Otunba Bimbo Ashiru an aristocrat from Ijebu-Ode is the Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry. In this interview with the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief that was conducted within a few minutes due to his tight schedule, he bared his mind on his stewardship in the last four years under Governor Amosun and what he is planning for the state in the next four years. Excerpts…
Sir, coming from a banking world and among career civil servants, can you compare and contrast the two worlds?
When I came into this government, the impression we had outside about the public servants is completely different from what I’ve seen so far. The impression was that civil servants were bad, they had lackadaisical attitude to work but what I found out is that civil servants are a crop of intelligent, hardworking smart and articulate species. Don’t forget that these civil servants we went to the same polytechnics and universities, so we had the same foundation; the only thing is that they work in the public sector.
I also found out that it’s the same work ethics all over, the only thing is that they are more of a process people, for example in the banking world where I’m coming from, if someone misbehaves you can fire him immediately but it’s not the same in the civil service because they have laid down structures that you must follow before you can sanction or discipline anybody.
Can you enumerate your achievements in your last term as the Ogun State Commissioner for Commerce and Industry?
I’m happy to tell you that Ogun State is the third conducive environment to do business here in Nigeria, according to World Bank reports. We were able to go back and talk to them about Ogun State and on 14th of February 2014, we finally convinced them about the revolution going on here.
We have the largest concentration of industries in Nigeria as at today. In essence, our achievements show that the government under the able leadership of Governor Ibikunle Amosun is really changing the face of Ogun State for good. A lot of things have changed in terms of infrastructural developments and manufacturers are now confident and happy to come to the state because of so many indices like security because the state is one of the most secure states in Nigeria in terms of security. People are now willing to come here to invest more than before; we have been able to create a synergy whereby investors see the state as the place to be.
What other things are you going to embark on in this new term of another four years? Like how many industries are you planning to woo into the state?
In the last four years, about 74 industries came here to establish their companies and there are others to be commissioned by Mr. President and right now there are over 100 companies that are willing to come here and establish their business and in fact they are already applying now. Coming here alone is not the issue, we want to set a world standard whereby people would see that Ogun State is the hub; which means that if anybody comes in in the nearest future, they can easily walk in and be able to take off on the spot without any difficulties so that the coming generation can hail us for turning the fortunes of this state around from a civil service state to an industrial hub.
What’s plan for the small medium enterprises? In our society here it seems that there’s no plan for this sector.
Thank you very much Segun for this question. SME’S are the drivers of any economy in the world and if you don’t key into it even if you have all the industries how do they get it to the final consumers? The answer is through the SME’s. One of the banes of their problems is getting funds. We’ve signed an agreement with the Bank of Industry. Presently they have disbursed some money to the beneficiaries and we intend to assist more people to get this loan and the bank is willing and ready to partners us so that we can make our graduates the manager of their own business and create jobs for others.
What’s the situation with Olokola Free Trade Zone now, because people are not hearing about it again?
I’m sure that Olokola will bounce back very soon, we have seen so many investors showing interest from all sectors of the economy and soon like I said earlier, it’s going to be on because it’s a cash cow for the state and it’s going to create over 10,000 jobs for the people.
People are criticizing the government that you’re part of embarking on projects that are not useful and they even termed it wasteful investment. What is your take on this?
When you have foresight and vision, laymen would not see what you’re seeing. We are talking about long-term goal, long-term investment, people are looking at the present but the governor is looking far beyond 50 years to this time. When Chief Awolowo was doing some of what we are enjoying today like free education, Cocoa House, television station, many people were criticizing him then but later they keyed into the vision.
If we don’t create necessary infrastructures now, it’s going to be problems in future but I’m sure posterity will judge us in some years to come when the usefulness of those projects are showing in the lives of the people and coming generations.
As the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, the issue of unemployment is a big problem. Now, what are you doing to tackle this monster in the state and the country in general?
As the commissioner, one of the focuses is to create wealth and most of the foreign investors that are coming in, there’s what we have done to make sure that they employ our people first. That’s why we are not resting on our oars to see that these companies take off smoothly.
Having done this, we are also encouraging our people to be more qualified to be able to work in that environment and presently we have engaged in some of the companies that are fully on ground and this has reduced the number of Omo onile (land speculators) and street urchins we have around.
People see you as one of the powerful commissioners in Amosun’s cabinet. How do you react to this?
I don’t know what they mean by powerful, what I know is I’m doing my job to the best of my ability and satisfy everybody around. The issue of powerful I don’t know and it’s only God that’s powerful.
You said you’re a technocrat; is there any plan to go into full time politics?
My time and tide will not pass me, but if sometime in future my people believe in me that I can turn things around I will look at and consider it but for now I’m not thinking in that direction.
No doubt you’re attending to volume of people on a daily basis. How do you manage your time?