Segun Showunmi has been part of the politics of the Gateway State of Ogun for some years now.
Showunmi is currently the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The versatile politician, who is also nursing the ambition of contesting for the governorship election in Ogun State I’m 2023, speaks on Ogun State at 45 in a no-holds-barred interview session with the Publisher of Ogun News Express, Alhaji Malik Ibitoye and Staff writer Habeebat Ajayi.
How will you assess the development of Ogun State that was created 45 years ago in 1976?
First of all, let me congratulate the government, citizens, the indigenes, the settlers, the visitors and all men and women of goodwill, who have one thing or the other to do with Ogun State, including our citizens in the Diaspora that we have attained the adult age of 45 years from the early beginning on 3rd of February, 1976. I was also born on 3rd February. To God alone be the glory, we thank God and we pray that there would continue to be peace in Ogun State, God will continue to prosper Ogun State; both the indigenes, the traditional rulers, the kings, the spiritual leaders, the leaders all well and good. May it be well with Ogun State now and forever. I think Ogun State has been luckier than most of its colleagues that were created 45 years ago. Look at some of the states created with Ogun like Kwara State and a few others. You would notice that in Ogun State, we have enjoyed the benefits of any planning by the forebears, who are the architects of our state. You would find evidence on how well we were planned, and in the way our sections are laid out. It is in Ogun State that you can say that there is laid out, structured market, gated in some cases, well allocated and well built. If you also go round, you would see that Ogun State is one of the locations where you have carefully located mechanic villages that are built for those purposes. You would also notice that if you go around Ogun, unlike some other states, where only one town is thriving, Ogun State has the benefit of close to 12 thriving towns. You have a thriving town in Ijebu Ode, an ancient city that commands some respects, you have thriving towns in Ago Iwoye and Ijebu Igbo axis because of our deliberate effort of placing the very first state-owned university there. You have a very thriving town in Shagamu because of its long history as an inter-change commercial nerve centre between Lagos and Ogun State corridor. You have a thriving town in Mowe/Ibafo due to its proximity to Lagos and the built up area of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and so many of what we have known as the holiness corridor cutting to the expressway. We have a very thriving town in Abeokuta and Abeokuta North because it is the seat of power, you have a thriving town in Ifo, which is growing steadily and you have a thriving town in Ado-Odo/Ota, you have a thriving town in Igbesa because of our deliberate effort of putting a well-structured economic zone there. If you look at Ogun, you would see that the first leaders of the state were able to think through potential developmental trajectory and put a Ogun in a manner that it would continue to grow and to God be the glory for their efforts. Now, those who took over after them, even the military administrators, they tried a bit because they met a very well-structured and fit for purpose civil service, which has helped us also to be able to easily produced housing estates all over the place in a manner that is really commendable and you can only take a look at what is going on at the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC) to see the strategic criss-crossing of their efforts in managing both the land and the housing.
You have mentioned thriving towns in many senatorial districts in Ogun State and some people would tell you that the towns are thriving towns just because of the closeness of those towns to Lagos, and that the spill over are from Lagos, whereas there are no infrastructural development in all the towns you have mentioned. They don’t have roads, they don’t have water…
…You must situate things properly, we will still do a critic of our state, but let us first of all situate our state for what it is. However, I do not agree completely or wholesomely that Ogun State is thriving only because of its proximity to Lagos State. Afterall, what exactly has Agege and Isheri contributed to the development of Ogun State. What I see with Ogun State is that you would notice that we can tell you the growth pole that was specifically put in that area to stimulate its growth. For instance, the usage of our land infrastructure around the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, making ourselves available to big universities, big churches and all that aided the growth there. Our special efforts are bringing in industries and attracting them there. You know, we accommodate The Punch, one of the greatest newspapers in Nigeria. We have a specialized journalist village there on the express. If you come to Igbesa, what has the place got to do the with the closeness to Lagos, when it was us that put a full free trade zone there that is thriving. When you come to Shagamu corridor, what has the closeness of Shagamu got to do with Lagos, Ijebu-Ode same way. What has Ijebu-Igbo and Ago Iwoye got to do with Lagos. We are the ones, who put the university there. I am laying the architecture of Ogun State for you that the founding fathers of the state planned it well. If you want us to skip all the efforts of some of the civilian governors and run straight into the critic of the day; we do not have good roads in Ogun State. One of the reasons we don’t have good roads in Ogun is because somehow the town planners as professionals have failed Nigeria. It is the responsibility of the town planners to do that. Members of that profession comprehensively have failed the country and the import of their failure is clear in Ogun State in the sense that the towns are springing up very fast, settlements are springing up very fast and it is one authority that gives them approval for this development and an authority gives them approval for the ratification of their land, how is it that the authority that gives them approval is not aware that they have to provide infrastructure for them. Even if the roads are not tarred, they can be plotted in a way that you will know that the place is planned and that duty falls on that professional body called town planning. There would be somebody that would be in charge to ensure that things are not haphazard. Again Ogun State has suffered from the general problem in the country such that they do not have the resources to do all of the roads that they want to do. I am not convinced that Ogun State has used the best model to deliver road infrastructure neither am I convinced that Ogun has used the best building technique for roads infrastructure. I cannot accept that a state has a lot of limestone, quarry stone and a lot of those materials you need to do all these that their greatest desire is to give out big contracts to build asphalted roads that don’t last. An approach to concrete road would have been better for us. In Ogun, within, Igbesa, Ipokia and Ode Omi corridor around Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu Ode and Ogun water side, we have the belt of the largest deposit of bitumen in the whole West Africa if not in Africa. Therefore, I do not see how building road infrastructure would be a big deal for Ogun State if they had taken advantage of all the human and natural resources that are available to them. I also think that for a state that has a large population, I think it is not responsible for Ogun State to think that they should build road at very expensive contracts. When in the real sense of the word, if we had encouraged our ministry of works, our state agencies, state engineers, local government engineers, by now the capacity to build roads of any standard would have been there. But that is not what we found. Another thing that affected infrastructure in Ogun State is that I don’t know how we fell into this trap that Ogun State has to be following the others in Nigeria or Africa. You would have thought that Ogun would never be a state, given our own opinions on national issues, where we will not be giving local governments full allocations. I have tried to rationalize what can make us do that. The only thing is that our leaders now have not been as responsible as I would have loved them to be. If the Federal Government can warehouse the money in Abuja and be disciplined enough to give the state their own portion, and also be disciplined enough to allocate resources to local governments, I am not comfortable enough to see that we can find honourable men to be governors, but we cannot find honorable men to be local government chairmen. Therefore, I think that if we had be giving the local governments their money probably the development around the fringes would have been better.
Probably that could have been because the state Governors refuse to hold local government elections and you only see caretaker committees
The most important thing is that you would have noticed that what I am doing is that I am speaking more consensually than specific. The reason I am speaking consensually is that I have come to realize that abusing them, criticizing them and calling them all sorts of ugly names does not help, what helps is a narrative around persuasion that can make them see the advantage of the point you are making. The point I am making is that you cannot get any great advantage in not running effective local government, where the local government personnel like the chairmen are not having their money. I accept that the local government elections have not been done, but even when they do the local government election, I am talking about releasing the resources of the local governments to them so that local governments can take on the responsibility that they are meant to do. Afterall, the Federal Government releases the money of the state governments to them. The federal government stays in Abuja and says they don’t trust the local governments to pay salaries and that they want to use an integrated payment system to help them to pay salaries. Its not a responsible way to think. What its doing for us is that it is striving development. I have gone round Ogun State and I discovered that the allocation that is given to the local governments are not okay. I wonder how the Governor would see this because the state is big, and its not realistic the way they handle the local governments. You think you can sit in Oke Mosan, Abeokuta and see what is happening in all the local governments. The other area I think Ogun can improve on, I expect us to be the example of the best of the African intelligence, competence, capacity, visioning process for the whole of Nigeria and probably for Africa. We have the pre-eminence of great people that have occupied our own land even before the Nigerian nation was created. We have been demonstrating greatness, therefore it didn’t make sense for us to fall into the Nigerian contraption notwithstanding the limitation of the constitution not to be able to think ourselves of every logjam that has happened to us. What I think has happened to us is that Ogun State has not been punishing its leaders because the state has not been reviewing its leaders. What is happening in Ogun State is that what has happened in other areas that has affected their development has crept into Ogun. Here, people would come and serve in Ogun State and they would not be told to come and give an account of their stewardship, even when they do so people would not see any punishment meted out to them. So every successive one was only trying to be worse than the previous one and abuse their offices and it is not helping at all. Now, that we are 45 years, we need to sit down and say Ogun State its time for us to reset. That is why I have been singing and shouting this rest agenda from the thinking and collective point of view. Determine for ourselves that there is no reason that any great people in the world would be sitting down to see what they could do for their societies and Ogun State people would not be able to do it. We need to look at it, we need to change our educational system. I have noticed that they have reduced education in Ogun State to the colour of the roof of the school. This one will come and do his own brown, this one will come and do his own green, another one, red, now we have yellow. When you go to a public school in Ogun State you will begin to see all kinds of colours of roof and you begin to wonder that what kind of irresponsible repair, reconstruction and renewal model is this. You can stick to one colour, I don’t believe that the only way they can see you working is to paint the colours of the houses, which is affecting us. You can hardly find any standard school in Ogun now, especially in the rural areas. I have not seen any school that are models that we can be appreciative and happy for. We need to understand that great nations like the United States of America and Britain and as great as they are and as they could rely on ingenuity of a few good institutions such as their universities and the rest, they still spend a lot of time reviewing their education system and create all the advantage that they need to create. They are looking for how that educational process can work for everybody. Can you say that the children of the poor are happy with the quality of education they are getting in Ogun State now, no, the cannot be. We said we will run six years primary school, three years junior secondary school guaranteed by the federal government then, what is the guarantee that we have in Ogun State now. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo could send us to free primary school then, don’t you think Ogun State should send people to free nursery school so that the first four years from two to six years we can train them. We already know from signs that the quality of education you give people in the first three years of their lives is the most important for them. But we are lagging behind. I am not happy with our health delivery philosophy in Ogun State. Although that is the delivery philosophy in the country, and like I always say, the fact that they are doing nonsense in other places does not mean Ogun cannot show them the way. I have been asking myself, all of the efforts we put in health in Ogun State what does it mean to Ogun citizens. As far as I can see, the only thing we do with our health infrastructure and health budget in Ogun State is only accident and emergency. By now, Ogun should have evolved to a level where even the health budget touches the citizens at a level that whether you are sick or not you will benefit from the system, but we are not doing that, except, God forbid, somebody has an accident and that is what we do, that has to change and I believe that if we begin to do the reset agenda that will change.
Another area where we have problem in Ogun is the issue of Fulani herdsmen, and I tell you this, I have zero blame for anybody else except the traditional rulers. I have been asking myself, what exactly is the job of tier one, tier two and tier three traditional rulers. In some places, you have ‘baale,’ in some places you have regency and in some places, you have chiefs, in some places you have ‘oloritun.’ But how can you have a system in place that allows some people to be traditional rulers of an environment and they would just be there doing nothing and they would not be in a position to tell the government or enable to call the attention of the government to issues before they become very big and there is hardly anywhere you go in Ogun State that you will not see people with beads and all of that claiming that they are ‘baales.’ Ogun must come to a point that it must find a structured, measurable roles for these traditional rulers so that we know what they are doing, why they are there and what we can expect from them.
It is ridiculous for us in Ogun not to have an archive for all the medical leaves and concoctions that we have, what can we even cure. We don’t even know if we can cure headache, and if we can cure it with what and by what concoction, by what percentage and by what measure. These are the things that we can cheaply allocate to the traditional rulers so that they can help us to manage them. We can put a pharmacological institute behind them to ensure that they can look at the efficiency so that we can know that we can do certain things in Ogun. I am trying to say that Ogun can no longer be going at the rate at which the nation is going because we have seen that the nation is crawling. But Nigeria was crawling when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was insisting that South West would have western education, South West would have television and we even had television before France. The only countries that got television before us are England and Germany. We got before Eastern Germany, we got before Sweden, Denmark and the rest, so what happened to us? We are Nigerians and we must remain in Nigeria. I don’t have time for all these people, who are wasting their energy to leave the country. I believe that we can still sit down within ourselves, press the reset button and call ourselves to order that what is the vision that we want to run for Ogun, what is the role of everybody in that vision, what is their contribution and how does that benefit them. I have looked at all the states that were created 45 years ago, I have seen that Ogun is still the best among them. I have also known that Ogun has not achieved one percent of its potentials. Between Ipokia and Badagry corridor, we have the largest concentration of specialized birds in the world. Do you know how much that is accrued to birds watching tourism in the entire world? Ogun has the largest concentration of rare elephants in Africa within the Ijebu-Ode corridor. We have not even prepared Ogun for tourism, we have not prepared the image of Ogun such that we can package Ogun and the world can see that this is Ogun. It is embarrassing that Ogun does not have an airport yet no matter the closeness and proximity to Lagos. There are reasons for us to say that we want to have our own airport and plan our own tourism. There are so much we can do. Ogun cannot afford to have a civil service that is indolent. We cannot say this is what a majority of them are contributing to the system, we are just keeping all the wage bills, not much is happening. Ogun has to say to itself that we have done well under heaven for the past 45 years. But we must now begin a rest agenda so that we can be sure that in the next 45 years, when we are talking about Maryland, may be Liverpool, they would be talking about big countries. Intellectually and with our citizens in the Diaspora, there is no way you will gather Ogun citizens and give them an agenda of where we are going and you will not get results, but we have lazy leaders.
Is it not the failure of leadership that brought us to where we are, is it the people that would talk about reset or the leaders that we have put there?
Democracy produces a complex conversation. The complex conversation around democracy is that whether genuine or counterfeit, we have already given the power to select the leaders to the people. If we give the power to select the leaders to the people and they allow the leaders to energize poverty and convert poverty to a tool of oppression of the people, we now have to ask the people, do they know what their ancestors went through to break away from slave trade. The slave masters did not wake up in the morning and say we are going to leave them, the ancestors fought and fought and fought to breakaway from slave trade. The Europeans did not wake up one day and say we are going to leave Nigeria and let Nigerians rule themselves, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others fought. We are not in a military rule, we are now in a democracy. So it is your responsibility to be more interested in who governs you. If you are interested in who governs you, you must ask the relevant questions. No matter how you are unable to speak English here, it does not mean you are stupid. There are people in some communities that do not speak English Language, afterall the language of communication in China is not English neither is the language of communication in Dubai or Saudi Arabia English, same goes for India. Yet, these people are creating the kind of nation they need. I think that it is both sides problem, the bigger burden is on the people. They have to be ready to look for their sons and daughters who they can test and they would use their franchise to bring them in and then we will start to get results. I said we are not punishing leaders, if we have been punishing them to let them explain their activities while in power and punish those who should be punished, the next man would not do that. We have done it in such a way that we have turned the asset of the state to whoever is lucky enough to find himself there and they do very little. How can somebody tell me that the only thing we are interested in doing in Ogun State is procurement and contracts. How can somebody tell me that as Governor in Ogun State all he would talk about from morning till night is Private Public Partnership (PPP). If you are talking about PPP, does that mean that you became a governor you didn’t know what you are going to do with the human and resources in Ogun State. If everything is privatized, who is going to take care of the poor? We have not even created safety net for them. As it is now, most people send their children to private schools, so what else are we doing for the people. I think we have to accept that the reset agenda is the responsibility of the leadership, but the people themselves. There is no soul in Ogun that can say that he has not heard the campaign that when it is time for election don’t collect money, everybody would have heard about don’t sell your votes, would they not still sell it. If the people want the leaders who would give them N2,000, N3,000 or N5, 000 on the day of the election and do nothing for the next four years or five or eight years depending on their luck, what can one lone voice in the wilderness do? But we will continue to push Ogun, encourage Ogun and put ourselves forward, then at the end of the day, we can say thank you Jesus, God Almighty and that everything humanly possible we did, but that it was your will that prevailed.
From the military Governors to civilians, can you tell us the Governors that have managed to do better for Ogun?
Ogun has been lucky, you will have to score the late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo and stand up for him for his pioneering role in putting Ogun in the direction that it is now. There is no part of the efforts of Olabisi Onabanjo that is not commendable. After that, you will commend Chief Olusegun Osoba for the efforts at struggling to do rural integration, taking the efforts to the rural area. There is no way you will not commend Otunba Gbenga Daniel for bringing in new, youthful energy into Ogun to get them to give every man in Ogun a voice. Of course, there were a bit of misbehavior here and there, some people were doing whatever they liked due to youthful exuberance. We cannot even at that say that the developmental trajectory and the energy was not good. You will look at the infrastructural development that former governor Ibikunle Amosun has done in our state capital, especially and you will tell me that you are not proud of the state. We used to think that Abeokuta cannot grow compared to Ibadan, Iddo and all that. Abeokuta was just so rusty, people criticized that Amosun did a lot for Abeokuta, should the state capital not look befitting for the whole state? So you have to commend him for that. As for Prince Dapo Abiodun, I have restrained myself from criticizing him of late, why did I restrain myself from criticizing him? I don’t like to compare apple with banana, I like to compare apple with grape. I am saying that I have looked at all the Governors with their quantity of money, who is doing better than Prince Dapo? And I say that with every sense of responsibility that all of them are on the same level. I am not saying that Dapo has done perfectly, I am not saying that I am impressed with their level of his performance. I cannot beat my own Governor to death, when his colleagues are not doing any better. What have you seen in Akure that is going to make you so happy, what have you seen in Ekiti that will make you say that you want to cut the head of Prince Dapo Abiodun. Even in Lagos State, or Osun, what have they done. There is not star boy anymore, there is no great performance anymore. Normally in this country, every season of governance, every season has star performance. In the 1999 season, Osoba was a star performance, in the 2003 season, Daniel was a star performance, in the 2011 season, Amosun was a star performance. Today, it is as if all of them are asleep, they are afraid of even having a point of view, some of them don’t even know what they are doing. Are then am I going to be criticizing the Governor of my state too much, though I am not from his party, when it is not as if I have evidence that other people are doing better than him. Of course, I expect him to do better than them. In that case, I can criticize him a little bit, but I look at the circumstances. Last year, we spent it all on COVID-19, I didn’t see any creative ingenuity, they didn’t even manage the COVID -19 Pandemic well, they couldn’t create respectable rural hospitals to make up for the fact that we had an emergency. I couldn’t see them doing anything on our local pharmacological agency to say that we can even achieve much with these. All I saw them doing was painting rooms, buying beds and doing things that are not going to be sustainable. We have about 236 wards; I couldn’t see what they did there. Lagos State has a lot more money, therefore they can do some flashes, but I have not seen any great thing they are doing there. When I then look at how Governor Dapo Abiodun has been managing the situations here, I see that he has not allowed any section of the state to feel uncomfortable. He has not been harassing his successors. In another way, I said he is an ‘omoluabi.’ No honest man can stand in front of the world and be telling himself a lie and be telling the world lie. You have to look at things dispassionately, it can be better here, but I cannot join the committee of irresponsible idiots, who would be calling a dog a bad name just to hang it. When he didn’t appoint his commissioners in time, I quarreled, when he was growing white beard instead of doing the job, I quarreled, but if he has not done anything that warrants quarrelling, the corporate integrity of the brand Ogun cannot allow us to project ourselves in the committee of nations as if we are worse than everybody, when in the real sense of the word we are not.
There are some insinuations in town that Segun Showunmi will go for governorship election in 2023, is it true?
The truth of the matter is that a lot of people have been telling me that ‘Segun the conversation of governance has to be brought to the fore, and the ideas that you carry you need to let us implement them. Let us give them to Ogun people and let us see if Ogun people will stand with them. Therefore we want you to come and be Governor. Come and be Governor.’ I now said, let us go and do the consultation, see our natural leaders and tell them they look at us with the mode of a Governor. What do you our natural leaders feel, we have done that. And let us even signpost it to the rural areas and to others, I did that beyond Abeokuta. I did in Ijebu, Remo and everywhere, just to see whether the people want us to try. Definitely, without any apology, what I hear from the people of Ogun State is that if only for the benefit of the conversation around governance, Segun Showunmi get yourself ready. I have answered them by saying, “I hear you. My name is Segun Showunmi, I am sincerely set to serve.”
As you sincerely set to serve, you know that you have to run under a political party. You are a strong force in the PDP whereas the PDP is almost decapitated, how do you want to do it?
A leader has one responsibility, he has to say this is the situation of things, then what do we need to do. A leader has to say I have to lead, he has to understand that while others are busy playing and doing other things, it is his responsibility to agonize and to keep thinking of the way out. I dare say nobody in Ogun State, especially in the PDP has struggled for reconciliation more than me. I will join forces and recreate a strong side. I will probably be number one, number two or even number three in that strong side. I will go and be dragging others to please come, the people of the strong side will start getting angry, but I never mind them. The people that are on the strong side today, that was how I dragged and begged them, when they were not on the strong side. So, I have committed myself to the process of continuous dialogue with the stakeholders. I believe that I can rally the people in the PDP. Yes, there are groupings, some are Lado Group, who are supporting the wishes and aspirations of the efforts of Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu Keshington. But there are a lot of people that are also my people, my friends. Then there are the OGD people, some of them are now sojourning in the APC with Governor Dapo Abiodun, but a great number of them are my friends. Then there are the Majiyagbes. We just woke up and saw that there are some for Majiyagbe. I didn’t allow them to just leave the party immediately, so I decided to manage them somehow. As I am managing the OGD people, some are complaining, but I want them in. As I am managing the Majiyagbe people, others are complaining. But the truth is that I dislike the concept of group. I have never prayed for a PDP that will not include Ladi, I have never prayed for a PDP that will not include those that follow Otunba Gbenga Daniel, I have never prayed for a PDP that will not include the people that were with the late Senator Buruji Kashamu. I pay obeisance to a great mobiliser, may God bless his soul. Up till now, if I can get the people of Senator Ibikunle Amosun, and bring him back to the PDP, I will do so. I know that politics is a game of number. No wise man can say that a political party can be mutually exclusive. A political party has to be mutually inclusive. If one person’s strong point is the gift of money, my own strong point can be intellect, may be another man’s strong point is organization and another one is mobilization. It is when we harmonize of them all together as much as possible before we can have a chance. Nobody can doubt my commitment to the PDP, I try to defend the party. There are things the APC do that I like, but I am not in their party. I have good relationship with a lot of leaders there because I am a very amiable person. Have you seen me criticising Prince Dapo Abiodun. There are things I can say that could be abusive, but I believe that what he is doing is relative to his set. But if I take him to the set of the great players, then it would not be the same.