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By Bamidele Rasaq
Saturday, the 26th of March, 2022 would remain indelible in the annals of the Ogun state chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was a day that members of the State Executive Committee (Exco) played host to the British-trained banker and lawyer, Otunba Jimi Adebisi Lawal (JAL), who is aspiring to govern the Gateway state on the platform of the PDP.
Earlier, he had sent tongues wagging when he picked up the Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for the governorship ticket of the PDP a few hours after the party announced the sale of forms for the 2023 general election on the 17th of March, 2022.
Since then the political barometer within the PDP and the state at large has not been the same again.
For the PDP, it was widely thought that the party’s ticket was already in the pocket of an individual. As a matter of fact, those who should know said the individual had always boasted that the party’s ticket was already in his pocket and that he had sealed it with the erstwhile National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who reportedly assured him that only one governorship form would be sold to Ogun state!
You can then imagine how fast things happened and how quick the table turned when Otunba Jimi Adebisi Lawal (JAL) happened on the scene. Not a few wondered why he would leave the All Progressives Congress (APC) where he wields a lot of influence for the PDP.
On the other hand, many PDP stalwarts and stakeholders who, though were not pleased with the shabby treatment they were getting from the so-called leader of the party and presumed sole aspirant, were literally stuck with him, especially in the absence of a better alternative.
Then like thunder from the blues, JAL appeared on the scene and gave a ray of hope. Since then, things have changed and the one who treated them with scorn and disregard is doing everything to court them again. But, the question on the lips of many is: can the leopard change its spots?
Addressing the party faithful, JAL told them that having joined the party at his ward in Ijebu Ode, he thought it wise to visit the state party secretariat and interact with the State Exco.
He went down memory lane to acquaint them with his background, accomplishments in both private and public sectors.
In the private sector, he told them of how he floated a bank alongside others and became its Managing Director in his 20s. In public service, he was the Economic Adviser to Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2003 and 2007. In 2015 when El-Rufai was elected as governor of Kaduna state, he appointed him as Senior Adviser and Chairman, Kaduna State Economic Development Council (KSEDC); thereby driving all the economic policies of the state government.
Lawal spoke of his five-point agenda of Economic development, Infrastructural development, Human capital development (Health and education), security and good governance.
Under his economic development plan, every ward is expected to have a Community Development Association (CDA) that will form a company and decide on its area of comparative advantage that it will invest in. The state government will be an enabler/provider of the resources to be invested in the chosen businesses and thereby create jobs.
He also told the party leaders and elders about his plan to create Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency (OSIPA) and see to the development of Olokola Sea Port. To make the economic development initiatives of the government to get to the grassroots, the independence of the LGAs is sacrosanct. Not a dime will be deducted from local governments’ monthly allocations.
On infrastructure, every ward is expected to identify three rural roads just as every local government will identify five urban roads. The government will identify local contractors that will be put on retainership. The roads are to come with a five-year maintenance package. And the youths will be trained as the roads are built and eventually charged with the responsibility for their maintenance.
On good governance, he told his hosts of how he intends to instill budget discipline in public finance by ensuring a 60:40 ratio in terms of capital-to-recurrent expenditure and ensuring that the state’s government overhead does not exceed its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
As part of human capital development policy, Lawal said there will be free and compulsory education up to secondary school. This is to be backed up with a Child Rights Law because he believes like Nelson Mandela that, ” there are two ways to break out of poverty. The first is by formal education, and the second is by the worker acquiring a greater skill at his work and thus higher wages.”
Thus, to complement formal education, he intends to establish Technical and Vocational Education Centres (TEVEC) across the three senatorial districts.
For health, at least one Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) will be built in each of the state’s 236 wards and the management and control of the PHCs are to be put under a community management board who are to employ nurses and midwives. This is meant to reduce child-maternal mortality rate.
Lawal told his audience of how he plans to overhaul the security architecture of the state and make it community-based and Intelligence-driven such that intelligence officers will be recruited across the 236 wards in the state.
He solicited the support and votes of the state Exco based on his character, education, exposure, experience, track record of performance and vision for a better Ogun state.
Responding, the Chairman of the PDP in Ogun state, Hon. Sikirulai Ogundele expressed his gratitude to the aspirant for visiting the State Exco and promised to guarantee a level-playing field for all contestants.
He said there would be no imposition of candidates like it happened in the past, adding that the failure of party to give all aspirants equal opportunities led to the crisis that almost tore the party into shreds.
Ogundele said the PDP would conduct a free, fair and credible primary elections to pick worthy candidates who can win elections.
He dispelled rumours that a governorship aspirant literally has the party in his pocket, stating “nobody has hijacked the structure of the party. This party has not and cannot be pocketed by anybody”.
The party boss noted that the PDP has learnt from its mistakes and repositioned itself to win the 2023 elections.
Ogundele said, “Our joy is to have so many credible and outstanding members like my brother (Lawal) in the party. The doors of our party is open to everybody. I assure you that the party will conduct free, fair and credible primary elections for all positions. I promise to give all of you (aspirants) a level playing ground. Anybody is free to contest for any position and the best will win.”
Rasaq writes from Abeokuta, Ogun state