Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin is the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State in the 11th March, 2023 governorship election. Recently he had a chat with members of the Correspondents chapels in Ibadan where he spoke extensively on many salient issues bothering on the chances of the APC and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his vision to rule the State, welfare of journalists among other sundry issues. Oyedapo Oyewole was there and brought in the excerpts. Enjoy.
There is no doubt that the coming governorship election is going to be among three contenders. Can you tell us what differentiate you from other contenders?
Why am I different? I am different because I believe I have the experience. With all due respect and with all sense of humility, if you put me side by side with these two guys, there can only be one winner, which is Teslim Folarin.
I am not here to knock anybody, I am here to sell myself, and the point is this, I also believe that I am going to be the only one who will come into this office well-prepared. The present government came into office with a learner plate because you will discover that the government is a child of the coalition, so they didn’t have a plan, but we are coming up with a plan because we know what the issues are.
I think the issues in the state first where this government got it wrong, and we will get it right, is the issue of security. Security is what determines everything you are going to achieve. Without security, you cannot achieve anything. There are generic security issues every state is experiencing, like arm robbery, kidnapping, and other stuff, but the problem in this state is the issue of state-sponsored thuggery, it is an issue, and we cannot run away from it. We have been very courageous to confront it. You cannot run a government where they will be telling you not to go to a particular area at a particular time, don’t wear APC cloth or cap with APC logo
I went to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and NLC are in love with NLC, you know why? Because I was very honest with them, they wanted me to guarantee the payment of this and that. I said look, we would do everything, but more than anything, we have to grow this economy, we have to expand this economy. It is not about money; the truth is with the current income of this present government, you cannot achieve anything, and I told them I said look, by 2040, we know that the automobile industries in western countries would have stopped using fuel to power their cars. Cars are now being powered by electric gas and other stuff, I haven’t seen one in Nigeria. I was saying that you should not wait till 2044. You have to put a plan in place, you have to have a leadership that would begin to think of the challenge we would have then, leadership that would think outside the box, a leadership that has a requisite for change.
Now how do we grow the economy? As I said, the first thing is security. Everybody talks about Ajimobi and that he did well when it came to security; Ajimobi didn’t operate a zero tolerance when it came to security, and I say to people. We would operate at minus zero because if you are coming to invest in this country or in this state and you are coming with maybe one billion dollars or whatever, and you said, give me three destinations and they said Ibadan, Lagos, and Abeokuta. The first question you will ask is, how secure is this state first? And once they say it is not safe, you will run away. Even where there is a guarantee of security you begin to look at things like the tax regime Because, as an investor, you want to make money. What is the tax regime which will allow you to make more money, so we need to guarantee that first.
We look at successful administrations, and the one that took our fancy was that of baba Awolowo; why? Because we are quite impressed with the way he used agriculture to grow the economy, and that is what we intend to do too. Luckily for us in Oyo state, we have three crops that have a comparative advantage; we have mango, cashew, and cassava. Like a month ago, I went to the Garri industry at Ilora as part of my consultation to talk to these guys, and I couldn’t believe the wastage I saw there. The first question I asked them was are you guys aware there is ethanol in this casava, they said yes, but they don’t have the capacity to extract that, and that is very bad. Why do I say it is sad? Because we know for a fact that the economy of Thailand is based on cassava and ethanol. We also know that the ethanol in our own cassava is of higher grade than that of Thailand if they extract it. Then they raised the issue of power because for you to extract the ethanol, it must be done on-site; power is an issue.
I was just coming from Lagos where I went to speak to some energy experts, and I told them these are our challenges; how can you help us with sustainable energies because it mustn’t be too expensive too? The business will not come; it has to be sustainable and they’ve started work on that. You know I was saying that we want to go there and hit the ground running fully prepared.
Mango, I lived in England for over fifteen years. I know that if you work in the shops, you can buy mango, and I know that they didn’t grow the mango there, so where does the mango come from? So what I am saying is that all you need to do is to ask these people their expectations and what they want.
For cashew, the Chinese came to Oyo state, bought a farm, harvested all the cashews, and then went. That has to stop, so ultimately, what we try to do is to guarantee food security and then put in a system whereby these crops can be exported. but, you can only do that if you guarantee security because I am not a fan of the government being involved in business. It doesn’t work, The investors will come if we guarantee all these things in place. so that is one area where we hope we can grow the economy.
The second one is the dry port. I believe with my experience in Abuja, I can get that dry port working within a year. You will recall that it was located first in Erumu and now it has been brought to Akinyele because of the rail line though I am not promising I will do my best to get the dry port working within a year I have to because it will help the state. I believe with that, we can grow the economy.
Governors spoke at a town hall meeting, and he said somebody came last week. He didn’t mention my name, and all he was saying was about academics, we have to start with that because people that built the airplanes started with academic exercise and they continued to build on that. That is the plan that we have but what we need is money but unfortunately because of the constitution that we run, we cannot leverage it.
The dust that you got the party’s ticket generated is yet to be settled, how far have you gone in reconciling with the aggrieved members of your party?
I got the ticket by playing a fair and square game, I know when you were asking the question you wanted to say Jagba but you didn’t say it. There is nothing like jagba. If you take something by force that means it’s your own. This thing belongs to everybody; you play your card and get it.
Tell me, any primary election where people have not complained? People will always complain but I am telling you that if we do any congress, any primary 100 times in Oyo state, I will win. It is very simple, you know why I have the experience. I became a senator at 39, I am 60 this year, and all I have done is play politics. I was senate leader at 43, so in terms of contact and network I am far far ahead of them. They are talking about me being Jagba but they don’t talk about the money they also spent to get the ticket but let us leave that for now. As far as we are concerned, we did the primaries and there was no record of violence. We did the primary again and there was no violence. I got the ticket fair and square.
You have been doing all you can to market your presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and nothing much has been heard about your own election. So what is your strategy you adopt for your own campaign?
I will be a fool to market myself, I want to win an election so the strategy for me is that if I talk for one hour, I will talk for 50 minutes about Asiwaju. I know if Asiwaju wins then it is game over. Everybody has their own strategy, and even before Asiwaju wins, we believe we have a better candidate. If you look at our candidates for senate, house of reps, I think the governor showed his inexperience by picking his candidates so it gave us an opportunity to look at what he has done to pick our candidates. When he picked Tegbe we picked Sarafa Alli, let’s return Fatai Buhari, we were playing games When Asiwaju emerged, that became the icing on the cake for us. With Asiwaju, there is intoxication surrounding his name. He is like the Lionel Messi in Nigerian politics, so when you have him on your side, you have to use him now, and he is even in our party, Asiwaju is our best player and we are going to use him and once he scores, it is game over.
Sir, there was a governor that had a very robust relationship with the media when he was the candidate but when he assumed office he became hostile to them. How are we sure that you are not going to b e like him if you get there?
The two reasons why I can guarantee you there will be press conferences, two reasons; one is that I am a politician and in politics you need people around you and these people are veritable tools for politicians. and so it is in my interest to relate with the press regularly so that I can understand what is going on everywhere in the state. The second reason as you can see is I like to talk so if I get any opportunity to flex my muscles, I will do it.
How can we achieve a just society? A society where everything will work, how can we deal with the rots in the society? What is your plan to ensure that we return to the days when we have a lot of Omoluabis in our societies? Secondly,your opposition people are making jest of you that you are not campaigning, now that you are here we want to hear from you what your strategies are?
You raised the issue of corruption, and you see, if we are honest to be honest with ourselves, that we live in a very corrupt society, and so, the police are corrupt, the army is corrupt, politicians are corrupt, even journalists are corrupt, so we are all corrupt. Let me tell you how bad things are, how pathetic things are. The governor had a town hall meeting, and they were calling associations, I was in the house of one of them in the state telling them what to ask and what not to ask. Send us five names that will come, I won’t mention the association. It is as bad as that is how bad things are. What could we do about this? I think we can produce purposeful leadership; purposeful leadership that is the answer, and that is what we will provide. As I am coming here now, I know about ten people here, so what is the point of calling them to ask me soft questions? No, I am not helping myself, I am not helping you, and I am not helping the state. Feel free to ask any questions you want to ask, and I will do my best to answer.
Lawlessness I talked about at the beginning. I said there are generic lawlessness, armed robbery, kidnapping. We would try to stand out by putting together a very strong security architecture, but the one we must get rid of now once we are swearing on the first day is this state-sponsored thuggery. We will not tolerate that you can take that to the bank.
You said our opponent said we are not campaigning; what’s their business with ours? But I will tell you something; you know the electoral calendar changed; normally we do primaries in December and then start campaigning in January, but because of the amendment in the electoral act, we got the tickets like six months back. So as a party, we sat down and thought what should we do, and I can say this, we are the only party that has gone round the state, sleeping in every 33 local governments. No other party has done that.
And we changed our style of campaigning and I will tell you, the usual jamboree where you put the state is more expensive, who are the people that come there? Politicians and thugs, people that you want to talk to, don’t come. So what we are doing is going to meet the opinion moulders, the landlords in each community and so on and that is more productive for us, let them do their own jamboree and let us do our own.
Asiwaju is coming on the 7th, and the plan is to have the best rally, and you are all invited. The plan is to have the best rally so far, and that will help us, and when Asiwaju leaves on the 7th, on the 9th, we will start going round the state again.
My question dwells much on the welfare of journalists, today things are not going well with journalists and that is the bitter truth.I’ve been covering Oyo State since 1990 and I’ve not left till now. Today, journalists in the governor’s office have been driven away from our traditional office to a strange office, it has never happened. I want to ask sir, if you become governor tomorrow what will you do about this? Secondly, the campaign has been very interesting, what is the percentage that you will win at the polls?
You know, when I opened my remarks, I said you guys operate under a very difficult regime. For instance, I know you have an issue with your secretariat that is known because of the important job you do, I don’t think it is too much, and I am surprised that the government has not volunteered to even give you one of its quarters in their GRAs lying fallow. They should because you guys are very useful to the society, they should help to provide a conducive working condition for you. I was told things like your allowances had been stopped, or it is not regular, we are very much aware of that, and we would make you happy. As I have said, we will have a partnership so that you can go to sleep on your welfare. We will be meeting regularly trust me.
Second, what is the percentage that we think will win aren’t the difficult one, there are 3.3 million registered voters in Oyo state, and we know that Asiwaju will win but we are trying to see how we can maximize his win, that is what informed us going round the state again to talk to people to please come out. There is no reason we cannot contribute our target to be 1.5 million, that is our minimum target and it is not too much. It is the best. You know, the presidential election would be different from the governorship election, and even our projection is that Asiwaju will get 80% and all the polls we’ve been doing have been consistent because we poll like a thousand people everyday and we are also being scientific, and we are getting figures of 830 or 840 for Asiwaju. If you give a 3% margin of error that is still consistent with our projection. Now, Our national assembly candidates won’t make that 80% we know, but they will win, and when they win, I promise you I will come back again to talk about the next two weeks.
You spoke well about ethanol and all that, there are several crops that are wasting away in the bush. You’ve spoken well just like Aregbesola of Osun spoke had spoken well before he became the governor, our President Buhari spoke well only to only to give us examples that there are countries that Nigeria is better than forgetting the fact that Nigeria was initially the giant of Africa, now you have spoken well about this, are you telling us that you are not going to fail us by the end of the day by the time you emerge as governor. Then there are speculations and the speculation is what you expect when you are getting close to the poll. Now the speculation is that by the end of the day you might merge together with Bayo Adelabu but here you said that there is a joker with you no opportunity could be wished away by politicians. If the opportunity opens for you to dialogue with Adelabu on coming together against Seyi Makinde?
You see, I want to thank you for that question. If you look at the size of Oyo state, over 28,320square metres, slightly vast, and when you travel to every wards, you travel to Oke Ogun, and you look at the vegetation, what a waste! We intend to build our wealth from our land. That is the sensible thing to do. For a state like Lagos that has access to sea, they can leverage on their port system, but all we have in Oyo state is land.
You also said that people blow grammar, and once they get there, the grammar stops and they don’t do anything. I see politics like a relationship. As you know, I am a senior chief in Ibadan, and I may become Olubadan. Only death can take that away from me. But the beauty about democracy is that it happens every four years, so if you don’t perform, they kick you out, so I don’t want to be kicked out. I want to make a name for myself, so we keep trying until we get it right, and I believe this is it.
Politics is a game of interest; Adelabu is my younger brother, so anything can happen. But you see the way politics is; nothing would happen until after the first poll; you know we politicians including me are incurable optimists. Even when you see a party that will not win even one polling unit they are still putting billboards all over the place spending money. So what that tells you, it tells you that we are always optimistics. We have our own calculation, but whether it will work, only time will tell, but I pray it works. So after the first round of polls, we may even sit down with Seyi Makinde; he may say this result is so terrible for me, let’s do a deal; anything is possible in politics.
Are you not afraid of the members of the Park Management System put in place by this present administration in the State and what is your party put in place to forestall any violence from them?
A park management led by an ex-convict, when you do that, what message are you sending as a government, you bring an ex-convict to head the so called government agency? In any case, PMS is even alien to the law. There is nothing like PMS, there is NURTW, but because they could not get their way around it, they said they banned the NURTW and brought PMS. From the first day of resumption, that will go. We don’t have any interest in the motor business to start with, and as I said, in line with our minus-zero policy, we have nothing to fear. The only interest we have in NURTW is how they can contribute to the state coffers; they are making so much money, so give us some of the money and once they give us our money and the state is quiet no problem. As per the PMS’s role in the election, we’ve been hearing a lot of stories, but we believe in the security agencies, the police, and the army that they are up to the task.
It is unfortunate that Oyo State, which is known as a pacesetter state was ranked 33 recently in WAEC performances, what policy do you have to change the fortune of the educational sector and take it to the height that we all desired? And what kind of educational sector should the people expect from you by the end of four years?
The educational sector, you see, is one sector that I feel strongly about, and I can talk the whole day about it. Why? Because it is what underpins everything we are trying to achieve. You and I have children, but we don’t have the skills to teach these kids so we send them to school, so the people who are saddled with this responsibility are not happy and not motivated, so right from the primary to the tertiary, it has been a disaster. If you look at the system they run in Oyo state, not everybody can go through; remember those days there were technical schools so if you are not up to it, you go to technical schools, but now they just promote you keep going keep going, so that explains the rot in our educational system and we’ve been talking but they tell us to shut up. They will tell us they pay a salary that is what they tell us – input, what is the output? 33 out of 36, 50 schools delisted that is the output. At the tertiary level, consultant, I don’t understand; every school has a governing board; that’s the job of a governing board. You bring in foreign consultants. I don’t know what they want to do only to collect the 10%. All that will go but I will tell you what we will do. We have an idea of what we want to do, and the first thing we want to do is to declare an emergency, I think we’ve reached that stage because we must ask ourselves the honest truth, how many of us would be happy to send our kids to these schools?
It is only in Oyo state that motor parks are better than schools. 4.5 billion naira per one, and they built three, and if you do the calculation at 50 million naira per block of six classrooms you built 370 classrooms. They are not investing in education. The motor park, if you see the one in Lagos, is exclusively different from the one we have here, there is nothing here, absolutely nothing. The other day I did an interview and said well we may turn it into a tech job, and people were talking. I said yes, that is what I think, but we will throw it open to the citizens to debate. But in a situation where motor garages would be better than school is unacceptable to us. We will sit down with stakeholders; government, parents, old students, religious bodies and put all the cards on the table and decide the way forward with education.
Why do you think Nigerians should vote for the APC considering the way you met Nigeria in 2015 and in the last eight years what Nigeria is today. Secondly, do you really think that the Northern hegemony of your party wants a power shift to the South considering the lingering fuel crisis, new naira design crisis and the cashless policy?
This is a very difficult situation and I’m not going to sit down here and say we’ve achieved this, no, things have been difficult but there is a reason. People forget that for two years, we’ve been locked in with Covid and then when we thought we were recovering from covid, the senseless Ukraine-Russian war started. Look, I went to a friend’s junior brother’s house last week, and I noticed that every time you go to his house, his channel is always on Skysports. I told him to put it on sky news. You complain all the timeeverywhereYou will know what is going on, we put it on sky news, and we saw there was a strike in England; doctors are striking, nurses are striking, immigration everything has almost collapsed. We live in a global world, and our problem we have in this country is that we don’t communicate with our citizens. You talked about corruption, one of the biggest scams in this country is this issue of subsidy, and Tinubu said he was going to remove it but the cabal is now fighting back. That is what they are doing.
On whether the northern hegemony does not want the power to be shifted to the south, I don’t think so. We must salute the northern governors forum for their courage, they are the first to come out and say power must shift to the south and I think that is significant. There is no fairness in politics, there is no morality, it is about getting your result. When you are doing the political calculation there are a lot of things going on.
What is your goal for Oyo State at the end of the four years?
My goal for Oyo State is that I would like to put in place a very solid foundation that would put Oyo state in post oil years. That is my goal.