Prince Sunday Solarin, a Fellow of Chartered Accountant (FCA) and PDP stalwart was the Director of Ladi Adebutu Campaign Organization during the last governorship election in Ogun state. In this interview with BANKOLE TAIWO, the highly revered politician cum finance expert and academician commented on varied topical issues declaring among other things that Ogun PDP remain strong as ever despite the recent defection of some leaders of the party into APC. Excerpts
As a finance expert, what will you say is the likely shape the economy of the country can take this year?
Well, the budget has been passed and this will likely dictate the direction of the economy in the new year. It has been shown that a very large chunk of this budget will be spent on debt servicing. It is a way of dressing their wound because it is on record that the debt that has been stockpiled under this administration in the last five years is more than what this country has borrowed in the last 20 years. If a country will spend over 25% of its budget on debt servicing what is left with is 75% and I am unaware if 50% won’t be spent on recurring expenditure given the extravagant style of this present administration. Just recently the news was everywhere that the President’s daughter was flying about with the Presidential jet which definitely will be at a cost. The President is also known for his frequent medical trips abroad and what is likely to be left for the country is 25% or 30%. It is good that the budget was passed early, that means the budget implementation will have a long span, so let’s see what the federal government will do with the remaining 30% or so but things are really not looking cheering with the picture painted. We sincerely hope that there will be lot of economic activities because goverment remained biggest spender, so let’s see how things will turn out.
The federal government is requesting to borrow $29.96bn to fund part of this year budget, any wise counsel in this move?
This goverment is not creative and lacks ingenuity and that is why many of the policies it has introduced has only imposed so much hardship and difficulties on the people. Attempting to borrow more to the already staggering debt this present administration has owed is just another way of imposing more hardship on the people. This goverment has not been drawing budget that are realistic and proportional to the capacity of the country and they have also not look inward to improve on the revenue of the country. We have continue to run a monolithic economy depending on oil while other sources of revenue such as solid minerals sector have not been developed. Once you draw up a non realistic budget yo have to look for another ambitious way to fund it and this thing is being done intentionally so that they can create enough slack for misappropriation and recurrent expenditure. For example, how could they say they want to renovate the national assembly with N37bn, an amount that is competing with what is budgeted for education and health. It is because we are people full of hypocrisy that is why we have failed to realise that we’ve only saddled the affairs of this country with the mediocres and liars.
This is the second term of President Buhari, are you saying things won’t change for the better?
In advanced economy, emphasis has always been on improving life of an household. It is not the same with us in this country. We’ve not have a government that will have the house hold as its focal point or centre of its economic policy. These are the individuals, the families, the microeconomic players. This is a government that for long dragged its foot on the payment of N30,000 minimum wage, government that has failed to recognise that 18,000 minimum wage can do nothing in an average family of four, the man, his wife and two children….
(Cuts in) but the implementation of the new minimum wage has taken off…
Really? It has taken off? We thank the media for this piece of information but I wish the media can go further in their investigative journalism, because when the government speaks you don’t have to take it hook line and sinker, you should endeavour to find out true pictures of things. You should be able to speak to the beneficiaries if truly the N30,000 minimum wage has been paid to the letter but not just what they wish to do. So, let’s hope there will be more money in circulation with other multiplier effects. It’s still good we wait to see how things will turn out to be.
Let’s look at 2019 governorship election in Ogun state, has any lesson been learnt?
Well, every situation present itself with opportunity to learn one or two things for those who cares to learn anyway. It has come and gone with so much uncertainties but later the realities began to dawn on us and a winner eventually emerged. We can only wish the winner well and pray he does it very well so that whoever takes over from him will have a good starting point. And if he doesn’t do it well, he will only leave so much work behind for his successor. We only pray that they will appreciate the roles of the opposition and take our criticism in good strides because it is our own contributions towards ensuring good governance in the state. When we chastise the government, they should know that it is out of our love for the country and nothing else.
Gov Dapo Abiodun recently constituted the cabinet members, what and what do you think should be their area of focus?
This is the first time I will be seeing a cabinet being formed without a Commissioner for information not being among those inaugurated. I don’t think this is right because as a government that want to be accountable, you must provide the channel through which you interface with the public and even project the activities of the government. So, after waiting for over seven months and such key cabinet member was not among those inaugurated leaves so much to be desired. I am surprised but some will still come out to defend this, it is just an indication of how unprepared this administration is. Apart from the Secretary to the state government, the Chief of staff, another critical office in government is that of Commissioner for information, so it baffles me that the office will be empty as we speak….
(Cuts in) What are you now suggesting?
Well, any government who do not take the media very seriously may be having an agenda that is not in tandem with the yearnings of the people of the state. This error is a reflection of the unpreparedness of this administration and how naive the governor has been but we hope and pray that he will soon see the importance of this office and appoint a credible person to man the office.
Many PDP bigwigs such as former Deputy governor, Alhaja Salmot Badru, Chief Ibukun Ojosipe including ADC governorship candidate during the last election, Prince Gboyega Isiaka and his loyalists defected into APC recently, does that mean PDP is now in disarray in Ogun state?
No, this has not in anyway affected the PDP in the state. PDP remain strong as ever. Many of those who defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) worked either directly or indirectly for the ruling party during the governorship election, so they are only coming out of their shell to openly embrace APC. It is not strange in politics and PDP is not in anyway jittery at all. Immediately after the election, we have also harvested some members of APC and ADC who were caught in the middle. You will remember that sometimes ago just after the election, we held unification rally at Abeokuta where we received good number of people from some political parties like African Democratic Congress (ADC) Allied Peoples Movement (APM) Accord Party (AP) Labour Party (LP) among others. I can assure you that after the exit of Prince Gboyega Isiaka from ADC, many of his supporters will soon find their way back to their former party PDP. Honestly, PDP has lost nothing.
What should we be expecting from the PDP this new year?
We are having our congress by God’s grace around March or April. We are trusting God to have a successful congress that will usher in the new set of executives for our great party. We have been going around doing reconciliation and strengthening the unity of the party. We are still waiting for guidelines from the national headquarters.
So there’s no truth to the rumour that the camp of Hon Ladi Adebutu will soon leave PDP and adopt a fresh party to stave off controversies….
(Cuts in)…yes, rumour that is it just like you have also mentioned. As far as we are concerned, we are going nowhere infact, many of PDP members in Sen Kashamu camp are very tired of his leadership style and some of them are back with us. Buruji is still claiming to be in PDP, we don’t have any problem with that, the umbrella is very wide and can accommodate us all but of course if he wants to leave, it is a free world but I can tell you that I see a healthier PDP than APC. As far we are concerned, we are not leaving PDP, though there are agitation by some people that if Sen Kashamu will continue to serve as stumbling block we should adopt a new party but we have not seen that reason for now. This man contested and lost despite boasting of having 500, 000 supporters. He only got 70,000 votes with the volume of people that go to Ijebu Igbo. He too must have learnt his lesson when he put side by side the resources he put into his failed bid to become the governor of the state.
But what we have been hearing is that the Bayo Dayo led executive from the camp of Sen Kashamu have always said that they will still be the one to conduct the next Congress of the party and will only install whoever they wanted. If things eventually turn up this way, do you say opting out of the PDP might be considered?
It is a tall dream and aspirations and they are free to aspire but we will wait to see the guidelines for the congress from the national leadership of the party. They have always claimed to have a court judgement that gives them the opportunity to serve for four years and by March or April, their tenure will end. If they say they will be the one to conduct the congress, we will participate except they said they will write the name because that is what they have always done but you can’t continue to prevail when doing the wrong thing. Everybody knows where we have the majority and it doesn’t matter who conducts the congress, the majority will always win, so we remained unperturbed at all.
What is your advise to the government of Ogun state?
Let the newly constituted cabinet members hit the ground running. The governor must not allow politics to distract him from governance. He must not be clannish but be seen as the governor of the whole Ogun state unlike his predecessor who only focused on his domain, Ogun central senatorial district. He should prioritise rural development, our rural roads are eyesore. He should allow local government to function effectively and do his best to fight unemployment and poverty among the people.
Should there be further extension of border closure?
It is good to some extent but my grouse remained that items that are not on banned substance in the country should be allowed to come in through the land borders. Reason why people patronise land borders is because of port congestion. What take you six weeks to get if it comes through land borders may take you up to six months if you come in through Apapa Ports and this is people’s money wasting away. This sometimes mean additional cost of production that is shifted to the people but these are some of the things that trigger inflammation. You must try not to solve one problem and create ten more. Yes I support the border closure because time has come for us patronise our local producers but this goverment has not been sincere with this policy or why is that it has been difficult for it to patronise vehicles that were locally produced, patronise our local hospitals too? You can not even send your children to schools in the country. Yes the farmers seem to be selling well now because smuggled frozen turkey and chickens are no longer coming in to the country but this has also affected prices of raw materials. I also expected government to have decongested the port such that people can have assurance that their goods will not suffer unnecessary delay when they make use of the port. Other ports like the one in Port Harcourt, Warri among others ought to have been developed such that people can use them to bring their goods on time to the country. The border closure is really a mixture of pleasure and gains and having checked which one outweigh the other, is it the pains or gains, the government can then go ahead and make its decision. The government should just take an wholistic look at this issue. The government as the regulator should view this issue from both the sides of producers and consumers. Truly the border closure is good to discourage proliferation of fire arms and others but what about goods that were not on the banned list?