By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin
CHIEF Solomon Edebiri was the revelation during the 2012 governorship election debate organized for candidates in Edo State. His policy plans and what he would do to bring the state out of the woods when elected then endeared him to the people of the state. But then, he was contesting the election on the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a party that was not so popular in Edo. He however came third in the election that was held that year on April 22.
Buoyed by the outcome of that election, Edebiri has once again thrown his hat into the Edo governorship ring for the July 2016 election. Asked why he has decided to contest again, he had this to say, “I am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). My first and primary assignment now is to convince leaders and members that I am best suited for the governorship position.
“Looking at where the PDP is coming from, the party certainly needs a man that can bring the unity of the party back, a man who can create hope for the people, a man who can re-build the party. If you look at the party against the backdrop of where it is coming from, the party needs a unifier. PDP does not needs anybody that will divide the party into factions.”
He went on: “So, our primary focus now is to ensure that we go to the primary successfully and then to the field. I enjoy a lot of public support and I am very confident that if the PDP can trust me with their mandate, Edo people will trust me with their larger mandate to govern the state. That informs my commitment to this struggle, that, yes the people have watched me over the years; they have seen my antecedents, and believe that this is the time.”
When asked to comment on how the PDP can avoid the mistakes of the past which caused it to remain in the opposition for almost eight years, he said that every political party has challenges.
“So, if APC is having one or two problems, I don’t see it as crisis and, before you know it, everybody will come together and they will continue to work as a party. So, to me, APC has done eight years, PDP had served their eight years tenure before; so the people of Edo are the best judge and analyze the state of the state and now agree, if this party did this and that, who should we trust with our mandate in the 2016 election?
“I also want you to know that it was Adams Oshiomhole’s name that won him the mandate in 2007 and 2012, not the name of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The party used Adams’ name and rode to victory. PDP should also look for a name that can sell the party and use that person to sell the party. PDP must be very careful not to select anybody that the people may not want. I am not here to speak on behalf of other candidates; I am here to say that if they can trust me with the mandate, the people will be grateful to the PDP by voting the party.”
As a man who has interests in several business concerns, the aspirant believed the best thing any state can enjoy from a very good government is to become an income generating state not just through VAT. “We seem to be limiting our IGR to VAT, taxing people; market women, taxi drivers and hotel owners etc. The best way to generate income for the state is to make it an export, manufacturing state, a production state. If Edo State becomes the largest producer of rice in West Africa, is there something wrong with it? It is simple mathematics. If I ship out ten millions of bags of rice every month and I tax each bag N500, do you know how much billions of naira is that every month and do I need to tax anybody?” he said.
Edebiri promised to introduce in the state an agro-system based on one local government one crop system if elected governor.”If we can endow them with one commercial crop, for instance, cassava in Uhuwmnode, timber in Ovia North-East, groundnut in Akoko-Edo etc, and we now harvested and commercialize it, bringing in the factories, we are producing and selling outside, then Edo State will be industrialized and become a tourism destination,” he stated.
“You cannot find a five-star hotel in Edo State. So, how do you host an international conference? There when there is no hotel; there is no conference centre that can take 5000 people. So, why would people bring an international conference here. There is no exhibition hall that can properly take 500 exhibitors at the same time. So, why do we bring in international exhibitors? These are changes that we will bring into governance and we will not remember that woman in the market to be taxed N50, N100 per day, Our major focus is to bring in fresh things to the state and make sure that they are utilized.
“That is the only way we can fight unemployment; that is the only way we get the youths engaged and that is the only way we can reduce youth restiveness, crime and fight poverty.”
Commenting on money politics that seems to be a challenge in the country, Edebiri said, “We will continue to fight the political virus and, to be honest with you, it is going to be difficult to eliminate it. But we will do the best we can to reduce it to the barest minimum. I have had a lot of people come to say they want to work, they don’t want my money and that is a change for me. People are now beginning to realize that there is conscience and we will continue to push for that.”
He insisted that the PDP is de-emphasizing god fatherism and wants to return power to the people. “And that was how the biometric registration of party members was introduced. People can be rest assured that those you called god fathers now sit down and listen to the people. They now ask questions. The era of saying ‘we have said it, go and do it’ is over. The people are now asking, ‘there are five PDP aspirants in the field, who do you think will serve the state better?’If the leader discovers that eight of the ten voters will be one side, he will take the right decision. I sincerely believe that once the PDP National Convention ratifies the Ekweremandu’s report as it is, the party will be on the verge of returning to the people.”
As a sportsman and one man had funded a football club, the defunct Bendel United in Edo state, he advised government to look at sports holistically even though he agreed that much attention should be given to football because it has the highest followership throughout the world.