•Says APC, Oshiomhole donated Edo to PDP •
My quarrel with Oshiomhole over cost of roads
By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, who is seeking for re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was in Lagos, on Sunday, where he shared his thoughts with reporters on his achievements, chances, and why the September 19 governorship election must be free and fair.
Your opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, said in 2016 you did not have a programme, four years after you still do not have unlike him that has the SIMPLE Agenda…
Sometimes the political space is interesting because someone can just open his mouth and say nonsense and thinks he is saying something. Okay, you said you have a programme, when you were in government, what did you achieve?
In campaigning for office, you need to say what you will do? That is what he calls his so called simple agenda. He doesn’t know that government is not that simple.
I’m saying what I have done. We worked on a six-point programme. First, building and rebuilding institutions; strengthening governance because without the institutions, without the civil service, without the bureaucracy no matter how beautiful your programmes are there will be no basis to implement them. So, strengthening institutions, including the Judiciary, training and re-training your civil servants. The other plan is social development-the people. Focusing on education and health of the people. So, it is not about coming out to say I will do this, it is about what have you done.
You can see what we have done in education. We went to the core of the problem-basic education, retrained teachers, gave and trained them how to use technology. So, today, our children are learning. Parents are moving their children from private schools back into public schools because I can tell you when a teacher is in school or not. I have a portal and every teacher must log in when he gets into school every day. Those teachers must complete their lesson notes. If they don’t, I can tell that and I can see it. They must take attendance of every child that comes to school. So, we know which child has dropped off school. It is a system that is working. So, it is not “I will do.” You have 12,000 teachers who have been going through this.
You have 300,000 kids who are in the system. So, you can go and check it. The same thing we have done in healthcare- build the primary healthcare centre, focus on the base, introduce technology, when these women go in there, take their records, try understand their health conditions at the beginning not when the thing is serious you begin to treat the chronic conditions. Make sure your community health workers, community nurses are trained to attend to people and get that information upfront.
We also focus on the vulnerable particularly the older people and making sure pensions are paid. We cared about our people before talking about infrastructure.
Today, go and ask Main One, Benin City is the most connected city. There is 400km of fibre around Benin City. No other city has it in this country. We did it in less than a year. People are using it. Talk about roads.
What is the quarrel with Oshiomhole? I cannot build a kilometre of road for a million dollars. Why should I do that? What is there to build in a road? Is it not the graders? Is not the cement? What is there? So, I said no I won’t do that. I used the same contractors, I halved my cost. So, instead of one road, I build two now for the same amount. I mean in most cities how many roads are more than a kilometre? I don’t construct road but I construct communities. So, in terms of infrastructure, we have done much more.
What about electricity? We worked and built our zonal power plant. We partnered with a Chinese company (CCECC). We are talking less and building more and that is what they are not used to in Nigerian politics. You build one toilet, you say it is VIP toilet. The amount you use for commissioning will be more than the cost of the toilet. We don’t do that.
What about our environment? In the last four years, they cut off most of the trees and nobody cared. Edo that is rainforest is now looking like savannah. Now, working with the Federal Government, we just started with 25 million trees having protected areas.
What about agriculture? We collected the money from the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN). We have resuscitated most of the farms-Agbede, Auchiwarake farms and so many others. Go there today and you will see they are all working. We are in partnership with the CBN. I have taken 100,000 hectares and we have now finished the survey. In fact, Central Bank has now approved five companies. Most of them are planting there including Flour Mills; Dufil, people who make noodles, etc, they are all there.
On why best candidates should win elections and his chances
The Nigerian kind of politics is one that is created. Today, in Edo, this is what is on ground: Edo is dearly a PDP state. It has always been. The PDP has won every national election and the APC only won local elections. So, in terms of the political configuration of the state, at best you can say it was 50-50. Who is APC? I am the state governor. (Adams) Oshiomhole does not have control of the APC structure. But, I have it – All the local government chairmen, members of the House and all the councillors. So, in terms of political structure, I believe I have at least 75 per cent of it. So, it is now 75 per cent of APC and 50 per cent of PDP in the new configuration.
Coming to the people, politicians make our noises but at the end of the day, voter turnout is very low in Nigeria because there is very limited connection between the people and the government.
What we have done in Edo in the last four years is remarkable. It is by providing services to people. You now begin to feel a connection with government. I have 300,000 children in my school system. I spend an average of about N16,000 on each of them in Edo Best. The parents, who are poor, are seeing a difference in their children. The teachers are now calling, giving their pupils training.
So, does it mean the parents of the 300,000 children don’t matter? They see a connection with the government and they are getting something now. So, would they just allow it walk away? Would they now not participate? I tell them that If I am not there, those children will not get these services any more because they will take the money.
What about the pensioners? What about the civil servants who knew what their situation was before now? You think they will just keep quiet and allow? Look, in Edo today, I have what is called Ward Development Committees, where in every ward, there are 17 or more men and women who live there and consider themselves as a committee.
You have maybe a priest, a native doctor, a teacher, a retired teacher, a retired nurse and so many others. People just live in the community, meet regularly and I have asked them to talk about and bring up issues because the local governments are not strong. They do let me know what their priorities are. And I have them across the state. And the amount of digital penetration is amazing. What about my school-based management committees? My view in all of these is that if all don’t matter in the political system and these guys have enough instrument of arms to come and rig out the majority, then it is unfortunate for the system.
However, I can assure you that Nigeria will never be the same because Edo is not in the extreme. It is a connecting point. Wth the crisis and tension in the country, anything that sparks in Edo, only God knows the effect.
So, I hope and pray that people are sensible enough to know that with the level of digital penetration; with the effect of COVID-19, we must now begin to think and act properly. I am now in PDP. It is not like those days. There is a structure at the moment. Do they want to retain me in Government House? I believe so. Do the people who are in APC want me to still be there? I believe so. So, who are these opposition? The opposition is that tiny army of Oshiomole’s boys, not major political players of repute.
Do you think you are capable of taming politics of violence because those boys you just talked about have a role to play on Election Day?
We will not talk about that. Nobody has monopoly of violence. With Edo coming into PDP, the South-South is full completely.
On allegations of APC using Federal Might and whether votes will count
That is what we are saying. If we want this democracy to survive, don’t play games with Edo’s election because the moments are different. This is not a general election. It is a sole day election. So, everybody will be watching. And if we need anything in Nigeria today, we need a smack of credibility. So, I don’t believe people in Abuja are that dumb and crazy not to understand the danger and the crisis we will face if they don’t allow the votes count and militarise the election. In any case, the feedback is why should they do it? It is not like I willingly left APC. APC donated Edo to PDP. Oshiomole donated Edo to PDP. So, would they now come and fight and quarrel with us? No. They should rather fight with the man who decided to give away seven states.
You saw what they did in Imo and that of the Kogi. How prepared are you?
What I am saying is that as a governor of a state, it is not my style to begin to talk about violence and all of that. But, I want to say that they should be sensible not to try it because unlike other states Edo is in the middle of the country and any crisis in Edo today will have a major effect on other states in the country.
Your opponents have been saying that you have nothing on ground, including your certificate…
I think it is about the press really because someone who comes out in Nigeria and tells a very obvious lie and you are listening and saying okay. How can you even talk about my certificate when the university that issued it has come out itself to say that this person graduated this year and the person is saying he has issues with my certificate? So, what do you want me to do?
He said I have done nothing and that there is nothing on ground. All the teachers’ unions are saying well done for transforming education in Nigeria. But, they are saying we have done nothing. You see it is the old politics- just tell the lie repeatedly and it will stick but this country is different now. It is about us getting stakeholders on the table. This democracy is now 21 years. The old politics of just go and tell a lie and continue to repeat the lie in the age of technology is uncalled for.
People are not stupid and foolish. Before they said it doesn’t matter but now, it matters because of COVID-19. If you look at that young man or young woman who used to run after vehicles to sell to chin-chin, today, he is cannot any more. And you think the person will just sit down? It can’t happen. We should be very careful about this country.
See the incident of ‘’I cannot breathe’’ in America despite its development. They are choking the whole population. Now, it matters we should very active. If I didn’t do the things we did to remove the choke, people would not have come back and invest in Edo. And it is those investments that are creating job opportunities. We have four Chinese companies. In fact, when we came in, they were two. Now, they are four and two more are coming. Everything in this room today can be manufactured in Edo. We have glass, ceramic tiles, doors, sanitary fittings because we have electricity-we are an electricity hub.
What is your relationship with Senator Bola Tinubu of the APC?
He is our father. We owe so much to him. I believe when you have a father that has done so well and helped propagate a new system, you should really pull back and see what he has created naturally. So, my relationship with him is not different from what it had been.
But, your slogan ‘Edo no be Lagos?’
The reason for the slogan “Edo no be Lagos” was when Oshiomole’s boys started the nonsense in Abuja, they said they were going to give me the Ambode treatment (denying me second term as was done former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos). That happened in Lagos, not in Edo.