Engineer Kayode Ojo is gunning for the Ekiti State governorship seat for the second time on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he speaks on his motivation, chances and the political situation in the state.
Some people will wonder why will a successful businessman opt to join the murky waters of politics; so why are you leaving the business world for the world of politics?
The answer is very simple; it is because politics make policies that affect all businesses. Therefore, we cannot continue to allow or leave people that do not understand business to be in the business of running the government which indirectly runs our lives and our livelihoods and our businesses. So that is the reason why I joined politics; so that I can contribute my quota to the development of my state and the country at large.
We really need people that understand wealth creation and wealth management to lead this country, because it is the only way we can really get out of our current economic and infrastructural deficiency situations.
You had an unsuccessful bid to get the ticket of the APC in 2018 to run for the governorship; why are you unrelenting?
Because when you have a passion to do something you will never give up; you keep trying until you really get to what exactly that you really want to be. And if you have a passion for the people, not for yourself, then you have to keep pushing until you succeed, and then you are able to deliver what you have for the common man.
What are your chances in the current race?
They are extremely bright. When I ran in 2018 I was a rookie politician. I joined the race about a year to the primary and still crisscrossed the entire length and breadth of Ekiti, and to the glory of God, we did quite well.
I have been with my people in the last three and a half years. I got to also know more of the stakeholders. I got to also understand the system of our party and of the government in Ekiti.
So I believe the chances are extremely bright, and by the grace of God we are going to take the ticket of the party and then go on to win the election.
There are many gladiators within the party; how do you see yourself picking the ticket amidst all the high stakes?
This is politics; everybody is looking for one advantage or the other. I believe that our people, the ordinary man on the streets of Ekiti, will determine who they want to lead them, and so they will accord the opportunity to the individual to win the ticket.
I believe the ordinary people are interested in my candidacy, and I know that they will not hesitate to send me to the governor’s office so that I can take care of their business.
Outside the party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the major opposition in the state, is still very strong and there are fears, especially with a divided APC, that the PDP will end up getting the governorship of Ekiti State; don’t you entertain these fears too?
The only thing I know is that Ekiti people, especially the APC, need a unifier like me. I am a unifying candidate because I don’t belong to any group. I belong to everybody and everybody is my constituency, so I am not partisan in any way. I have friends all over in the APC.
So my picking the ticket will make everybody to gravitate towards me and we’ll be able to come together as one party, which will definitely drive us to victory at the main election. That is why it is extremely important for the APC members in Ekiti to go work and deliver me at the primary.
One other issue in the political scene in Ekiti is the debate over zoning. How would you respond to the agitation of the people of Southern Ekiti to produce the next governor?
I have always said the Southern people are also my family because I have family ties with the South. What I say is that Ekiti State, at this juncture, requires competence over any type of geographical arrangement, and I’m not saying that we do not have competent people from the South; we have extremely competent people from the South.
But the issue of zoning in Ekiti State is that all the elections that we have had since 1999, all the zones participated at both the primaries and the general elections. As a result of that there had not been any time any section of the state was kind of negotiated out to contest in an election; it’s one of the factors that doesn’t make zoning sacrosanct.
Zoning or not, it is the Ekiti people who will decide who they want, and it won’t really matter where that person will come from; whether from the South, the North or the Central. If you look at Ekiti in general, we are a very sophisticated state politically.
Usually, outgoing governors try to install or to bring in somebody that they are comfortable with; maybe an aide or someone close to them. Do you not think that is a disadvantage to you; that you are not somebody that is an aide or among the current set of leaders in Ekiti?
I have addressed this question a couple of times. I see no crime in a governor endorsing anyone; it is not illegal. I am sure when the governor or anyone endorses somebody, of course they put a little bit of government machinery behind that person which to some extent puts us to a little bit of disadvantage.
But you see, by my training I am not supposed to be worried about competition. I have to focus on the goal; where I’m going. So if the government endorses somebody, good luck to that person, but my job is to make sure that I canvass the people so that they would realise why I’m better than any endorsee and why they need to choose me above that individual.
I know that presently in Ekiti people are not really looking forward to see another classroom politician. They are looking at somebody who understands time and money management, who understands how to generate and create wealth, so that their lives can be better. They have assessed it and they’ve realised that anybody who does not have that kind of entrepreneurial experience the job is going to be extremely challenging for that individual at this time to lead the state.
I have always said that everything has its time and season. In the development of statehood or nationhood there is a time to do and there is a time to manage. As it is in Nigeria today and in most states, including Lagos, we are still in the stage of building, not management. So we need people with experience that can find, generate wealth so that we can build the state to a level that everything is comfortable; then we can move to the management level. For now you need risk takers, you need people who understand business, you need people who understand how to get finance.
It is one thing as we have always known, to aspire to lead people, but it is another to have the right programmes when one eventually succeeds. If you emerge successful, what are the things that you will prioritise?
The priority for me is straightforward; it is all about infrastructure. If you provide infrastructure, it provides jobs, healthcare, education, safety, industrialisation, and businesses. Infrastructure, in summary, provides human capital development; it will develop our people and bring prosperity to them. It will bring development to our state, it will make our state a destination for people to come in for business, to live, to school, and for all manner of human needs.
We are going to really focus on that, and I will want to make Ekiti a commercial centre whereby everybody can come and will come to do business. It is a major priority.
As the stage is now set for the contest, what is your hope, especially for your party and for the stakeholders in the party, especially on retaining power in the state?
Number one, I hope the primary will not only be free and fair, but is seen to be free and fair, because that is what is going to unify the party.
Also, I will make it and get the ticket and we will be able to unify the party and then go on to win the main election and form an all-inclusive government that involves and includes all; everyone.
I hope and pray that as a party we also learn from what happened in Anambra State, whereby we got almost 300,000 votes at the primary and we could barely get 40,000 votes at the main election; we don’t want that. We want a party that is true to its ideals, which is democratic.
By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz