‘Oshiomhole Did Very Well, Obaseki is Still Far Below Average’

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Adibe Emenyonu has a frank talk with Chris Ogiemwonyi, one of the aspirants who desires to fly the governorship flag of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State in the September 19 governorship election

As one of the aspirant, what are your chances at the All Progressives Congress governorship primary in Edo State?

My chances are very bright. We are a total of six aspirants. Each one of us has his own profile. I pray you have time to go through my profile. I have served both in the private and public sectors. I have put in 35 years. Since I left, I have been into oil and gas consulting. Recently, I ventured into farming. I see myself as a very strong contender for the office of the Governor of Edo State come September 2020.

What are you going to do differently from the present administration?

If I become the governor, what I will first tackle is insecurity. No matter what resources are available for infrastructure when there is no peace and there is no internal security, nobody is going to do anything. I will put lots of resources into providing internal security. Another area I will like to address will be the issue of poverty eradication. That is providing employment for the high level boys and girls that have left the universities. That is what is really on ground. It is so pitiable. Employment rate in Edo is around 25 percent. The other 75 percent are unemployed. I think that is one of the issue causing the high crime rate.

If I become governor, the health sector will receive great attention because you need a living people to carry out jobs. I will put more infrastructure to create preventive measures. With that, we can diagnose early. I like to address mechanized farming. We are blessed in Edo South and we are doing this routine farming. I intend to make farming attractive. The high level of rural-urban migration is something I will fixed. I will move the youths back to the rural areas.

I will provide for them what is available in the cities, like electricity. Most of our villages don’t have electricity. I will make sure the various local government workers stay in their place of work. I am proposing to build more model schools. My formative years was with friends from across the state. I will consult in different areas. Solid minerals is available in Edo. There is so much we are going to do. You will see more in my 10-point agenda. I have added the physically challenged to my agenda.

What is giving you strength to carry on after the events of 2016?

It is love for my people. If you are doing what you love, nothing stresses you. I see the pains of the people. If we don’t come to assist them, you will see a pregnant woman flirting. It is painful. People will go out of their way to do what they never imagined just to feed. What is making me strong is that I have empathy, I have passion for the people. The level of poverty in Edo South will cause you to support them. I want to see how I can bring them out of their present level to a comfortable level and make them happy. I believe in sharing.

Edo APC crisis is getting out of hand, what solution do you proffer?

APC will be stronger tomorrow. We have internal mechanism to resolve these issues. I must commend Adams Oshiomhole for his steadfastness and maturity. They have set up about three committees to resolve the crisis, but the state has not shown enthusiasm to welcome them. Recently, we the aspirants had to tell the committee to come and visit us for peace. We are prepared to receive them. We are welcoming the Senator Lawan Committee. We are desperately looking for peace in Edo. I know Governor Obaseki will heed our plea because in the absence of peace, not much can be achieved. The National Chairman has made it clear that he has no problem with Obaseki. He cannot destroy what he put there. Adams brought in Godwin. Peace is coming gradually. We are praying for the Governor to let peace reign.

If you become governor, will you probe your predecessor?

I am a different aspirant. I am coming here with 34 years of public life. I was Managing Director in NNPC in three of the most strategic components. We see government as a continuum. We don’t call for probe. If I become governor, I will continue where Obaseki left. I don’t believe in probe. It is a waste of time and resources.

What will be your next step if you fail to secure the APC ticket?

Before now, we had an accord. Myself, Odubu and Airhiavbere met in Abuja and took a decision that the best option is to work together as a team and procure one ticket. We will all support that candidate. We were lucky Odubu got something and he grabbed it. Before that process came to a conclusion, Pastor Ize-Iyamu came to meet us and we told him about the process. I hear we have two other aspirants. Four of us have agreed to work together. There is nothing we cannot share. God has been good to each of us. It is just the need to serve our people. Ize-Iyamu was a former Secretary to government, Odubu was a former Deputy Governor, Airhiavbere was a former Pay Master of the Nigerian Army. I was public servant. So, we are all okay. We will sustain that accord.

What kind of primary are you expecting for the governorship election in September?

The type of primary we expect is that which the party decides. The party has said it is direct primary and not the delegate system. It is clearly a party affair and they have made that decision. We are going there urging our supporters to have their membership cards and go and chose the aspirant they want as their candidate.

There are talks about anointed candidate from Abuja. How true is that?

APC is a democratic party. We believe the people will make the decision. You knew me in 2016, I didn’t believe there was an anointed candidate. The beauty of public service is that we believe in orders. It is like the military. I have not heard of an anointed candidate. I have been working since November last year. We are canvassing for votes. We are a well organised party.

How will you assess Obaseki compared to Oshiomhole?

I have tried not to compare because the two of them are my friends. It is the performance of Oshiomhole that dragged me into the APC. I was a Minister under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I left the PDP when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power. I took the risk of leaving a ruling party that time to join a regional party in 2014. Four former ministers called me to ask what I was doing. I took that risk because of Oshiomhole. I love that man because of his courage. I joined APC because of the things Oshiomhole was doing in this state vis-a-vis the one before him. When I went to Okpekpe, Iyamho University, I decided to join the APC.

The Federal Government tried to probe me when I joined the APC. Oshiomhole really transformed Edo State. The Bénin Storm Water is not just a three-year programme. There should have been a continuation. Look at the Red Roof Revolution in the education sector. I cried the day I saw rain water leaking on patients in the Bénin Central Hospital. I also went to a primary school where it was raining through the roof in the classrooms. If such places are in Bénin, what will be the situation of schools and hospitals in the rural areas? I score Oshiomhole eight over ten in terms of performance in infrastructure. See the highway that was built. I believe in competence and not tribalism. After Ogbemudia, I see Oshiomhole as the Best Governor. Obaseki has the capacity to perform, but he is tackling too many things at the same time. There are too many MoUs- Industrial Park, Gelegele and others. He has become a master of none. That is why I score him low in performance. He should engage strong people who are project consultants not these ‘small, small boys.’ If he consults me and pays the price, I know what to tell him. Oshiomhole did very well, while Godwin is still far below average.

What is your take on the agitation for regional police like Amotekun?

Before now I was an advocate of state police. The practicality of it is, however, proving negative. I used to support state police because they will be close to the people. But since ‘Wabaizigan’ attacked 14 members-elect at a hotel in Edo, I changed my mind. It is really unfortunate that people duly elected will be attacked accompanied by the CSO to the Governor. I am going to have a rethink on state police. They attacked Inegbeneki at home. They attacked Lawrence Okah’s home. They attacked Idahagbon’s home. What I will do is to commence a probe to investigate what is going on that will make the people have confidence that the government is showing concerned, but nothing is happening. This is the first time in the politics of Edo that we are using bombs and it is a bad development and the consequence is going to scare away investors.

It means if I build a five-star hotel here, you can drop a bomb there. It is a new concept of terrorism. If others copied it, terrorism will start in Nigeria. We better nip it in the bud. The governor should wake up and institute a high powered probe into happenings in the state. If he does, it he would earn our respect. If he is quiet I hope people will not conclude he is part of it. Something sacrilegious happened in Benin. We in Benin do not destroy houses built by people. In broad day light, Tony Kabaka’s hotel was brought down. When the same Kabaka worked for him in 2016 to elect him as a governor he was a good man. But because Kabaka is taking a different view, he is now an opponent. Those boys were emperors that time. We must nip these explosives in the bud because I am afraid. People now go out with policemen. It is an index of insecurity. We should abolish ‘Wabaizigan’ in Edo. They are anti-people and unfriendly. They are used to oppress people and they are being paid by tax papers.

As one who worked in the oil industry for more than three decades, why is the Petroleum Industry Bill going through difficulties? In your opinion, what should be the best approach?

When it comes to things of consulting, I don’t dabble into it. The earlier we learn to appoint people that have the capacity and experience to man the oil industry the better. Time has come for us to use the best brains in the industry. The PIB under Dr. Lukman, was pushed it to a point for approval. You cannot give what you don’t have. Between 2001 and 2003, there was a project brought to me. The Escravos Gas delivery project. It was worth $1.8 billion. As they were bringing it to me, my manager, Andy Yakubu, said the same job was done for UAE for $900 million. Why are they now asking for twice the amount here. I agreed to approve for $1.3 billion to take care of dredging, sand filling and other things but Chevron said no. They made it personal against me. In 2007, I became the GED Upstream, the paper came to my table again and this time it was $8 billion. Go and ask at what price the project was approved. I fought for this country in the oil and gas industry. If they want to address the PIB, they should give it to experts like us and we know what to do.

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We have internal mechanism to resolve these issues. I must commend Adams Oshiomhole for his steadfastness and maturity. They have set up about three committees to resolve the crisis, but the state has not shown enthusiasm to welcome them. Recently, we the aspirants had to tell the committee to come and visit us for peace. We are prepared to receive them. We are welcoming the Senator Lawan Committee. We are desperately looking for peace in Edo. I know Governor Obaseki will heed our plea because in the absence of peace, not much can be achieved. The National Chairman has made it clear that he has no problem with Obaseki. He cannot destroy what he put there. Adams brought in Godwin. Peace is coming gradually. We are praying for the Governor to let peace reign