Femi Olaore is a Chartered Accountant and notable chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress in Oyo State. In this interview with some select journalists in Ibadan, the former senatorial aspirant spoke on sundry national issues. Rotimi Agboluaje was there for The UNION. Excerpts:
Why is your party, APC facing this avoidable industrial crisis in the state due to unpaid accumulated workers salaries. Do you see your overcoming this seeming insurmountable problem in the state?
First, let me start from the state level. For the first time in the history of Oyo State, we have a phlegmatic active governor who has shown that hard work is the magic to achievement. What you are seeing now is not inability to pay salaries, but we are all aware that in the last six months, the allocation in most of APC states have been cut. A state that should be given over N2.6 billion is now given N1.3billion, which has caused a cumulative setback for the past six months. They cannot pay their workers. That is what they are facing now. Under a new government, when allocation returns to normal, surely all these arrears will be paid. I don’t see that much as a challenge to someone who has been able to manage public services for several years.
What hope do Nigerians have in this new Federal administration?
We have the right man in the saddle. A man who has unquestionable integrity; a man that keeps to his word; a man who shares the pains of the masses and he is ready to offer himself to address this problem. For someone who has been a former Head of State to be talking about one million in his bank account, means a lot. How can you compare this man with others who have had the choice to run the affairs of the country? This is kind of man who the country needs at this stage. President Buhari is a man who puts his eyes off little things that can distract him. So, that is why I am very convinced that surrounding himself with the right people will be the first thing we should expect. He is such a robust person that is unlikely to be intimidated by names that are not backed by achievements. He is not likely to recycle former governors, directors who have not performed well and who have contributed to the problems we have now. He will not just be persuaded by religious or ethnic background. He stated clearly that confidence, uprightness and steadfastness in party affairs as key to the cardinal point that people must possess apart from the fact that they are going to go through a proper screening procedure to know those people who have the interest of the people at heart. People say Buhari may be a nice man but people who may not allow him to work surround him. President Buhari must stand his ground and must be fair no matter their financial contributions towards his emergence. Buhari has learnt overtime to adjust himself to the dictates of the people so that the aspiration of people will not be dashed. In 2011, I remember as a member of CPC then, Buhari gave an instruction not to take nothing less than a million donation from any government so as to not be tied to them in discharging our duties. So far, so good, he has made it clear to most of those who surrounded him that they have done it for the good will of Nigeria. They have done to show that yes, this country matters to them. So, he owns them nothing in terms of payback by giving them any post that are juicy. No, he has made it clear to them right from the outset. If you want to help, do it as your contribution and that is the platform of the people like the former Governor of Adamawa, people like Okorocha have brought in so much, people like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has done so much. Yes they even have to give up their personal ambitions, so they know what it takes. They will not want to truncate their efforts because they know that people see them as a corporative team.
People of South-South and South East are nursing fear that due to the way they voted against Buhari, he will exclude them in the scheme of things?
I want to reassure my brothers from the south eastern and south south that Buhari will not exclude them. He must not forget his background and anyone who has come close to all the forces. As they come, they match everybody together. And as a senior officer and a General in the army, no section that offers itself for good use will be left out. He is not going to give position or engage the person that will affect the turnaround of the economy in a negative way. In fact, he was the first to reassure the Catholic Bishop of South-South and South-East that anyone who is confident enough is welcome despite the fact that they did not vote for him. As I said earlier, he is a man of few words. Every bit of the word he says is like it echoes deep down in him. But, they must be prepared to deliver and subscribe to service integrity. This is not a situation where people pay billions and billions of naira to buy ministerial slots. Everybody knows the contribution of Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu and his political opponents keep saying he will have his claws on President Buhari for the huge investment he has made in the party.
Do you think he will not be sidelined while the president surrounds himself with his own kinsmen?
I want to say that this talk is the handiwork of the people we call political jobbers. Their own normally is how to create tension and keep themselves relevant. Their business is to create chaos. They are not the sort of progress- conscious people we should have around. They are the people who are concerned about their own personal bread and butter. The first and the one thing Buhari continues to acknowledge is Senator Bola Tinubu not only put his financial resources, he also put in much high political ingenuity.
How would you see Governor Abiola Ajimobi breaking the second term jinx in Oyo State?
I am very happy. I feel elated, I am happy for the people of our state because for the first time they’ve got what they have been looking for. That idea that they don’t serve governor twice came out of high level of civilization in Oyo State. Remember Oyo State and Ibadan, the capital of Southwest. Most of what happened in Nigeria under the Western Region, it was still the same place. The people have eyes for good things, they want the best and until they get the best, they will not be satisfied. So, this is the time they have something that is real. Let us be fair to the man, this is first time you see a governor that takes government as a real business not just a place where you go to socialize.
You, politicians are happy that Ajimobi has come back, but workers in the state are crying and wailing because of their unpaid salaries.
As someone who is concerned for workers, I really share their pains. But what I want to say is appeal to them that they should not take it as if it is an Ajimobi problem. Oyo State is dependent on the allocation from the federal government. Internally generated funds are less than ten per cent. So, there is no other means to finance salaries in the state, like other states that have resources. I want to appeal to them to bear with this government so that within the next two to three months, even though it is half and half he can pay, in the first three months, it will be paid. I know it is painful, but for being part of the order for a new Nigeria sometimes we have to pay such price. We agree with them on what they are going through now, but they should just bear for two to three months, not to continue with this strike that will paralyse activities altogether. I want to appeal to them to go back to work as soon as possible.