In this media chat, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, speaks on this week’s governorship election, declaring that it will be a time to reward the APC-led government for it’s numerous development projects across the state. He also speaks on the security issues that led to a shift in the election date. Olaseni Durojaiye brings excerpts
How prepared is your party for Wednesday’s governorship election?
We have been prepared long ago. Actually we had what we call our final mega rally on the 6th of September because for us we were ready for the 10th. Even the postponement was more of additional challenge for us. I believe people have already formed opinion as to what they will do.
I have gone round the state and everywhere we have gone to, what has made our campaign easy, which is the burden that the PDP has, is that there is no ward in this state, the 192 wards, where we are not able to list the projects that we have done. The question I ask, before we tell you what the next APC government will do, we have a duty to account for the support, the mandate you have given us these past eight years. Then we tell them, when the PDP come to you ask them what they have built in this wards or Local Government.
The truth is the PDP leaders are not able to point at any existing project that they have in any ward, local government or senatorial district. They may have been able to escape defeat, assuming they have fielded a candidate who is not known to the people. You remember in 2012 when General Airiavbere was their candidate, they were saying new PDP, they were able to say it was a new PDP because their candidate then was new, so the people may just have said let’s give their candidate a benefit of doubt. Even at that as you know, Edo people said look, from our father the Oba of Benin, the Enigies, the Ohens, to the ordinary man on the street, they said well this general may be good but the man we already know, is better.
So if PDP had brought a new face, they may have had the basis to interrogate whether this new face will change the face of the PDP. Happily for us and very sadly for them, they brought a candidate who was at the center of PDP misrule through out the tenure of the PDP in this state. He was SSG, Chief of staff, and anybody who was up to the age of 14 at that time, would have very good memories about the disaster that PDP and Ize-Iyamu represent in Edo State.
But you’ve said all these about the PDP, what makes you any different from the Nigerian politician?
On our side, they can see what we have done and also the fact that our own candidate is not a stranger in government and we are not just picking him from the road to go and lead us. He has been at the heart of the basis of progress in my government. Our candidate was the Head of our Economic Team, so from day one till today he has been the brain box. So you will, on one hand, look at APC and our track record and PDP and their disastrous record, look at the fact that Ize-Iyamu was central to the PDP administration under Lucky Igbinedion.
Everybody in this state knows that Ize-Iyamu was the resident governor while Lucky Igbinedion was the flying governor and they know the outcome. The two key issues in this election is that our people want continuity of the Ogbemudia, Oyegun, Oshiomhole and then Obaseki legacies which has brought light to our people and not that of Ize-Iyamu and his band of home based and Abuja based godfathers, including but not limited to Gabriel Igbinedion, Lucky Igbinedion and then their boy Ize-Iyamu which will bring darkness. And the reasons are quite clear.
Security was the key reason the INEC gave and, therefore, decided to shift the election to 28th September, do you think those concerns have been taken care of?
Though governors are chief security officers but we don’t control the army, police or the SSS. But I think the point made by security agencies for the postponement, which many people did not listen to due to their fixation, I think they were trying to say that they have committed themselves to deploying as much as 24,000 policemen to Edo state for the election. To do that they had to mop them from other parts of the country and if you have a Sallah holiday, you will have to secure those areas Muslims do their prayers and if you do that you may not have the numbers to secure Edo State for the election. Secondly, their is nobody who does not know that over the past four years, during such holidays, Boko Haram wants to destroy to make a point.
But the issue of militants….
Now there are two issues here, why do they have to import militants?
They’ve denied that. They said they did not import militants?
That is what they will say. They went for the militants’ option because all the youths they had used over the years for thuggery, through the opportunities we created for these youths to get engaged, all of them have left the PDP. The PDP infantry division which they have over the years used to cause destruction, have left them. Because the boys know those who used them in the past and do not want to see them again, they now had to go outside the state to import militants to come and fight for them and undermine security.
And for those who have doubt, recent events have confirmed this. Under the former Commissioner of Police, Ezike, some militants who came from Delta and Rivers were arrested. They came to register for the purpose of violence in Orhiomwon, Ikpba Okhai, Ovia South West and they were apprehended. Number two: We raised concern about the collaboration between some Electoral Officers and PDP leadership. Again as we speak, during the registration some EOs were found at the residence of some PDP leaders with Data Capturing machines, coercing youth corpers to carry out illegal registration not only of militants but to distort the voters register.
Again as we speak, some of them were arrested and as we speak one has been remanded in prison with the EO because the youth corper confessed that he was kidnapped by this PDP leader and forced to his residence in collaboration with the EO. So these are no longer speculations, they are facts. Last week, at Ologbo about four militants came in, again security agencies apprehended some of them and as we speak they are in prison awaiting trial.
Three days ago, the DSS got intelligence and they picked up a number of militants from different parts of the country who came in two buses, all tinted buses. And one of the buses was registered in Delta State which confirms my point that militants are coming-in from there. Very very significantly, one of them has been confirmed to be one of those on the wanted list of the Nigerian Army. And they found with him a military ID card which was expired and other ID cards.
He is not from Edo State, none of them is from here. They came into the state at about 1am and were quartered in a hotel. PDP leaders are making phone calls explaining to security agencies to insist that these people be released, that they are journalists. But my worry is that are these politicians NUJ members to ask for the release of journalists, according to them? By the special Grace of God, they will be neutralised. By the special grace of God one man one vote will prevail and we will defeat them.
You have been fighting the Edo political god fathers, now you say they are after you in this election, how successful is this your war against god fatherism so far; because some are now saying you are attempting to become the new godfather?
I believe my war against god fatherism has been won and lost. The fact that today the opprobrium and angst against Igbinedion on the street of Benin, on the streets of Esan land, in Edo North is proof that they have been defeated. The Igbiendion family which according to the former governor boasted that they will produce the next governor sounds funny because Nigerians know that Lucky Igbinedion had to do plea bargain and you only do plea bargain because you’ve been caught; so if he says that his family wants to bring another potential convict to come and govern because for me they have made our job much easier because that is the point I have always made. For me there is nothing personal against anybody, I do not have anything personal.
But I am committed even by my training and my background, to fight those who think that it is their birth right to feast on the blood of others, to privatise the people’s common patrimony. But I think Edo people are now aware of the real reason why they are campaigning. Lucky Igbinedion said a member of his family will be the next governor in the person of Ize-Iyamu and they also have this plan of making igbinedion’s birthday a state event if they come into government. And I think they have for once exposed their inner intentions and that is what this struggle is all about – that the resources of the Edo state government will never again be used for the comfort of one family. It must be used not for the pleasure of the godfathers but for the development of Edo state.
The other godfather from Esanland went to the Enogie for support, that they should not allow me to cause them shame as an Esan elder. The Enogie reminded the Chief that when Ekpoma produced Ambrose Ali he collaborated with others to remove Ali as governor. He also asked Onolemenme that as Minister of Works, you have never visited any Enigie in Esanland and the only small job you did was only in Uromi. That you did not see Ekpoma as part of Esanland, you did not see Opoji as part of Esanland, you did not see Irrua or Ewohimi as part of Esanland but the Comrade you said marginalised us constructed a major road in Ekpoma, we have built several primaries schools in Ekpoma; he has built secondary schools there, constructed road linking Irrua to Usigbenue, to Ugbegun, Ugbegun Ujuoba, Igueben to Ewohimi, Ewihinmi to Ohordua, Ohordua to Emu. We have provided water in Ekpoma, Iruekpen even in Anenih’s village Uzenema.
Then you go to the other man, Chief Ikimi. We thank God that he has returned to where he belonged because he was in PDP. He said he was cheated and frustrated out of PDP and he joined APC. And because he wanted to be national chairman of APC but everybody in APC said no. When he was the leader of our party in Esanland, our party was never able to win Igueben where he comes from. We have always lost there because of his one-man show. The moment he left for PDP, we have continued to win election in Igueben. Today he is being represented in the House of Assembly by APC lawmaker. Today we have connected Igueben to several communities. The reason why these people are after us is that we refused to make governance a personal property of these politicians because that is what they have always done and that is why the state was never developed.
Chief Ogbemudia recently endorsed Obaseki but…?
(cuts in) The only person you cannot discredit as a leader is Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia. He is an outstanding elder you must respect on account of his own record of having laid foundation for the old Bendel State. That is the only person who can speak with his pedigree. And for me it is not a coincidence when Ogbemudia said he is withdrawing from politics, he knows the qualities of a governor that can make a difference in the life of a state and he has openly endorsed Obaseki because of what he knows about him.
For me, this is the easiest election we are going to have and I have no doubt that Edo will punish them for their crime against Edo people. We have heard they are planning to rig by using fake result sheets, using thugs but we are waiting. This is going to be the final burial of PDP. Their final burial will take place on the 28th and our sons and daughters will participate in this burial with their PVCs. I am in the best of shape, I am ready. They even lied that I was fighting with my deputy, but I and my deputy have been campaigning together. But in PDP, Ize-Iyamu and Iduoriyekemwen cannot see eye to eye and even most of their leaders are not with him. We are not even sure even as we speak who is the actual candidate of the PDP but the court will decide that.
But there is this fear among APC members that the current recession may affect your party in this election, don’t you have such fears?
It will not affect us because Nigerians understand the root cause of the present economic recession. The PDP here are using that against us but it will not work. If you look at the argument, I have listened to most people and commentators about the economy, one of the things they blame the Federal government for including the Emir of Kano, is that the Federal government delayed the devaluation of the naira, that they should have allowed the naira to start floating immediately they came in because they knew that the economic fundamentals could not sustain the official exchange rate that General Buhari inherited. But President Buhari was relunctant to oblige these proponents of devaluation because he knew what the immediate consequences will be, namely that when an economy is so hopelessly dependent on imported food, when you devalue the currency, the price of imported items including rice will go up and that is what has happened.
Now after pressure from these economists, the CBN caved in and the naira was floated and it suffered heavy devaluation. And ones that has happened, anything that is imported, the price goes up correspondingly. So you cannot blame this government for this high cost of product because it is the result of the devaluation which across the divide, the establishment economists have argued that the naira should be devalued. Because they argued and I believe correctly that because of the huge gap between your in-flow of forex and your out flow, your in-flow has dropped considerably not only courtesy of the drop in oil price but compounded by the sabotage of our pipelines which affects not just the price but also your volume.
When your foreign earnings is far less than your import, there is a lot of pressure on the exchange rate and if you refuse to devalue and you allocate dollars to bankers, the banker simply sells the dollar at the black market rate. So the government earns revenue at the official rate and transfer wealth to bankers and others who have access to official allocation to collect rent.
They also argued that by not devaluing, those who get forex for the purpose of importing raw materials found that it is better to divert the forex to black market and earn money without effort rather than importing the raw materials which was the primary purpose for bidding for the exchange rate. So in bowing to this public pressure from various economists of both side of the divide, the naira went into a fluctuating regime which has led to huge devaluation and of course the consequence is that anything you import the price goes up to the extent of the devaluation.
Devaluation is not PDP’s problem but that of this….
(Cuts in) So you cannot but locate the foundation of this problem from the looting which even these same people had pointed out that Sanusi raised alarm about billions of dollars that were never accounted for under the PDP. And you know for raising that alarm he was punished and was removed as CBN governor… So we are explaining to the people – and this is the truth – that the PDP created this problem with their looting. What is more interesting for us here in Edo is that among those who participated in the sharing of the money from the CBN you had the PDP candidate here and the god fathers who are behind the candidate. So they cannot delete themselves from the crisis. These people are refunding money as I speak to you.
Also importantly, we remind them that this is a state election not a federal election and the price of food in Edo State is not higher than the price of food in Asaba, or Rivers, Bayelsa or Akwa Ibom. The issue in this election in terms of the recession is that the poverty in our sub region is worst in PDP controlled states because the hardship is more in Delta and other PDP states because their own hardship is compounded by the fact that Delta state is not paying salaries. When they pay they pay level 1-9 and they are owing several months of arrears to their lecturers, they are in default in the payment of primary school teachers, they are in default in the payment of civil servants and of course in the payment of local government employees and pensioners. Now the cumulative effect of the inability of Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa not to pay their workers salaries means that their landlords in those states will not get rents.
And because they are not paying their people salaries the markets in these PDP controlled states have been depressed. But in Edo State we are up to date in the payment of salaries and pensions. We even increased our minimum wage to N25,000 and we are paying. But in Rivers teachers have served Wike notice to shut down, the same thing in Delta state. So if you talk of the impact of the economic recession, Edo is far ahead of the rest of the PDP states in the South South because our economy is booming, people get paid to spend in the markets. Poverty is more endemic in Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa States. And what makes the difference, we receive the least allocation from the federation account in the South South zone.
Secondly, we also receive the least IGR because the oil companies are based in these states in spite of that the PDP states in the South South are serial defaulters in meeting their contractual agreement with their workers even though they are raising money for their PDP candidate in Edo at the expense of the salaries of their employees.
And today, you see teachers, workers endorsing Obaseki because they recalled that during the PDP government here, they sacked over seven thousand workers, closed down Ambrose Ali University for one year so they know the difference and they will reject PDP any day any time. I am very proud to say that Edo is working and Edo will continue to work with Godwin as governor after my tenure. Our people know who caused their problem – the PDP.