. Ondo State is at the brink of collapsing. Ondo now borrow money on monthly basis. Ondo has borrowed N28bn in the last three months. We took N7billion from Access Bank. We took N14billion from Central Bank for bail out. And we took another N7billion from Zenith bank. And yet, salaries are not paid as at when due. Today, many workers have not gotten their October 2014 salary. How do you want them to survive? If you look at the state of our roads, the government of Agagu constructed the highest number of roads in the history of our state. I challenge anybody to say no. the statistics is there. No additional road was added to the roads neither were the inherited roads maintained. Today, from Owo down to Akoko, there’s no single motorable road anywhere. Today, those in Abuja and Lagos believed Oba Adesida road is an eight lane road. Oba Adesida is still the same road as constructed by the Military government of Ita David Ipeme in 1976-1977. All what Mimiko did was to construct pavement for the road. Go to Akure to check. Mimiko pulled down the street light pole on the road and put another one. That’s all. The only road Mimiko constructed in Akure is Arakale which is just 2.2kilometer. Ondo State should be moving forward but it has been moving backward under Mimiko.
There are firms like Oluwa Glasses at Igbokoda, Bolorunduro Timbers, Ifon ceramics, Arigidi Tomato Paste, Okitipupa Oil Palms mill etc in Ondo State. Sir, as a former speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, kindly tells the world why these companies are not functioning?
These firms would not work because no conscious effort is made to revive them. In the case of Arigidi Tomato paste, it belongs to a private firm. However, Mimiko government says they want to take over. They pumped billions of naira into the project but as I speak, no paste has been produced in the factory three years after. The money comes in and it is taken out through another means. Nothing has been done there. Nothing has been done at Ifon Ceramics. When the wind of change was blowing across the world, Baba Ajasin who established most of those factories, if he were to be alive today would have privatized the firms for better management. But these firms are now conduit pipe in the hands of Mimiko and his cabal. All they ought to have done is to privatize the firms and sell them out rightly to private investors. If you go to Oluwa Glasses today, there’s nothing to sell there. This is a company that has been under lock for the past 25 years. Apart from the land, nothing there to sell, not even the building is sellable. All what a responsible government should do is to advertise the place for sale. Invite people to build the place from scratch for the benefit of jobless youths and unemployed graduates that liter around the state. The Okitipupa Oil palms is now a mirage. No one is planting and replanting in the farm. The old palm trees are dying. The person managing the place has been working with reckless abandonment. Government should not dabble into economic matter because civil servants would manage it the way they manages our ministries. What government ought to be doing is to engage in private public partnership (PPP). When private sectors take over these firms, they will employ people and pay taxes and royalties and therefore, our economy will boom.
You have declared your ambition to govern Ondo State. Now, going by the foregoing analysis of yours about the government of Mimiko, I want you to say explicitly, what should people be expecting from you in case you win the coming governorship poll in Sunshine State?
By the grace of God and by the will of the good people of Ondo State, I will emerge the governor-elect of Ondo State this year. When I become governor, we are going to do what Tinubu called “common sense revolution”. We are going to do a thorough surgical operation in Ondo State. If I am elected, one, I will bring back trust and truth to governance. My government would be integrity-driven. I want to establish that not all politicians are liars. I want to prove that Olabimtan has integrity. Whatever I promise, I will do it. I will uphold the spirits of transparency, fairness, openness and equity. We will turn around the shambled economy of Ondo State around. I will not impose heavy taxation on the people. I will use the land mass in our State to revolutionize Ondo State. Mimiko claimed to be the closest person to the former President yet, the former President took the OKLNG to Delta without any protest from (him) Mimiko. I expected him to use his influence to bring back the project but nothing happened. We will revive Olokola. Olokola must be revived. I will engage in numerous PPP that would benefit our people. Money meant for local government will go to local government. There has been no local government in Ondo State since 2009. We are going to encourage urban-rural migration. When the grassroots is developed, Akure will decongest. It is on record that no local government has constructed an ordinary drainage in Ondo State since 2009. The Owena dam would be reticulated so that we could provide dam for the entire central senatorial zone. When there’s pipe-borne water, people will pay their water bill. We will build roads. Without good roads, manufacturers will not come to our state to establish industries. Yes, the economy is bad but I can assure you that within three years of my government, Ondo State will bounce back again.