Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state, in this interview, declared that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will win Wednesday’s governorship election, asserting that the recession will not affect the result of the election, as Nigerians, particularly the people of the state, are aware that the PDP squandered the nation’s riches which led the country into recession. 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. Before we tell the people what the next APC government will do, we have a duty to account for the support, the mandate they have given us these past eight years. Then we tell them, when the PDP come to ask them what they have built in this ward 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 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 the doubt.” Even at that as you know, Edo people said from our father, the Oba of Benin, the Enigies, the Ohens, to the ordinary man on the street, they said the General may be good but the man we already know is better. So, if PDP had brought a new face, they might 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 centre of PDP misrule throughout the tenure of the PDP in this state. He was Secretary to the State Government, 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 any 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 Igbinedion was the flying governor and they know the outcome. The key issue in this election is that our people want continuity of the Ogbemudia, Oyegun, Oshiomhole and then Obaseki legacies, which have 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 who 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 the chief security officers, we don’t control the army, police or the SSS. But I think the point made by security agencies call for the postponement, which many people did not listen to due to their fixation, was that they had committed themselves to deploying as many 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 for the election. Secondly, there 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 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, has 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, IkpbaOkhai, Ovia South- West and they were apprehended.
Secondly, 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 corps members 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 corps members 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 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 is expired and other ID cards. He is not from Edo State; none of them is from here. They came into the state at about 1:00 a.m. and 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 and one man one vote will prevail and we will defeat them.
You have been fighting the Edo political godfathers, now you say they are after you in this election. How successful is your war against godfatherism so far; because some are now saying you are attempting to become the new godfather.
I believe my war against godfatherism 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 Igbinedion had to do plea bargain and because he has been caught. So, if he says that his family wants to bring another potential convict to come and govern the state because for me, they have made our job much easier and 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 training and my background, to fighting those who think that it is their birth right to feast of 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. 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 intensions and that is what this struggle is all about. We will ensure that the resources of the Edo 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 Enogiefor support, that they should not allow me to cause them shame as an Esanelder. 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 primary schools in Ekpoma; he has built secondary schools there, constructed road linking Irrua to Usigbenue, to Ugbegun, UgbegunUjuoba, 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 Tom Ikimi. We thank God that he has returned to where he belongs. He said he was cheated and frustrated out of PDP and he joined APC. And when he wanted to be national chairman of APC, 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 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…?
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 the 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 and thugs, but we are waiting. This is going to be the final burial of PDP 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 my deputy and I 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 in the state is 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 President Muhammadu Buhari inherited. But President Buhari was reluctant 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 and 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 once that has happened, the price of anything that is imported goes up correspondingly.
So, you cannot blame this government for the 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 our in-flow of forex and our out flow, our 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 earning 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….
So, you cannot but locate the foundation of this problem from the looting which even these same people had pointed out that Sanusi raised the alarm about billions of dollars that were never accounted for under the PDP. And you know for raising that alarm, he was punished and removed as CBN governor. What Sanusi did not know then was that money was taken from CBN directly to the NSA’s office and shared to PDP leaders and they are all confessing today. 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 in Edo is that among those who participated in the sharing of the money from the CBN you had the PDP candidate and the godfathers 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 reminded them that this is a state election not a federal election and the price of food in Edo is not higher than the price of food in Asaba or Rivers, Bayelsa or AkwaIbom. The issue in this election in terms of the recession is that the poverty in our subregion is worst in PDP-controlled states. But in Edo, 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. 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 other states. Today, you see teachers, workers endorsing Obaseki because they recalled that during the PDP government, 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 Obasekias governor after my tenure.