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Popular Ogun politician, Otunba Jimi Lawal, is the Special Assistant to Kaduna State Governor, Malam El-Rufai. The big news is that he is set to run for Ogun governorship, come 2023. And this is authoritative.

We can also reveal that work has already started on the project. He has also informed Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland, who takes him as his son. He in turn holds the Oba in high esteem. He is close to the Awujale.

This won’t be his 1st attempt in the governorship race. He has contested before. In 2018, he contested the Ogun APC primaries, but he was edged out. Jimi Lawal & many other aspirants were edged out of the OGUN APC governorship primaries. And he had to petition Comrade Adams Oshiomole, who was then the National Chairman of the APC, his party, calling the then Guber election in Ogun a charade.

Otunba Shakiru Olabosipo Olajimi Adebisi Lawal was one of the strong politicians who jostled to succeed Gov. Ibikunle Amosun in Ogun State in 2019. For 18 months, the Ijebu-Ode born politician went around the state, consulting widely, with stakeholders, over his ambition to be the next governor of the state.

The London-trained banker is from the Ogun East Senatorial zone and he has been in public service for over 20 years. He has been exposed to governance at the topmost levels in Nigeria, especially in FCT, Abuja and Kaduna State, where he is a Special Adviser to the present governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, on Investment. He has also acted as Gov. Rufai’s Chief of Staff.

Otunba Jimi Lawal joined the governorship race early and he worked seriously to get the Ogun APC ticket to fly the flag of the party then. But he was sidelined, although he was one of the serious contenders for the job.  At that time, City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE spoke to Jimi Lawal about his governorship ambition at his campaign office in Ijebu-Ode. He revealed a lot. He has now renewed his bid to be Governor in 2023.

You went round the State consulting with the people as regards your ambition, what were the feelers you got then? What was the feedback?

It’s was Positive. Me and my team, we’ve consulted widely. It’s not me alone. I must start with that.

Of course, we thank God who gives life, who also allowed us to get to this position. It’s essentially Teamwork. I was lucky that from day one we got the interim Chairmen of APC, when the party was formed, all the 20 of them in Ogun State came together as a group. We met with them and they agreed to work with us. So what we have accomplished today is not about Jimi Lawal, it is a Team. I must always commend them.

Each Chairman was then appointed as Coordinator for each local government and in a couple of the Local Governments, and where the chairmen were not available, they nominated someone else to serve in their place. So, essentially all the 20 interim APC Chairmen are our co-ordinators in their respective local governments.

So, they know their local governments inside out. That has made life a lot easier for us. We got professionals to also join the team. And as for me, in my family, there are 3 of us. My elder brother, Hon. Remi Lawal, who has gone to the House of Reps, also tried to be Senator. He is one of those who came to put pressure on me, to come out. I even offered to sponsor him, to support him, but he said no, you are the one that appears prepared for this role, without you knowing.

So you have him, you have Alhaji Bela, my first cousin. There are ‘3 of us, even in the family that are doing this. There are other professionals like Wale Adedayo and a few supporters.

As to what we learn on the field? I can tell you that what we found out is that APC has been dormant, more or less, at the Grassroot, before we came on board. The only active part of APC was the Yayi Group and they were not part of the party. They were a part or within the party. That is the only group we met on ground when we arrived. But they didn’t entrench themselves into the party. But they were a group outside the party, but proclaiming to be APC. They are essentially made up of people who are against the government. We are talking about APC members who have been offended, or annoyed or upset. They are the ones that became die-hard Yayi, but they didn’t have the party structure.

So, therefore, there was a vacancy in the party structure. And as you know, nature abhors a vacuum. So, we were lucky we arrived on time and we were well received by the party structure. We’ve been on the road now for well over 18 months since February/March last year and the reception has been very, very encouraging, if not spectacular.

What are the other challenges you found on the field when you went around?

Well, Challenges? There are quite a few. We met the party asleep when we arrived. We also found out that many of our Local Government Offices, were either locked up or were not functional, because the rent had not been paid, because there are some kinds of problem. And I am talking of a good majority, out of 20. We’ve gone round for the first time. We finished the first one in February, about 6 months ago.

And we are doing a 2nd round tour of all our local governments. More than 13 to 14 of them have problems of outstanding rent or offices not functional. So the party was just not functional at the local government level. That was the first challenge we had. And we thank God we were able to do something about it to the best of our ability.

Our people also were kind of laid back, at the local government level, waiting for either a messiah or the governor or someone to tell them where to go or what to do. We got in there and we were able to persuade them, that we meant well, we discussed our ambition with them. And we were well received. In 95% of the cases, we were well received.

At the time you decided to come out and run, what went through your mind? Were you not afraid? What were the challenges?

A few things went through my mind at that time, but none of them had to do with Fear or Trepidation. No. No. No or being Afraid. Those things didn’t go through my mind. But there were 3 or 4 things that were of concern to me.

I was persuaded to come and do this job. It wasn’t an ambition that I had nursed over time. Because I was persuaded to come and do this job, I needed time to think through it, to study it and be prepared. So it took a couple of months to prepare, both in terms of resources and time, as well as spiritual, because this is not a journey you can just embark upon because you woke up one night and you wanted to be governor. It’s a game of people, time and spiritual support.

So, the first thing I did was to go into prayers and conduct some research, in-depth research. I called on a few professor friends, a few intelligentsia and a few elders, throughout the state. I consulted, very widely. We got to know where the state was, at that point in time. At this point, I think I should commend Governor Amosun because the outcome of our research shows that of all the 4 civilian governors that have ruled Ogun State, Gov. Amosun has by far performed better than all the others. He is the best performing governor in terms of the yardstick for measuring performance. That also became another consideration itself because it’s my prayer that may the best person that can do as well, if not better than Gov. Amosun should become the next governor of Ogun State.

I don’t just want to be governor of Ogun State, I want to be sure we can leave a legacy that will surpass that of Gov. Amosun.  It means having to know where the state is and where we can take the state to.

Some people have wondered that Jimi Lawal is not a politician, can he succeed in full-time politics?

On the issue of not being a politician, I think really, it’s a function of nomenclature. I have been in Public Service. The first time was in 1991 that was my first appointment when I was appointed the Chairman of the National Economic Planning Institute. I took over from  Alhaji Alhaji (Triple-A). It is public service. Then, came 2003 when I went into public service full time to work with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the then Minister of FCT. And since 2010, it has been full-time politics. We worked for General Muhammed Buhari (GMB) 2010-11. We lost elections then. In all, I have been involved with 2 presidential elections and 2 gubernatorial elections, by being a member of the campaign council. So, it’s not just being involved but being on the campaign council of 4 elections.

So, I knew what went wrong in the election that we lost. I knew what we did right, in the 2 we won. So, I have been involved howbeit not being the candidate myself. But I have been close to the candidate. I was in the kitchen when this was happening on 4 occasions. So, I have kind of, been prepared for this role I am playing, in a way.

The other challenge is that I know my terrain very well. This is my home town. This is my State. I have always been here, but I have not lived here full time for a while. So that was also a challenge. I thank God for the teamwork. Most people know us. They know our family. They know where we are from. But grassroots contacts has worked for us, through my cousin, my brother, the LG coordinators and all the professionals we have. They brought in more than necessary to fill whatever gaps I may have.

When you went round consulting the people around Ogun State, what was the message?

The first thing is to let them know that. Yes, we have a programme of action. We have a shortlist of priorities. We have limited time. So, we have drawn up 5 Priorities, 5 Programmes. So, what we have been doing is to spread the gospel on those 5 programmes.

The first is Economic Development. We want to eliminate Poverty and make people have jobs. That’s the foundation of everything else you may want to do in a state or community. We are going to actively pursue job creation. There are many investors, many employers that we know. We have to go and court them, beg them, give them whatever it takes, create enabling environment, for us to be seen as an investor-friendly state, so that they can come in and do business with ease, without having any bottlenecks. So, programme one is Economic Development.

2nd is Human Capital Development. That entails 2 or 3 things. The first is education and the 2nd is Healthcare. On Education, the outcome of our research is that we have regressed as a state. Given that Ogun State is where Free Education started. We’ve gone back. Not too long ago, Gov. Amosun came out with a policy. That his government will no longer pay for JAMB and WAEC fees, for students. We found that to be totally unacceptable. Our programme is not only Free Education up to JS3 but to also make it compulsory. As soon as we can afford it, we will take it to SS3. But certainly, our government will be the one responsible for all exam fees for all our youths up till WAEC and Secondary School level.

It is important that we have the right foundation. We should not limit education to only those who can afford it. We need to put all our kids in school, teenage years is when the rebellion starts, so we need to catch our youths young and have them exposed. We would ensure that we devote a lot of resources to education at the foundation. If you think the cost of education is expensive, and it is high, please try computing the cost of ignorance. You will see the cost of education is still a cheaper alternative to ignorance.

The 2nd leg of Human Capital Development is Health Care. The high rate of maternal mortality as well as infant mortality and the average life expectancy. Those 3 are very worrisome not just in Ogun State but in Nigeria as a whole. So we have a duty as leaders to ensure that we do whatever is possible to improve life expectancy, to reduce the unacceptably high number of maternal and infant mortality rates by providing affordable and reasonable health care at the local level.

We have 236 wards in the state. Our goal is to ensure we have a functional health care system in every ward in Ogun State. That way, healthcare will be readily available to our people. Not only that. We believe pregnant women, the weak in the society, infants, the pensioners and anybody above 70 should have free healthcare.

The 3rd programme is Infrastructure. That is one area, Gov. Amosun has done most exceedingly better than any other governor. However, as well as he has done, what we found on the ground was that development was not evenly distributed, across the state. This also fuelled the issue of Ijebu Vs Yewa and so on. We plan to ensure that we look at roads for our people, especially rural roads. We want to carry all of our people along with us in development rather than just focusing on city centres or just the capital alone. We want to have a broad developmental approach to our state.

The 4th is Security of Lives and Property i.e to reduce criminality and the 5th is Good Governance. What we mean by that is to ensure that the bulk of our resources from revenues generated by the government is spent on capital projects. With not more than 5 to 5% on recurrent expenditure on overheads.

Those are the 5 cardinal programmes. In summary, all these will translate to our slogan, Inclusive Accelerated Development of Ogun State. Inclusive means we are not just going to involve the elites or middle class alone. We must go to the Grassroot. We must ensure that those who do not have, the poorest amongst us benefit from development. That is why it must be inclusive. We have to go to rural areas to make sure it is inclusive.

Accelerated speaks for itself. It has to be rapid. We cannot afford to wait. People are dying. We have to safeguard our people from untimely death. At some point in time, Nigeria and Japan had the same life expectancy, on average of about 51%. Nigeria has since regressed. We are now doing 47% to 49%,. Japan is now doing 75% to 81%. What’s the difference? The difference is good health care and good economic power.

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