By Emma Ujah, Abuja
Hon Matthew Iduoriyekemwe is a two-term Majority Leader, Edo State House of Assembly. The former Edo State representative in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, says, in this interview, that he stands out as the most qualified candidate to occupy the Edo State Government, as Gov. Adams Oshimhole’s tenure ends shortly. Excerpts:
You want to be governor of Edo State. What is your pedigree?
Since the commencement of this new democratic era, I have been a very active participant. I was elected into the Edo House of Assembly in 1999; I was the Majority Leader in Edo House of Assembly for eight years. I also went to the Niger Delta Development Commission as the state representative and I have participated in virtually all the political activities of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo since 1998. In fact, I was among the founding members of the political party. In terms of experience I have been a legislator and I have also served in a body that is part of the executive and that is the Niger Delta Commission.
In these offices I have shown faith and I have also tried in my own way to ensure our people have the effects of good governance and that the dividend of democracy is actually enjoyed by my constituents and those directly under my political constituency.
Why do you think you are the right candidate for Edo State Government House?
I have said earlier that I have been part of the government since 1999 and I know the basic responsibilities of government. It is to be able to do things, the things that will ensure basic satisfaction to the people and generate happiness in the people. My stay so far in government has given me the opportunity to know that things can be done differently from the way things are been done now. If you understand the geographical topography of Edo state, it is one state that is endowed with both human and natural resources. It is a state were we have agricultural resources, stable, flat lands and solid minerals.
All these can be transformed for the betterment and growth of that state. Edo state as we speak today, is a state that hasn’t been able to have a clear cut economic direction. I think there has been no deliberate effort of government to create an economic policy geared towards eliminating poverty and strengthening infrastructure. Edo state is a state that is in clear need of an economic foundation which will lead to the engagement of the unemployed in our state, which will lead to the development of entrepreneurial skills of the people of the state, which will lead to the strengthening of Small and Medium Enterprises. I am in that state and I know that is one thing the state is lacking, not minding the fact that the state is one of the states that you can say in terms of education is one of the foremost states in this country.
It is a state where we need to develop those basic things like education; we have to give the right quality of education back to our people like it was in the past. Right now, what we have is infrastructure, you see school buildings but you visit those schools and the right capacity of staff are not there. When you don’t have the right capacity of staff, what then will be the quality of students we are going to train in that school? So it is a time when we have to redefine a clear economic direction for the state.
What is the nature of your economic blueprint?
One of the major points I want to look at as a governor is to lay the economic foundation of growth in the state and you can do this in so many ways. You have to strengthen the agricultural sector; you have to create an environment to allow private businesses to develop and thrive. Government like we know can’t give jobs to everybody, government can’t employ all the unemployed in the society. What government can do is to create the enabling environment to allow entrepreneurs to develop and in their developing they engage persons to strengthen their businesses and by so doing you are taking out people from the streets. In the area of agriculture, to also strengthen first and foremost the local farmers who are in the states by giving them incentives and strengthen them to increase their capacity, while government will on her own part see how we can help them to have good access to their farmers and also do things to see the preservation of their farm produce. These are some of the things we hope to do in the area of agriculture while we invite persons who are interested in going into agriculture to come to the state and give them all the support they need to establish and operate in our state.
Only about 9 months ago many governorship candidates spoke glowingly about their desires and visions for their states, only to be elected and found out there was no money to run the states. They had to run to the federal government to beg for bail out. Have you deeply considered that you can have a similar situation, if elected governor of your Edo?
Yes we are in a country were almost every state depends on allocation from the federal government but that is dwindling. Consequently, we must look at other ways to generate revenue and in doing that we must create enabling environment for entrepreneurial growth and development in the state. When that is done, yes it might not be quite easy at the beginning, but over time, it is something you build on. If you look at life, basically what is the foremost thing that affects everyone in the society, once you are able to put forth policies that can solve the basic physiological needs of any society then that society is ready for development and by that basic physiological needs we are talking about things like food, clothing and shelter. If government sets out to do that and we are able to achieve that, then it will be time to start thing of novelties that you can do to improve on the economy of the state. The point we are now is to develop the existing infrastructure.
How much are you aware of the assets and liabilities of Edo state?
Edo State is a state that is blessed with abundant minerals, as well as, other natural resources. Edo state is one state that opportunities bound to be explored in various sectors. It is one of the states in the country that are oil producing, no matter how and has one of the highest gas reserves in the country.
I was going through some part of the state and found out that even the forestry department that people have been falling trees and there has been a lot of deforestation but there were not re-planting. These are just basic things on government must take a definite stand, stay by it, not just for the present but for the future. We must see government as a continuous process.
One of the things I also think is the bane of development in many of the states is that almost all the state governments and the federal government operate on borrowing. Consequently, it is not unlikely that when you assume office as a governor you will find a debt profile. You won’t say because there are debts to be paid you are not going to face what you need to do to improve on the economy and well being of the people. While you look at the debt, the ones that are genuine, you continue to service because as I said government is a continuous process. The government is there constant and it is the operators of government that come in and out. So once one gets to office, what one has to do is to review all those things. Right now, I can’t tell you that I know the extent of indebtedness of Edo state- even the state government up till now, has never come out to tell the people of Edo state this is the state of indebtedness. The state government continuous to pride itself in say ‘we are not owing anybody, we are not owing this and that’ but those are things that once you get into office you will find out for yourself.
Even until very recently the governor was still taking a World Bank loan. Aren’t you scared of the finances of the state that will confront you if you become the governor of the state?
Well why should I be scared? It is the reason for the World Bank loan that he was taking I should be bothered about- whether those loans are actually applied for the purpose for which they were obtained. I heard that before those loans were obtained some certain conditions were given them to meet. I am still not sure as to what amount of that money has been released to Edo state. So with the new government coming in place you have to do an appraisal, ook at what is there, look at what amount and value of that loan has been released and what part of the loan released has been utilised.
We know that very recently there were issues about the current governor trying to establish a new university in his home town and some people feel that should not be a priority for a state with two universities. What is your take on it?
I think the establishment of a new state university shouldn’t arise because the existing ones can be strengthened to provide opportunities for more candidates. If you think you need to create new departments or new faculties, the laws establishing that existing institution allow for multiple campuses
You could take a particular campus out of the present place and move it to any part of the state that you see fit, rather than establishing a new university in the state. I think one state government will be having too many responsibility managing two state universities.
For so many people change is what they thing should happen in the Nigerian political arena that is why we have a federal government that is been controlled by APC and so many states controlled by APC. How do you think that you would be able to wrest Edo state from the APC?
Firstly, my people in Edo State believe in me. They have confidence in me because I have lived most of my life with them and amongst them. They see a practical demonstration of my belief in Edo State by my actions through the things I do in the state. Most of my investments are there because I believe that Edo State can be greater and in Edo state the change mantra that we are seeing is actually needed more but that aside, elections are won when the people see the credibility of the candidate. There have been states in this country where candidates have emerged and defeated incumbent governors. There are states in this country where candidates emerge and defeated the incumbent party both at the state and federal.