One of the governorship aspirants jostling to secure the ticket of the All Progressives Congress for the September 19 Edo State gubernatorial election, Chris Ogiemwonyi, in this interview speak on developments in his state, his chances and other issues.
As one of the aspirants, what are your chances at the primaries?
My chances are very bright. We are a total of six aspirants. Each one of us has his own profile. I pray you have time to go through my profile. I have served both in the private and public sectors. I have put in 35 years. Since I left, I have been into oil and gas consulting. Recently, I ventured into farming. I see myself as a very strong contender for the office of the Governor come September 2020.
What are you going to do differently from the present administration?
If I become the governor, what I will first tackle is insecurity. No matter what resources are available for infrastructure wherein there is no peace, wherein there is no internal security, nobody is going to do anything. I will put lots of resources into providing internal security. Another area I will like to address will be the issue of poverty eradication. That is providing employment for the high level boys and girls that have left the universities. That is what is really on ground. It is so pitiable. Employment rate in Edo is around 25 percent. The other 75 percent unemployed. I think that is one of the issues causing the high crime rate.
If I become governor, the health sector, because you need a living people to do some things, I will put more infrastructure to make it preventive. A lot of ailments we can diagnose early. I like to address mechanised farming. We are blessed in Edo South and we are doing this routine farming. I intend to make farming attractive. The high level of rural urban migration is something I will fix. I will move the youths back to the rural areas. I will provide for them what is available in the cities like electricity. Most of our villages don’t have electricity. I will make sure the various local government workers stay in their place of work. I am proposing to build more model schools. My formative years were formed with friends from across the state. I will consult in different areas. Solid minerals are available in Edo. There are so much in what we are going to do. You will see more I want to do in my 10 point agenda. I have added the physically challenged to my agenda.
What is giving you strength to carry on after the 2016 governorship race?
It is love for my people. If you are doing what you love, nothing stresses you. I see the pains of the people. If we don’t come to assist them, you will see a pregnant woman with a baby flirting. It is painful. People will go out of their way to do what they never imagined, just to feed. What is making me strong is that I have empathy, I have passion for the people. The level of poverty in Edo South will cause you to support them. I want to see how I can bring them out of their present level to a comfortable level and make them happy. I believe in sharing.
Edo APC crisis is getting out of hand, how can it be resolved?
APC today will be stronger tomorrow. We have internal mechanism to resolve these issues. I must commend Oshiomhole for his steadfastness and mature quality. They have set up about three committees to come and resolve the crisis but the state has not shown enthusiasm to welcome them but recently, we the aspirants have to tell the committee to come and visit us for there to be peace. We are prepared to receive them. We are welcoming the Senator Lawan Committee to come and visit. We are desperately looking for peace in Edo. I know Governor Obaseki will heed our plea because in the absence of peace, not much can be achieved. The National Chairman has made it clear that he has no problem with Obaseki. He cannot destroy who he put there. Adams brought in Godwin. Peace is coming gradually if not for the violence that erupted recently, destroying homes of opponents. We are praying for the governor to let peace reign.
Will you probe your predecessor?
I am a different aspirant. I am coming here with 34 years of public life. I was MD in NNPC in three of the most strategic components. We see government as a continuum. We don’t call for probe. If I become governor, I will continue where Godwin left. I don’t believe in probe. It is time and resources wasted.
What will be your next step if you fail to secure the APC ticket?
Before now, we have an accord. Myself, Odubu and Airhiavbere met in Abuja and took a decision that the best option is to work together as a team and procure one ticket. We will all support that candidate. We were lucky Odubu got something and he grabbed it. Before that process came to a conclusion, Pastor Ize-Iyamu came to meet us and we told him about the process. I hear we have two other aspirants. Four of us have agreed to work together. There is nothing we cannot share. If you see the four of us coming now, God has been grateful to each of us. It is just the need to serve our people. Ize-Iyamu was a former Secretary to government, Odubu was a former Deputy Governor, Airhiavbere was a former Paymaster of the Nigerian Army, I was public servant; so we are all okay. We will sustain that accord.
What kind of primaries are you expecting for this governorship?
The type of primaries we expect is a party decision. The party has said it is direct primaries and not the delegate system. It is clearly a party affair and they have made that decision. We are going there urging our friends to have their membership cards and go and choose the aspirant they want as their candidate.
There are talks about anointed candidates from Abuja?
APC is a democratic party where we believe the people will make the decision. You knew me in 2016; I didn’t believe there was an anointed candidate. The beauty of Public Service is that we believe in orders. It is like the military. I have not heard of anointed candidate. I have been working since November last year. We are canvassing for votes. We are a well organised party.
How will you assess the performances of Obaseki and Oshiomhole as governors?
I have tried not to do this comparative analysis because the two of them are my friends. It is the performance of Oshiomhole that dragged me into the APC. I was Federal Minister under the PDP. I left the PDP when Jonathan was in power. I took the risk of leaving a ruling party that time to join a regional party in 2014. Four former Ministers called me to ask what I was doing. I took that risk because of Oshiomhole. I love that man because of his courage. I joined APC because of the things Oshiomhole was doing in this state vis a vis the one before him. When I went to Okpekpe, Iyamho university, I decided to join the APC. The Federal Government tried to probe me when I join the APC. Oshiomhole really transformed Edo State. The Benin Storm Water is not just a three-year programme. There should have been a continuation of the red roof revolution in the education sector. I cried that day when I saw the Benin Central hospital when it was raining and rain was beating patients. I also went to a primary school where rain was beating pupils in the classrooms. If such places are in Benin, what happened to schools and hospitals in the rural areas. I score Oshiomhole eight over ten in terms of performance in infrastructure. See the highway that was built. I believe in competence and not about tribalism.
After Ogbemudia, I see Oshiomhole as the best governor. Obaseki has the capacity to perform but he is tackling too many things at the same time. There are too many MOUs. Industrial park, Gelegele and others. He has become a master of none. That is why I score him low in performance. He should engage strong people who are project consultants and not these small, small boys. If he consults me and pay the price, I know what to tell him. Oshiomhole did very well while Godwin is still below 50 percent.
What is your take on the agitation for regional police like Amotekun?
Before now, I was an advocate for state police. The practical of it is proving negative. I used to support State Police because they will be close to the people. But since ‘Wabaizighan’ attacked 14 members-elect at a hotel, I changed my mind. It is really unfortunate that people duly elected will be attacked, accompanied by the CSO to the governor. I am going to have a rethink of state police. The violence that has erupted in bombing peoples’ homes; they attacked Inegbeneki home, they attacked Lawrence Okah’s home, they attacked Idahagbon’s home. What I will do is to recommend a probe to investigate what is going on that will make the people have confidence that the government is showing concern but nothing is happening. This is the first time in the politics of Edo that we are using bombs and it is a bad development and the consequence is going to scare away some investors. If I build a five star hotel here, you can drop bomb there. It is a new concept of terrorism. If others copied it, terrorism will start in Nigeria. We better nip it in the bud. The governor should wake up and institute a high powered probe into happenings in the state. If he does it he will earn our respect. If he is quiet, I hope people will not conclude he is part of it.
Something sacrilegious happened in Benin; we in Benin do not destroy houses built by people. In broad day light, Tony Kabaka’s hotel was brought down. When the same Kabaka worked for him in 2016 to elect him as a governor, he was a good man. But because Kabaka is taking a different view, he is now an opponent. Those boys were emperors that time. We must nip these explosives in the bud because I am afraid. People now go out with policemen. It is an index of insecurity. We should abolish Wabaizighan in Edo. They are anti people and unfriendly. They are used to oppress people and they are being paid by tax papers.
Why is it difficult to make the Petroleum Industry Bill become law?
When it comes to things of consulting, I don’t dabble into it. The earlier we learn to appoint people that have the capacity and experience to man the oil industry, the better. Time has come for us to use the best brains in the industry. The PIB under Dr. Lukman, we pushed it to a point for approval. You cannot give what you don’t have. In 2001 to 2003, there was a project brought to me, the Escravos Gas delivery project. It was worth $1.8bn. As they were bringing it to me, my manager, Andy Yakubu, said the same job was done for UAE for $900m. Why are they now asking for twice the amount here? I agreed to approve for $1.3bn to take care of dredging, sand filling and other things but Chevron said no. They made it personal against me.
In 2007, I became the GED Upstream, the paper came to my table again and this time it was $8bn. Go and ask at what price the project was approved. I fought for this country in the oil and gas industry. If they want to address the PIB, they should give to experts like us and we knew what we did. Let them bring it to us. We will charge them a fee.