Oshiomhole’s Achievements Intimidate Edo PDP – Afegbua | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Oshiomhole’s Achievements Intimidate Edo PDP – Afegbua

Posted: Feb 22, 2016 at 1:07 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)
Prince Kassim Afegbua is the new Honourable Commissioner for Information in Edo State. A former Spokesman to Nigeria’s former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, GCFR, Afegbua in this interview with Temidayo Akinsuyi, bares his mind on a number of issues affecting Edo State. Excerpts:
Looking at the state of the nation, are you surprised about the recent revelations especially on the N413.7 billion ($2.1b arms) scandal currently being investigated by the anti-corruption agencies?
That clearly exposes the rotten underbelly of the PDP and its gang of financial rapists who plundered our resources mindlessly to further their inordinate ambition. But for the fact that APC won election, no one would have known the level of profligacy in the country. Imagine a situation where Chief Anenih reportedly got an alert of N260m without any contract or job done. He went ahead on a sharing spree and has the gusto to tell us he was still being owed N180m because he over-shared.
What a country. Yet as we speak, the Uromi Chief is still going about his normal daily activities without questioning or arrest. I think talking very seriously; the man should be cooling off in detention like others who are still facing trial. He got alert; he didn’t query where the money was coming from, for what purpose, when he didn’t do any contract. He was busy sharing money to those who called themselves elder statesmen; Olu Falae and co! We don’t have role models. We have rogue moguls. These are shameless people who should be consigned to the dustbin of history. We are waiting for full prosecution so that people in high places can learn some good lessons.
Taking stock of the almost eight years of Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s rule in Edo state, can you really say that the governor has kept the promises he made to the people during his campaign?
Without doubt, it is obvious that the Comrade Governor has not only kept his promises but opened up new grounds for appreciating governance. Aside from the huge infrastructural investment he has made in the last seven years, he has added value to the social wellbeing of the people. He has built world class roads, arrested the flooding and erosion crisis in the state, built schools and hospitals, as well as created employment for the teeming youths in Edo State. Today, Edo state can boast of six-lane roads across the state, red roof schools across the state and state-of-the-art hospitals. The hospital at Ewohinmi is a treasure to behold. The central hospital is a world-class brand new architectural derring-do that is presently being furnished and equipped with sophisticated equipment to drive our medical tourism agenda. We have renovated all the 34 General Hospitals across the state and some of them have been stocked with equipment. What we are doing is re-inventing the state in the area of critical infrastructure in order to promote collective and individual enterprise of the people.
Given his labour background and pro-masses posture, can you say these have reflected in the governor’s handling of Edo affairs in the last eight years?
To a large extent, the Comrade Governor has deployed his labour antecedent to reflect on his capacity and strength to deliver the essential ingredients of governance. First, his strength at his age is maverick to me. He stays in the office till 11pm in the night. At times, he stays till the early morning of the next day, all because he wants to be able to cater for all the issues that require his attention. Working with him has further equipped me with greater capacity to handle challenges as they come. He came into governance with this philosophy of demystifying governance and letting the people lead. In Edo, the Comrade Governor gives access to all categories of persons irrespective of your socio-political status. He listens to virtually all complaints with the intention of treating them by delegating some of the responsibilities. Through text messages, people are able to book appointment with him. He is very much at home with everyone. He is actually fun to be with; because of his gift of oratory, his gift of cracking jokes and his ability to condescend to any level. All these attributes I believe he must have acquired as a labour leader who went from the lowest rung of the ladder to the top in Nigeria labour struggle. That is why; he is always at home with people whenever he goes out on inspection of projects across the state.
What has the governor done so far in the area of security of lives and properties, which is a cardinal role of any responsible government?
When he came on board, he inherited kidnapping as a function of the maladministration by the PDP government. Within a spate of two years, we were able to eliminate that to the barest minimum. Don’t forget that Edo state has its peculiarity in terms of geography and location. As a state that could be regarded as a transit state, or city, one should expect that all manners of crimes and criminality will flourish. The Comrade Governor was not discouraged by such geographical placement; he took the bull by the horn and cooperated with the different security agencies in the state to combat crimes. He provided them with vehicles and other logistics support to prepare them for the task. Today, Edo is not only kidnap free; it has become too hot for other crimes and criminality to flourish. Armed Robbers have not only been dealt with, they have since fled from Edo to other neighbouring states. We also must confess that we have always had the opportunity of having very solid officers who preside over the relevant security agencies. Super corps who know their onions and are ready to do the job with utmost satisfaction, thus making Edo state quite unbearable for criminals. Just recently, we provided about ten Hilux vans for the Police to beef up the ones they already have in order to facilitate mobility in the discharge of their responsibility. You can go round the state and ask the security agencies, they will confirm to you that the government has done marvelously well in this area.
The governor promised creation of 10,000 jobs at the inception of his administration but some critics have argued that the governor did not achieve much in the area of job creation and youth employment. What is your take on this?
You must bear in mind the nature and character of a state we inherited from the PDP who governed for almost ten unbroken years leaving the state in squalour, with decayed infrastructure, rotten educational sector, collapsed institutional frameworks and an unmotivated workforce. We needed to rescue the workforce first by lifting the embargo hitherto placed on fresh recruitment. We replaced old hands who were due for retirement with young vibrant minds that can fit into the change mantra of the Governor.
We conducted several seminars, retreats and workshops in order to set out policy direction, aware that there was no handing over note from the PDP who were booted out by court verdict. We introduced the Youth Employment Scheme and recruited about 8,000 youths who were doing several jobs based on need. We were able to sustain this for five years until resources accruing to the state started dwindling as a result of mind-boggling stealing by PDP-led government. First they said oil theft to the tune of 400,000 barrels of oil per day, and that resulted in an allocation shortfall to the tune of about N1.2b from our federal allocation on a monthly basis. Then, we discovered that the YES programme was being abused by persons who were recruited, in a manner that was defeating the rationale for starting it ab initio.  So what we did was to discontinue the program and directed that those who were qualified to be absorbed into the state civil service should be absorbed. As we speak, a lot of them have been absorbed into the civil service of the state, but I can’t readily give you the figure.
Another area is in the recruitment of teachers. First we eliminated the notorious miracle centers that were promoted to dizzying height under the PDP-led government. We rebuilt the schools and got over 2,000 teachers recruited to beef up the number we already had. We tried to carry out competency test which was later politicized by the opposition. But we were still able to do it in a way that eliminated unqualified teachers from our system. Today, Edo state comes second in every national examination comprising 36 states of the federation as opposed to 28th position that was designed for it by PDP in the era of leadership failure. Our target is to become first in the country. We have also recruited Doctors and medical health workers across the state and things are looking up in the health sector.
One of the tasks embarked upon by the governor on assumption of office is the restructuring of the civil service, most especially on teachers’ welfare and ridding the service of ghost workers. Do you think he was able to do much more in this areas?
Because of our Information Communication Technology Agency which the Comrade Governor established as a function of e-government, we were able to weed out ghost workers from the civil service of the state. That also means saving some money to cater for other responsibilities. Through the ICT revolution, we have been able to introduce e-payment thus eliminating cash handling and files computation. That also has a way of eliminating fraud to the barest minimum. In the ICT agency alone, we have about 1,000 staff, recruited and trained by this administration. The only issue is that the PDP in Edo state are feeling intimidated by the achievements of the Comrade Governor that is why each time they talk, they throw bile and insult. The average Edo person knows for sure that this government will remain unparalleled for a long time to come in the area of infrastructural investment.
How has the governor been able to perform his statutory obligations, especially on the issue of payment of salaries despite the drastic fall in monthly revenue from the FG?
Like I said earlier, it takes the ingenuity and creativity of any Governor to survive the present economic downturn in the country occasioned by PDP stealing legacy. It is obvious from the revelations so far that PDP ran the country almost aground by looting the treasury mindlessly. Having suffered a huge drop from federal allocation during the PDP regime, to the tune of about N1.2b monthly shortfall, the Governor just insisted that the Internally Generated Revenue must be sustained in a holistic manner in order to cater for the shortfall.
But for his prudent management of the slim resources, Edo state would have been in the league of those states that cannot pay salaries. Thank God that we have a Governor who understands the mechanics of governance and has the uncommon courage to pursue his IGR regime through motivation, enlightenment and sensitization. The allocation from the federation account has assumed a further drop as a consequence of drop in the prices of crude oil. Credit must be given to him for being able to stand tall in this very all-important issue of salary payment when other state governors have since gone under. I think essentially because he is a labour man, he understands the importance of wages and salaries. He also believes that the pay day is sacrosanct for the worker, which is why he doesn’t toil with workers salaries. In all of these, prudence, probity, transparency and accountability are the key words that sustained this dream of up-to-date salary payment. Even our opponents the PDP, are intimidated further by this achievement but we have no apology.
Will the governor play any key role in determining who succeeds him as Edo state governor?
Of course, as an outgoing Governor who was able to alter the ugly narrative that he inherited to something that has now become alluring to an average Edo mind, he must have an interest in who succeeds him. It is a democratic right that is inalienable. But if I know the Comrade Governor well, he has a democratic mind of ensuring that there is contestation for superior ideas on issues. He is bound to have an interest in somebody he believes can fit into his big shoes. Oshiomhole has since become a brand built around uncommon courage, rare intellect, oratory and accountability. He cannot lower the bar in the process of getting a fit and proper person to succeed him. Like he has repeatedly said in public, he alone cannot decide who succeeds him. That is why he has been consulting far and wide amongst party faithful, chieftains and followers. The APC has a lot of things going for it in the state. The excellent performance of the Governor remains a huge selling point because people are now more enlightened and sensitized to interrogate power and persons who wish to govern them. The aspirants must appreciate the Governor for making APC in Edo state such a brand and attractive bride that is being courted by all. That could only be possible because of the performance of the Comrade Governor. So, anyone who says the Comrade Governor shouldn’t play any key role in the emergence of his successor would be carrying contradiction to unassailable limit.