That Governor Abiola Ajimobi is the first governor to win a second term in Oyo State is now history. But the events, which led to this memorable feat, may not be fully understood. In this interview with YEMI KOLAPO, the Governor talks about various issues, ranging from security, to youth development and his memorable days in office, especially with regard to touching lives. Excerpts:
You were on the trip with President Muhammadu Buhari to the United States. Many of those who accompanied the President said they were proud to be part of the delegation, though some still had their reservations. Where do you belong?
First, I would say no African President had ever stayed in the glass house. I still think that reception was wonderful. Even when we visited President Obama, the reception was marvelous. He met us by the door, ushered us in; there was no protocol more or less. He was almost arranging the chairs for us; he was very simple, very receptive. But more importantly, a lot of issues were discussed in a productive way. The discussions about security were developmental and holistic in nature, not from the point of law enforcement only, but from the point of job creation, youth empowerment and related areas.
On economy, we also discussed extensively on how to strengthen the institutions; how to improve on the policies, American policies vis a vis those of Nigeria – how do we provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive? How do we reduce corruption and remove the impediments afecting commerce and industry? Lastly, we discussed at length, the issues of democracy, socio – political processes. How do we evolve from politics of destruction to politics of development? How to make it developmental democracy as against ‘come here, grab yours and go away.’ Looking at it holistically, it was a very fulfilling visit and I am very glad in particular that I participated in every aspect of it.
Some people said the trip was a waste of time. In one sentence, what did Nigeria take home exactly?
I think what we took out was it comes to change, I always use the words of Winston Churchill, who said, “we do not know whether if we change, things will improve, but for things to improve, we must change.” And that is the signature tune of our party APC.
In Oyo State, where you are the governor, what are the specific programmes put in place for our teeming youths to help bridge the skills gap and also reduce the level of employment?
Everyone talks about youth empowerment. For me, what is youth empowerment? It is structured information; structured information is education; education is skill; skill is ability; ability is capability; capability is empowerment; your ability to earn a living, your ability to be productive, your ability to contribute to the society. That, to me, is skill acquisition, and when I was a senator, the flagship of my project was skill acquisition. I established the largest skill acquisition centre, which was named Ajimobi vocational center, where we did a lot of training and value addition to encourage our people to be able to use their hands. If you go to developed countries, they have less of theoreticians and more of practical men, people who can use their hands to produce things. I think to a large extent, that is what we need to do. In Oyo state in particular, we are concentrating on vocational centers; on helping our youths to be able to produce and contribute to the society. To that extent, even when I started as a senator, my skill acquisition center (a vocational center) was registered with the Industrial Training Fund and some Federal Government agencies. Do not forget that in the Nigerian environment, youths are about 64 per cent of the total population, and the moment you don’t have the youths engaged in some form of productive development, then you are opening the door to youth restiveness. For me, I think Boko Haram would not have succeeded if we had engaged our youths in productive projects. There is this usual saying that the devil finds work for idle hands. So getting them engaged will reduce thuggery and youth restiveness.
Would you say that Nigeria has the right programmes to trigger the desired change in terms of poverty alleviation generally?
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