Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor on Communication and Strategy, Mr. Yomi Layinka, in this interview with OLUFEMI ATOYEBI of the Punch has said the governor, Abiola Ajimobi, wont apologize to students of the Ladoke Akintola University, LAUTECH, over his comments to the protesting students over the closure of their university for eight months because what the governor did “was in the context of a Yoruba man and Yoruba children.”

Below are excerpts of the interview:

What is the reaction of the Oyo State government to a video clip of Governor Abiola Ajimobi where he addressed Ladoke Akintola University of Technology students?

Well, the reaction of the government has been a mixture of surprise and apprehension for what has become a confusing agreement on value within our society and maybe particularly within Yoruba land.

The first part is that Sahara Reporters, the online medium that posted the video online, did that almost five days after the incident, which means that there must have been some intentions behind it because this incident happened on a Monday and this video did not get online until Friday night. So, for those four days, what was happening?

After the incident on Monday, the governor met with the management and all the representatives of the unions on strike in LAUTECH where agreements were reinforced and reached and plans were already afoot to sort out the LAUTECH problem.

Part of it as I said, is the concern about values. We seem to be a bit confused as to what ought to be the proper conduct between members of our community, within government and the people, such as a governor and other segment of the society like the electorate, students and between fathers and children.

I think this kind of confusion sends a wrong signal because, we seem in a breath to be concerned about the unruly behaviour of the young people and we seem in the same breath to be afraid pointing it out when they make mistakes.

Many people expressed sadness over the language of the governor in the video. Will he apologise over this?

Really and truly, there is no harm in apologising for anything that anybody does wrong or even if you do things and you didn’t think it was wrong but somebody says it has offended his or her sensibilities, if for that purpose, you can say sorry, just to ensure that person’s sensibility is rehabilitated.

But in this specific instance, honestly, there is nothing to apologise for, because, as I said earlier, what the governor did was in the context of a Yoruba man and Yoruba children.

It’s to call their attention towards what is proper in the conduct of relationship between people, in fact, between two age mates. You don’t shout at people when you are supposed to have a dialogue, or when you are supposed to have a conversation, you don’t heckle at your friend, when he or she is about to make a point, you do not create a chaotic scene when the whole purpose was supposed to be a conversation and then leads to understanding.

The students came here ostensibly to find out what was going on, they might have as well resorted to throwing stones or burning cars, but they didn’t, they came here with the presumption that they were coming to ask the governor some questions, to tell him what they feel and what have you. And so, in the context, that was why I said we need to be clear what we were talking about.

Yes, we are in a democracy, it’s an open market of ideas, but also it must be conducted in a manner that is not a precursor to anarchy.

Some said this is how the governor talks all the time. What is your view about it?

The way the governor talks all the time, the way he expresses himself all the time is with candor, forthrightness and with fearlessness especially with things that need to be clarified. He does not hide his opinions especially when it can lead to correction. He is not political; he does not pretend that things are all right when they are not. He speaks from his heart about his concerns, about the generation of our community, about the lack of due process in our conduct and it doesn’t matter who is concerned whether it is his biological child, his brother, his wife or any other person for that matter. He believes that, part of the problems of this country is that we see truth and we pretend about it and we keep playing politics with it because we want to be popular. He wants to say it the way it is because he believes that we need to confront the demon that seems to be leading us astray as a nation.

Another video came out from the state government where the governor said very soon the school would be re-opened. Is this not a damage control measure that came too late?

Actually that measure came before this incident. If I may take you back, this event happened on a Monday four days earlier, some student leaders had sought audience with the governor. They were representatives of the National Association of Nigerian Students and Students Union Government from the state and the South-West zone, led by the NANS Senate.

They had sought audience with the governor on this LAUTECH issue and he hosted them in the Exco chamber at the state secretariat. In that meeting, he called Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, put him on speaker phone in the presence of these students and they had a dialogue.

He was the one that actually initiated the suggestion that maybe we should at least put some money on the table for the workers’ unions, so that they can go back to work and then fix the bigger problem of sustainable funding later. Don’t forget that, a few weeks ago, a visitation panel was set up by the two governments, to look into various issues surrounding LAUTECH, including ownership, management structure, content of school curriculum and funding issues under the leadership of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).

That panel has yet to submit its report, which is supposed to be a fairly comprehensive look and that is why the quality of people on that panel is supposed to be reassuring. Don’t forget that Chief Olanipekun is the former Pro-Chancellor of University of Ibadan and the current Pro-Chancellor of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo.

So we are sure that with that kind of personality, we will get to the root of things. So, in other words, efforts have been made at different levels in the background for the school to be reopened.

That was what the governor was going to explain to the students on Monday when they came, and I must make this point very clear. That was why we were completely taken aback by Sahara Reporters’ choice of presentation of the issue, because if you note, there is another video in circulation that had a little more elements to show that Governor Ajimobi did not just go out and start haranguing those students.

There was something that led to the other. But more importantly is that the conflict was resolved. Because the governor was then able to calm them down, the students calmed down and then the governor explained what he had done and what he was doing in conjunction with his colleague in Osun State and about how money was being raised and what was going to happen and the students were happy and left with a better understanding. Sahara Reporters never said that, they just presented it as if the governor just came, insulted those students and went back. Don’t forget that the governor was actually attending the executive council meeting when he was notified of the presence of those students. He broke that exco meeting to attend to and address them. If he did not respect them or think their issue was critical to him as a governor, why would he leave the exco meeting?

It was expected that those kids too would show understanding. However, let me add, if you listen to the video, the governor was very suspicious that many of those kids were not university students but that the protest had been hijacked, that quite a number of them were planted in there to come and create crisis and so he needed to pick that out because he kept repeating that some of them were not students.

Students don’t heckle and speak like that when their professors are talking to them in class. The governor, a 67 years old man is certainly older than many of their parents. Is that how they shout at their parents? So, that was why I said we must keep the context of the cultural environment in which we operate and we must operate like that.

Most of the people or many of those criticising the governor, particularly the older people, are knowledgeable enough to know that within the context of Nigeria, Yoruba and our culture, no older person takes a younger man heckling him and being rude to him seriously.

Some social media analysts believe that if the children of the governor or politicians had been attending that school, the school wouldn’t have been closed for eight months. How do you view this comment?

That is a speculation. And that speculation assumes that there is money to fund LAUTECH but it is not given to the school. Why would any government in its right senses take students away from school willfully?

What does the government achieve by that? The only sensible deduction, if anybody does that, is to assume that that money that was meant for LAUTECH was being misappropriated for some other purposes. It is this same Oyo State government, as you are aware, that is owing workers salaries of five, six, seven months. Is it because government doesn’t want to pay? So, if governor’s daughter was working in Oyo State Civil Service, he would have paid all the workers’ salaries.

The truth of the matter is that, most of the schools are having challenges of management and of funding. You can make a case for all of the bad decisions that led us to where we are today and nobody is going to say that the LAUTECH problem started last month or eight months ago. In any event, as you also know, LAUTECH is also co-owned or jointly owned between Oyo and Osun states, so, would the two governors have met to agree that it is because their children are not in that school, so they wouldn’t fund it. No, there are far more sensible reasons why the school is not in session.

There is another video going viral where President Barrack Obama was addressing some students and an angry student interjected him but he allowed the student to finish before addressing them. Will you compare that to what Governor Ajimobi did?

Again, we must compare apples and apples, not apples and oranges. We just talked about culture specific environment and the relationship that exists between it. The way a Yoruba man prostrates for his father is not the same way Obama’s daughter does for him. So, it’s a different cultural environment and we must compare apples with apples.

But more importantly, as I said, that incident between the governor and LAUTECH students did not end with the governor heckling with the students or the students heckling back at him. They resolved it. There was a conflict and there was a resolution and it ended up well.

Don’t you think the students were frustrated after eight months at home?

Yes of course. I would, my children too would have been frustrated. It’s all about management. But really and truly, coming to heckle the governor will not open that school. And the point to be made also is that the genuine students amongst them know that it was not the governor who closed LAUTECH. It wasn’t the government of Oyo State that closed LAUTECH. It was not the government of Osun State that closed the school but the management of the school did. So, the person or the authority that will open LAUTECH is actually the school management.

Some are of the opinion that the government is losing popularity because of this event. Do you agree with this view?

I do not agree. What is happening and is typical is that Nigerians and particularly, those on the social media, like entertainment. We like distractions, we like trending things. So, it is another fun time. Those who are enjoying by making jokes, posters and the likes are having fun. And I’m sure after a week or two, they will find something else to do.

It has little or nothing to do with his popularity. The notoriety that comes with being in the eyes of the storm is what I’m sure nobody wants but particularly, he is not the first and last politician that will go through it. The President has been the butt of jokes for some time.

Some states have found a way around financial difficulties through agriculture. Oyo State has large land mass, why is it that after five years, this government has not taken advantage of its large land mass?

Let me say that, strategic policy choices are usually a product of experience and the capacity to forecast a direction. The ability to say this is where we are going for these reasons and these are the competitive advantages.

As a nation, we have been talking about focusing on agriculture and diversifying our mono economy, for how many decades. Remember President Obasanjo in his first outing as the military head of state came up with Operation Feed the Nation followed by Shagari’s Green Revolution. So we have had several efforts focusing on agriculture but it has not been sustained for different reasons which may include policy summersault and lack of consistency.

The point I want to make is that agriculture as an alternative means of engagement and economic activity is not as simple as it may sound.

In Oyo State our agricultural investments started last year, in terms of the fulcrum point of engagement. In the 2016 budget, the highest percentage of investment went into agriculture related, and agro-allied industries. If you recall sometimes last year, the state government launched what is today known as Oyo State Agricultural Initiative tagged Agric-Oyo, which is the major focal point of government even as we speak but as I said, we won’t begin to see the results right away but in the next two to five years, you will begin to see the returns.

Is the state government still pushing through taking over the sole ownership and financing of LAUTECH?

No, I can only tell you that the last time the matter of ownership came up two months ago, the two governors came into a meeting with their respective teams and they wrote out a joint statement, signed by the two governors, in which it was clearly stated that LAUTECH is jointly owned by the two states and that there is no intention for one or any of the two state governments to hijack it from the other.

Who is defaulting between the two states in financial commitment?

Both states are defaulting.

Looking at the recent agreement to contribute N500m to support the school, is that not too little to address the level of rot and things to be done in the school?

Again, this is what we must understand about Governor Ajimobi’s personal concern about the closure of LAUTECH and what should be done about it. He had what he called, short term/immediate intervention, medium term and then the long term.

The visitation panel has been sitting but its report has not been submitted to the government, in which case, some of these longer term solutions would have been recommended.

But the governor’s concern is what to be done in the immediate to get LAUTECH students back to school.

Obviously, the governments can’t raise the required N8bn needed now. The money being raised is small compared to the money being owed by the owner-state governments, but at least the concern is that raising something for the school to be opened and then the indebtedness can be defrayed.

-Culled from The Punch