Punch Newspapers Interviews Governor Olusegun Mimiko
Why I am the most qualified for the job — Mimiko
What gives you the impression that you are the most qualified candidate for the governorship seat?
I have been engaged in the politics of this state for about 20 years. I have served in the cabinet three times. First was in 1992, I was commissioner for health in the old Ondo State; that was when Ekiti was a part of Ondo. I made my mark. I introduced the 24-hour pharmacy shop system. That was a revolution on its own for that era. I served in 1999, I was commissioner for health. Within a short time, I introduced programmes that brought health care directly to the people of the rural areas. As the secretary to the government, I played a pivotal role in putting things together. I also had the privilege of being a former minister of housing and urban development and within a year and a half, I gave Nigeria its first indigenous building quote.
How did your two-time tenure as health commissioner affect health care delivery in the state?
There is an immunisation project going on in Nigeria today. It is a joint project between the Governor’s Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For two quarters consecutively, the state has come first. Immunisation is a pivotal part of basic health care. There is the Aiye concept. This is a home-grown concept to tackle maternal and infant issues as directed in the Millennium Development Goal document. Few days ago, I was given an award by the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, during their golden jubilee anniversary. It was because of the Abiye program. It is a profound and very important initiative to the society. The way the health care system is organised, things start from the primary health care to the tertiary health care. The mother and child hospital is a referral centre. We also have basic health centres in the riverside areas.
What are your plans to develop the seaport in Ondo state?
It is possible to build a seaport in Ondo state. As a matter of fact somewhere within Ondo and Ogun state, there is a depth of about 11meters. It is idle for a natural seaport. The survey has been done; we already have a consultant working on it. Under the Federal Government regulation, the seaport can be built on 60 per cent private investors- 20 percent state government and 20 percent federal government basis. We are collaborating with Ogun State.
As regards education, your administration’s attention appears to have been more on the basic levels, has any effort been directed at the tertiary institutions?
When we came on board, we had one university, one polytechnic, and a licence for another. What we did was to set up a committee headed by late Professor Oladapo, who incidentally was the first Vice Chancellor of the Adekunle Ajasin University, then called Ondo State University. We empowered this panel to look into tertiary education. We came up with some recommendations and part of the recommendations, which is very critical, was that there should be zero interference in the admission process. It is now absolutely merit-based.
We have also looked at the polytechnic and we found out that when we came, the ratio of Humanities courses versus Science was about 80:20. We have also deliberately crafted admission policy skewed in favour of technology and science, and we are putting a lot of money into infrastructure. We also decided to let the University of Science and Technology take off immediately, rather than wait for a permanent site to be the point of take-off – which would be an aberration anyway.
How far has your administration gone in the area of attracting both local and foreign investments?
To be able to get investors, especially industrial investors, you must get power right. If you don’t get this right, you won’t get anything done. When you even talk of new investments, what about the existing industries; are they thriving? Aren’t some of them shutting down? When we came on board, what we did was to engage Shellgas, which is the biggest gas company in Nigeria, to do a gas master plan for us. A lot of investors are also coming to agriculture. But again, we are very careful because land is still a major asset that we have; and we want to be sure that whatever investment anybody wants to make in any area, we would build sustainable equity into it. So we have a lot of it going on. We have signed an MOU with a group that is interested in cement factory in Oke Iluse, in the northern axis of this place. Our ceramics industry, some Italians are on ground, they want to revamp it. But until we get the power right, it may be difficult to get the type of massive investment that we want. I know that one year down the line, once this power project thing is ready, we can move quickly.