By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
They call him the ‘Solution’ but his real name is Earl Osaro Onaiwu. He is the Director General of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governors’ Forum as well as governorship aspirant of the PDP in the forthcoming September 10 election. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Onaiwu declares his preparedness to take over the mantle of leadership in Osadebey Avenue after Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s tenure. He also condemned the recent violence that occurred at Auchi when the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Pius Odubu visited the area to meet with delegates of the party.
We learnt that PDP governorship aspirants were screened last Sunday, how was it?
We went for interactive session, it was a family affair. I believe that the four of us are qualified to govern this state but we cannot be candidates at the same time. As for me, I believe I am well equipped to govern the state because I have been involved in practicals in leadership, accountability, transparency and good governance.
What I mean by that is I have had working relationships with serving governors. I can tell you that I know how governor Emmanuel Uduaghan built the Airport in Asaba, I know how he built the roads in Delta state.
I can also tell you, I know how Governor Mimiko performed in Ondo state, how he built mega hospitals, beautiful roads, street lights. In Jigawa state, I was there when Governor Yuguda built the state stadium, the airport, new schools and many other projects. I can also tell you about Gombe. I have been involved in those things in the past nine years. I am therefore coming to bring that experience back home. I am not coming home to learn. I already have the experience.
There are things we do which we call minimal impact and maximum output. I have learnt from my practical how to spend little money and achieve maximum output. I believe that the party will not make the mistake, but will look at the four of us and choose the right person to do the job. And because of the experience I have in working with governors, taking the youths off the street and empowering the women, the elderly, if I have been able to serve PDP governors for eight years, coming to serve our people is not to make money. It is about service, it is about loyalty, I want to come and give to our people what they gave to me. I am going to improve on what the present administration in Edo has done.
Do you think you have the structure to pick the ticket of the PDP?
Party is the structure, a party that is strong, that is not weak is the structure. PDP is the only party that formed a government without any coalition, without agreement and it is in every local Government and every unit in this country. The party has been a strong structure since 1999. The only governor that was able to win election outside PDP was Mimiko because we had these new parties now. If there is anybody who believes that he has the structures as they claim, he should go and try in another party and see if he will win.
After Mimiko did it and he won, any body who says he is a super star should try his popularity. I have been a faithful party man, I have been serving the party since 1999. PDP is the structure and anybody who has another structure should test it by running for the governorship under the umbrella of another party and test his popularity. For instance, we have over eight governorship aspirants in the APC and it is because the APC has formed government here, but if those aspirants feel they are popular let them try another political party and test their popularity. So PDP is the structure not the individual.
In what areas do you think that Oshiomhole has not done well which you will want to do?
People criticize governors, not just Oshiomhole. Governance is a thankless job, people will always criticize you no matter what you have done. I can tell you for example that Jigawa state governor, while he was in office, lived in a three bedroom bungalow. In Abuja he stayed in Garki, he did not live in Asokoro or Maitama but people still criticized him. He transformed Jigawa state, but people still wrote petitions against him and he was dragged before the EFCC. Look at Bauchi state governor, when he took over in Bauchi, the civil servants were using Keke Napep, but by the time he left Bauchi every civil servant was riding a car and they built houses.
He turned Bauchi around but people still say negative things about him. When you are a governor, no matter how hard you try, people will criticize you. Do you know that some people criticized Ogbemudia, despite all he did for the old Bende state? Are you trying to tell me that there is nothing Lucky Igbinedion administration did in Edo state, but you saw how they treated him. People have started criticizing Oshiomhole already and they will criticize him more when he leaves office.
For me, the APC government in the state has done their best, we have seen their eight years, the PDP government which I will form by the special grace of God, will improve on what Oshiomhole has done and we will bring the PDP manifesto into play.
The only area I frowned at by this government in Edo state is increasing the minimum wage at the tail end of the administration when we know that things are really bad with the economy. Though we know they have done well in boosting the IGR of the state but I believe the timing was not proper.
I don’t believe in condemning a government out rightly or cancelling projects a previous government initiated unless they are not in the best interest of the people. I cannot say this man has failed or this one has failed because even at home, our wives complain about us, our children complain about us, no body is perfect.
But when we form government, we will look at their policies and see what they have done wrong or right. The things they did wrong we will correct them while the good ones will be perfected. If they are building roads or schools they could not compete we will complete them because those things do not belong to Oshiomhole, they belong to the state.
Edo people cried for change after PDP ruled here for ten years and that brought Oshiomhole, do you think the people will vote for PDP this time around seeing what Oshiomhole has done?
I will not agree with you that the years of PDP were completely wasted. Don’t forget that that was the beginning of our democracy, we were testing democracy then so you should expect many mistakes. Governors who came at that time had that problem. Like I said earlier, government job is a thankless job, so people must talk. But for me, governance is about continuity and we must look at what is on ground so we can make progress.
If I am sworn in as governor, if I don’t continue with Oshiomhole’s project people will say he failed but that may not be the case. But if you continue with those projects no body will say that governor failed. If Oshiomhole had continued with the projects inherited from the PDP people will not say PDP failed woefully. Whatever a previous government has done a new government should complete it as long as it is a project that will improve the lives of our people. For me, there is no benchmark to qualify the PDP’s ten years and APC’s eight years because it is about continuity.
And whether the PDP will get the state back, yes we can. Because I am talking to market women, our youths, students, everybody. We are very optimistic that we will win in this state particularly when the APC at the center has not done well. The APC here does not have anything thing to campaign with that they have done at the Federal level so when we get into the elections we will have a lot to say about them. Buhari said he is fighting corruption but you know there are countries who give amnesty to corruption.
If you say I have stolen money, charge me to court, not crucifying me in the papers. We hear every day that they have recovered money from people, let them publicly name the people they recovered money from and where the money is kept. The APC government as at today is anti people, look at it today everything has gone up, the price of food has gone up, so I don’t know what they will campaign with in the coming election in Edo state.
Will there be free and fair PDP primary
We have insisted on transparent primaries, we have all agreed that we want to go to primaries. I have said that if we go for free and fair primaries and I am defeated, although I know I will not be defeated, I will embrace whoever is the winner. I know I am going to win so I will expect other aspirants to embrace me when I win the nomination. I am very optimistic because of my stability in the party, my sincerity of purpose, my dedication and service to the party.
I know I will win the primaries and win for the party. People are already talking that I have no baggage so if I win the APC will find it difficult to campaign against me. Because we really do not need candidates that will create more problem for the party, that will be suicidal.
How do you see the burning ing issues between Oshiomhole and his deputy?
I condemn that incident. Edo state is not known to be a violent state. Both of them must not set Edo on fire. I have asked the Commissioner of Police to please call a meeting of political parties and all the aspirants so that we can talk because some of the aspirants are moving around with thugs and it is not good. Edo is not a state of hooliganism but the level of hooliganism that we are witnessing already when the election has not come is scaring.
We cannot go into a general election with this kind of tension, we must reduce the tension because if you want to be governor, you will be governor of the people so when you kill everybody how will you govern. Development cannot come when there is no peace in a state. I believe in peace, I am an apostle of peace. Even though we heard conflicting reports as to what really happened in Auchi but it is totally unacceptable to see that level of violence.
We heard that the deputy wanted to go and intimidate Oshiomhole in his domain but Oshiomhole’s people chased him away. But the Deputy’s people said the attack was masterminded against the Deputy, so we don’t really know the truth but that is their own in-house problem.
Whoever caused that violence, I condemned it totally. we don’t need violence in the state. What creates such tension is when politicians are desperate, giving money to thugs to go and cause mayhem. If you look at my campaign, each time I travel to a place you will never see thugs around me, I am a peaceful person and that is why everybody around me wears white, meaning purity. You cannot see my people shooting gun to scare any body and that I believe created the problem in Auchi. But both the governor and his deputy must not drag Edo people into their problem.