Anehih, Igbinedion Not My Priority – Obaseki | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Anehih, Igbinedion Not My Priority – Obaseki

Posted: Jun 27, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Godwin Obaseki, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Edo State spoke recently with journalists on his plans for the state if voted in the September 10 governorship election. Francis Onoiribholo brings the excerpts:

How do you feel after victory at the primary?

I feel very thankful to God because if you cast your minds back when this campaign started sometime in October, the view held by many people then is that I did not stand a chance, that I will not fly. Those were the adjectives they used to describe my ambition. And to imagine that from that time till now, for a person who came in last to gather that momentum and prevail, I think all I can do is to say thank God, I am so grateful to God. I am humbled by this success. You recall that we met several weeks ago and I did make a point that after seven and half years, I felt that I knew what Edo needed to go through this difficult phase of our national life. My key motivation is that I believe that Nigeria as a whole is going through a major watershed. If you recall the events that led to the civil war and the changes that have occurred in our Federation since the end of the war, how we have come to create a unitary system, how that unitary system has been nurtured by oil resources, that whole phase is now coming to an end. That means a total reorganisation of our entire polity.
Bearing that in mind, I just felt that what we need in Edo is someone who has an experience and understanding of the past but he is not an indebted part of that past. So you can see things freshly and differently. I have looked at all the other players that have indicated interest in the race and I thought that even beyond the credentials of managing the economy, it is just the understanding of the political process. We started this democracy in 1999 and a lot of the players have not inculcated deeply the culture and the logic of our democracy. We had a democracy of imposition and that is why some people shouted when the governor (Oshiomhole) in appreciation of the issues on ground decided to support me. People did not understand the issues. For them it was imposition, because that has become part of our lexicon in our new democracy but in this case it was not what Oshiomhole did. He still said we should go and market ourselves.

I believe what that did for me was a challenge that; look at him, nobody knows him, he’s not a politician, he will not know what to do, he will not fly, we cannot sell him to the politicians in APC, he’s not one of them. So that taught me to sit back and reflect. Also people thought, he is just going to buy the state, you know he has wealthy friends, they are all going to bring money and buy the state. That made me to sit back and reflect on how can I now go about it? If you recall, I went round the eighteen Local Governments, meeting the town executives, I now then appreciated that it was beyond that. That if this is an election of party delegates who are known, then you should go and campaign to them. So I just came up with a strategy where I had to meet every delegate. It was just not sufficient to sit down and say okay I have gone in, I have called a few leaders, I have spoken to them and I expect that they would send the word down through. For the responsibility I am seeking to take on, I thought I needed to know a lot more, dig deeper. So I took the delegates election as if it was a full blown election. I went to every ward, the 192 wards, I wanted to understand the structure of the government in every ward so I did not go in and ask what is the leadership structure in this ward, who do you say the political leaders are. At the ward level not just at the local government but ward level. After the consultation with the leaders at the local government level, what I found was quite revealing because no two wards even in the local government were the same. In terms of their governance arrangement, they had a lot of harmony. You go in they’ll say this is our leader, where should we meet? They would say let us meet in this person’s house. They will all assemble there and they would all come there and listen to you. There are situations where you go in to some wards and they would not be agreement so it started throwing light on the politics of each ward and the peculiarities of each ward at the local level.

What effort are you making to reconcile with the losers?
Immediately after the election I didn’t go to bed. On Sunday evening, the first person I went to was Dr Pius Odubu. I went to his house with some party officials. I went to talk with him and to extend my hand of fellowship and it was warm, cordial. He expressed his mind, his views as to what he felt and he was very open to reconciliation. He made a remark, he said people are calling him but he wanted to assure us that he was not going to leave the party;  that he was going to work for the party. He admitted that he felt hurt and there were things that he felt should not have happened but he was prepared to work with the party and me. To seek full reconciliation, the following morning I went to see Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi, whom I have a cordial and very warm relationship with and we spoke. He felt hurt, he feels he needs to exhaust the process to convince himself that the primaries were conducted properly; that it truly reflected the outcome and decisions of the delegates which I feel he is entitled to. Later that day I went to see Gen. Charles (Airhiavbere)  and we spoke, he opened his arms and said look, he is open to me and that he is willing to work with me. Some of the contestants I have called. I have not been able to see Imasuangbon, he sounds very angry with me and I have not been able to see him. I heard he travelled so he’s the only one person I have not been able to see but I guess with time when he calms down, we will have a meeting but otherwise I have spoken to everybody else and that evening Prof. Osunbor, shook my hands and embraced me. Peter Esele called and pledged his support, Benson Agbomhere and Tina O also did the same.

Yesterday we had another meeting with the Comrade Governor. In fact it was a success. I don’t know if you have seen some of the photographs. We all went on the inspection together and started the campaign. But in terms of reconciliation, we are working hard and I’m very optimistic that we will be able to get full reconciliation. I as an individual, I am also doing my own part, I expect that at the end of the registration exercise, I am going to have a meeting and we are all going to sit down and see how we can combine forces and be able to put resources together so that we can have a very effective campaign for September 10th. I have reached out, I have stretched my hand to them, I am inviting all the contestants to come and help the organization. I pray and hope that all of them accept, because each one of us had a plan, so you had to plan your manifesto which was to contribute to Edo state. Now they will all contribute what they have for the development of APC and Edo state.

How do you feel going to face Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP in the contest?
I don’t know if he’s going to be my opponent but I also sent him a note congratulating him on his victory and to welcome him and advice that we conduct ourselves in this election in a very civil manner. I am going to be the governor of Edo state by the grace of God; therefore I’m going to govern every Edo person.

But how are you going to deal with leaders like Anenih, Igbinedion, will you meet them to solicit their support?

I cannot have any animosity towards anyone. But this is a contest and once you are going into a contest, you don’t go to your opponent and say ‘let us talk’. I do not expect them (Igbinedion and Anenih) to vote for me, they will have to vote for themselves or whoever is emerging from their party. That is not my priority, my priority is to convince the other people of the public, citizens of Edo state why I am the better candidate and the choice. And at the end of the day when I win why not talk, I mean I will embrace everybody.

There is this allegation that you have EFCC case, how true is that?
I don’t have a case with EFCC. I read the story as you know. I am on the board of several companies; this is one of the largest German companies in the world. It’s a German company that owns rigs in Nigeria and I am on their board. They had a partner that died many years ago and unfortunately his estate have not been properly managed. His other businesses have gone bankrupt and the company got a petition from the children in their estate alleging that the company was owing their father but you will see online that there is a full agreement which the company reached with the estate several years age. If you have been reading the papers, the family has been having quarrels and internal issues. So it’s one of those kind of problems, they wrote to EFCC and other bodies. So if somebody owes you money, is there not a civil process to go through? Why should it be an EFCC matter? You are in this country, you know how citizens act but it has nothing to do with me, I do not own the company, I am just a shareholder on the board of the company so, I don’t have anything to do with it. I did not take money from anybody.

What about the issue of your deputy, who are you picking as your running mate?
Though I am a party man, I believe it’s a party matter, and the party will look at the political configuration and how to zero in on the candidate. We will work together; I will work very closely with the party.

What are you bringing to Edo if you become governor?

I am new and I am bringing new things with me. The first difference I think I will make is that, I come from a background of working in institutions. So for me, I look back and look at institutions. When I first came into the race, people were laughing at me, saying all I know is computer and that do I think it is computer that is used in winning elections. What we did was that we got the names of delegates and their wards. We mapped that data, we tried to understand how these delegates evolved. During the last congress, these were the leaders who brought about the nomination of these delegates. These are their phone numbers and sometimes, these are their birthdays. So, when I’m going there, I now know that rather than just barging in on these people, let me call. The key thing I want to do is to use technological information to run government. We have to run a very smart government because we don’t have the kind of money we used to. The first innovation I want to introduce as the governor is the use of ICT, to move it up much higher so that we can get a lot more efficiency from the little money we have. And the other thing I want to do is to focus government mostly on what government should do which is to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive because we will need a lot more private capital to drive the economy. Look at two investments we have made in the state, those two projects alone are worth two billion dollars. If we can bring in a lot more of such types of investments then the whole issue of jobs would reduce. I will dedicate a lot more of my time to bring private investments into the state. We need to focus on the economy so that we can take advantage of the unique position of Edo state. The other difference I will make is in terms of governance, one reason why Lagos state is doing very well is because of the governance model incorporated, where the governor is not the party leader so the governor has time to govern while the party politicians can manage the party politics. So that is one thing I hope to introduce to Edo state under my leadership.