Dr Soji Ehinlanwo (DSE) is a senior Information Technology and Management Consultant and Governorship candidate of the Defunct CPC in the 2012 Ondo Governorship election. He has been described as the leading gubernatorial hopeful in respect of the impending 2024 Ondo state Governorship election. In this interview, Dr Ehinlanwo bared his mind on a range of national and Ondo state issues. Excerpts:
What is your thought on the Subsidy removal by the federal government?
Let’s be clear, this subsidy regime had been brought to an end by the previous administration of President Muhammudu Buhari – with a clear end date set as the end of June. The Buhari administration removed the oil subsidy for quite justifiable reasons – which included the fact that it had become corrupted with significant fleecing of funds as well as because the serious revenue challenges of government had made it in practicable to channel funds which could otherwise have been used to stimulate growth in other areas to a broken system which largely provided undue benefits to the privileged few. President Bola Tinubu merely confirmed in his inauguration speech this removal. I think what is imperative right now is that all stakeholders including government at all levels and the trade unions work together assiduously with a comprehensive and robust plan that intervenes significantly in ameliorating or mitigating the challenges or hardships that will be encountered by a large bulk of Nigerians – particularly the most vulnerable amongst us – as a fall out from this subsidy removal.
Ondo state is known as a civil service state. What can be done to take the state out of the civil service status?
It is important to consolidate on the efforts of the current administration to leverage on the power of Agriculture as an important source of revenue for individuals and govt. Govt must provide increased and more comprehensive support to ensure that there is a massive mobilisation of investments back to the farms in a way that Ondo state becomes the best state in terms of Agricultural exports and internal food production. The advantage of this is that this will help to create much more jobs, albeit in a different area, distinct from the civil service, potentially increase government revenue and ensure greater food self sufficiency.
It is also important for us to find ways and means – as a matter of urgency – to fully leverage on the natural resources within the state such as Bitumen, natural gas, granite, gold, marble, gemstones, coal, palm kernel, cocoa etc. We must elicit and encourage private sector investments in these areas to create jobs and stimulate further economic growth in these non-civil service sectors.
The current Government has made significant investments in infrastructure development – particularly in relation to roads, health facilities etc. In recent times, it is now committed to the building of a seaport in Ilaje. Consolidating on the myriad of infrastructural opportunities including the deep seaport should be a major priority, as a way of expanding and significantly enhancing growth as well as creating and widening job opportunities
Finally, it would be imperative to vigorously push for greater focus and investments in the tourism potentials of the state including investment and development of tourism sites such as Araromi seaside in Ilaje, Idanre hills, Oke Maria’s Hills in Akoko, Olowo’s Palace in Owo, Cave of Ashes on the outskirt of Akure and the Owo museum to mention a few.
What is your economic blueprint?
As I have hinted above, the economic blueprint would focus on a greater opening and mobilisation of investments in Agriculture and the vigorous development of the natural resources’ potential of the state. It will also encompass greater infrastructure development including importantly the push and vigour to deliver on the Ondo seaport aspiration. Greater focus and investments in Ondo state tourism potentials will also be an integral part of the economic blueprint mix. There will also be a consolidation of the gains of the Industrial hub. Importantly, there will be a significant drive to make Ondo state a strong information technology hub where the talents of our youths can be developed and enhanced to bring to Ondo state the prosperity associated with information technology deployment and the digitization era. It is important to ensure that the successes achieved with the security outfit – Amotekun – by this administration is enhanced and expanded – as security is pivotal to our economic development aspirations. All of these should have the effect of significantly enhancing growth, boosting revenue, and expanding youth and women employment – an important focus of the economic blueprint.
What kind of People should find their way into the cabinet of President Bola Tinubu?
One of the first statement made by the President shortly after his election was that he would be seeking to constitute a team of “national competence”. This is as it should be, and I was very impressed by this statement of the President. So, I expect him to bring on board very competent Nigerians – with a strong background of professional accomplishments and who can deliver significant value. I also expect him to draw in people who have had some good record of legitimate achievements and have deep insights in respect of the challenges of the country and possible solutions. Finally, I will be trusting that he will bring into government folks adjudged to be in good standing in respect of character, with a reputation for seeking to do, at all times, that which is right.
What are the policies of Buhari that Tinubu should continue and what are the ones he should jettison?
I think the President should continue with and expand on the agriculture development initiatives of President Buhari. I also think he should consolidate on the impressive infrastructure development initiatives and successes of the Buhari administration – such as the rail expansion initiatives. There is a raft of other initiatives of the Buhari Administration – which space will not permit me to itemise – which I think he should continue with. However, I think before continuing with them, he should do some review to ensure that they are better tailored to deliver on the goals set. In respect of policies which he should discard, I think the land border closure policy should be reversed – to enable greater trade – while still ensuring that they are properly manned. It seems that process has already started. Also, I think a more robust initiative should be put in place replacing the trader Moni policy.
What is your view about Diaspora voting?
I think if we want to have a better participatory democracy, it is imperative that we allow for diaspora voting. Several countries allow for this including African countries like South Africa, Ghana, and Kenya. It is disappointing that this is yet to take off in respect of Nigeria. There should be a constitutional amendment allowing for this and proper processes should be put in place to ensure that willing Nigerians living in the Diaspora are allowed to vote during subsequent elections.
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