Olatunde Paseda is a UK-based business man from Omu, Ogun State. He has established two engineering firms that fabricate and build heavy machinery. They manufacture water tankers, fire engines, garbage/compacting trucks and the likes.
But the determination to succeed against so many odds encouraged Prince Paseda to forge ahead. He believes that if he can succeed out there in the UK, he should be responsible to his people at home by contributing his quota to the development of his home state, Ogun state, and country, Nigeria.
Prince Olatunde Paseda is a strong advocate of job creation for millions of Nigerians. He believes with the kind of manpower Nigeria has, it’s quite disheartening to that we are yet to unleash the potentials of our zealous youthful generation.
In this exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly’s Dayo Rufai, The UPN standard bearer in Ogun state said Amosun runs a weak government, and he intends to come in to change the face of governance in the state.
Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) has four cardinal programmes amongst which are free education at all levels. How effective would you manage this with the somewhat limited income portfolio of the state?
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to analyse it. When I started, I said free education. I was taking a very giant leap of faith believing that where there is a will, there is a way. However, everybody – the SDP, PDP, APC said I’m being deceptive; that free education is not possible. I beg to differ because our late sage whom I refer to as my mentor was also told that free education was not possible.
Yet, with the meager income of cocoa, he made it possible. Weeks into my campaign, the same free health that they said is not possible, APC introduced it but with a little twist. They called it Contributory Health Insurance and they pay four thousand naira per citizen; it’s semi-free.
But they said it wasn’t possible. Two weeks ago, Prince Gboyega Nasir Isiaka of the PDP categorically stated in a newspaper interview that free education is possible with good management. That’s a change; they said it wasn’t possible, that we can’t afford it. Now, they are saying it’s possible.
Would you collapse the finances of the state on education sector?
Not collapse. We are committed. Government is a continuum. Every single project that this government has embarked on, I must finish it. But I have to look for the money to do it. I’m talking specifically on education here. When we are doing our budget, we are going to lay more emphasis on funding education and health, rather than this so-called infrastructure development.
We need to integrate our rural communities with our towns. But do we need a four-lane road. I don’t think so. Even in the UK that we are talking about, there are roads that are two single lanes and they have potholes and they patch them and are still usable. Go to highbrow areas like Swiss Cottage, it has two lanes but it’s not as big as what we have here. In some other places, Nottinghill Gate, you have single lane. Those ones have been there for ages and they maintain it.
Ogun state is known to be the education hub of Nigeria considering the fact that we have the highest number of tertiary institutions in the country. You have promised free education from primary to tertiary levels; do you think the prevailing economy of the country can guarantee this kind of promise?
When I said I was going to do that, and they said it’s not possible, people who have been in government before said it’s possible and the other people who are now in government know it’s possible, they just don’t want to do it because it’s not going to be financially viable for them personally. For the economic situation of the state; there are two sides to this thing.
There is a recurrent expense; when Gbenga Daniel was there, it was there, it was there during Osoba’s time, if it’s me, it would be there. But what we are saying is that what we can avoid spending on, we should avoid spending it. The waste that we can curb, we should curb it. Why are we promising people that we are going to create 500,000 employments in the first year? It’s nonsensical. Anybody that says that, I will ask him to go back to the university and re-educate himself.
Ogun state doesn’t have any business with poverty and there is no reason we cannot concentrate mainly on entrepreneurship. China did it and they are mega successful. Sitting in my house, I look around and there is China in everything.
Some of these phones that we use were made in a room like this in China by some young folks. Why can’t we have that.
Talking about IGR, I want to know your take on the Olokola Project, which has been described as the future fountain of the state. What is your take on the near neglect by this present administration?
Government is a continuum. When an incoming governor thinks he owns the state, then we have a problem. Gbenga Daniel started the project but the person that came in does not like the face of Gbenga Daniel and he does the opposite just to undo Gbenga; it’s nonsensical really.
In an ideal world, there should be a law to prevent them from wasteful spending of public funds.
You promised to reinvent the programmes of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. What are your plans in the area of agriculture?
I’m going to feign there is nothing coming from the Federal Government in one year if elected. I am just trying to look beyond Federal Government allocation. Without letting the cat out of the bag, we are going to go into extensive mechanized farming.
When you go to these farming countries, if you get into your car from Sagamu and you drive all the way to Benin, you would just see miles and miles of plantations left and right. How did they get there. It’s simple: planning. They take over these lands from people that can’t really manage because they’re too big for them. I tried extensive mechanized farming in 2007, 2008, in a village called Alabe in Kwara State. The village is known for nothing but cashew.
Once we have such plantation and there is government involvement, the farmers still get something from it. But they will not be involved in the actual tilling and management of the farm. We now bring a group of youths that would have been formed into some sort of consortium do what is called extensive mechanized farming.
Could you highlight categorically those things that the present government is doing that your government would to do otherwise?
Everything this government is doing, I’m going to correct. Some of the policies are good, but the method is wrong. Some of his policies are good but the people that are involved are wrong. Of course, if I’m in government, I would do roads but I won’t do as many.
In terms of education, he got it wrong. I’m a business man, so I would say I’m a capitalist. But I will also say that for everything you do have to put human face to it. We all know 30 percent of the children of the elite are actually committed to education.
Your entry into the gubernatorial race in Ogun State has indeed altered the political equation. What has been the driving force of your campaign?
This, for me is lot more than politics; it is very personal. I am determined to influence a change in Ogun state and indeed Nigeria; God willing. I really can’t do everything for everybody but I believe they deserve that little assistance and the only way to do it is to get in there. As a non-politician, I was looking for somebody to sponsor; to run for the governorship. That’s what I asked the party to do. And they looked and they told me that the person could get there and decide to do otherwise. I believe so much in Awolowo’s legacies. I can’t even see myself doing anything else.
Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, recently claimed that the present crop of leaders of UPN do not share the vision of Awolowo and are not genuine. What’s your take on that?
Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But, the test of the pudding is in the eating. If my father wakes up one day and says I’m a bastard, the question that I would ask is: do I look like a bastard? Forget DNA. Do I resemble him? If the answer is yes, do I walk like him? So, that is my simple response to your question.
With the way PDP and APC have conducted their campaigns so far, many people think Nigeria is gravitating towards a two-party state. Do you share the same view or support multi-party democracy in the country?
We need multi-party democracy. Every country needs multi-party democracy. We need more parties, we need competition, choices and all that. But the way the two so-called big parties are conducting their affairs publicly now is a disgrace.
Then if you start scoring it one by one, you’ll find out they are as bad as each other; any way you look at it. Yes, we need more parties so that people will be able to join the party they believe in. We need to allow people real freedom of choice. You don’t force parties on people. Few days ago, Amosun went to Imeko and all my posters and billboards were destroyed.