Hon. (Dr) Ajibayo Adeyeye is Special Adviser to the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu on Health; he also a former Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly and an aspirant for the House of Representatives to represent Ondo Federal Constituency of Ondo State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the 2019 election. In this interview with PATRICK OKOHUE, Adeyeye speaks on his ambition and the achievements of the Gov. Akeredolu led government in Ondo State since assumption of office, among other issues.
You were in the Lagos State House of Assembly for eight years, but now you are in the executive arm as Special Adviser to the Ondo State governor, how will describe the transition, do you miss the legislature?
First, let me say that I am a natural legislator and having played my role as a legislator in the Lagos State House of Assembly, I understand how independent I can be in my views, opinions and actions and it is very different from being on the executive side where you have to work with the chief executive himself.
You have to be able to convince him on why you are going in one direction or the other. On the legislative side you can hold a minority view, like I held a couple of times, even when I was Majority Leader in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
You can hold a minority view and you don’t really care what others feel about it, but you cannot hold a minority view in the executive, you just have to run with the Chief Executive as much as possible, I think those are the major differences,
but so far, so good, I have had very good relationship with the governor and we have been working very well together, we have been getting along very well.
You must have had some experiences in the Lagos State House of Assembly, how will you describe the impacts of those experiences now in your new role?
Oh! Very great, as Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly, I sponsored a bill on the State Health Insurance and I took the same bill to Ondo, I introduced the bill in October last year and by February the bill was already law.
I brought my experience as a legislator to Ondo State; I was able to convince the lawmakers why that bill should be passed urgently.
It is not a small feat to introduce a bill in October and by February it is already accented into law, but I know exactly how to go about it if I want a bill to become law and that came because of my background as a former legislator.
You gain a lot of experience by being in the legislature, you see everything that is going on in government, they bring them to you and if you are now on the executive side you can pre-empt how the legislators will reason and advise the executive not to go on the route they intended to go and rather go another route so that they can get things done faster.
There was the Abiye Programme that was introduced by the last administration in Ondo State, I learnt there was an adjustment perhaps because it was not meeting its expectations, what really is the true position?
This shows you have been following the trend of health services in Ondo State, the Abiye programme was a free maternal and health programme introduced by the former administration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
What they were doing is that they built two mother and child health care centers in Ondo City and Akure and they were treating pregnant women free of charge and also treating under five children free of charge.
But, at the twilight of that administration, maybe six to eight months to the end of that administration, they ran into trouble, they could not fund that programme any longer, majorly because patients were trooping from neighbouring states into Ondo State to get treatment.
For instance, if somebody has been diagnosed of needing a caesarean section in Ile Ife, she knows she is going to be needing between N70,000 and N100,000 for that operation, she quickly runs to Ondo State, registers in the card Igbeayo programme, pays N2000 and say she is a resident of Ondo State and goes to enjoy that facility.
So, they were using the state resources to fund residents of other states, even people came from Lagos to have caesarian section done in Onde, people came from Edo, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, Ogun, so, they could not cope any longer,
but in the present administration we studied the situation, we left it as we met it, the programme was not being funded, but we decided to understudy the programme and process.
It was a good programme, but was not well conceptualised. So, we want to re-faction the programme in such a way that only residents of Ondo State will benefit from such programme, we are coming up with an electronic platform to make sure that we use it to regulate the beneficiaries of the programme.
You don’t just wake up from Ile-Ife or from Ijebu and you rush to Ondo State and come and have treatment. We are really working at ensuring that we are coming back to that programme,
but most importantly we want to ensure that it is only meant for residents of the state to make sure that it is not abused and we don’t start using our meager resources to subsidise other states that are our neighbours.
Are you thinking of introducing the resident registration programme like was done in Lagos to ensure that none residents are shut out?
The previous administration actually introduced the residency card which they called Card Igbeayo,
but the shortcoming of that programme as instituted by that government is that people come to register as residents of Ondo State at the point when they require those services, so even the register they got from the residency programme was not a credible register, it is skewed because of people who come to register just because they want to enjoy free health service,
but we have another way to ensure that only residents of Ondo State benefit from our free maternal care services and very soon, before the end of the year we will re-launch that programme and ensure the people again have access to it.
Going back to the health insurance, naturally it will cost money, to what extent have you sensitised the people towards this programme to ensure they fully buy into the programme of the state government?
You see, the health insurance programme is a different thing from the free maternal programme. The way the health Insurance law, called the Ondo State Contributory Health Insurance Scheme, law is crafted in Ondo State is to ensure that people don’t pay so much money out pocket at the point of requiring healthcare.
That law envisaged that some members of the public in Ondo State that simply don’t have jobs, have no way of paying any money for health insurance, for such people, the law says the state government should designate them as vulnerable, it then presupposes that the state will now pay their own premium to the insurance commission.
It is not that the state will say health is free, no, the state will pay the premium of such people to that agency and that agency will look after those people.
So, what the state is about doing now is to designate pregnant women and under five children as vulnerable, so, that way the state provides the funds to treat them, so there is really no free launch anywhere anymore in Ondo State, somebody must pay for it,
if the government is saying health is free for these category of people, then the government brings the money, pays the agency and the agency looks after those people, so,
it is no longer a situation where the government will say it is free health, but you get to the hospital you buy syringe, you buy needle, you buy spirit and even cotton wool before you are treated, no, there is nothing free about that and we are trying to depart from that in Ondo State.
You are going back to lawmaking, by aspiring to represent Ondo Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, what are the challenges you see in the constituency that you want to attend to?
Ondo Federal Constituency is made up of two local governments, Ondo East and Ondo West local governments; I am an indigene of Ondo Kingdom, which comprises the two local governments.
If you look at those that have represented us in Ondo Kingdom, well, they tried their best, but they tried their best to the extent of their experience.
Majorly they were actually green horns by the time they entered the Federal Legislative House. You can imagine somebody who has never held any government position before, you will now say that person should go and represent a group of people at the Federal House,
in the first place what does he know about lawmaking, how does he relate with his colleagues to get result for his people, does he really understand what it takes to lobby his colleagues for the benefit of his people?
This much has eluded us as a people in Ondo kingdom and I have looked around and there are not a lot people of my age and caliber that have my kind of experience.
It will be some kind of disserve to my people if I do not aspire to go to the House at this time, I mean looking at my experience as a former lawmaker in Lagos and having risen to the level of Majority Leader,
it might not be a good thing for somebody like me not to aspire to represent my people at the Federal House, we have a lot of challenges and some of the challenges cannot even be done by the state government.
We have a very serious erosion problem, we have people pack out of a whole street in our kingdom and the state government does not have the capacity to solve that problem, it requires very major dredging and very major work, it can only be undertaken by the Federal Government.
It is not like the state government may not be able to do it, but will you spend the entire state resources to solve the problem? You wouldn’t want to do that, but for the Federal Government such projects are not too large for them to undertake,
we only need a good representative to awaken the consciousness of the relevant government agencies to such problems, these are the reasons I think I need to move up to the Federal House to represent my people come 2019.
How will you assess the performance of the Ondo State government under Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu?
When this government came on board, it was very careful and slow in coming up to speak about the state of Ondo State economy, because we were trying to gather the facts, but the moment the fact was available to us, the governor spoke about it when he was inaugurating his cabinet.
We met a debt of about N220 Billion, and seven months of arrears of salaries and pension unpaid, and we met several billions of gratuities of staff that left the service of the state government, but have not been paid.
But to the glory of God, the government of Akeredolu does not owe salary and pension, we paid as at when due.
Does it include the outstanding that you met on ground?
Of the arrears, we have paid four months out of the seven months, but we are not owing either salary or pension till date.
Despite all that, despite all the burdens we met on ground, we have also started life changing economic turnaround. Probably before the end of this year, we will commission the mining of bitumen in Ondo State, since independence, we have always known the state has the second or third largest bitumen deposit.
As I speak to you, the equipment for the mining are being manufactured and being shipped into the state for installation. We initiated that project when this administration came in, and we are already getting result.
We have worked on many roads in the state, we initiated a process to build a road from Araromi the Southern part of the state, very close to Igbokoda to Ibeju Lekki, shortening the distance from Ondo State to Lagos to just 45minutes, to be in Akodo,
we have initiated that project with NDDDC, and we are going to contribute our quota to making sure that road is completed, even if these are the only two things we are able to do in four years, it will change the economy of the state, we are working very hard to ensure that we clear all the deficit that we met on ground.
We are also operating a lean cabinet, none of the state commissioner was allowed to engage personal assistants outside the state civil service. All of us are working by ourselves and we chose civil servants as personal assistant, that was a deliberate attempt not to increase the state wage bill.
You cannot imagine how much we save doing that, it is unimaginable, to say no council chairman , no commissioner, nobody should have personal assistant or special assistant.
More importantly, since this administration came on board, we refused to buy new vehicles, we make do with the vehicles we met on the ground, rather we decided to repair vehicles from the pool, which have been abandoned , we repaired them and started using them.
The governor is very prudent and he decided to run a lean government that is not over bloated, to enable us pay off all the arrears we met on ground. Things are looking better, because the IGR of the state has increased and it is steadily improving.
How far has the state gone in paying the salaries of staff of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, because they have been on strike for some months because they claim the state is owing them arrears of salaries?
Though, I am not in education sector, but what the state government does is to give subvention to the institutions, and the institution is supposed to add to the subvention, pay the salary of staff and run the institution, the problem is peculiar to that institution, not the state.
We have other three institutions run by the state government , University of Medical Sciences in Ondo, Ondo State University of Science and Technology in Okitipupa, they don’t have such problem, Adekunle Ajasin University, all these institutions don’t have this problem, the problem is peculiar to that institution, but we are doing everything to resolve it.
There has been some frosty relationship between the National Assembly and the Executive lately, how do you think the ideal relationship should be?
Well, one must be very careful at interpreting certain things. Careful in the sense that there are some of these things that are not exactly the way they are perceived by the populace, ordinarily one will expect that there should be inter dependency between the executive and the legislature, you don’t also want a legislature that is a rubber stamp,
that will not ask questions when they should ask questions from the executive, just like you don’t also want a legislature that will be difficult, that will unnecessarily be cocky, give them bills and they are not attend to it several months after the bill has been presented to them.
Having said that, we have a very peculiar situation right now, we have a legislature with a marginal majority by the ruling party, so you only need very few members of the ruling party to join the opposition to form a majority to start making troubles with the executives and that looks to me like what the problem is right now.
Very easily you find few elements in the APC in the National Assembly joining the PDP forming the majority in the House against the executive which is an APC government,
so we have a very peculiar situation right now, that is not like what we have in Lagos for instance where the legislature is clearly in the same party with the executive and most of the time we discuss behind the scene before we come to the open and everything look like things are smooth and everything is going on well, but that has not been the case in the National Assembly, for reasons best known to the leadership of that Assembly.
The President recently sent a budget for INEC to the National Assembly asking them to take monies from projects they inserted for their constituencies, which Mr. President earlier complained about, to fund the next election, do you think members of the Assembly will be happy about that, will it not be a room for another conflict?
I am not very sure that the legislature on their own can initiate a budgetary process, they cannot by themselves decide that they want to put something in the budget.
What they can do is to accept or reject what the executives have brought, I am not sure the legislature has the powers by themselves to initiate a process.
What do I mean? For instance you want to buy a car in the legislature the executive need to agrees to bring that proposal to you, your work starts from the time they bring that proposal to you, you cannot by yourself start that process,
you have to wait for them to bring the proposal to you and that means you cannot also by yourself go and create that I want to use this for constituency project.
Before they bought that proposal to the House I suppose they have done some work, they called quantity surveyor, they have done some budget analysis, done the cost and all that before coming to you, if you now come and say because we have the power to do and undo, because we have the power of approval, you now bring in your own and insert.
If you as legislator A, you want a road constructed in your village or in your constituency, who did the bill of quantity of that road? How did you come about the figures you want to insert?
This is why the law does not allow that legislators should bring those figures, the executives should have done their bill of quantity, done the survey, the cost, all the environmental impact assessment and all that before bringing the budgetary proposal to you.
So, it is not something that I think is right for legislators to just decide and put some figures in the budget, but legislators can cut down the budget or maybe even increase it if they feel you have under declared your income, because executive do that sometimes too.
They under declare their income, under declare the amount they can make and tell you more things to spend money on than their income, thereby taking away your power as legislators because if you approve that, you’ve given them the right to choose from the expenditure line which they like to do.
Then if you see that they have under declared their income, it behooves on you as legislators to do more work to know exactly what the income level should be so that you can match it with the expenditure side, but for you to initiate a project by yourself, I am not sure the law allows that.
You can imagine somebody who has never held any government position before, you will now say that person should go and represent a group of people at the Federal House, in the first place what does he know about lawmaking, how does he relate with his colleagues to get result for his people, does he really understand what it takes to lobby his colleagues for the benefit of his people?
These much has eluded us as a people in Ondo kingdom and I have looked around and there are not a lot people of my age and caliber that have my kind of experience.
I am not very sure that the legislature on their own can initiate a budgetary process, they cannot by themselves decide that they want to put something in the budget. What they can do is to accept or reject what the executives have brought, I am not sure the legislature has the powers by themselves to initiate a process.
What do I mean? For instance you want to buy a car in the legislature the executive need to agrees to bring that proposal to you, your work starts from the time they bring that proposal to you