Prince Kassim Afegbua is not new to the dynamics of Edo State politics nay Nigeria. He was the Director-General of the National Democratic Party [NDP] before he rose to become the Acting National Chairman in 2006.
He is also one time Chief Press Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole in the formative months of the administration and currently publisher of the African Statesman monthly magazine and media spokesman to former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida. In this encounter, Afegbua expresses confidence that the Edo governor will have a smooth sail in the July 2012 election. Excerpts:
Let us start by asking why you are campaigning for Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for a second term in office because we had thought both of you were sharply divided at some point.
Well, disagreement is a function of politics. You disagree to agree based on certain parameters. What makes the Comrade Governor different is the fact that he loves those who are bold enough to tell him the truth. He doesn’t work with gossips and backbite.
The fact that some of us are coming home to campaign for him is a reflection of the maturity of the governor and his readiness to accommodate all shades of opinion irrespective of whether they hurt him or not. I had my personal quarrel with him when I saw that the PDP was trying to use him during the subsidy debate.
I was also selfish with my position because as a governor, he must own an opinion as guaranteed by the Constitution but, because some of us do not want him to derail from being a people’s governor, we had to caution him.
He graciously understood my position and we have since moved on. I cannot on account of that say that the man has not done well. That will be unfair and unkind when viewed against the backdrop of what obtains in the State as we speak. Edo State has moved on.
Night life has returned, public schools have been re-energized, health sector has been reinvigorated, agriculture has been repositioned, and the quality of life of an average Edo person has improved considerably compared to what obtained in the past.
I am all out to support his candidature on account of the fact that I have references to make when questions are being asked about what the governor has achieved. One will have so many things to point at. His second coming will surely be an icing on the cake.
There are still some people who feel that the governor is doing too much of media hype, that what obtains in Edo State is not commensurate with the volume of money being spent. How do you react to that?
Where is the money coming from? I think those categories of persons do not understand where the governor is getting his funds from because they are aware that there is paucity of funds in the state. The governor was able to improve on the internally generated revenue from a paltry N200million to about N2billion monthly.
That is something to cheer about. That in itself is an achievement because if the people do not subscribe to his leadership, if they do not trust him, they probably would not be paying the taxes. They could feel the impact of the performance of the governor and thus showing enormous support for his second term in office.
I pity the PDP because they found a ready match in Comrade Oshiomhole, ready to take them on in their own measure, insisting that the votes must count. Those shouting about media hype are simply begging the issues.
What is media hype in showing that over 1,500 classrooms have been renovated? What is media hype in telling the people the quality and number of roads that the government has embarked on? What is media hype in letting the people know that they have to be extra-vigilant in order that their votes are not carted away like a thief in the night?
What is media hype in telling them that they can now visit the hospitals and would surely find drugs and other medicare facilities? For how long will you blindfold the people? If Edo State people were living in captivity before as a result of the mis-governance of the past, now they have seen the light and they would do all within the confines of law to ensure that they jealously guard such a man to win again.
The PDP is the party to beat in the country having about 28 states and the Federal Government. Are you not expecting any surprises in the coming election?
The PDP is notoriously the party to beat at the center and in the federating units, but in Edo State, ACN is the party to beat. In fact, for the purpose of saving their faces, the PDP chieftains in Edo State would have loved to join the Edo ruling party.
The PDP has nothing to campaign about. They had the opportunity, but they squandered it on the altar of godfathers. Now, the so-called godfathers no longer have the ears of the people, they no longer enjoy the unfettered patronages of government.
Rather than decide budgets in their closets, budgets are now expressly debated in the chambers of the Assembly and decisions and approvals granted on the basis of convictions for projects to be done. These are cheering news for Edo sons and daughters across the world.
They are celebrating the Comrade Governor’s achievements and wondering if what they are reading about, what they are seeing happening, was ever possible in a Benin of our generation, in Edo of our generation. From traditional rulers to the ordinary man on the street, Oshiomhole has become their saviour.
Visit all the hitherto bad spots in Benin, Ekpoma and Auchi, and see for yourself. Go to the rural areas; all over the 18 local governments in the state, you will find and see visible signs of infrastructural development; roads, rural electrification, water schemes, healthcare facilities, and erosion control. There will be no surprises.