Mr. Agboola Ajayi is the former deputy governor of Ondo State and a seasoned politician. In this interview with The Claver Magazine‘s editor -in-Chief, Peterclaver Egbochue in Ondo state, he speaks on the just concluded Peoples Democratic Party’s convention and expresses confidence in the new leadership of the PDP. He calls on Nigerians to depart from “Egypt” and move the country forward in 2023. He also expresses concern over the challenges faced by Ondo state civil servants under the current government.
How will you describe the just concluded PDP’s national convention?
The just concluded PDP convention is a reflection of how the PDP can put Nigeria together. If Nigerians are wise to know their left from right, I think it is time to do a clear departure from Egypt and move Nigeria forward. Nigerians have seen that the leadership of PDP has capacity to resolve internal crisis amicably and put everybody together and that is how we are going to put Nigeria together. I think it’s a good development.
Your expectations from the new leadership of PDP?
I want to say that these are the set of leaders that have seen it all. Iyorchia Ayu, a respected Nigerian, he was a former legislator, he was a former minister, he has seen it all, he has experience and Nigerians will count on him. The secretary of the party, senator Sam Anyanwu, we should also expect him to bring his many years of experience to bear, the organising secretary, my good friend and colleague, Bature from Sokoto state, are you talking of the national publicity secretary, all of them are men of timber and calibre that Nigerians should count on. So the PDP is back and democracy is back.
What is the state of PDP in Ondo state?
Some of us who just joined the party; the former governor of the state, Olusegun Mimiko, my humble self and a lot of others who have just joined the party, I don’t have to tell you who we are but Ondo state indigenes will appreciate us. They know that PDP has come to stay in Ondo state, it’s a system that they trust, they trust us and we had been tested, I don’t want to say trusted but they will decide where they will go.
Going forward, are you going to take a shot at the governorship election again?
I’m always a free thinker and I believe that we should allow the system to work. Let’s say, God spare our lives, definitely I will try and I believe this time around, they have seen it all and they will vote for the PDP.
Sir, at the moment the welfare package of Ondo civil servants is something many of them are not pleased with. Some say they slashed their salaries while others say they have not been paid for some months now. How will you describe the situation?
Well, I left the government in February 2021. Before that time, of course all of you know about the crisis between the governor and myself. This is the first time Ondo civil servants will experience hardship like this. When we came on board in 2017, it was almost like this and we put heads together to see how we could resolve it and move the state forward. We were able to offset some salary arrears and we were able to put the state back on track. Honestly, I don’t know what is happening now? Let’s just give them some time, I think they will resolve it so that they won’t say this man has left the party and start criticising them. Maybe, they are actually very tight, I don’t want to say now. Let’s just give them few months before we do an assessment of the situation and of course you should expect that we will give them a very constructive criticism. We don’t just want to start talking without having enough facts.
The clergyman in the church did mention that the riverine communities in Ilaje and Ese-Odo have been neglected by successive administrations in the state, why is this so?
That was the reason myself and the governor fell apart. I’m from this environment, without playing to the gallery, I tried to advise him when I was there severally that we should be able to do something meaningful. You are coming to that terrain probably for the first time, I’m very familiar with that terrain, the road that was constructed to that junction was achieved in 2009 before Agagu left office. Since that time, nothing has been done and I can’t be a part of a government, collecting big salary and big allocation and abandon the people. That’s a criminal act. So the clergyman, like I said, without playing to the gallery was sending a message. But again, I also told him, the clergyman to advise the people. What I know about election is that the electorate will cast their votes for a government that did well, that delivered on their promises, is that not? But what I see these days is the slogan of “give us money to cook” and they have seen the effect. You don’t need anybody’s money before you perform your civic responsibility because the implication of that your vote is that if you vote for somebody who does not have conscience, who does not understand the environment and who cannot deliver, it will also affect you, it will affect road construction, it will also affect students performance in school because you cannot build something on nothing. So these are the things we should continue to tell them to vote for somebody who can actually deliver and I’m sure Ondo people have seen it all now and I’m sure they will not commit that blunder again.
During the last election, I discovered that people are actually in love with you because I covered your election around here, what is the secret?
Well, it’s not something special maybe because I have been with them. I have paid my dues. I started at a very tender age. I was a ward chairman in the then SDP. I was a delegate to Abiola’s convention in Jos, ward chairman, secretary of the party, supervisory councilor, chairman caretaker committee, elected council chairman, member of the House of representatives and the deputy governor. I have always been around. There is no time I travel for two weeks that I don’t come home. As a matter of fact, I grew up here and over time they have built some level of trust and they know we can deliver. In a way, I can say that the system manipulated them but they now know better and I’m sure they will never commit that blunder any more.
Sir, do you not think that if there’s a bridge between Agadagba and Arogbo, it will open up those communities and bring development closer to the people?
Let me explain what happened there. Arogbo is the headquarters of the Ijaw-speaking communities in Ondo state. One would ordinarily wonder why can’t you just construct a bridge there? The federal government constructed a road from Olowo-Ore down to that place. So all we need do is to start joining other communities from that place. Let me also give the credit to the late governor of the state, Dr Olusegun Agagu. He was a minister that time and he influenced the construction with the help of one of our sons from Irele, who was the Accountant-General of the federation and the contract was awarded. From what you said, it will open up the community in terms of economic activities and in terms of security, everywhere is going to be secured. Anybody can access Arogbo and come back within 30minutes. When I was even in the House of Representatives that was when the road was awarded to NDDC, I think it was N6.2billion, NDDC mobilised the contractor with about 20% or 30%. They were asking for variation and along the line, the company ran into some problems and left Nigeria. Before then, there were so many demands here and there and we were warning them to let the company do the job. It is one of the abandoned projects in Ondo state and unfortunately NDDC again is noted for abandoned projects in nine states and we have tried to see how we can activate it but unfortunately we do not have anybody there now. I have spoken to the member representing Ilaje/Ese-Odo, Hon. Kola severally, I don’t know why they are not taking up the project but I’m sure we will continue to make noise for them to see reasons why that bridge should be constructed, not just for construction alone but it will emancipate the socio-economic activities of the people.