BY GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
Mr. LOUIS ODION is the Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation. In this interview, he reviewed the three year administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and the achievements of the administration within the period affirming that the Governor is the candidate to beat in the coming gubernatorial election. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the three years of Governor Oshiomhole’s administration?

He has performed more than expectation. I tell you that I read an interview granted by Chief Nosakhare Isekhure, the Chief Priest of Benin Kingdom. Among other things, he said Oshiomhole has performed more than any other governor in the history of Edo and Bendel States.

You know, Chief Nosakhare Isekhure is not a frivolous person. He is one of the most credible voices you can think of in Benin today. So, such comment coming from such an individual speaks a lot. So, I don’t need to elaborate.

You will also re-call that a few days ago, the Country Director of World Bank came to Benin and announced that after their own survey and investigation, they found out that Edo State is delivering on its promises. For that reason they announced their plans to commit more than 60 million US Dollars into projects in the state.

*Odion

This is a credible institution that is testifying to the success story of Oshiomhole in the last three years. Among other things, the World Bank Country Director said they found out that the social indicators in Edo State is far, far above the national average; by that, he is saying that the efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals in Edo State are quite sincere and vigorous.

He is saying that in terms of access to water, quality education, health care in Edo State is above national average. You can go back to list areas where the Oshimhole administration has impacted the lives of the people.

In the last three years, the administration has built more than 500 kilometers of roads. When you say 500 kilometers of roads, we are not talking of simply pouring asphalt but about creating solid roads that will stand the test of time, we are talking of drainages roads that will last and last.

Oshiomhole has built more than 500 classrooms; and laboratories, hospitals in the three senatorial zones have been up-graded. As I speak to you now, I am about going to inspect the EBS Radio Transmitter Station at Ihievbe in Owan-East Local Government Area.

The contractor has written that he has completed the job, but I need to find out if the job has actually been completed. This Radio Transmitter Station has been in existence for decades, but due to governmental neglect, the facilities rotted away, but it took Oshiomhole to rehabilitate them.

So, that has been the story in virtually all human lives in question. I will say Oshiomhole has done very well, more than the expectation of the people. Accolades are coming from all over the country. About three weeks ago, the governor was in Abuja to receive an award from Leadership newspapers.

At that event, Oshiomhole did announce that that was the first time he was seeing the publisher of Leadership Newspaper. That tells you that he was a credible choice, it was not paid for. He was voted the best governor of the year.

The following week, there was another award by SERA (Social Enterprise Report Assessment), another credible NGO. The governor along side another governor form the South-South was given award as among those who have delivered on the MDGs.

But opposition parties say that the Airport Road and several others have been abandoned?

That is not correct. I have just told you that in the last three years we have constructed more than 500 kilometers of roads. On the contrary, they are saying that Oh! We are only investing in roads. Sometimes, they say the roads that were constructed lead to nowhere; the roads are in the rural areas.

They say this as if Edo people living in the rural areas are not entitled to developmental projects. To answer the Airport Road issue directly, it is true that a contract was given to an indigenous contractor to do that road and abintio, there was an agreement on the standard to meet.

But along the line, we found out that those standards were not being met. It is not only Sevetek that was working in Edo State. We have Setraco, High-Tech and others. If you look at Sapele Road done by Setraco, it is a world class road and Edo State of the 21st Century deserves World Class roads.

We thought that Airport Road being very strategic would meet the vision of Oshimhole. That was why the contract for the road was revoked.  As I speak to you, the contractor has been mobilized to site. It was awarded to Setraco to measure up to standard.

This is a government of quality, it does not comprise on quality. So, whatever they are saying is just begging the question. The issue that needs to be raised is that they were in power for ten years; they did not do anything.

I remember two weeks ago, one of their leading lights, General Charles Airiabvere (rtd) while declaring his interest in the governorship election, said that he was in the race to correct the ills done to Edo people by his party, the PDP in the last ten years. That is an admission that his party has failed the people.

In a saner environment, by now, they should be covering themselves with ashes, wearing sack clothes in penitence for what they have done to the Edo people. Edo people are far more enlightened, so, they will not be deceived.

I want to believe that these guys, having been out of power for a few years, they are now hungry. Before Oshiomhole came into office, the internally generated revenue on the state was less than N300 million monthly.

In the last years, through prudent management of resources, through blocking of leakages in the system and more importantly through the interest the people now have in the government, having seen that their money is well utilized in the provision of social amenities, they are now willing to pay more taxes to increase the IGR from less than N300 to over N1.6 billion as at last month.

So, these guys having seen big money in the system are now desperate to come back to come and loot the resources. But the Edo people are now wiser; they have seen the light and are not ready to go back to darkness.

There are insinuations that the people are being over taxed?

I don’t think it is correct to say that Edo people are being over taxed. I have just told you that when Governor Oshiomhole assumed office, the IGR was less than N300 million monthly, but today, it has hit over N1.6 billion, a reflection of over 500 percent increment.

So, what this tells you is that more and more people are coming into the tax net; more and more people are willing to pay tax. We had a stakeholders’ meeting recently with hoteliers in Benin and I was at that meeting.

What many of the hoteliers said was that they were very willing to partner with the government to pay the consumption tax because they believe that would further strengthen the hands of the government to construct roads that will lead to their hotel premises.

I think the issue is that more and more people can see what the government is doing with their money and that is why they are paying tax. Don’t forget that what defines the relationship between the citizenry and the government from the time immemorial is tax.

Are you concerned about the security situation in the state?

The governor is referred to as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the State, but that is on paper. In reality, he has little or no control over the security agencies in the state. As a matter of fact, his police orderlies take order from Abuja.

That is the hopelessness of the issue. But that has not stopped the governor from assisting security agencies in the state. On a monthly basis, he devotes huge sums of money to assist the security agencies, to motivate the personnel to combat crime.

Relatively speaking, Edo State is one of the safest states in the South-South geo-political zone. If you look at the statistics in the Niger Delta, Edo remains the safest state. Because Edo State is a gateway state, people hop in from neighbouring states to commit crime and get away.

The government’s strategy is also to create jobs because as the saying goes, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So, when the youths are not occupied, the tendency is for them to take to crime, but when they are engaged and earn income, they become very responsible citizens.

That is why emphasis is being placed on education and investing massively in that sector. We believe education is the bedrock of the society. When the children are properly brought up, the tendency for them to take to crime is reduced also.

It will also interest you that until Oshiomhole came in, private schools were like the real education success in Edo State. Market women, artisans and the poor paid through their noses to pay for their children. But the story has now changed.

People now withdraw their wards and children from private schools to enroll in public schools because of the facilities available in the public schools. We have also conscientise the people. The comrade governor came and introduces the slogan, “one man, and one vote”.

In the past, it used to be one godfather who determined who gets what in Edo State. It is one godfather who determined who became Governor, Deputy-Governor, Commissioner, Council Chairman, Councilor and board member. Everywhere, both local and national, it used to be one man.

It has taken Oshiomhole, even the circumstance that threw him up to emancipate the Edo people, the voters… When Oshiomhole came into office in November 2008, ACN his party was in the minority. From the outcome of the last election, the story has changed.

ACN now dominates the House, from the position of weakness, it is now in a position of strength and at the moment, out of the 24 seats in the House of Assembly, ACN now controls 19, everybody agrees that the last election was far, far more credible than that of 2007.

So, this is an expression of the support of the Edo people for the Oshiomhole Administration. We hear that the same godfather is saying that they must capture Edo State next year. That is quite indicating of a desperate poli
tician. But Edo people are now wiser.

The godfather is now banished to a locality in Edo Central. Like the Governor remarked last time, at the moment he is on political life-support and by next year election, he would be defeated completely and become a political history. The total liberation of Edo State would have occurred then.

As far as we are concerned, we believe that next year election would be a walkover because Edo people have seen what a visionary leader is capable of, which is embodied by Oshiomhole.

Oshiomhole is the man to beat in next year’s election because ACN as a party already has a candidate; but the PDP are fighting each other; they are fighting for the custody of a tuke-tuke bus whose engine has broken down.

These people have to create an impression to Abuja that they are in-charge of Edo State so that they can continue to be board members; they can continue to collect the monthly allowances, collect contracts from federal institutes. But all that will change next year.

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