Michael Folorunsho Lana is a popular Ibadan-based lawyer. The former attorney general and commissioner for justice hails from Agugu area of Ibadan North East and Ladutan in Ona Ara Local Government. With a master’s degree, he’s been practicing law since 1988. He’ll be declaring his ambition today. In an exclusive interview with OYOINSIGHT.COM’s Sikiru Akinola, the fiery lawyer, who has practiced in two different countries — Nigeria and the Republic of the Gambia, said that his experience in all areas is what made him to heed the people’s call to contest Oyo governorship in the 2023 election.
Why do you want to become governor?
Like the present government, we expected more. People say when you are doing something the same way and you are not achieving the desired to results, then you have to change. But no governor has changed. None of them ever planned what they would do when they get to government. Only Jagaban, Tinubu, had such a plan in 1999 and we can see the blueprint that he puts down is still what is being followed in every ramification.
In most cases, our people here try to copy whatever they see them doing in Lagos without thinking whether what they are doing in Lagos is good for Oyo State or not. I think we should look inward. My own is to look inward and change the whole system of governance in its entirety. That’s why I want to come here.
We have great potentials. There are so many things that are of advantage to us in Oyo State— we have land. None of the governors we have had since 1999 has ever made use of the land.
Israel doesn’t have the land but the little they have, they maximized it. That is what I think I want to bring into governance here. I want us to change the entire system.
Do you think your party, the APC, as presently constituted, can defeat the PDP in the 2023 elections?
Yes, we can.
With the numerous crisis…?
(cuts in) No matter the crisis. When they know the calibre of people that are coming out. It depends on the program of the candidate. It is the programme that the people would look out for and ask, are we enjoying this in the present government? Don’t forget PDP too has crisis and they are factionalized. They are fighting like sworn enemies. Our own crisis is not up to that. But what I am talking about is beyond party politics or affiliation. We are talking about how we are going to revamp the economy of the state. How are we going to ensure that every individual in the state participates in the governance just like they did in Malaysia in the early 70s and 80s? Unless we are all involved, we can never make any state great. It is by our total involvement.
My main focus would be agriculture and after that we would introduce what we call Group Farming Scheme. My slogan would be Going Back To The Basics. Let’s go back to the tradition of the Yorubas.
In Yorubaland, even houses were built on cooperative level. When I travel to any part of Okeogun and I see land, left and right. What comes to my mind is so these are the millions of dollars that we are losing by not harnessing what is on this land.
My own will not be acquisition of anybody’s land, my own will be every land must be cultivated. I don’t care who owns the land. In the Gambia, once you come and say you want to do something, the Gambian government would not acquire the land, what they would say is that whatever you want to do on the land, do it and certain percentage goes to the owners of the land.
This is not a matter of saying, we have earmarked two billion Naira and you’ll never see the beginning of the money or the end. What we would do is all the farmers in this area, you have your local farm? Good. Now come as government’s employees on this larger part of your own which you don’t have the capital to cultivate. You will now come there with other workers from other places.
Just like the Awolowo government tried to do during the UPN days between 1979 and 1983, which were frustrated by the federal government of NPN then, Oyo State will be earmarked according to what their land can produce. So if this particular land can produce only yam, we concentrate all our efforts on that yam in that place. If this place can cultivate cotton or cassava, we are going to do just that.
Let me give you something about cotton. Where I grew up in Agugu, there used to be a local textile factory, I think the building has even been taken over by the Police now. At that time in the 80s, there were 180 textile mills in Nigeria with a workforce of 3,000 people. Imagine if they have not killed that industry? That number would have increased about over three million now. That is no longer there. Now, we have only 25 mills. None of them is in this part of the country.
One of the reasons is they don’t have the cotton, we have to revive it.
You have spoken very brilliantly but people may say you are coming out too late. The election is just a year away…
Well. It is not today that people know Michael Folorunsho Lana. What is important is that they know I was attorney general is this state, they knew me then. Now, I am in private practice. So anytime I come out, I believe my race would still be so fast that people would be wondering where I have been?
But recently in the build-up to the installation of the new Olubadan, you came out to remind the governor about some legal issues. Did you do it because you want to run for governor?
As at that time, it didn’t cross my mind until people started reaching out. Even trade unions started calling me. Individuals. Ibadan people in the diaspora. From Texas. From Canada. From South Africa. They started calling me saying that if you can fight for Ibadan tradition like this then you can fight for the ordinary people and that has been my call in my legal profession. Half of the cases I do in this chambers, I do it for free for people who I believe are being oppressed. Over 50 percent of the cases I have here are pro-bono because what I do not want is for anybody to go home crying. I want to be able to remove tears from people’s eyes. I rescue people from police oppression, government oppression, rich men’s oppression. And I can assure that if I become governor, every single land land that has been hijacked from people will be returned within the first three months. I will ensure no one is ever oppressed again.
When I was listening to one of the Orikis ot Ibadan and the lady said ‘Ibadan o nife iyanje’. I said no wonder, so it is part of our oriki. I hate being cheated. I hate being oppressed. And I would never allow anyone to be oppressed when I am governor.
Before coming out to contest, you must have consulted people. People believe you are close to former governor Ladoja. Have you consulted him?
I have not. The reason I have not is that I want to come out first and after that I would go back to do consultation of political leaders. He’ll be my first port of call. He definitely would be. In the last one or two years, I have been his lawyer but don’t want to use that as an advantage because I know other people have come out from his camp. I have to prove myself to him that I am a servant that he can send on an errand and will deliver.
The other time, you said Makinde and those before him have not done what they should have done but Makinde seems to have the masses behind him with the road construction…
Now, this is where we are getting it wrong. Construction of road for just aesthetic reason is not beneficial to people. Oyo State is referred to as a civil servant state like a poor state. Then what are you doing aesthetic roads for. What is the beneficial interest of the people? For instance, there is only one industrial estate in Oyo State — Oluyole estate. Is there a good road there? But that is the road that has economic impacts on people. So many workers are working there but you are not constructing roads there. You are widening the roads at Jericho? Do the people in Jericho say they want their road to be dualized? These are people that want to live in an enclosed place. And when they realised Jericho has been exposed to security threats, people have abandoned and sold their houses there for fear. It’s one thing to say someone is building roads, it’s another thing to say what is the economic impact of those roads. Are they putting food on people’s table? That’s the first question you should ask in a state like ours.
Look at our roads. Do you see refuse on the road? Yes. And it’s pathetic. This is an hygienic issue that causes cholera and cost lives. You have not stopped that. Look at schools. Have they been funded? The things that would have impact on people have not been done. But the thing that you’ll show foreigners when they come for party on Saturdays to say Ibadan is beautiful, that’s the only thing you’re doing.