Barrister Morohunlola Thomas is the Executive Assistant to Senator Abiola Ajimobi and he is eyeing his boss seat as the executive governor of the state in 2019. In this interview with Remi Oladoye, the legal luminary spoke about his ambition and plans for the state. Excerpts :
Sir is it true that you are contesting for governorship election in 2019?
It’s absolutely true, I am in the race to succeed governor Ajimobi in 2019 by the grace of God and as you are well aware, I am eminently prepared, I am eminently qualified for that position, I have learn the political rope, I have served in different capacities I have seen the in and out of government I know where Oyo was coming from and where it is today and I know where Oyo state should be tomorrow so there is no one that is more qualified than me in any of the political parties in this assignment in 2019, I have served my tutelage I have paid my dues, I have taken a thorough understanding of the system
Are you saying , serving with various government gives you an edge above other aspirants
It gives me an opportunity to understand the dynamics of oyo state politics and that is an edge over others, you may say they are technocrats I am also a technocrat and well educated, I attended many universities in three continent ,Africa America and Europe, I am more qualified that many of them. I am an expert in development I am also an expert in public administration, so I should know where Oyo state tomorrow more that those who have a faint knowledge of the political economy of this state . I am an expert in governance.
Obviously you are close to the governor, but there is this information that the governor ask some of you to throw your hat into the rings so as to add credibility to the primary he intended to conduct having had somebody in mind to choose as a party candidates how true.
As far I am concerned the governor did not ask me to contest, he didn’t ask me to do so and as much as I know this governor he wouldn’t ask you to go and do anything that you have no interest in. I have been piloting my own political career in the past decades, about two decades now and I know the time, I was waiting for this time , in 2003 people came urging me to contest and I felt it was not the time but this is the time for me to do so, this is not about governor Ajimobi using anybody to put credibility on any process, Governor Ajimobi himself is an eminent democrats the man who belief in the progress and development of this state and the man who believes that whatever you want to get you must work for it so, if you think anybody in the cabinet is coming out and he is doing so to let credibility to the process that is not true, I am a serious candidate, I am in this for seriousness, I believe in oyo state and I belief I have the capacity and the capability to take Oyo state to the next level, I am part of the current process and I want to sustain his legacy and build on it to make this Oyo state a better one. I don’t know of other colleagues who are in the cabinet, I don’t know what has prompted them but I am saying that it is not the governor that is prompting me to it and there is no any announcement in the cabinet meeting where the governor said people should go out to declare ambition so as to lend credibility to the process. Governor Ajimobi will go for the best, he knows what is good for the state and he will realign himself with whatever process or candidate that will make Oyo state greater that he will live in 2019 and I can say I am fit for that position.
Many people are jostling for the party ticket and its just one, do you have any alternative plan, leaving for the party if APC did not choose you as the gubernatorial candidate
I have come a long way in Politics, since 1979 to this time that is about 39 years now, let me say it categorically here that it is only God that enthrones a leader. You cannot force yourself on the people ,David was somewhere in the bush attending to the cattle when the prophet demanded that he should be the one to be ordained as king, it is God who ordains King, he is the one that will make a governor or a president at the appropriate time if it happens that I don’t get the ticket , I will not leave the party, and I will not abandon governor Ajimobi, I am one of his disciples, and I am a very prominent member of his political caucus, I am not going to abandon him just because of primary election, I am going to work very hard to get the ticket, and I am sending a message to the party members that I am a party man, I am not an outsider, I am an insider, I know where we are going, I know where we are coming from, I know where we are and I should be the best , if God decided that I should be I will thank God if he decides on the other way I will thank him and carry on with my life in the party
If you are eventually elected as the governor of Oyo state what will you do differently from what others have been doing
Every regime is different from the other but if I become governor, I will pay attention to some issues, particularly in driving the economy of this state we must take this state from the level of a civil service state to an economically buoyant state , there are many sectors of the economy that we must torch to bring about life into this state, we must look at agriculture, not the basic one, but we must look at Agric and its value chain, Agric business, not just the planting of crops alone. But we must look at agric as a business that must grow this economy, we must also look at spot, it can help in bringing about a develop economy. When you look at Brazil, some forty fifty years ago, Brazilian’s economy was in shamble it was soccer that was used to develop Brazilian economy, today the Brazilian economy has so much been diversified. We must organized an integrated economic approach in the development of Oyo state and we must look at all the critical sectors so my major agenda that I will purse as governor is to take Oyo state economy from this level to the level of high productivity, specialization the level that unemployment will be reduced to the bearest minimum, the level of bringing in new technology into production activities in Oyo state and you must lay down the policy to do that , you will see that in my economy blueprint. In the same way I will look at the social sector and ensure that it is well organized, the educational system that we are running today needs a new impetus, this current governor has initiated the policy of SGB which is now helping in management of the school now I will go beyond that level, we must make our school IT base and Technology based so that our children can compete anywhere in the world . we will organize primary education in such a way that even if a child terminates his education at the level of secondary school he can still use his life in a good way . I will bring about science and vocation education, and ensure that vocational education is affordable in such a way that people will have to learn one trade or the other which will prepare them for self employment .
The health sector in this country, not only in this state is actually in limbo, that is why health tourism is common, all over Africa what we are going to do is to modernized the health sector, we must work in partnership with the private sector to lift up the health sector, UCH is a little bit better that what the ministry describe as a mere consulting clinic in those days , in our hospitals we have the doctors, but do we have equipments, are the facilities not decay? Even our doctors, are they having the opportunity of training and retraining, we don’t have we must look at the health sector and collaborate with the private sector so that we will be able to uplift the sector. And now that Governor Ajimobi has been kind enough to bring about the health insurance, that health insurance must be perfected in such a way that the hospitals will be able to survive. What is hampering the hospital is the shortfall of cash The scheme when popularized to the grassroots it will generates necessary funds for the management of the hospitals and not only that, our budgetary allocation to the health sector must be increased, when you do that you will now be able to start afresh build more hospitals, yes we have had a number of primary health care centre but we must build secondary health care centre, I want to have a collaboration with investors in the health sectors, turn it to money making avenue if properly organized, people don’t have to go to Isreal, Londo, Germany US, UK if they have kidney problems , Liver problems or cancer, they should be able to treat it here, we must set up first class specialists hospital in each zone of the state , that means seven first class hospital in oyo state and that will happen within my first term in office as governor of Oyo state and with that we will be able to make more money through health tourism and it will earn us a lot of foreign exchange , that is part of our integrated economic approach.
A PDP aspirant Engineer Seyi Makinde said that Oyo state is heavily indebted, and the present economic reality which is dwindling in the price of oil is one of the limitations that hinders developments and if that were to be true how do you intend to raise fund to raise fund to executive this lofty ideas.
Let me start with Seyi Makinde, issue, don’t regard Seyi Makinde as a politician, he is a philantrophist, he is a man of very little knowledge about politics and its unfortunate that he has hired tired hand to do his PR and that is why politicians of note have left his party, PDP is a skeletal party now, its in carcass, it is a political dead end for people, the PDP is not meant for people who are not serious about politics, the guys that are serious about politics have move out of that place. Some of them have come to us and some are still coming and I am saying it because what information does Seyi Makinde, the moment I get the ticket the PDP will be depopulated, many of their people have promise me that they are going to left the party once I get the ticket, Seyi Makinde doesn’t have information. Governor Ajimobi is a first class public financial manager , he has managed the economic of this state very well, he is not owing one year salary. At the beginning of January 2017 Ajimobi was owning about 8 month salary as of today August he is owning july Salary, kudos to him, that shows sound economic management and he has not borrowed money to pay salaries and look at all the infrastructures that is going on in the state, he is managing the resources of the state without borrowing money and I want to challenge Seyi Makinde to let us know which money was borrowed , this guy is calculating bail out funds, this are political illiterates who don’t know anything about governance, that is why I am saying it is not about people having money, people think being a billionaire is a qualification for leadership, its not, any idiot can become rich, but not just any idiot can become a leader, you have to be intellectually and politically endowed to be lead , if you want to make such an allegation, you must do your research , I want to see his evidence, the Debt management of the presidency is there, no state borrows money without the approval of the DMO that is working under the ministry of finance and that place is open and don’t forget we have a Freedom of Information act that is operational, why is he lying to the people of Oyo state. He is playing this old politic that they used to play in those days, telling lies like they do against Akala, Ajimobi, they are still telling it again and the people of Oyo state are tired of this lies, any politician that want to convince the people of Oyo state must have his fact . Ajimobi has managed this state efficiently and effectively and I think he has done well in that place, this is not a banana state , this state is not indebted as far as I know, the bailout fund was given to all state in Nigeria, the Federal government consider it as a loan and you are calculating it as a debt . These guys should go back and do their philanthropist and leave politics to those who are interested in public administration and who have understanding of the system.
To the second leg of the questing, remember I said Agric Business should be our major focus as commissioner for Agric in this state I increased the revenue to this state from forestry, Forestry is a major and very significant source of income for any state that is interested . we planted tick and oil palm plantations . my vision is to expand the scope of economic activities to generate more revenue . The oil is doing but the major source of income is Agrciulture, the other economic activities that will bring so much money here is solid minerals , Oyo state is highly endowed, in places like Itesiwaju and part of Ibadan, the government can go hand in hand with private companies and invest in the sectors .
Recently the Unity Forum left APC for ADC, do you think there departure will have any effects in the ruling party especially in 2019
Not In any way, some people left and some others are coming , the Unity forum have leaders but most of their followers said they cannot forgive Obasanjo that send Lam Adesina out of power in 2003, Obasanjo that rigged Lam Adesina and bisi Akande out of politics in 2003 that they cannot follow him because of my position here as a man in charge of political matters , I’ ve had meetings with a number of them and they are back into the party, and the registration exercise that is going on in many local government now, they are taking part but their leaders who feel that they should go and glorify the man that send them out of power in 2003 can continue but I do know that they will still come back home, more and more people are still joining our party.
As the Executive Assistant political what are the roles you play during the last APC congress because people consider you as one of the people that misled Ajimobi
When they say misled Ajimobi, is Ajimobi someone that can be misled, this governor is not a puppet governor , this governor is not a mediocre, this is a governor that has high intellect, well experienced , he is the first governor to have had the opportunity of second term . I am not an adviser to Ajimobi, I am Executive Assistant, and he is the leader of the party, what those guy did against Ajimobi was a political coup, were they expecting me to be disloyal to the governor as they did? I wouldn’t do that, there is no way I would have misled him, let me tell you when you challenge a sitting governor , you are likely to suffer defeat, when people challenged Akala, they suffer defeat, when Lam had left office and they challenge him with their stakeholders in 2003, they loss against him, so I understand the anatomy of power and I cannot join them in fighting a sitting governor and in any case, what are they fighting against him for, they were saying he was imposing were they themselves not imposed, who nominated them when one of them was serving as a local government chairman for five years and eight month, was that not imposition, when you served as a chief of staff even though you were not a member of that party, was that not imposition.? When you served as political adviser and like the generalissimo of the governor’s office and nobody challenge you, you didn’t consider that as imposition? And when as it come to situation that a junior member of the party will be telling the governor this is the chairman of the local government that you must elect, when Lam Adesina was the governor nobody dare do that, yes you can dialogue with them but if you are a member of the House of Reps it is not your prerogatives to decides who becomes the local government chairman of your place , it is the prerogatives of the Leaders and members of the party. And what process was followed that to pick candidates the governor conveyed a huge meeting of leaders from all the local governments in the state and he did that on the zonal basis , and he told the it is their prerogatives to decides whom they want because they are the leaders he asked them to produce three names of whom they want. In 1998 I wanted to become a local government chairman in Ibadan south west and the leaders in accordance with the directive of Lam Adesina and Koleoso who were the chairman and secretary at that time was that they should screen all of us and after the screening, they said this is number one and he is the one that should go and take the nomination form, that was the process, the process that Ajimobi embarked upon was even betters, he mandated the leaders to pick 3 people and they signed many of the so called Unity forum leaders were at that meeting and they all agreed, so was it Morohunkola Thomas that misled the governor on that ? they submitted the names and he told them to pick one at that times there was no SENACO or Lamists , let me tell you some of the leaders see the emergence of local government chairman as economic benefit, we know all of this things, we are in this game together . so if you want to hang a dog don’t call it a bad name , Nobody could have misled Ajimobi and Ajimobi did not impose anybody and I can tell you out of 68 local government and LCDA chairmen hardly could Ajimobi point at 10, he may be seeing their faces but he didn’t know their names because he was not the one that picked them. The same thing they did in the selection of counselors, I was not involved in the selection of counselors, there was a committee in place and I was not even in that committee so m when they mention morohunkola Thomas , they mention it because I am vocal prominent and destine for greatness
Back to your ambition sir , Do you have the financial strength to face the likes of Bayo Adelabu, Olasunkanmi Tegbe and others.
In the history of this state, I have not seen a rich man become the governor , the riches have never won the race . This party is not for sale , the governorship is not for sale and I remember that was what the NPN told Mko Abiola in 1983 that the presidency was not for sale , Oyo state governorship is not for sale, it is the qualification for governorship, it is not how fat your purse is , it is how intelligence ,how courageous you are , how experience you are , how politically relevant you are, if you are not , no matter the amount of money you have you will misgovern, when you are coming into government its not your money that you are going to use to run the government , so I am not a rich man in term of physical cash but I am very rich intellectually, I am very rich in term of experience, I am very rich in term of exposure, in term of closeness with my people. If we run a free and fair race, they can’t stand me, the people will take their money but they will vote for me and that is the message because they still have their tutelage, many of this guy you mention have no PVC, many of them have never voted in their lives . go and check, they have TVC temporary voters card , many of them are even struggling to claim where they come from, their identity is still being disputed , many of them don’t even know their wards and this are the people that want to become governor? See what the people of Akwa Ibom have done, they have abandoned the man that came from zenith bank to become their governor because he doesn’t know who and who to be carried along in the political system. I have been around, most politicians known me and I know them, they wont knock my door before they see me, when I become governor I will run regular political clinic in my constituency people will have access to me on weekly basis and I will be addressing and tackling their issues, we must modernized governance and we must demystified this position it belong to the people , it should not be sold and it should not be bought, they will carry the money but I will carry my experience , I will carry my relationship with the people and exposure with them when and if I get the ticket I know other political party will be trembling because they know there will be an upheaval, an earthquake in other political parties because many people will decamp because of me.
Sir, how do you feel when you read negative comments on social media about you, especially on your ambition
I don’t feel anyhow you see , 1999 I became a commissioner and that was my first political appointment , I took the Baptism of fire in term of criticism ,so what is wrong in people criticizing you, what is wrong in people abusing you, every criticism that is not constructive is devilish and satanic and all those who write criticism that are not constructive are satanic agents ,I know there are paid agent on the social media even among you, people who have benefited from me . they are now sympathizers of unity party but it doesn’t bother me, when they criticize it makes me stronger and no amount of criticism can derail me from this mission, it is a mission to take Oyo state to a higher level, it is a mission to preserve the legacies and good work that has been done by Ajimobi, and no amount of criticism will scare me from that mission. I am a very courageous person and a thorough bread Ibadan person , an Ibadan man is not afraid of being abuse or criticse I am not afraid of a fight but if the bring the fight it will be intellectual, its going to be the fight of the brain and not of the hand