Guest of the week

My governorship ambition not do-or-die –Kola Lawal

Adele Oba Kolawole Lawal Mobobolorunduro, KLM as  he is fondly called is the Commissioner for Forestry and one of the governorship aspirants well grounded to consolidate on the mission to rebuild Ogun State beyond 2019. In this in interview with BANKOLE TAIWO, the APC juggernaut speaks on issues touching on his effort to make the Ministry of Forestry a gold mine as well as the need for the people of Ogun West to see the pursuit of governorship agenda for the zone a collective aspiration. Excerpts

Can you share with us your success story in the Ministry of Forestry?

The Ministry of forestry used to be under the Ministry of Agriculture until 2004 when it became a separate ministry for better administration and management. It is a ministry that has over the years grappled with the challenges of illegal farmers, illegal felling of tress and other forms of encroachment that destroy our trees which has had tremendous negative impact on our biodiversity and consequently our ecosystem. Successive governments have also not done enough in combating these anomalies. We have however since taking over confronted these challenges headlong. We are into tree planting, we have adopted private public partnership policy to pursue aggressive plantation establishment programs by investors because the government can’t do it alone. Our obsolete laws that are not robust enough to handle these challenges have also been reviewed and are currently undergoing the required enactment processes at the State House of Assembly. We currently have nine forest reserves across the state. The degraded ones have been earmarked for regeneration and reforestation. Our policy is to regenerate our forest resources at a rate higher than exploitation. I mean planting of more trees to replace the ones harvested. For sustainable forest management, you must plant four trees for every one tree felled. In the area of tree planting, we have done over 1,500 hectares in our reserves and we have given out about 100,000 free tree seedlings of different species, both exotic and indigenous, to private individuals who ask for them. In the area of revenue generation, we achieved about 64 per cent of our target  and for this year we have accomplished about 70 per cent year to date with potential for more by the end of the fiscal year.

What will you consider to be the challenges confronting the ministry?

They are illegal timber exploitation which leads to deforestation, illegal farmers, encroachment into government forest reserve and of course paucity of funds because for some time now the country has been in recession. This made the federal allocation due to the state to fall drastically. In fact we must continue to thank God for the ingenuity of our governor, His Excellency, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who has clearly demonstrated mastery and efficiency in the management of the State’s financial and other resources. He has within the last six years moved the Internally Generated Revenue of the State to about  N7 billion monthly.

How do you rate the performance of the APC government in the State?

It has been marvellous and very incredible, really, it has been an obvious departure from the past administrations. The infrastructural development which is of world class termed Ogun Standard had been very monumental. This has continued to attract investors from all over the world into the State. As you are aware, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. Over 75% of foreign direct investments into the country this year came to Ogun State. In fact, over 100 companies have opened shops in Ogun State in the last six years. They are coming because things are now working. Our roads are now what we can all be proud of. We have improved so much on our ease of doing business that Ogun State is now ranked 5th from the distant 36th that we were in 2011. This is world bank rating! We are equally aiming at the number one position by next year’s ranking. Little wonder then, that the state has become a bride to many development partners including the World Bank that has indicated willingness to avail the state of single digit interest bearing loans, good moratorium and very long tenure. We now have an independent power plant to supply electricity to the interested public. The governor has no doubt turned the fortunes of the state around for good….

(Cuts in) Many are of the opinion that the projects are concentrated on Abeokuta, the State capital….

But there has been development in other areas. Ogun East has its fair share, so is Ogun West. Ijebu-Ode, Sagamu, Ota, Aiyetoro are reference point areas that readily comes to mind. We also need to rebuild our state capital to assume its appropriate status. The next step as far as I know is aggressive rural and semi urban roads construction and rehabilitation across the entire state. From the plans on ground, every part of the state will be impacted.

The governor of the State, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun recently reiterated his stance to have an indigene of Ogun West succeed him in 2019 but there seems to be an opposition from Ogun East who have started promoting Ijebu Agenda, what is your take on this?

Well, in as much as we believe that Ogun East aspirants are well qualified to vie for the governorship seat of the state, we are only pleading with them to please allow us,  their kith and kin from Ogun West to also be at the driver’s seat of the state at least this time around. As a Senatorial District, we have been there for them in the  past, so they should also help us to actualise the dream we have been nursing for almost 42 years. Let this be a payback time for Ogun West and so the Ijebu and Remo should please support us and we shall forever be grateful.

Is it possible for Ogun West to have a common front in form of a consensus candidate for this governorship project?

It is very possible provided the process of the effect is transparent and fair to all concerned. It must not be done under deceit or on the platform of any fictitious group. Yes there could be endorsement from anybody or any group for an aspirant but that should not be appropriated to mean the collective decision of the good people of Ogun West as a consensus governorship candidate.

Currently, we have many notable, credible, respectable and seasoned party leaders, elders working behind the scene to ensure that we have a consensus candidate that will be credible and acceptable to all, so why not wait for the outcome of this process-driven initiative. For me, I am confident we will get it right this time around.

You just debunked ever appearing for screening  before Ogun West Consul-tative Forum, can you please shed more light on this?

Yes, I never appeared for screening but at an interactive session before the forum. Honestly, I knew where majority of the members of Ogun West Consultative Forum belong before attending the meeting but I still went ahead to honour their invitation and unfolded my plans for the State. They even commended me for my brilliant performance. Little did I know they wanted to use other aspirants to formalize or validate their premeditated plans. How can an interactive session be termed screening whereby an aspirant will be picked as the consensus candidate for Ogun West?

What is your parting shot to the people of Ogun West?

We should all see this as a collective aspiration that must be achieved. It should be viewed as an opportunity that we must all harness our resources to accomplish. It must not be about me, or  I must be the one at all cost. If any credible aspirant, devoid of any controversy whatsoever, knowledgeable, exposed, experienced in the art of politics and governance, most importantly loyal to our great party and its leadership is eventually picked to fly the flag for us, we must all be ready to give our support and cooperation…

(Cuts in) In other words, your ambition is not-do-or-die

No, my ambition has never been and will never be a do-or-die affair. Look, I had a good job in Exxon Mobil with very good remuneration until I elected to retire early in 2010 after 20 years of meritorious and eventful service full of various leadership and management development trainings from every notable part of the world, to seek a bigger platform to serve my people. I felt being in government will afford me the opportunity to be closer to the people to enhance our act of giving back to the society. I contested for governorship in 2011 but when it did not go my way, I accepted the wish of the party and supported the candidate that the party picked. Currently, we are working and praying believing that it is only the Almighty Allah that gives power (Quran 3:26), with the strong faith that I will be the candidate. I therefore challenge our great party, APC, and the good people of Ogun State to please send me…and I shall deliver.

 

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