*‘Why I want to succeed Uduaghan’
Olorogun David Edevbie’s calm visage and youthful look belie his intellectual depth and conviction. Articulate and suave, an encounter with Edevbie is always memorable. A holder of a bachelor’s degree in economics, an MBA and an alumni of the prestigious Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme, Edevbie is a development finance expert, who contributed to the success of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, CDC, in the 1990s in Asia and the Pacific region.
Edevbie was Delta State Commissioner for Finance from 1999 to 2005, when he resigned and returned to the private sector. He later became the Director of Finance and Strategy in the Yar’ Adua Presidential Campaign Organization and subsequently worked as Principal Secretary to the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua till April 2010. Edevbie is currently campaigning to be governor of Delta State in 2015. In this interview, he talks about his dreams for the state, his convictions and why he feels he is the right man to govern Delta for the next four years.
BY OLALEKAN BILESANMI
You have been in the news of late as vying for the governorship of Delta State in 2015. What informed your decision to join the race?
It is true that I am in the Delta State governorship race for 2015.Simply put, rather than sit on the sidelines like most people and complain about the state of affairs of our dear country, I have decided to get involved to try to make a difference. I am driven by the desire to make Delta State a better place if not for my generation, at least for my children. My decision to run for the governorship emanates from my conviction and passion to contribute to the development of the state and her people through quality and selfless service. I have the capacity and relevant experience to create an enabling environment for our people to realize their vast potentials and better their living conditions. I am offering people the choice of focused,prudent and accountable leadership.
You are from Delta Central senatorial district considered by some to have had its fair share of the governorship. What is your response to the clamour by the Delta North senatorial district for power shift to the Anioma?
The clamour for political power by Delta North is natural in an evolving society. I appreciate their desire and it is a legitimate demand. There are similar clamours in many other states such as Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Benue, Kaduna, for example. I rationalize it on the basis of inter-ethnic relations, which is often predicated on mutual distrust and friendship. Election time is a period of mutual distrust. But I am certain that we inDelta State shall reach agreement and again enter a lasting season of friendship. Again, I appreciate this issue from a historical perspective. In the countdown to Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the Willinks Commission was established in 1958 to address the fears of minority groups in Nigeria.
Unfortunately, the minorities fear of oppression by the majority tribes is still prevalent in many states, Delta inclusive. Nevertheless, I am very optimistic that eventually we shall evolve and grow beyond the simplistic clamour for power based on ethnic platforms. We have already reached the stage in this country where government should be liberated from primordial strings and good governance,rather than ethnic considerations. After all, we have chosen to operate a democracy in which the minority have their say, but the majority have their way.
What do you think can be done to redress the ethnic tension and suspicion in the state?
I think my response to the last question partly addresses this. Delta State, like the larger polity called Nigeria, is undergoing socio-political evolution and such complexities are bound to be the order of the day. But I am optimistic that with improved education,we shall overcome. For now, what I think is required is for the political class, intellectuals and the private sector to find common ground and mediate our way out of these complexities. Believe me, the masses are not sold on these complexities you are referring to. It is the political class that manipulates them to create ethnic divides.
The current development challenges in Delta affect all and what the people truly want is good governance. Take the crisis currently brewing around the take-off of the Delta GasCity project in Warri South-West, which has the biggest potential for employment in Africa, for instance. The solution lies in peace building by creating awareness and the enabling environment for all to thrive. I worked in the Philippines when they had similar problems and we handled it with all the dexterity that brought peace and prosperity to that region. As you may be aware, I played a pivotal role in resolving the militant crisis in the Niger Delta and the experience puts me in a good position to mediate in crisis situations like the one arising from the Delta Gas City project.
What are your plans for Delta State?
I am a man on a mission that is inspired by a grand vision. First, I must restate my commitment to an idea I have had since 1999, which is essentially a pan-Delta agenda. Undoubtedly, while Delta has made some progress since 1999, my desire is to launch the state to anew level hitherto inconceivable. My plans for Delta State shall be a testimony to the manifold achievement that a stubborn dream, tenacious vision, purpose driven and accountable leadership can make possible. I have a well laid out blueprint that can be called a version of the ‘’Marshal Plan’’. Firstly,I recognize the importance of education to the development of society. It is for this reason that I propose strict adherence to UNESCO recommendation for education. I shall ensure access to quality education at all levels and also rework the current education curriculum to be entrepreneurship-driven. There will also be emphasis on civic and cultural education.
I would like education in Delta State to be ICT compliant and with regular training for our teachers. Provision and upgrading of education infrastructure would also be prioritized. Education would continue to be subsidized and also be compulsory from primary to secondary school and scholarship and bursary will be available to tertiary students. Secondly,massive improvement in the quality of the health sector is an essential part of my Marshal Plan for Delta State.
I have configured a scheme that will guarantee access to quality and affordable medicare to all Deltans, irrespective of where they are in the state. I will build more modern health infrastructure to be complemented by the acquisition of advanced medical equipment even as primary and secondary health facilities are upgraded. There shall be regular recruitment and training of health personnel and subsidized medicare for pregnant women, children from day-old to five years and citizens of 65 years and above.
Thirdly,I have a strategy for curbing the menace of armed robbery and kidnapping, which will in turn create an investor-friendly environment. Essentially,we shall be engaging in peace building and promote community policing or neighbourhood watches. This is aside of providing additional support to the police. To divert the attention of the youths from crime and channel their energy into some other useful engagements, we shall establish more focused skills acquisition centres to engage them and also embark on massive employment creation. I shall also continue to encourage sports development because it is clearly an area in which Delta State has a competitive advantage.
Fourthly,I have also conceived a scheme for agro-industrial revolution in Delta State. Agriculture is the world’s largest employer of labour and Delta is endowed with arable land, rivers and a climate that can support over 150 food, fruits and cash crops for domestic consumption and export,
which I believe if properly harnessed can generate thrice the multiplier effect of what crude oil presently generates. Farmers will have access to credit facilities. Agro-allied businesses and industrialization will complement agriculture. Indigenous and foreign investors will take advantage of our agricultural endowments, open new industries and revive ailing ones for massive employment generation.
Small and medium scale enterprises will be encouraged to reduce unemployment, combat poverty and lead to the socio-economic empowerment of our people. Fifth,I have also put a lot of effort in developing an infrastructural development and environmental rehabilitation scheme. This is targeted at rural development, urban renewal, massive road construction and rehabilitation, provision of portable water, stable electricity,enhancement of water and air transportation to promote both local and foreign business and tourism. My plan also has a housing development component for both rural and urban centres.
I shall promote and encourage public-private partnerships in the provision of infrastructure because I know from personal experience that Delta State government simply does not have enough resources todo it on its own without the help of the private sector. I will also champion the establishment of a public works programme in the mould of Delta Rapid Roads Repairs and Infrastructure Rehabilitation Team. Finally,my blueprint for Delta State envisages value re-orientation and public service reforms. We hope to re-examine personal and public values. The dignity of labour and the core values of integrity,discipline and selflessness will be promoted. We shall prioritize the welfare of the labour force. In the public sector, we must embark on procurement reforms for greater efficiency, accountability and transparency.