Ambassador Bejide: Ekiti South must produce the next governor
Ambassador Dare Bejide, a former Secretary to the government of Ekiti state had also served as the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada. In this interview with Nigerian Concord, Bejide, a pioneer State Secretary of the PDP and a former State Secretary of the defunct NRC, UNC and UNCP speaks on his governorship ambition under the PDP, agitation for a Southern governor as well as his achievements as High Commissioner to Canada among other vital issues. Excerpts:
There is an agitation that the Ekiti South should be governor in 2018. How do you react to this?
That is the normal thing because the North and Central had produced people like Niyi Adebayo, Ayodele Fayose, Segun Oni, Kayode Fayemi at different times so it is time for the South to have their way. For equity, fairness and justice, the South must be allowed this time around. It is not that we don’t have qualified people from the South so the agitation is long due.
Can you tell us why you want to be governor of Ekiti state in 2018?
Well, as a human being, I feel that there are so many areas which the present government has abandoned. These areas are very critical to development and economic growth of Ekiti state. I am a home-based politician so I know what we need to do to develop this state. My major vision is to reduce poverty by promoting economic development through job creation and retention, self-employment and also create an enabling environment where every resident of Ekiti has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potentials, contribute to and participate in a new government of the people by the people for the people. We also have a mission which is to create and sustain an open administration anchored on quality service delivery, rule of law and good governance that is designed to serve the interest of the people of Ekiti state at all times.
What priority do you want to give education and agriculture as governor?
We shall ensure that no Ekiti indigene is denied access to education on the ground of lack of funds or any other disability. Ekiti state needs to regain its lost glory as the fountain of knowledge by promoting qualitative education. Apart from that, we shall make education functional to reduce youth unemployment and as well ensure that the level of illiteracy is reduced drastically to enhance the living standard of the people and enable them contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. We shall create a department in our Vocational Schools which will be training artisans freely so they can become experts in their chosen fields. You see in this state, we are fond of contracting experts from outside of Ekiti state to repair our cars, fix our houses tiles and other things because we don’t have confidence in our own artisans. What I plan to do is that this department will be tasked to train our artisans so they can be up to the task. When they are well trained, our people will be contracting them and this will generate income for the state government. All the artisans will be getting more works to do and will also pay taxes to the government. This will improve our economy a lot. On agriculture, Ekiti state is so lucky to have been between Abuja and Lagos. As a result of this, we will make sure that the state grows more farm products which will be transported to all the states in Nigeria. We will create places where farmers can preserve their farm products. This will generate a lot of funds for the state government. We don’t have to always wait for the federal allocation because our IGR is enough to turn the state around. We shall ensure food security, make agriculture more profitable and attractive, provide employment and alleviate poverty through multiplication of small scale industries based on products in every part of Ekiti state and as well attract investment through increased productivity and availability of raw materials for industries. We shall introduce our farmers to cooperatives. This will help a lot. We will support our farmers with credit facilities, encourage them to do away with outdated peasant system of agriculture and also provide them with highly subsidized imputs including farm tools, chemicals and pest control. Fertilizers, improved seedlings, fingerlings and livestocks breeds.
Our findings show that the health sector has not been prioritized by previous and present administrations in the state. What do you want to do differently?
We have plans to ensure easy access to quality and affordable health care services, improve the health status of all our people and promote the attainment of the health related Millennium Development Goals. Apart from that, we will provide functional health care facilities and thereby signigicantly increase the life expectancy and quality of life of Ekiti people. We shall provide free community based primary health care for pregnant women, elderly people, children under five years and those who are unable to afford the cost of Medicare. There will also be what we call good quality drugs and medical equipment to all existing primary health care facilities in the state.
How do you want to develop economy in the state especially now that we are on recession?
We shall reduce poverty in the state through poverty reduction measures by promoting economic activities aimed at engaging the people in productive ventures throughout the year. We shall establish what we call Employment and Poverty Alleviation Agency to facilitate the creation of a database on all unemployed and employable in the state with age categories, certificate obtained, other skills acquired and additional skills required to meet the needed work skills. Like I said earlier, we shall create new departments in all the technical schools in the state to re-train artisans in the state to improve their skills and enhance their standard of living. We shall monitor and facilitate the creation of Community Economic Development Program to undertake the facilitation of the floating of one business by each community. Each community will be required to contribute money and government will on the other hand provide 100 percent counterpart fund as loan payable from profit. Our poverty alleviation program will not be supply driven. It will be made to integrate the views and suggestions of the people into development efforts in order to address the actual needs of the people and thus make development planning and management more relevant and sensitive to their needs. As part of our efforts to boost job opportunities and reduce poverty, all government contractors in the state shall be mandated to employ all junior staff (100 percent) and at least 50 percent of the other staff from the state. No contractor shall be allowed to bring into the state any material for any construction or any project from other states unless such materials aren’t available here in Ekiti state. Our rural areas have been beglected for a very long time and this is responsible for the rural-urban drift. As a result of this, we shall pursue vigorous economic empowerment of our people in the rural areas. We shall open up rural areas through intra and inter communal all seasons roads. We shall undertake rural electrification on the entire state. We shall ensourage cottage and medium scale industries using local materials. On infrastructure, we shall embark on a massive provision of infrastructure in critical areas of need in the state, complete existing projects and institute a culture of maintenance of existing facilities. We shall provide electric transformer and feeder pillars to communities to enhance constant supply of power and thereby promote economic development. On our women, we have plans to integrate our women into the development process to enable them to play key roles in the affairs of the state. As for our youths, we shall prepare them for the task of providing future leadership based on hard work and respect for the principle of due process. Apart from that, we shall strengthen the constitutional framework that ensures the independence of our Judiciary to enable courts function effectively and efficiently. We shall properly fund the Judiciary and promote continuous training and education of all judicial officers.
People want to know the changes you were able to effect when you were the Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada
I was appointed the High Commissioner at a time which Canada had a very low relationship with Nigeria as a result of military’s disrespect for human rights. You know that Canada had closed down its embassy in Nigeria because of the bad administration of the military rulers then but within six months that I got there, I was able to meet with their government and their High Commission was reopened in Lagos and Abuja. Apart from that, it was during my tenure that a Nigerian president visited Canada after a very long time. Also, it was then that a Canadian Prime Minister visited Nigeria for the first time. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister visited Nigeria twice. This really boosted the trade relationship between the two countries. With this relationship, Canadian investors began to rush to Nigeria for the investments. Same went to Nigerian investors. When I was the High Commissioner, I introduced a scheme where Nigerians who aren’t living in Ottawa could get their visas through courier services. With that, they didn’t ave to travel from their base to Ottawwa to get visas. All they needed to do is fill the forms online, print them, enclose the required fee together with their international passports and then mail it to the High Commission. Meanwhile, the applicants must have provided a self-addressed envelops. When we received the mail, we would treat their applications and mail it back to them. I am happy that the scheme is still in use till today.