In this exclusive interview a week before Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki submitted the list of his commissioner nominees to the State House of Assembly, the State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Publicity Secretary, Chris Osaretin Nehikhare, refuted claims that the governor is operating a dictatorship.
On perceived internal wranglings in the PDP
First and foremost, I would not be doing justice if I say I know what allegations you’re referring to. I don’t know the allegations that you’re referring to. But as per our party it is one strong indivisible group and it is also working for the benefit of all Edo people not just for the interest of a few. I am sure that in politics you will agree with me that people have personal interest which they drive one way or the other. Within PDP those interests are genuine and are allowed because we are all in politics not just to sell personal interest but to sell the generality of Edo people’s interest. For the more people that benefit from or enjoy the government the better we believe that the party and state can develop or move forward. At all times PDP keeps its eyes on the ball. We appreciate the work the governor (Godwin Obaseki) has been doing to make sure that Edo people are not neglected. That’s why we keep moving on.
Of course, there are some challenges here and there. But it is expected especially with the way this government was born. It is even more of a plus to the PDP that we have been able to manage it to the extent the party is stronger, the government stronger and the people are united in their support not just for the government but for the party to the extent that the main opposition in the state can be described as a dodo, the bird that is extinct that used to live up the coast of Madagascar. But of course, we are not going to rest on our oars. We are going to make sure Edo people have the benefit of a strong, determined government whose mantra is Making Edo Great Again(MEGA) agenda. We’ll deliver it.
Would you say that the PDP has reset Edo State as you promised while campaigning for Governor Godwin Obaseki in 2020?
Resetting Edo State is not going to be an overnight success. I am sure you know that Edo State is being reset. You start from the civil service reforms that has been taking place, the training of civil servants and retraining of the trainers. You’ll also understand that for the first time in almost 20 years there is deliberate effort to employ talented, qualified young Edo people to strengthen the civil service. That’s what the resetting stands for because the civil service and the civil servants are the bulk of the government that has started. Infact only a few weeks ago lots of people were being trained to start work been engaged by this government.
Not only that the state government also identified the rot in our College of Education. We were able to now break it up into three different campuses. To develop the infrastructure and to give them a strong curricular so that the accrediting institutions would be proud to name Edo College of Agriculture one of the foremost agriculture institutes across the country. We have three campuses and by January students will start coming in. That’s resetting. We also have a School of Nursing that has been rebuilt and reset. Accreditation has been received. Edo is being reset. Talk of Education, Edo Best is probably the best education framework in the whole of the country to the extent that even Lagos State came to copy the model and the template which we used. That’s Edo State being reset. We hosted the National Sports Festival just a few months ago and it was described as the best ever in the country. The facilities are there for you to see. That’s Edo State being reset.
I can still go into security which is still something that we are working on to make sure all Edo people feel secured in their houses and feel secured on the roads. We have set up vigilante network across the state. Employed our youths; employed the hunters; employed the villagers to encourage them to report when they see crime. We provided them with vehicles which they use to patrol their localities. In some instances we give them motorbikes to be able to go into the hinterland. This is being reset even though with the compliments of the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Army that have been helping us. Don’t forget that we have the Wabaizigan Network. These are things been done to make life easier and more comfortable for Edo people. Education, security etc. Then for providing employment this is essential in having a strong financial management system. We have the Edo Jobs and Edo Production Hub. We have being training and grooming young men and women so that they can go straight into the job market. In some cases they are given startup capital to be able to begin their own business.
These things are going on in Edo State today. The state government only a few days ago also signed an agreement for the development of what is called Edo Mall which Edo State is having a PPP with a reputable corporation. Once that’s done Edo State Government shares will be sold to Edo people so that all of us have a stake in that business. That’s resetting Edo State. It’s no longer an Edo where one man runs around and claims he is doing this and that. No. Edo is being built for Edo people for all Edo to be involved and be part of the system.
Is not appointing commissioners a year after assumption of office for a second tenure part of the resetting process?
No, everybody is talking about this matter at this point in time – the issue of not appointing commissioners. This process is ongoing. I am sure that you must have followed the process from the beginning. First is the civil service reforms which the government announced to the whole state that he was going to do. That has rounded up now. Not quite long ago the government also called party leaders to nominate at least five people each. Not just for the position of commissioner but for other political appointments. These nominees names have been sent to the governor. A committee was set up to go through all those names. The committee has also done its job and sent its recommendation to the government. It is now the role of the government to now sift through all those names and proceed by sending these names to the State House of Assembly. There is a process and that process is nearing the terminal point. Commissioners will definitely emerge.
People are saying that a dictatorship exist in Edo State. What would you say about that?
A dictatorship is when it is only one man handling the affairs of the state and there is no legislature. In Edo State we have a functional legislature. Don’t forget that the Edo State Government inaugurated the House of Assembly as at when due. But because of some political considerations some members elect at the time refused to come for their inauguration. Not only that they refused to go for sitting even though the house had been inaugurated. When they failed the constitutionally required number of days to attend sittings the House of Assembly declared those seats vacant. It is the law. Those people went to court to challenge the inauguration by the state government.
I am sure you are aware that the law did say that Edo State Government properly inaugurated the House. Edo State Government and the PDP have severally made pronouncements that as soon as the cases in court are withdrawn, especially by the APC members that are tying them up in the court which they are doing deliberately to deprive the people of those constituencies of representation, the INEC that’s responsible for conducting bye elections would be able to do the bye election. We are ready for the bye election.
How supportive is the Edo State PDP to the aspirations of the former state chairman, Chief Dan Osi Orbih, to become national chairman?
I am surprised that you are saying Chief Orbih, who is the National Vice Chairman of the party in the South South zone wants to become National Chairman. He has not told any of us that he is interested in the position of National Chairman. As National Vice Chairman we are very supportive of him to make sure he succeeds in this present assignment. He is a very courageous, sagacious and determined politician that is prepared to carry the load of the South South to make it a national issue. We support him 100 percent on that.
People are saying that with the way that PDP governors are moving to the APC in no distant time the ruling party would swallow all oppositions.
I don’t understand what you mean that PDP governors are moving to the APC. We have had two governors that have left to the APC. Then, you have Femi Fani-Kayode. He was not a PDP governor. He was a former minister. He has said he moved because the Holy Spirit directed him. Who am I to challenge what the Holy Spirit has determined? What is important is that Nigerians know that this APC federal government is a complete failure. It has failed on its promises; it has failed in performances and it has failed in providing leadership. It is also clear that people are joining the party either to protect themselves from the EFCC or from court cases hanging over their heads. We cannot blame any of them. It just shows that some of them are not as courageous as we thought they were.