Ogbomoso-born Professor and a Registered Civil Engineer with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN), Rapheal Afonja, has said that his vision for Oyo state aligns with that of the state governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, that is why he left the United States to accept the nomination to be a commissioner in the state.
Afonja who is also a Mitigation Specialist said this on Thursday while speaking with insideoyo.com in Ibadan, the state capital.
He also said that the desire to give back to people of his fatherland the same way he has given back to the United States made him to accept the nomination.
“I believe I have really served in the United States. I have done alot. They have given me opportunities and I have given back. So I saw the need to come back home to my fatherland and give back. I believe in service to humanity. I came home in 2016 after I lost my mother. I saw people that came for the funeral. I saw their state of minds and how they are really struggling. That gave me more of sympathy towards people around me and I said I need to come home and give back.
“Giving back for me requires me to partake in politics. Not just talking about things but coming up with actionable ideas. That was why I established ICARE, a Non-profit Organization which focuses on Women Empowerment, Education Sector, Medical Outreach and Security. Those are the four major areas that I feel like there are overlaps. My families are in the US. They know that I am on a mission which is service to humanity.
“I have worked at the Federal level, state level and the local level. So I felt like some of these skills I have actually gathered, I can actually add value to people if I join politics whereby I can be a policy maker. And I am glad at this point to be part of an executive government whereby I can also have an immediate impact based on the vision of our governor, His Excellency, Engineer Oluwaseyi Makinde. So that is one of the reasons why I came home.” he said.
The Professor of Engineering at City University, New York who has been screened and cleared as a commissioner by the Oyo State House of Assembly also spoke on how he intends to make sure other zones in the state benefit from road construction like the state capital, Ibadan.
“His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde speaks more to Agriculture which means he believes in investing in Agriculture. To invest in Agriculture, it means you need a very good road transport network and like I mentioned during my confirmation hearing, I said that the growth and progress of any community depends on the socio-economic development of the community. So, these farmers or people in Agricultural sector need good roads to basically move their produce from their farm to the urban areas.
“Our goal like I mentioned before while speaking about Rural Agriculture Marketing Project (RAMP) is to source for fund to build new road networks and feeder roads that will be connected to the major roads to move those products to the urban area. So, our job is basically to reach out to all of these areas, make their lifes easy and conducive as possible. We need to start encouraging people to get into Agriculture, only way to do this is to make resources they need available to encourage them” he added.
When asked about his plan on how to make sure indigenes of Oyo state benefit during road constructions, Afonja, the Former CEO of Gamut Engineering and Technology Services said as against the immediate past administration where contractors brought their workers from elsewhere, he will ensure contractors engage the people in their host communities.
“I believe in either the 80 – 20 rule or 70 – 30 rule. Going by His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde’s promise, he promised that all contracts will be awarded to Oyo indigenes. To me, that is a plus. I will recommend to His Excellency that we take it a step further because being an Oyo state indigene doesn’t mean all your workforce are from Oyo. What I am saying is, If a road construction is going on Iseyin, 20% or 30% of the workforce must be from Iseyin. Meaning contractors have to engage the Youth and capable people who are ready to work.
“There are two things that happen when contractors do that. One, contractors put money in people’s pockets. Two, our people get some kind of vocational skills; learning from contractors. Then we talk about Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency. After training these people to learn how to fix roads, when contractors leave with their equipments, we will give the people equipments to work and maintain those roads. So that is a way we can engage our people by training them while they still make money and when contractors leave they continue to make more.” he concluded.