Considering the political battle that heralded the poll that returned Godwin Obaseki as the governor of Edo State, what are your expectations from him?
First, I must thank God for making the return of Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State possible. I want to thank the governor for offering himself as a defender of democracy. I salute his passion and courage. I also thank the Edo people for making the inauguration possible by voting for Obaseki and saying no to godfathers. I also praise the good work of the Independent National Electoral Committee; the commission allowed the vote of the people to count. I commend the security agencies, the international community and President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing the will of the people to prevail.
The election is history and a foundation has been laid. I don’t admire governor Obaseki at this moment because of the task of developing the state. What we need to do as indigenes of the state is to support the government to succeed. To me, Obaseki succeeds, the Edo people have succeeded. If he fails, the Edo people failed. It is our duty as Edo people to come on board and join Obaseki. The governor is the driver and the people are passengers. If you have a good driver and the passengers support you, the driver gets to his destination safely. Getting to the destination means there should be adequate security, job creation, education and infrastructural development. My advice for the governor is that he must hit the ground running and the people must not relent in their support for the truth is that the people are the ones who develop a state or country, and not the governors or the president. They do this by their commitment, loyalty and deliberate participation in governance. For example, when you as an Edo person sees a criminal committing a crime, your duty is to call the police, you don’t need Obaseki to do that for you.
What is your take on the #EndSARS protest which ended in violence?
The police must appreciate the rights of the youth to protest, which is guaranteed by the constitution. If hoodlums hijack a peaceful protest, it is the duty of the police to fish out those criminal elements so we will have a good and strong society. It is not for us to destroy our society. As it is now, the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. While the rights of the citizens are appreciated by the police, the youth and the elderly must respect the police. We must not deride, discourage, abuse or intimidate them. However, I want to also advise the police not to be trigger-happy. We all saw how the #EndSARS protest ended in violence, which is a dangerous signal for the country.
The protest has shown that if you are a political office holder or voted into power and you are not able to perform your duties well and give an account of your stewardship, it means you are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. It is in the interest of our nation that if you don’t have the capability to provide good governance, you don’t have a business running for public office at any level. With the way the social media is used today, (with the world on our palm), the government cannot even halt its use because that would be archaic and mockery of the present world order. The answer to our problems is proffering solutions to the challenges facing the country. We should look at how to create jobs, stop unrest, kidnapping, banditry, insurgency and tackle the problem of killer herdsmen.
How do you think the country can become stable and free of problems?
Our leaders should come together because we need to sit down and talk at the state, regional and national levels so that we can have a stable country. Religious bodies should also play their roles instead of being seen only as a money-making venture. Good morals must start from the homes. The schools should also be involved in building a good society by inculcating good virtues in the students because we are losing our values. The government must also be very sincere. There must be consequences for the looting of the treasury and other misdemeanours. It is very sad that the money meant to build schools, roads and other infrastructure are embezzled and we have now become a laughing stock in the world. It is a matter of time, I am sure people will start paying for their actions.
You were the last aspirant to step down for Obaseki when he defected to the PDP to further his second term ambition, why did it take you that long and how did you become his biggest supporter?
Those who know me know that if I believe in a cause, I will push it to a logical conclusion. I don’t have a price and I cannot be bought. My price is to let Edo work; roads must be built, the school system must be good and Edo State must be better. Firstly, I didn’t know Obaseki very well. We felicitated from afar. Obaseki and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu are from the majority tribes but Ize-Iyamu was more of my friend. I have also run for governorship four times, that is 16 years. My passion to have a better Edo cannot be quenched and I will realise my ambition. It is a matter of time. I am from Esan and the last time we produced a governor was 44 years ago; Ambrose Alli. I’m not a tribalistic person; I have been around the world so I can say tribalism is not in my blood. What is in my vein is fairness, equity, justice, civility, progress and development. If I supported Ize-Iyamu, it means I have to wait for another eight years; because if I had defeated Obaseki in the PDP primaries, the Benin people would argue that they had not completed their tenure. This means they would vote for APC’s Ize-Iyamu, who will equally be hoping to serve for eight years. Let us not forget that Lucky Igbinedion did eight years, Adam Oshiomhole also did eight years and it was supposed to come to Esan but Oshiomhole supported Obaseki to become the governor. I ran in that primary election in APC against Obaseki. So it is in the strategic interest of the Esan people and the Edo people in general for Obaseki to finish his second tenure so that the majority tribes will be willing to support a governorship candidate from Esan. So it will be fair for Esan to have the governorship slot after Obaseki. So rather than support my friend, Ize-Iyamu, for eight years, it will be better to support Obaseki for another four years for the sake of fairness and equity.
Secondly, Obaseki worked well in his first tenure and coaches in football don’t change their winning team. A man that has done well in his first tenure, to me, deserves a second tenure. Thirdly, I was also under pressure from party leaders who said I had laboured and that my time will come in 2024.
How sure are you that the governorship slot will go to Esan after Obaseki’s tenure?
The truth is that power belongs to God and He is the only one that gives power. 2024 is in God’s hands and my take is that the best candidate, who will develop Edo should emerge. However, for there to be peace and development without acrimony, it is proper that the Esan people, who have not held the position of the governor for over four decades should be given a chance. The Benin people are loving, nice and understanding people so I know they will allow the Esan to lead the state in 2024.
The Igbo presidency has thrown up a lot of problems for the PDP with the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, defecting to the APC. What is your take on this?
Honestly, I think the Igbo should be given the opportunity to rule the country. I believe the country should listen to their demand. When and how it will happen depends on permutations and calculations, but I am a firm supporter of Igbo presidency. I also believe that an Igbo presidency would depend on negotiation.
Your humanitarian activities are well documented but some think you do them for political gains. How will you react to that?
When I did philanthropic work in Abuja, it was not because I wanted to be governor in Abuja. I also organised a football competition for all secondary schools in Abuja. I organised essay competitions in Abuja and Edo. It is not because of my governorship ambition. Good work is in my DNA, niceness is in my DNA, and I believe in live and let live. I have seen poverty, I have seen riches and it is better to be comfortable than poor. When I see the poor and the weak begging for food, I am touched. If I see a child who is not able to go to school because of fees, I feel pained. I feel very sad that people die because they cannot afford drugs. When I went to University of Benin Teaching Hospital to pay medical bills for people so that they could go home, the pain that I felt made me take that step. Life is not about what you have but what you give. So our leaders should know that life is about what you contribute to society. We talk about Chief Obafemi Awolowo today for his good works. He didn’t amass all the estate and wealth in the South-West. Awolowo is an enigma in history and an icon because he gave his people free education. The Yoruba are where they are today because of the good deeds of Awolowo who saw education as a potent instrument for development.
Do you think governors and their deputies should get pension after serving?
My take is that those monies should be used to pay pensioners. Ordinarily, to pay such allowance should not be a crime if the treasury is not looted and there is development all over the country. With the country’s lean resources, people are beginning to ask questions. Even the salary of senators and Reps should be reviewed. Being a lawmaker is about service to the country. Those aspiring to become lawmakers must be people who have done well in their businesses so that they can use their experience to help the country. If it is true that our parliamentarians are the best paid in the world, something should be done about that.
What do you think Nigerians should do at this time?
My advice is that we should support President Buhari because if he succeeds, we all succeed and if he fails, we all fail. He needs our support to make the country work. Times are tough but if we hope and do the right things, a new Nigeria will emerge.