You have gained a wealth of experience in the private sector before entering politics. What do you believe this means when it comes to governing your state? More generally, what do you bring to the political scene of Oyo State and to its citizens?
My private sector background enables me to bring a different perspective to governance in Oyo State. I'll explain this using two examples. First, I recognise that the role of government when it comes to economic growth and job creation. So, I agree with the saying, that the only business government should have in business is to create an enabling environment for private businesses to thrive. We are focused on doing that in Oyo State. This is why we have been seeking partnerships with the private sector for all erstwhile government-owned businesses in the state. We have been able to extract value from previously moribund businesses like the Pacesetter Quarry and Asphalt Plant, Ijaiye, and the Agbowo Shopping Complex, Ibadan. Both of which were handed over to concessionaires in public-private partnership arrangements. Secondly, as anyone who has worked in the private sector knows, things move at a much quicker pace there. Whereas in the public sector, bureaucracy slows things down considerably. Also, things are done more efficiently in the private sector. So, when we came into office, our priority, after a thorough assessment of the issues, was to make governance processes more efficient. This would in turn, speed up implementation of our policies. So, we are implementing e-governance in the state. I spoke about this extensively in a recent ICAN conference. We started from the scratch, buying ICT equipment like laptops and desktops, laying fibre optic cables in the secretariat etc. At the end of this, we will see collaborations that will make things faster and more efficient. To address the second part of your question, my promise to the people of Oyo State when we were campaigning in 2018/9 was that we would be honest, transparent and implement people-oriented policies. And this is what we have continued to do since we assumed office. We have created several channels to enable us communicate with our people both online and offline and involve them in what we are doing. For instance, our budgeting process includes consultation with the people of Oyo State through townhall meetings. So, we always carry them along.
Can you provide some brief background to the reasons behind the four areas you have chosen to be the pillars of your administration?
As an engineer, I know that the foundation of any project is very important. Before we assumed office, we created a plan to guide how we would govern. This manifesto, which we named the Roadmap to Accelerated Development in Oyo State 2019-2023, focused on four main areas of governance and this is what became the four pillars of our administration.
It is a well-known fact that poverty is endemic in Nigeria. So, it was imperative that our administration focuses on lifting our people in Oyo State out of poverty. This informed our decision to focus on the economy as one of the four pillars. We considered what we have comparative advantage in as a state and decided that we would use those to drive economic growth. So, agribusiness, solid minerals development and tourism are the three main ways we are driving economic growth in Oyo State.
Education, which is another pillar is actually driven by my own personal experience. I came from a humble background and it was access to education that enabled me to succeed in life. We were lucky that in our time, education was free up to university level. So, I know the importance of access to education as a means of equipping people for a more productive life.
Healthcare which is another pillar is a pragmatic choice. A healthy population is a more productive population. And we know that with poverty levels in our country, access to healthcare is a big challenge. So, we chose healthcare as a pillar to improve access and also improve the quality of healthcare delivery. Security is another pillar of our administration. All of our plans depend on the existence of a safe and secure environment. So, it was important to make security a focus of our administration.
Among everything that your administration has achieved within the first two years in office, what would you say are the most important ones?
This is a tough one because there are quite a few to choose from. They were all promises I made on the campaign trail. Resolving the decades-long ownership issue of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (Ogbomoso) has to rank as one of the most important things we have been able to achieve. It seemed like an impossible task when I made the promise on the campaign trail but I am glad that we were able to achieve it. Another important one is the 65km Moniya-Ijaiye-Iseyin Road reconstruction. Apart from the fact that it was a promise, the road is strategic to our plans to drive economic growth through agribusiness. As you may know, Oke-Ogun is the food basket of Oyo State so it was an essential project to achieve that aim.
Your ambition is to attract people from Lagos and its neighbouring areas to live in Ibadan. What is the competitive advantage of Ibadan offer its citizens compared to other cities like Lagos?
We are building a modern city where people enjoy premium quality of life. We are looking at an Oyo State which will be the regional hub in transportation, agribusiness, real estate and more. I must mention that our proximity to Lagos is a plus especially because of the sea port. We are working to take advantage of the dry port in Ibadan and the Lagos-Ibadan rail line which create easier options to commute. We are also working with FAAN to expand the Ibadan Airport and make it a regional hub for air transport in the region. Oyo State offers opportunities to investors and private individuals alike to live in a fast-developing state and take advantage of our business cantered policies and incentives.
As for investors, one of your administration's goals is also to open up Oyo State to different kinds of investments from within Nigeria and abroad. What favourable conditions and climate does Oyo State have to offer to the investor community compared to other areas in Nigeria? What message would you like to send to the global investor community about investing in Oyo State?
Our aim is to make Oyo State the number one investment destination choice in Nigeria. As I said earlier, we are driving economic growth in Oyo State through agribusiness, solid minerals development and tourism. So, investors in that area can take advantage of the huge opportunities for growth and return on investment that Oyo State offers. The land size in Oyo State is about 30,000 sq kilometres and 80-85% of this is arable. We are offering land at unbeatable rates to investors. Our administration is putting our money where our mouth is by creating an environment for these industries to thrive. For example, we have started the conversion of farm settlements into agribusiness hubs. We started in Ibarapa (Eruwa and Akufo) and an investor is partnering with our administration for the Fasola farm settlement which is focused on animal husbandry. Oyo State has large mineral deposits; Marble, Granite, Tourmaline, Tantalite, Feldspar, Talc, Beryl and even Gold. In fact, we just discovered gold and manganese in the central part of the state. And right now, we are trying to establish if the deposit is in commercial quantities. For the mining sector in Oyo State, we have created a framework for the systematic development of our mineral potentials. It is designed to make our state a mining destination, attractive to local and foreign investors. Tourism in Oyo State offers opportunities for investors in the hospitality industry. Oyo State has one of only two hanging lakes in the world at Oke Ado Mountain in Ado Awaye. We also have several other tourist attractions including Bower's Tower, Agodi Park and Garden and the Eleyele Lake which we plan to partner with investors to develop into a waterfront amusement park. We are also working hard to improve our ease of doing business ranking. Presently, it takes just 60 days to acquire permits and documentation for things such as getting Certificates of Occupancy after purchasing land. The issue of multiple taxation is also being looked into with a streamlining of taxes. We have different business packages with different categories of investors. We are inviting investors in all sectors to take advantage of the business-friendly environment our administration has created to set up shop in Oyo State, especially the tech sector. We have a young population and with several tertiary institutions in the state, there is an able and willing workforce for investors.
Where do you envision Oyo State to be by the end of your first administration, and regardless of a potential second term for your administration, what are your dreams and ambitions for Oyo State within the next ten years?
At the end of this tenure of our administration, I envision an Oyo State which is once again setting the pace in all areas of governance in Nigeria. We are putting in the work and we are beginning to see the results. For instance, when we assumed office, Oyo State was ranked 26th in WAEC results for all states in Nigeria. The last result, we moved up to 11th but our aim is number 1 and we will keep working towards that. With our investment in infrastructure; roads, healthcare facilities, waste management facilities, sporting facilities etc, I envision a modern and better structured state. I want to leave behind an Oyo State that whoever is coming after me will not have to spend the first two years trying to lay the groundwork for development because everything is in a dilapidated state. My dream is to set Oyo State on the path of sustainable growth and development.