By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Mr. Tayo Jegede, SAN on Tuesday emerged as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP for the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.
Jegede was the immediate past attorney general and commissioner for justice in Ondo State and had before then, practised his law for about 25 years in the country’s Northeast from where he earned his call to wear the silk robe in the temple of justice. Days before the primaries he spoke of his plans and politics in a session with newsmen in Lagos. Excerpts:
What is your take on the impression in some quarters that you are going to be Mimiko’s lackey if you are elected?
The notion of somebody saying somebody is a lackey, you know it is also contrived by those who believe that Mimiko has no right to support a person to be governor. For God’s sake, Mimiko is the governor; he has the right to express himself.
And at my level, at my age, I’m not a young man, I think it will also be insulting to say that you are somebody who is a lackey or you are somebody who is hushed. I’ve seen that written about me on a number of occasions in the new media and I said that well, each person is entitled to his own opinion. Mimiko has a right to want good governance for his people. He has a right to say look, I will support someone I know will sustain the vision of the Mother and Child Hospital, someone who will preserve, those globally compliant Mega schools that dot the landscape of Ondo State.
Also, look at the International Events Centre. This is an uncommon edifice in this part of the world. I also played a huge role in its conception and implementation. I also played a role in arranging special flights with Overland Airways to provide services for our people. No one can doubt the fact that I have positively contributed to the success of this government. So, it is not right to say I’m somebody’s lackey. I am not. Not as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. I cannot be a lackey.
I have no desire to be a lackey; I have a desire to run a transparent government. A government that is accessible, a government that would engender growth, a government that would do some other things that have not been done by Mimiko. I’ve been there so I know the weaknesses, I know the strengths. So, I want to build on it and that’s why I am in this race to do more of governance.
What is your impression that public office holders are corrupt?
All of us are not corrupt. That is the truth. So this perception of saying everybody in the public service is a thief is not right. There are people who went there and remained untainted.
Seriously, I am saying this because we must learn to help our leaders. We should not categorise all of them as people who are fraudulent. I’m not saying some public office holders are not; they are!
But we should not paint everybody with a black brush and I think it is only fair and the Bible recognises it that you should pray for your leaders.
Somebody said Mimiko’s administration has not done much. How will you react?
That Mimiko has done well is not in doubt. Some people asked me sometime before the second term of the administration what could be credited to Mimiko as achievement. I mentioned the community development programmes that affect the people at the grassroots directly. I told them about how many things he has done for each community. As a resident you can not pretend not to have been affected by the Mimiko Caring heart programmes.
Unless you don’t have your child who is attending school or you don’t have a child who is paying little amount of money, or you don’t have a small baby who goes to nursery school. And I gave examples, unless your wife does not trade because when we came in 2009, all these markets were slums. At the end of my discussion with that group, they started reminding me of other interventions in health, sports, urban renewal, security among others.
Mimiko as far as I am concerned has done so well. Nobody can beat his record in the health sector, not in this country. So if anybody says Mimiko has not performed, take health sector and tell me any state in the 36 states which has done half of what Mimiko has done and I say so with all pride. It is not only because people like us judge; it is also because we’ve been judged by other international organisations and it is not a fluke. We’ve seen it; I gave examples of Mother and Child.
Here is a government that came in February in 2009 and a year after he has fully completed Akure Mother and Child Hospital and later commissioned another one in Ondo. Look at what we’ve done in education. Look at the schools that were built – the mega schools, The headmaster’s office is like a VC’s office; it is big, it is neat, it has ICT facilities, a library, a football field and many more.
When Awolowo built University of Ife in those days, they said it was too expensive. If you go to Akure where I come from, the axis where we have event centre, the shopping mall, as far as I am concerned, it is comparable to any place in Lagos. By the time you put on the light, on the left is the event centre, on the right is the shopping mall. And it still has to be developed.
Why do you want to be governor now in these trying times?
Why do I want to be governor at this period? I say it with all sense of humility that these indeed are challenging times and they need some extraordinary measures. Somebody who is a little bit bold and might look gentle or mere in his face but he does not think that political considerations should be for everything. We must learn to live and get things done the proper way so that we can get advantage in future.
To tax people is not an easy task. But then if NURTW and Okada riders can collect money and you see them, drivers having jeeps with “Tokyo One” as the number or “Okada One” in a jeep and I’ve seen them, it is because they have a little bit friendly way of collecting taxes, friendly in the sense that the money they pay is small, and they also have effective ways of enforcing because they have people who are enforcers.
Now, enforcers will not go down well with our people but the friendliness will go down well with them. All I am asking today is that, look, make the tax minimal so that it can be a little bit friendly. And you don’t have to wait to collect taxes once in a year; you can do it every month, you can do it every quarter, and you can make it as small as possible to encourage positive response.
And you said Akala said he does not envy anybody who wants to be governor at this period. He was there and I recall then. If you ask him now does he want to contest, and I am saying this with all due respect to him, tomorrow he will say he wants to contest election if the opportunity comes; after all, he struggled to contest even this last one. And the economy is not good all right but the economy will be better. When Obasanjo came, it was not as if it was fantastic but the cost of crude then was quite minimal; it was low, but at some point, it went up. For God’s sake this is not going to last forever. In the next few months, I hope and I pray it may likely improve.