Donald Ojogo, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, in this interview by HAKEEM GBADAMOSI, speaks on the people’s expectations and government desires for 2020. He also reacts to some claims of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (APC), ahead this year’s governorship election in the state.
Q- This is an election year in the state, what should be the people’s expectation from the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu-led administration ahead the governorship election?
A- The year 2020 is the year of a lot of expectations; it will be the year of expectation from the electorate and the people of Ondo State in general. It is also the year of desires on the part of the government because there are several things that are ongoing that should be taken to the destination of our minds. There are so many things that the state government is trying to initiate in form of projects. This year is promising on all sides. The first and most important thing we desire from God is long life and peace for all of us to witness those good things in 2020.
Q- The governor will inaugurate some projects to mark his third year in office, ahead the election. Don’t you think people will see this as a political gimmick to buy their votes or is it a mere coincidence?
A- Well, if you say it is coincidental, you are correct and if you say it is strategic on the part of government to complete them as you have said, it is still yes because we ought to have completed these particular projects before now because our desire was not just to keep them in abeyance.
I don’t think it is a political gimmick, but if you say so, you might not be totally wrong. What is even wrong if we commission them and make them our campaign points? Fine, because one of the reasons this government came into power is to be able to bring development closer to the people and if there are one or two things that have been initiated by the government in form of projects and they are likely to be commissioned in an election year, so be it. It is a plus to any government to have tangible things to point to when it is the time to campaign. So, we thank God that we have a lot of things to point out during our campaign period.
Q- But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the people not to expect any miracle from your government because, according to the party, it has failed the people of Ondo State. How will you react to that?
A- I never expected anybody in the PDP to say anything different from what you have reportedly said. The government that has, within three years, taken very courageous steps in terms of developmental initiatives that have surpassed the previous years of the PDP government that was in place in the state, how would any PDP person commend such a government that is performing? No right-thinking PDP man will clap for this government. That is the truth. So, if they are not clapping for us, we won’t be angry and we are not even taking it in any negative form. That is the duty of the opposition and if they are not saying that, who will say it? But the truth of the matter is that whoever is saying that is just trying to echo the mindset of the frustrated minority. Whatever they are saying is the voice of the frustrated minority.
Q- The PDP spokesperson, sometime ago, challenged the level of transparency of your government in the execution of projects. What is your take on the party’s position?
A – If he acknowledged the fact that projects are executed, that is fair enough of him. But in respect of the other leg which he intends to know much about namely, if the projects executed were transparently done, the books are there. Why do we have the ministries of budget and finance? Let them go to the two ministries and verify. They can take a maximum advantage and leverage on the Freedom of Information Act. Let them come out with facts and figures. Our books are clean and transparent enough; this government is courageously accountable to the people. So, if they feel some projects have been done, I salute their courage for saying that. Where they feel there was no transparency or accountability in the course of the execution of those projects, it is left for them. We are very serious in delivering good governance and we cannot add the burden of trying to get facts for the opposition. That can’t be added to the duties of government. They must do that; they should not be lazy.
Q- Governor Akeredolu will be so busy attending to more state and political engagements this year. Won’t that affect governance and his health?
A- I can assure you that no government activities will be affected in any way. Since 2016 that government came into place, alongside major political activities in 2015 and 2019, nothing was affected in governance and 2020 will not be different. Payment of salaries will not be affected in 2020. Governor Akeredolu prioritises the welfare of workers in the state and that resolve is unwavering in him and we have all inculcated the belief that the welfare of workers is paramount. Politics cannot take the shine off the welfare of workers in the state. I can assure you on that.
On the health issue, unless someone is still trying to play the role of the governor’s physician, we have gone past that with gratitude to God. Undesirable and unmerited expectations have been kept at bay. I can tell you that Mr Governor has been full of vigour since he came back. He is focused and stronger to continue the good work.
Q- The opposition party accused the governor of lavishing the state fund on his daughter’s wedding in Mauritius, by sponsoring members of his cabinet and lawmakers in the state. What is your reaction?
A- I remember in my response to that pedestrian story, I made it clear that the few cabinet members who were not more than five attended in their personal capacities. These are not just puerile but pernicious stories powered largely by ignorance on the part of those responsible. Does it not turn logic in the head to think those who attended the wedding did not have the capacity to pay their bills before being appointed as cabinet members?
For the records, the governor never mentioned it at cabinet or at any meeting that his daughter was wedding in Mauritius. He kept it to himself and made it a wholly private affair. In any case, a national daily even wrote an editorial on it, but we felt it was not worth any efforts to respond because such will only drag us into an avoidable conflict. I believe the editorial was largely influenced by what was available to the paper, and that it was outright misinformation that was given to the public was also given to that credible platform. But in this case, it was a hasty and jaundiced judgment.
The truth remains that Akeredolu did not organise his son’s wedding in Canada when he became governor. The couple in question had wedded long before he was even nominated as governorship candidate. It is the tradition in the family for Akeredolu’s children to do their traditional marriage in Nigeria and choose anywhere in the world for the white wedding. It didn’t just start today. It is just laughable that a man, who refuses to charter a private jet with state funds even though it is not disallowed, will spend same on the wedding of his daughter abroad.