Adibe Emenyonu dialogues with Elder Emman Gold-Idehen, a one-time Special Adviser to the late Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, Governor of the old Bendel State on Project Implementation. Idehen is currently Adviser on Politics to Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, one of the governorship aspirants in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State
Edo governorship primary may hold in less than 60 days all things being equal. What attributes do you think should determine who gets the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket?
In my opinion, the attributes which I think an ideal politician should have are integrity, performance and compassion. People usually refer to politicians as untrustworthy, but we believe that any decent politician must have credibility and integrity. You may ask what I mean by integrity. If I come to you and say am so impressed about what you are doing and I make a promise for you see me tomorrow morning to deliver ‘xyz’ to you based on what I see you do and if you come the next day and I stand by what I told you, that is a man of integrity. So, if people refer to Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi as a man of integrity, it’s a big plus, a man they can trust, if he gives you his word you can take it to the bank. Another aspect is performance in public office. How prepared is the man looking for the job? Take a look at his antecedence and profile of all the four aspirants he is contesting with. Find out what they have done in the past, how have they performed in those positions. If you look at Ogiemwonyi’s CV you will be overwhelmed. As close as I am to him, I can’t remember all the boards he has served. His profile and manifestoe tell you how prepared he is. He did 34 years in NNPC. As a young man from Orhionmwon local government area of Edo state, he went to Western Boys High School, Benin City, by God’s providence he found himself in NNPC, no godfather; he is not Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba nor Ibo. He is from the minority ethnic group. While in NNPC, during the 34 years he spent in upstream production, he was able to distinguish himself. He is the first man in the history of NNPC that has been the Chief Executive of three prominent companies within the conglomerate of NNPC. He was Chief Executive in NAPIMS, Chief Executive in NPDC and Chief Executive in Nigeria Gas Company, NGC. He was sent to NAPIMS to do a clean-up. Before that time, the joint venture companies, Shell, Chevron and Mobil were dictating to NAPIMS which was supposed to be the other way round. But when he got there, he took charge to the extent that it was the body that was wagging the tail and not the other way round. He also told them that over the years they favoured foreigners to the detriment of the people of the South-south geopolitical zone and he told them he was going to give preference to the people of South-south where the resources are sourced from and he was able to invite the indigenes of the catchment areas to benefit from the resources and that earned him the name ‘Mr Local Content’ because of what he was able to do to the advantage of the people. At NPDC, he was the game changer; he increased the production from miserable level within a short period of time to substantial level. It is on record that before the estimated time Mr. President gave to them while at NGC Warri to ensure delivery of gas to the various gas powered electricity stations, they met the deadline. In the history of NNPC, nobody heading these three components at management level has done what Ogiemwonyi has done. He retired as Group Executive Director, Upstream. And within one year of his retirement he was made a Minster of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where he sat at the highest policy making body at the Federal Executive Council. He was seen as somebody that could bring value to the development of this country, which is performance.
Another key factor in determining who gets the ticket again is compassion; you can have integrity but no compassion. You can be the most productive person on earth but when you seek public elective position you need to have compassion and the ability to empathize, see, hear, smell and touch. If you cannot do that, you don’t have business being in public office because at the end of it all if you cannot combine these values and put smile on faces of people then you have failed. His mission is to uplift the living standard of the people because this is something he has done in the past.
He said people call him ‘Mr. Integrity’, ’Mr. Local Content’ but he is more interested in how to impact on the lives of the people and this is in consonance with what he has done in the past. That is why he is seeking to serve as governor of Edo State. As somebody in the middle management level at NNPC, he saw the level of poverty in his community where he grew up, he was then propelled to sink boreholes in all the surrounding communities having encountered a village girl that was blind owing to river blindness. He also built skills acquisition centre, established huge oil palm plantation, church, and made available electricity generating set all from his personal pocket.
Looking at Ogiemwonyi’s background, one would have expected that he will stay away from the murky waters of politics. Why politics for him?
When he retired from the NNPC, there was a grand reception held in his honour in Benin City. The place was filled with dignitaries across the political divide. As a young man that grew up in Benin City, I have never seen that kind of reception in my life aside from the celebrations of Igue Festival where the populace would join the chiefs celebrating and dancing to the Palace of the Oba of Benin. In the Palace, there was another reception for him. The Esogban of Benin Kingdom, Chief D.U Edebiri, spoke glowingly and endlessly about the man Ogiemwonyi. And when he was asked by the monarch why he spoke so passionately he said he was filled with passion for Ogiemwonyi because this is a man we refer to as ‘Mr. Possible when he was in service because his response to requests was, ‘it is possible’. On the other hand, we had sons and daughters in the service that would respond to our request with ‘it is not possible.’ In fact, you must be a super man for the royalty to have a grand reception and a party for you. With all these, somebody asked him since he is loved in Edo why don’t you translate it into politics. So, it is because of the passion and love he has for the people that he joined politics. He said to himself he was not building more houses, or making babies, but he was out to leave a legacy like late General Samuel Ogbemudia, late Professor Ambrose Alli, and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
What do you think are his chances because there are other aspirants in the race for the ticket who are eminently qualified?
His chances are bright. All you have to do like I stated earlier is to look at his profile. I am not condemning anybody, Ogiemwonyi stands out. People say I have not been able to do this or that but when you make me governor I will do this and that. In Ogiemwonyi’s case, he will say, ‘I have done ABC’ even without being a governor and will only add to what I have done when given the opportunity to serve as governor. It is not just being futuristic. The difference is clear. Many people that he couldn’t even remember have walked up to him to thank him on account of how he assisted them in the past. We need someone who can put smiles on the faces of the people. The economy of the country is going through some difficult period. We need an experience somebody who can combine both human and non-human to achieve the optimum.
Some of his critics are of the view that he is too elitist. How do you respond to that?
What is elitist about a young man that started his life in the village? He is from a humble background. He didn’t grow up in the government reservation area of Benin City. He is a home boy. His primary, secondary and university education were all in Benin. In fact, he does more of the local dance than myself. He can fit into any class. If he can dine with the high and mighty, middle class and downtrodden, then he is the kind of man we are looking at for the job.