Thursday, January 22, 2015 12:05 pm
Barrister Oyewole Oyewumi, son of the Soun of Ogbomosho, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade III, is the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, representing Ogbomosho Federal Constituency in the forthcoming general elections. In this interview with GBENRO ADESINA, Oyewumi vows to bring government presence to his constituency
Can you talk about your line of business?
I am involved in the running of a shipping company in Lagos, Nigeria. The company has been in existence for the past 15 years. We are generally into ship brokerage, shipping agency, cargo documentation and offshore marine services.
You aspire to be one of the policy makers in Nigeria, what reforms will you bring into the maritime industry?
The maritime industry in Nigeria is still evolving, just like the country’s economy. The Nigerian economy has witnessed some changes in the last couple of years from a government-controlled economic system to a more liberal and private sector driven system. Various governments, particularly at the federal level, have introduced policies to liberalise the economy by privatising many companies that were hitherto in the hands of the government. These measures have been carried out in various sectors, e.g. oil and gas industry, telecommunications industry, banking sector and the energy sector, among others. The maritime sector has not been left out. Most of the port terminals that were under the control of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, have now been concessioned to private owners. An example of this is the APMT Terminal in Apapa, Lagos. This terminal was concessioned to the MAERSK Group, a well known international maritime services company of Danish origin. Private organisations are now involved in the development of deep sea ports unlike in the past where investment in this area was restricted to the state.
Still under the liberalization scheme, policies have been put in place to support local or indigenous ownership of vessels and other marine equipment. The Cabotage Act and the Cabotage Fund are, ostensibly, efforts in this direction. These are programmes that were developed and placed under the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to support and encourage private ownership, manning and management of vessels by indigenous companies. We also have the Local Content Policy of the federal government. This is being managed by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB. It is a programme that supports the development of local content in the provision of various services, including marine services to the International Oil Companies, IOC, that operate in Nigeria. In all these areas, we are going through processes that will eventually culminate in substantial private participation in this industry. It will not just be private, indigenous participation is being actively encouraged.
If you are to recommend an increase, what will you recommend?
I will rather prefer to develop the automobile industry. Ability to turn Nigeria from a consumer nation to a producer nation should be the key focus of any government. If there is going to be an increase in tariff, it should be gradual. Such a policy should factor the capacity of Nigerians to absorb a sudden rise in transportation cost. This is particularly so in an environment where there is no alternative. It is unfortunate that over the years, successive governments have always called on Nigerians to tighten their belts. From General Obasanjo’s austerity measures to General Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, and now back to President Jonathan’s austerity measures. I am still waiting for the day government, especially the federal government, will begin to tighten its own belt by simply reducing its profligacy. Inability to curb its excesses has been the bane of governance over the years. Let us see a clear evidence of government’s efforts to cut costs before it imposes further punitive taxes on the people. This is one side of the story, the other side relates to the provision of infrastructure. Provision of infrastructure is the primary responsibility of government. A safe and efficient public transportation system including affordable and comfortable mass transit schemes are in vogue all over the world. Let government develop the rail system, waterways and see if these won’t reduce heavy vechicular movement on the roads . Finally, I support the development of the local automotive industry to produce vehicles locally, generate employment for the people and depend less on imported ones.
If elected, what reforms are you bringing into the maritime industry?
First of all, i will encourage local ownership of vessels. I will also support measures, including legislative ones, that will encourage Nigerians’ participation in the lifting of cargoes into and out of the country. Ordinarily, export of Nigeria’s crude oil should be on a Cost Insurance and Freight, CIF, basis whereby importers of Nigeria’s crude oil are by law and convention required to use Nigerian registered vessels for the carriage of the cargo. Contrary to the convention, Nigeria’s cargoes are sold on a Free on Board, FOB, basis. Therefore, Nigeria has lost a substantial income in freight charges in over 45 years of the crude oil trade. This is the only oil exporting country in the world that does that.
In concrete terms, how do you intend to use your position to make things better for your people?
First of all, I think it is a privilege for me to have come from Ogbomoso. My constituency covers three local governments: Ogbomoso North, Ogbomoso South and Orire Federal Constituency. Ogbomoso is a very large cosmopolitan community made up of very enlightened people. Ogbomoso people can be found in many parts of Africa. We are widely travelled. We are renowned traders. My father has been involved in business for the past 50 years. He settled in Jos, Plateau State before he came back to Ogbomoso. We have Ogbomoso people in Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Congo and other countries. So I am very proud to be in a position to represent such a unique people in Nigeria. I understand the needs of our people. These needs may not be peculiar to them alone but to many other communities in Nigeria. These needs bother on the general welfare of the people. Economic empowerment; provisions of jobs, schools, good roads, efficient health delivery system and so on. I believe that my role is to initiate, support laws and policies that will encourage the preservation of our heritage, economic development for social mobility, and development of infrastructure. When I say economic development for social mobility, I am focusing on the youths; they are the future of our community and the country. 60 per cent of them fall under age 25. We want them to have good and quality education that will make them useful to the society . Skills acquisition and development will be actively supported. I want to leverage on the available prospects. One, the community has huge expanse of arable land. We fall within the Savannah. So, agriculture, especially, the production of raw materials for industry will be very viable. I will approach that in three major ways: encourage the Federal Government to support the establishment of productive industries that will maximise the available raw materials, employ youths within the community, encourage foreign investors to invest in Nigeria; and encourage local entrepreneurs to be able to expand their own business in the community. I will support and expand micro credit facilities to function for the benefit of our people.
What change are you bringing into politics?
Let me put it this way. I delved into politics in 1993 as a political activist. The first organisation I joined was Campaign for Democracy, CD. I was actively involved until I decided to go into partisan politics in 1996. I was based in Apapa, engaging in law practice as a lawyer as well as running my business. In 1996, under the zero party, I contested for councillorship for Ward N in Apapa under Eti Osa Local Government and I won. Afterward, the ward was upgraded to a local government which is today Apapa Local Government and I was appointed its first vice chairman. I was later appointed a member of the caretaker committee of City Hall Management Committee. Equally, In Lagos Island Local Government, at different times, I functioned as a supervisor for health and works. During the second term of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos State, I was elected state legal adviser for Lagos State Chapter of Alliance for Democracy, AD, under Prince Abiodun Ogunleye. I am a foundation member of Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, and a member of Council of Yoruba Academy based in Ibadan.
Do you feel your background as a son of the paramount ruler of Ogbomoso helped in getting your party’s ticket and how do you feel contesting with Abolore Akande, 9ice?
That is a tricky question. From my antecedent, at least you can see that I came into the contest with some political experience. I believe that this experience helped me during the primaries. I will certainly not downplay the parental influence. We indeed canvassed for votes. I believe I came with the values of “omoluabi”, that is a gentleman in Yoruba culture. My upbringing certainly played a role and we worked very hard to record victory. We embarked on door to door canvassing for support. We visited every ward, we held meetings with everybody. I started consultations much earlier than my colleagues. I was like the dark horse contesting against such well-known names as Abolore Akande, 9ice, Deji Akande, a serving commissioner and Dr Ayanyinka Ayodele, a special adviser to the governor.
Considering the strength of your opponent in the ruling party, the majority leader in the House of Representatives, and a force in PDP, do you think your chance is bright?
The intention is not to hijack power from her. The intention is to persuade the Ogbomoso people that if they vote for me, I will deliver and serve them better as their representative. I think the quality of representation at the moment, to be mild, is very poor. We have a representative who has been in office for close to eight years now and her impact has not been felt at all. I am happy that you described her as very influential in her party. She is the majority leader in the house. She narrowly missed being the speaker of the house. She is close to Aso Rock and almost the next of kin to the first lady. But unfortunately, she has not been able to influence the completion of the remaining 20 kilometres of the road linking Ogbomoso to Oyo which is a federal road and a major artery linking the southwest with the north. I think that alone is a testimonial to her under-performance in office.
What is the disposition of your father to your involvement in partisan politics considering the fact that he is not politically inclined?
There are two sides to it. One, he is my father. Two, he is a traditional ruler for the whole of Ogbomoso land comprising five local governments in Oyo State. To that extent, my father is a father to all of us, all the political parties. Again, as a father whose son is trying to be of service to his constituency just as he has been for over 40 years, I am sure I have his blessing.
How can you assess the government of PDP at the federal level since 1999?
I am disappointed. I was a member of Save Nigeria Group, SNG. I was part of the group that stormed the National Assembly to protest the refusal to transfer power to the then vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria now President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, as a result of the incapacitation of the then president, Musa Yar’Adua. I was at the fore front of that movement. We all believed that the rule of law should prevail in all circumstances. I am proud to say that the result of our effort led to what became known as “doctrine of necessity” that forced the National Assembly to announce the vice president as the acting president. Of course, what happened afterwards is now part of our history. It is however very sad that the hope we invested in all that effort was dashed. The way this country has been run in the last six years has been disheartening. I will give only one example out of so many sad turns for the country. President Jonathan’s government has exposed 170 million Nigerians to such a grave security hazard that we all look so helpless and hapless. Despair is written on the faces of large portion of our population. It has never before happened in Nigeria. Chibok girls will continue to signpost his regime and government for generations to come. It is a collective embarrassment for our generation that we could not save our girls. I pray that those girls and other victims of terrorists will be found sooner than later.