A member of the Nigeria House of Representatives, representing Iwo/Ayedire/Ola-Oluwa Federal Constituency, Honourable Gafar Akintayo Amere is one of the governorship aspirants under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Hails from Iwo, he spoke with OSUN DEFENDER on his ambition and chances of flying the party’s flag in the September 22 governorship election.
OSDF: You have been a legislator in the National Assembly for close to eight years and now you are dabbling into the contest for the topmost executive position in Osun, what informed your decision?
AMERE: Throughout my life I have had the zeal of rendering assistance to people or providing opportunity for them to do so, the teaming unemployed youths especially. Whenever I assist people I feel at ease with myself. Actually, I learnt this from my father, he was a philanthropist, assisting people to the extent of his own wealth. The zeal to assist my community pushed me into politics because I knew if I remain in private service, I may not have enough opportunity as much as I would have loved to serve the people. Also, the people who were with my father before he died called me to sustain the legacy he left behind by coming to represent them at the national assembly. Therefore, the determination to serve my people is the driving force.
OSDF: There are a lot of agitations about zoning the governorship slot to Osun West, do you also subscribe to this?
AMERE: I have said it severally that it is only fair for the governorship ticket to be zoned to the West Senatorial district. Osun has three senatorial districts, the east, the west and the central and since inception, we discovered that the east and central have had their opportunity of producing governors, the only time the west had the opportunity was during the first republic when Alhaji Isiaka Adeleke only served for 22 months as governor. So, by historical perspective, it is only equitable for other zones to concede it to Osun West because while the Central had served for more than eight years, the East would have served for eight years by November 27 this year. So, it won’t be out of place to allow the west to have a shot at the seat comes 2018. You would discover that the electorates are the ones clamouring for zoning. If by mistake our party does not zone this to the west, we would have problem convincing the electorate to vote for our party come September 22.
I know we have learnt our lessons from the Osun West Senatorial bye-election last year to always listen to the yearnings of the people, and we would do all we could to ensure the party claim victory in the forthcoming election, if not for anything for the continuation of the genuine work and the remarkable strides that the present government has put in place in the state.
OSDF: Assuming it is zoned to Osun West and you’re elected to fly the party’s flag, tell us the antecedents you have that would enable you to sustain the works done by the incumbent?
AMERE: So many candidates are out there jostling for the topmost seat in the state, but the party needs to do a background check on everyone to see if they have the experience in managing the state, because we need somebody that can manage a state like Osun successfully. You would discover that Osun depends mainly on the allocation from the federal government account, currently, Osun does not have attractive IGR base, I mean to say taxable property are not much in the state in terms of providing additional fund, to anything we get from the federal account. So we need somebody who has experience whether in managing companies ravaged in financial crisis or a state with potentials which have not been tapped. You need somebody who have a sound knowledge in accounting, finance and economics to manage our state successfully and these are the qualities I possessed. I have worked in several private firms and I am also an experience manager, I once manage the biggest cocoa factory in Africa successfully. I was with an accounting firm where I was seconded to Ile-oluji Cocoa factory and my initial job was to sell off their assets in order to offset the debt owed by the company but successfully, I was able to manage the company out of debt, and up till date the company is still existing. After that, I worked with a company owned by Aliu Dasuki and if you look at my record very well, everywhere I have worked, I leave an enviable record that could not be surpassed by anybody.
Also, my experience in the National assembly, I have connected with a lot of persons to know what the state needs to be able to gear up its resources to create income for the state. Osun can’t depend on the money from the federation account, we have to find a way where we have connections with private investors especially foreign investors to have industries here. What we need is to develop our infrastructure and this in turn will generate income for the state which would improve the state’s IGR
I am not saying that the government should be directly involved in creating industries but the government would provide the enabling environment by providing the necessary impetus like what Aregebsola is doing interms of the road he has been constructing, ensuring that there is an access to rural areas whereby investors would be impressed to come and probably construct their factory for the government to have taxable elements to generate IGR to the state.
If you look at where the state is sitting, you would discover the state is sitting among big market. The distance between the state and Lagos is less than 200 kilometres and if you look at the daily Lagos market for example for food, more than 80% of this supply are from the North. Our state is an agrarian state and if such opportunity is given to Osun, there is nothing that stops us from telling our farmers to specialize on certain foods needed by Lagos and we ferry it through train from Osogbo to Lagos which will generate a lot of tax to the government and the state would be better off in terms of IGR.
I am also looking at another area which is tourism. Osun is endowed with a lot of tourist sites that can generate enough income to the state. In terms of human capital development, the current administration has done a lot in this area and if you look at the financial index as published recently, Osun is the highest in terms of human capital development among other states.
OSDF: Some aspirants particularly from the West are saying if any of them is picked, you will support him, otherwise there will be problem, do you subscribe to this?
AMERE: All aspirants from the west except one have agree to join hands together and support any one that is chosen among ourselves and we are saying that we are going to cooperate with the party because we are party people, we are not going to use violence and we are not going to cause division in the party. To say some other negative things, I will not subscribe to that in our own party, the party decisions are very supreme and if the party decides that this is what they want to do, others will support the decision.
OSDF: There has been criticism against the present government over the management of the resources of the state, with the opposition alleging that present government have wrecked the state to the extent that it would take a long period of time for it to recover, what is your take?
AMERE: I have analyzed the behaviour of members of the PDP who are the masterminds of the criticism and discovered that they are slow learners. They have not been truthful on anything they have presented to us. If they are claiming that the current government has messed up the economy, what about the states where we have PDP in government. For example, the debt Akwa Ibom is owing is more than that of Osun, and so many other examples. A government that has the intention to create opportunity for his people must be able to develop infrastructure like I earlier stated, provide sound education and provide jobs opportunities. What is going to provide jobs are infrastructures and these will produce opportunity for industries to come and those factories will create employment to the teeming unemployed people.
For them to say the incumbent has mismanaged the state, they are just playing on people’s intelligent and that is what they are known for. Compare the seven years of the PDP and the period the present government has spent, the APC administration has done far better. They are not even comparable. So, debt is not a bad thing for either a private company or government, but the application of that debt is what is important and I can say that Osun government invested the debt on things that would bring benefit even more than the investment.
OSDF: The governorship position is a two-fold race, first is the primary, before going to the poll, how is your relationship with the delegates, and do you think APC will give aspirants a level playing ground?
AMERE: I believe so much in our party that all aspirants would be given a level playing ground to run, contesting now will be the fourth time now I am contesting. I had contested three times before now and everyone had been given a level playing ground. Definitely, I am in contact with delegates all over the state.
OSDF: Just has APC people are saying the PDP has no capacity to defeat them, the PDP are also saying APC has been rejected by the people, your stand on this?
AMERE: I know those in the PDP, they have mouth to talk. Just like what I said last week, they are slow learners, they deceive a lot. There is no PDP in Osun. What we have is a fragment of people looking for ways to embezzle the people’s treasury. Anyone should go back to the record and see what they have done in the past in comparison with the revenue they had. Then, oil was about $100 per barrel, which means the revenue from the federation account they received during their time was more than what Aregebsola is receiving and compare it with what the incumbent has been able to do with the little resources available. The only thing the party is good at is to cause confusion.
In every aspect of government, Aregbesola government has done well; ask those in PDP what they did in those areas when they were in power, nothing! Osun people are wise, they know their right from left and I am sure they can never allow themselves to be deceived again by the PDP.
OSDF: Your message to the party members and the electorate?
AMERE: This is Itesiwaju Osun appealing to the people of the state to weigh the aspirants, look at their antecedents and what they have been able to do to affect people’s lives and to the development of the state before now. Compare them, also look at their experience, check their backgrounds if they’re from a good home and whether they can be relied on, this is so important because you have to choose a leader who will not renege on the promises he has made to the people. I Honourable Akintayo Gafar Amere has done that in the past, I have delivered on all my promises to the people of my constituency and the records are easily available for verification. I believe if I am given the opportunity to serve as the governor of the state, the people will be better for it.