Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, is a man nobody can ignore in discussions on the affairs and politics of Nigeria. An accomplished accountant, Amosun was a senator of the Federal Republic and now two-term governor.
In close to six years of his governance, there has been noticeable turnaround in the finances and infrastructure in the state and he has made a consistent pledge to leave the state better than he met it.
In this exclusive interview with a team from The Sun comprising the Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief, Eric Osagie, Editor, Daily Sun, Onuoha Ukeh, Editor, Sunday Sun, Abdulfatah Oladeinde and Ogun State Correspondent, Laide Raheem, Governor Amosun bared his mind on his sojourn in politics, his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his predecessors in office. He also spoke about how his successor would emerge, among others.
You are an accountant by profession. If I may ask, what is an accountant doing in politics?
I have always argued that I am not a politician, but an accountant in politics. And after my sojourn in politics, I will go back to my calling, because I still want to be in my profession. The truth is over the years, I have found out that it is easy to sit in one corner, complain, criticize and say this is what is supposed to be happening, particularly in the area of governance. But you must get involved. I am not saying that everybody should be in politics or maybe in elective office. There are people who are in the private sector and they are doing well for the people, their states and of course, the entire nation. But I have since found out that the quickest platform to have a say and contribute to what will happen in your local government, state or even at the national level, is politics. I don’t know of any other quicker platform than politics. So, for me, the easiest way to contribute my quota to the development of my people is through politics. You might be lucky if your people vote for you, if you opt for elective office. This will surely offer one opportunity to influence things positively and help one to walk his or her talk.
To the glory of God, I have had opportunity to represent our people at the Senate and now I am at a wider spectrum or platform to work for the people of Ogun State as their governor.un
You served as a senator and now as a governor, yet, you said you are not a politician but you just want to serve. Why do you dislike the label ‘politician’?
Let me put it in another perspective, maybe my explanation will be clearer to you. For me, I would rather be a statesman and not a politician. A typical Nigerian politician looks at the next election he or she wants to win and everything they will be doing will be geared towards winning. And when they win, of course, they will come and go. But a statesman looks at what he will do to outlive him, even if people don’t see it that way. Like I said, during a media chat on the state-owned television, when Papa Awolowo of blessed memory, started everything he did, like free education, Cocoa House, the Liberty Stadium and many other laudable projects, people criticized him. Indeed, that of Cocoa House, I heard that some politicians then, gathered women to protest and called Awolowo many names that depicted him as a corrupt person. But today, history and posterity have judged him right. That is because he was not a politician, but a statesman.
A statesman thinks beyond the now, while politicians are even afraid to take tough decisions, because they think they would lose elections. So, it is better to take tough decisions and live with them, once you know clearly that they’re for the good of all. Somebody said a good leader will do what his people need and want right now, but a very good and a wise one will take some decisions that, though, people may question and say we don’t need this right now, but is for the future. Such a leader will tell them that I think we will need this, this is where we reckon we will be in 10 years from now, and if a good foundation is not laid, it cannot be possible. A good leader will do that. I want to be remembered that I came and I took hard decisions that I know are the best for our people. Even though some of our people will be saying, “Oh, why are you doing this?” ultimately we will be proved right that those tough, hard decisions are the best for our people.
There are some critical roads you have started constructing and yet to be completed or seem abandoned, especially that one at Alagbole axis and Ilishan-Ago-Iwoye road. When do you plan to complete these roads? Also, what is the relationship between you and the President like?
The first question is simple and let me answer it first. You all know our little effort in infrastructure development and you all also know that to have proper development, you must get the infrastructure right. There should be a good road network, security, water and electricity. These must be put in place, if we wish to have a conducive environment to attract investors. And because we realized this in Ogun State, we cannot do less. We needed to roll up our sleeves. Historically, even before the emergence of Nigeria, good governance was already in place in Egbaland. So, in the context of Nigeria, Ogun State holds a very high position. So, as a government, we should know where we were and where we are supposed to be.
When we came in, we were very resolute and we knew what we wanted. In doing that, we identified about 32 roads, which we felt that in the next 10 years, if we are able to fix them, Ogun will move ahead of other states. This is because we know that if we are able to do these 32 roads and 26 flyovers, it will bring about serious industrial and agricultural development and what have you. And thank God, today, we have been able to touch 24 or 25 of such roads in various degrees and levels of completion. Out of the 26 flyovers that we envisioned, I think the one we are using now is eighth and two are almost completed. We have another five; in fact, one is almost ready along Sango-Ojodu road. Then the other four along the axis and there is no one that is not above 50 per cent complete. So, if you do the arithmetic, out of the 26, 15 are available. And because we did that, Ogun is today number one industrial state and hub of Nigeria. But we are being short-changed in Nigeria, in terms of allocation we get from the Federal Government. In the area of non-oil revenue that goes to the federation account, Ogun is second only to Lagos State. Whether it is corporate tax, VAT, withholding tax and the one that is key, the duty that they pay at the port.
Most of the companies that pay these duties are in Ogun State and when they bring anything into Nigeria, they pay duties at the port. You can find this out at the Federal Office of Statistics.All I am saying is documented there. But sadly, when they are allocating this revenue, we are still number 26, in terms of allocation. It is very unfair.