… They didn’t help me become governor
… Says he never saw his predecessor as his godfather
… “I called people, raised money and helped him become governor.”
… Explain: Oshiomhole ‘corresponded to me and helped me’ to succeed him
… In the inauguration of the “night” of the House: I did not participate
… Next poll: I am sure of victory. 80% of the voters behind me
By Yinka Ajayi
Ahead of the Sept. 19 gubernatorial election in Edo state, the battle for the soul of the state is raging.
The battle, primarily, is between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole is supporting the candidate of the Congress of All Progressives (APC) in the elections, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, while Obaseki seeks re-election on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, Obaseki opens up about the dispute between him and his predecessor and his chances at the polls. Excerpts:
Can you tell us why the people of Edo should be re-elected?
When I took office, I had a social contract with my people and the underlying principle of that contract is to work for them and protect their interests. To put your interest, hopes, and aspirations first, they underpinned my administration’s focus.
For the past three years and nine months, by the grace of Almighty God and the support of my people, I have done everything I can to defend their interest. Consequently, I believe that my people have come together in great numbers to support me, assuring me that they would come out en masse to re-elect me on September 19.
When and why did you quarrel with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole?
When I became governor, we understood how we were going to run the state. We had agreed to end the use of non-state actors in revenue collection. These people had been harassing women in the markets. We had young men who did not respect the Enigies and Onogies; They seized the assets of the land and sold a parcel to three or five people. They were armed and were a nuisance. Some people also came and promised youth jobs abroad, only for the youth to take trips to Europe via Libya and the Mediterranean Sea. The whole place was fraught with crisis. Nobody wanted to come to Edo to invest. I said that we couldn’t continue this way. We needed to change the status quo. I banned the thugs (agberos) from the roads and markets and made sure they stopped harassing market women and other people in Edo. But some of the leaders (APC) said that they would not accept any of that because, according to them, they helped me take office. They didn’t help me. People voted for me and God helped me.
Regarding the distribution of state money, I insisted that we use the money for the people and change their lives with it. Crude oil prices were and remain low. There was a lot to do. The debts had accumulated. There was work on the ground to be done and if we used the available funds to entertain politicians, there would be nothing left to work for the people.
I told them no. I came to serve God and my people. Whatever is available to us, we would handle it to make it work for the people. And today, many of our people are happy. Pensioners receive their pay at the end of each month. They no longer protest.
By the time I took office, they were always on Ring Road in black clothes, crying because they hadn’t been paid. They are older people with families. I asked, how would we be sharing money in government if we have not addressed this kind of challenge? I came to work pro bono for the government for seven years. Oshiomhole said this. I don’t see him as my godfather. He helped me as I helped him even before he became governor. I called people, raised money, and helped him become governor.
That relationship is not a godfather-godchild relationship. When I told him I wanted to run for office, he reciprocated and helped me. We moved together to campaign. I bet my money and got friends to finance my election. He did not pick me up on the road, he gave me clothes and took me to the Government House.
That was not the case. From what he did from the moment he became APC National President, he didn’t seem like the same person he worked with before. It also shows that he had been hiding these trends from us before. When we analyzed his actions, we realized that this was what he meant when he was fighting with the godparents. He called the late Tony Anenih his godfather and talked a lot about him. We agreed with him. The moment he became the national president, he became worse than a godfather; became a political bully. No one could talk about where he was.
You personally oversaw the vandalism of the State House of Assembly complex in the name of wanting to renovate it, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of many. Why did you do that?
First, it must recognize the principle of separation of powers between the legislative and the executive. So it is wrong to give the impression that it is the executive who makes the decision for the legislature. Long before these people, whose seats were declared vacant, made the illegal move of attempting a coup, lawmakers had moved their session to the old Legislative Chamber as a result of the need to maintain the Anthony Enahoro Complex.
Perhaps it was because the complex was inactive due to the slow start of maintenance, that these individuals attempted to carry out the desecration of democracy. That would probably be the reason why the legislators accelerated the renovation process of the place to avoid this type of illegal activity. In essence, the action of these lawless individuals could have motivated House leaders to accelerate renovation work at the complex. In any case, it must be said that even this decision to accelerate work on the complex was not made by me, but by the House of Assembly led by the President, Rt. Hon. Francis Okiye.
His nocturnal proclamation and the subsequent inauguration of nine members of the 24-member Assembly triggered the crisis in the state. Why was it necessary to secretly exclude others?
You may need some enlightenment on what a proclamation really is. A proclamation is a document issued by the governor that provides the legal basis for the inaugural session of a legislative chamber. So the conversation about the nightly proclamation doesn’t really come up. The facts are that I issued a proclamation and the House sat down and elected its top officials and all the other elected members were subsequently invited by their colleagues to take the oath.
They were kept away from the post at the instruction of their godfather, who transferred them to Abuja. They refused to come represent their constituents who voted them to provide legislative representation. Again, you may need to reiterate here that you need to understand the principle of separation of powers between the executive and the legislative.
Although I issued the proclamation in accordance with the provisions of our Constitution, the House of Assembly independently made the decision to hold the inaugural session. It may also be worth mentioning here that the proclamation I issued has been validated by a court ruling in application no. PHC / PH / CS / 159/19: H.E. Yekini O. Idiaye and Anor v. Secretary of the National Assembly and 5 Ors, where the Federal High Court based in Port Harcourt rendered a final judgment on September 12, 2019 and held that the Edo State House of Assembly was duly inaugurated on June 17, 2019 and that the Chamber is seated and fulfilling its functions.
Let’s talk about the refinery project you embarked on. In what stage is the project now? What is delaying completion?
We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a private sector investor in the Edo refinery and petrochemical project. The project is more than 70 percent complete. We contribute N700m as a support fund to the project to accelerate its completion. The pace of work has been phenomenal. We are excited that the government has achieved this noble milestone in such a short time.
Recently, the Presidency sent emissaries to Edo to inspect the project and get a first-hand assessment of the level of work done and they were impressed with what they saw and the extent to which local content contributed to the realization of the project.
The project is designed in such a way that it houses a manufacturing yard that would be a training ground for youth in Edo and would create local capacity for the construction and installation of refineries. The memorandum of understanding with the Chinese consortium working on the project also includes a clause for the construction of a Petroleum Engineering Department at Ambrose Alli University state university to deepen my administration’s local content in the oil and gas industry. .
One of the accusations against him is that he did not complete some of the projects started by his predecessor in office. Is this true? If so, why?
This is absolutely false. Most of the projects from the previous administration are the result of my work as President of the Economic Team in the previous administration, and we continue many of them. In some cases where some of these projects were not being properly executed, some structural adjustments were made to correct them and ensure sustainability.
He is also accused of leaving the port of Gelegele, which is said to have become a den of kidnappings …
They were also saying this about the Edo Modular Refinery, the 55MW Ossiomo Standalone Power Plant, until they were impressed by the evidence on the ground. These people don’t know how big projects come about. They think that great projects come out of the ground; there are many things to do to start the project. Many things happen in the life cycle of a project. In the case of the river port in Benin, which they call the port of Gelegele, the project is well under way.
The infrastructure required for the project, such as preliminary studies and development of arterial roads, are underway. Ekewan Road, which is the main artery of Benin’s river port, is dualizing to accommodate the anticipated heavy vehicle traffic. Other regulatory approvals are also being sought, and huge strides are being made on them. We are sure that when the project goes live, the opposition will also rise up in protest that the project belongs to someone else, as is now said about the Edo Modular Refinery and the Ossiomo IPP.
Others said that you rule with an iron hand. You are intolerant of other people’s opinions …
We believe that people should be allowed to judge the character of the person they employ. I serve over four million Edo people. I care more about how they feel and not the judgment of some people who say this because we have refused to open the people’s treasure to them. People know that we are serving them. We are human and we have a human face. We have freed them from thugs, oppressive extortionists and others who used to take advantage of people. It is these few people, these oppressors, from whom we have liberated our people, who are complaining.
His opponents said that while he is good at signing Memorandums of Understanding, his government does not always turn these Memorandums of Understanding into concrete projects. This is so?
There are numerous projects that we have delivered in the last three years and nine months with our MOUs, which is the initial step that any serious government uses to engage private investors and development partners for project development. Some of the projects we have executed through MOUs include the state broadband network infrastructure project, for which a MOU was signed with MainOne, the leading cable company in Nigeria, for the laying of 400 km fiber optic cables to boost Internet connectivity. This, among other things, would boost the state’s technological ecosystem. We also have the MoU between Mixta Africa and the Edo Development and Property Agency (EDPA) on behalf of the state government, for the development of the 1,451-unit Emotan Garden Estate project, which is located on a 70-hectare site on the Upper axis. Sokponba. from Benin city.
The first phase of ownership is 100 percent complete and the owners have moved into their properties. Progress is being made in the second phase.
In addition to this, there is the highly celebrated Memorandum of Understanding with the Ossiomo Independent Power Plant for the 55MW CCTEC-Ossiomo Power Project, to provide electricity to public facilities such as the Secretary of State, Government House, Ogbemudia Stadium, hospitals and many more public facilities. The project is ready for start-up.
There is a significant MOU with a Chinese consortium for the Edo Petrochemical and Refinery Project, for which a 6000 bpd Modular Refinery plant is nearing completion. The project will be expanded to a 30,000 bpd plant. The project is expected to meet 20 percent of Nigeria’s diesel demand and make Nigeria self-sufficient in low-discharge fuel (LPFO), also known as black oil, used in industries.
Then we have the MoU signed between EDPA and EDLP Nigeria Limited for the development of discount shopping centers across the state. The first of these shopping centers is operational on the Sokponba Road axis of the state. More will be built in Ugbowo, Ugbiyoko and Ekpoma in the state. Fresh produce from local farmers is picked up by these shopping centers and sold in the shopping centers. All of these are concrete and verifiable. You can come to Benin and see them for yourself. There are other memorandum of understanding projects that are still in process, such as the Benin Enterprise Park.
The Anchor Investor is ready to move to the site, but due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that slowed the pace of work. There is also the river port of Benin, where a lot of work is being done to prepare the necessary infrastructure to give rise to the project, while we wait for regulatory approval to continue.
The artery road is dualizing and much more is happening in the background. The Marine Police base is ready and eight gunboats have been purchased and donated to the Police. Ekehuan Road, the main artery to the port, is dualizing to facilitate movement. We make memorandums of understanding because we understand the language of public-private partnerships and that has made a difference in the way we deliver our legacy projects and move forward in the task of industrializing the state.
There is also the accusation that his government is fueling violence before the elections while accusing the opposition of being behind the violence. What is your reaction to that?
This is absolutely false. As I always say, you don’t have to take my word for it. If you send men for an independent and unbiased poll, you will find that we have 80 percent of the voters and people committed to my re-election. We also have a surge of support from the Edo people in the Diaspora both within Nigeria and outside the country.
Therefore, it is in my interest that the process be peaceful and calm, so that all these people can come out, exercise their franchise and re-elect me. On the contrary, it is the APC that knows for a fact that it does not control up to 20 percent of the electorate in the state and is heading towards certain defeat that fuels violence, causes chaos, attacks innocent citizens, neighbors and affiliates. of the PDP.
They are also planning other clandestine, illegal, criminal and undemocratic tactics to derail the process. However, we are convinced that the president is committed to the peaceful elections in Edo. The INEC, so far, has rejected APC pressure in the state and the police have expressed their commitment to being impartial. With all this, we are sure of a peaceful election. We urge the public to ignore all fear and step out on Election Day to fulfill your civic responsibility.
Why didn’t you continue with the projects that your predecessor left behind? Projects like the stormwater project and the Edo specialist hospital. You were a central part of that administration and even negotiated the World Bank funds. Why?
The projects are ongoing. It is completely false that we abandoned them. Although some of the projects had some structural flaws, we have modified them and continue to work on them. For example, the Edo Specialist Hospital is in operation today and as I speak it is treating patients. The Stormwater Project is also ongoing. All these statements are lies repeated by the opposition that has no substantive criticism of this administration.
You floated an industrial park and the river sea port of Benin. How far have you come with these projects?
As I said before, in the river port of Benin, a lot of work is being done to prepare the necessary infrastructure associated with the project. The artery road, Ekehuan Road, is being dualized to facilitate movement to the port. A Marine Police Base is ready and eight gunships have been purchased and donated to the Police. These are auxiliary projects attached to the Port project. For the Benin Enterprise Park, the Anchor investor is ready to move to the site, but for the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which caused the disruption of international flights and the shutdown of the global economy. Once the international airways open we will surely see more activities on site because the project is really very active and ongoing. It is sad that the opposition has no ideas on how to carry out big projects like this. These are all new to them so they are a bit confused and don’t know what to do with them. A lot of work is required to carry out these high impact projects and we are on track to carry them out.
He worked with Oshiomhole for eight years. Why are you trying so hard now to free yourself from your government and present it as a failed administration?
Yes, I worked with Oshiomhole for eight years and did it pro bono, serving the people of Edo. Accordingly, I have taken steps to undertake reforms in various aspects of our society to ensure that the mistakes of that administration are not prolonged or repeated. For these, we have no apologies to anyone. These are done for the benefit of our people, as we are committed to their well-being.
Some of his commissioners, chiefs of staff and other senior officials have left his government under curious circumstances. Many people have used this to criticize your leadership style. Can you react to this?
This is politics and different people seek different alliances. There is nothing strange about that. In total, the number of people who resigned from the government does not reach five percent of the total number of appointees. For me, it is not significant.