‘I’m Part of the Success Story in Ogun State’ - Otunba Bimbo Ashiru

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Femi Ogbonnikan interact with Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, who flaunts his achievements as the trump card that should help him clinch the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress

Why do you have the conviction that you have what it takes to contest for the office of Governor of Ogun State?

I spent close to 30 years in the banking industry, where I served in different areas. I am the longest serving Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. And my people have said, ‘you have done very well in government in the last seven years’. Ogun State was a civil service state, but now, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria, because 25 percent of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) that comes to this country, berths in Ogun State. These are the things you need to look at. Even if you look at the succession plans that we have, I am most qualified. Chief Olabisi Onabanjo was governor of this state between 1979 and 1983. He left the throne as a result of a military coup. Chief Olusegun Osoba too, came in and after sometime the military took over. Again, Osoba was returned into the office in 1999 through the ballot box. In 2003, Otunba Gbenga Daniel came in. He met a hostile environment because we were from another party. We were not going  to allow Daniel remain in power or have his stooge as the governor.  In Ogun State, there was no continuity, like Lagos, where Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the governor and Fasbola took over from him and Ambode is there now. So, you could see the trend of continuity.

I am the right person to continue the good work of Amosun. It is true that Ogun west has never produced a governor. What we have now is a bi-polar situation. The people of Egba/Egbado are clamouring for the office of governor. We, in the Ijebu/Remo, are saying that, it is our own turn to produce the next governor. But we are not going to fight the governor over that. He has done very well. He is a visionary man. At the same time, our leaders are saying he should consider us too. He should let us have a level-playing field and let everybody can go to the primary and then, let us choose the best among all of us. The track records are there. It is not that, someone wants to be governor because of the glamour of the office. I want to leave a legacy. I don’t see it as a matter of life and death. I have a good relationship with my governor. He is my friend. He is my brother. He is my boss. There is no way I am going to confront him.

In terms of visibility or actual achievements, can your ministry enumerate some tangibles that may be accredited to you?

There are tangibles. When we came, Ogun State was rated 35 by the World Bank, in terms of doing of business. We were a state that was not friendly. I led the delegation to meet with the World Bank team on the February 14, 2014, to tell them of the reforms that we have done, which clearly showed a lot of improvement. We moved from number 35 to one of the best five in the country. It is a landmark achievement. When we came in here in 2011, Ogun State was a civil service state. Today, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. Over 300 companies have opened shop in the last seven years and many of them must have invested in excess of 100 million Dollars. We have been able to create that wealth and jobs for our people.

Is that a function of your ingenuity or your proximity to Lagos?

It is the function of creating that environment. If you come to Ogun State and you are frustrated, you will look at other alternatives. We are not an option. We are the alternative. It is not because we are close to Lagos. Someone can leave Lagos and go to Ibadan (Oyo State) or go to Ondo State. An average businessman is looking for areas where his business will prosper. Look at the Nigerian Sea ports, the congestion would still put them off, but by the time we put Olokola in place, people will go to Olokola. Bbusinessmen are looking for comfort, where they can do their businesses. When we came in here, banks were shut because armed robbers had sent them packing to Lagos. They (armed robbers) were in Ogun State and they were having a field day. I was part of the committee that met with the bankers’ forum. We brought in 14 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) vehicles and put them at different locations in the state. That is why Ogun State is one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria today. It is just like saying, you are from a rich family, if you don’t utilise the wealth, judiciously, you will not find the money anymore. If you come from a poor family and you can make the best of a bad situation, you can change your bad fortune to good. Whether we are closer to Lagos or not, it is not the reason. We cater for the businesses that are attracted here, by creating that enabling environment for their businesses to thrive. We made Ogun State a construction site because building industries must go with development of infrastructure. It is important for companies to move goods and services from one place to the other. If the journey that should take between 10 and 20 minutes is taking you three to four hours, you will be distracted and discouraged. You would not want to do business in that place. If you want to build a company and they don’t have good roads and proper infrastructure, you will look elsewhere. Every businessman is looking at the protection of his assets and investments. It is not just that we are close to Lagos, we have also identified lapses that we need to seal. When I was in the banking industry, I hated going to ministries because I knew that, they would frustrate me; that they would want to take advantage of me. These are the loopholes and leakages that we have blocked.

Is that within your ministry?

Yes, in my ministry. In most cases, in the past, especially in this state if the governor was not happy with you, he sent you to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. I am the 23rd Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. I tell people, it is the character that determines how you will run your show. If I am put in the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, I will still make my own reforms there. I will make the best out of the situation there.

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