Julius Olapade Okunola, a Pastor, is the governorship candidate of the Accord Party [A.P] for the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun State. The Modakeke-Ife born Sociologist and Anthropologist, in this interview with JIDE OKE gave reasons why politics should not be left with mediocre and that he has what it takes to govern Osun State if given the opportunity to serve.
Tell us about your background that prepared you for this race?
I am Pastor Julius Olapade Okunola, born over 50 years ago to the Ogunsua Ruling quarters in Modakeke, Osun State. I attended Sijuwade Nursery & Primary School, Ile-Ife and Osogbo Grammar School.
I later went to Osun State College of Arts & Science Ile-Ife, before I proceeded to the University of Maiduguri, in Borno State where I studied Sociology and Anthropology. In search of greener pastures, I travelled to the United States of America (USA) where I worked as a cook in different Domino Pizzas, before I returned to Nigeria.
I also worked briefly with the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) as investment officer. I also worked with the Texas State of Attorney, before I finally settled down to establish my own business.
With your intimidating credentials, and a Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, what informed your decision to join politics as it is widely believed in Nigeria to be a dirty game?
Thank you so much for that question. First and foremost, I have a divine call by the Almighty God to come out and liberate the people of Osun, from the bondage the APC-led government has subjected them to in the last eight years.
Secondly, I decided to run for the governorship seat to identify problems confronting Osun State so as to find immediate solution to them, because I believe that politics should no longer be left in the hands of mediocre.
We as Christian leaders felt it is our duty this time around to contribute our quota to the development of the country through divine intervention to myriads of problems confronting us.
I do understand how Osun State known essentially as a hub of commercial activities and centre of tourism in Nigeria, have turned into such a decrepit state that continues to witness catastrophic socio-economic decline, sliding abysmally with no hope of recovery.
All these and many more spurred me to go into politics to arrest the decline and restore the direction to reinvent the humanity and pride of our people.
As a farmer in Osun State, I understand the dynamics of the economic deprivation that continues to plague our State. Osun State is not a poor state neither are we poor people, but certain sections of our society have gone beyond hijacking our economy, they have used deprivation to twist our minds to accepting poverty as a way of life.
With God on my side all these will be tackled headlong to bring relief to the generality of the people of Osun, if I am voted as the next governor of the state.
Now the number of candidates contesting the governorship race has increased to seven. As a young man what are your chances in the election?
I have a very good chance as I have set up programmes to convince the electorates, most especially the down trodden of my action plans to make Osun State great again and a better place for all of us to live. All these action plans will be unfolded to the electorate when I commence my campaign.
Is your presence in the governorship race not meant to bargain for political appointment or get compensated?
For somebody who has put up a successful business, you will agree with me that, the person really sat down and articulated about the values he intends to put.
Talk about leaving his business to run a state and all that. For me there is nothing like testing water. It is a matter upon which I made up my mind and I want to go for it.
If for any reason, it doesn’t work out I will go back to my business. I don’t need politics to belong; I have always belonged in my field.
If you eventually emerge as the Osun State governor, how do you intend to govern in view of the alleged financial mess perpetrated by the present APC led government?
The ‘Pade for Osun Governor Team has outlined its proposal to the Accord Party leadership who are reviewing the future directive policy that will govern Osun when we take office in November, 2018.
Our immediate challenge will be to develop and implement a system that guarantees payment of salaries and pensions that never fails again in Osun State.
I am saying that we are going to pay up all arrears’ and we are going to introduce a mechanism that makes sure that even private companies cannot owe anyone their wages under any circumstances in future.
My administration will be people focused; our development plan will be based on the development of the well being of the people of Osun State.
Poverty level in Osun State is increasing daily, how do you intend to tackle this?
The strategy to be employed if elected shall be to empower the state in both rural and urban areas to become more economically productive with a view to improving their quality of life.
Projects and measures to be implemented will be people oriented as they will be fully involved in determining such projects.
The poverty reduction programme will involve the immediate improvement of infrastructure in the urban and rural areas with government taking the leadership in mobilising the necessary resources.
Also payment of wages and arrears for all the state employees will be the first item on my agenda, with the introduction of “Closer to you government services”.
Local governments would be empowered to take control of services provided to the people, taking government accountability closer to the people.
I will also establish a poverty reduction fund, entrust ministries and parastatals with the mandate for primary effort to eradicate poverty in Osun State.
There is a rumor making the rounds that your governorship ambition in Osun State is being sponsored financially by a clique in Nigeria?
(Cuts in)**That is not true. I got my little money from dint of hard work as a farmer and businessman with chains of investment here and abroad.
I have been saving my money for close to five years before I finally declared my intention to run for the governorship race.
As a church pastor I live a very simple life and I believe with the little I have I should be able to run for the race. My friends, back in the United State of America (USA) are also planning a fund-raising to support my ambition, so also are members of the RCCG in redeemed camp. I believe all these put together will see me through in the governorship race.
What was the reaction of the two other contestants, after you were declared winner of the Accord Party Primary?
They took the result in good faith and to the glory of Almighty God they have agreed to work with me for the success of the party at the election.
Our immediate challenge will be to develop and implement a system that guarantees payment of salaries and pensions that never fails again in Osun State. I am saying that we are going to pay up all arrears’ and we are going to introduce a mechanism that makes sure that even private companies cannot owe anyone their wages under any circumstances in future. My administration will be people focused; our development plan will be based on the development of the well being of the people of Osun State.