…Says Obaseki will provide sustainable stomach infrastructure for Edo people

SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY

Hon. Pally Iriase is the Deputy Majority Whip in the House of Representatives representing Owan Federal constituency of Edo state.

In this interview, he argues that the call for restructuring of the country and agitations for the state of Biafra were being masterminded by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to regain power.

He also condemns the PDP in Edo state for accusing Governor Godwin Obaseki led administration of planning to sell some government parastaltals, explaining that the governor only intends to privatize the Special hospital in Benin City to give the best health care to the people of the state.

Excerpts:

How do you react to the frequent friction between the Presidency and the National Assembly?

My advice is that both sides must learn to accommodate each other. By our presidential system      of government, none of the arms of government can go it alone and we must put a template in our comments, comments that emerge from executive, comments that emerge from legislature, must be agreeable, must be targeted towards consensus building rather than conflict, that is one.

Hon. Pally Iriase

I think that disagreement is not out rightly a bad thing because if there is no disagreement, whatever agreement you have will hardly be in the best interest of the populace.

I see the disagreement as a healthy one because we need to build institutions; we need to give respect to institutions. I do not subscribe to the view that there is no need for compliance with the constitutional provisions, the moment you throw away your constitution and move outside the rules laid down, then you have a bestial state.

So, I expect that this disagreement can easily be resolved at a round table in the interest of Nigerians. You need not burn the polity for disagreements that can easily be resolved. For that reason my advice is for the Acting President to find a common ground in order to resolve this discontentment in our relationship. Because in a home, the husband and wife can ill-afford intractable differences, it must be resolved for the betterment of the family.

Don’t you think this will affect the chances of your party in 2019 elections?

I don’t think that the current feud will be mismanaged and if it is not mismanaged, there is enough time, provided the focus is on development, and on service delivery, and this will make the people to agree that comparatively, this government did better than the PDP.

I think it is not the problem of disagreement which will always be there between the legislature and the executive that I am afraid of, it is those who have now involved themselves in the habit of heating up the polity; you hear all kinds of ethnic schism, and call it all kinds of names, some want an Independent State of Biafra, now some people say    we want restructuring. Nigerians must be aware of the gimmick of the average politician.

My take on what is going on in all these calls for restructuring, for separation and all that, is an agenda setting agitation because today, if you look at the crowd that is really championing these agitations, a number of them are in the opposition who lost out in the last election. Only recently I read in the papers that leaders of the South-South, of the South East, of the Middle Belt have come together, I looked through the list and I shook my head; God help us because the press can create a monster from nobody.

And I joined those who said that if you have the clout, you have representatives in the National Assembly and the State    House of Assemblies, why are you not drawing their attention to your desire for restructuring so that it will now become everybody’s idea. So, if you look at the names, you will know that those who were on the side that lost in the last election are more in number in these meetings so Nigerians should be wiser.

We have a terrible situation in our hand, when the price of crude oil was over 100 dollars per barrel for several years these same elements did nothing except to help themselves from the common wealth, they saved nothing for the rainy day and the rains are here and they tell Nigerians today we are not better off. If you laid a bad foundation and I now try to reconstruct the foundation before a super structure will be put on it, then you come around to say I can’t even build, is that right? In all of these agitations, the rise of secessionist movement is an agenda setting plan of the opposition and Nigerians should beware, they should all come together to better the country’s economy for the betterment of all of us.

You call for restructuring for instance, your clamour is so ill defined. As a Nigerian, I don’t know what exactly you are proposing as the outcome of a restructured Nigeria but I know as a Nigerian that as I speak today, more than   90 per cent of the states are not viable so why are we being hypocritical, let us know what you want to restructure. I can listen to somebody who says since these states are not viable, why can’t we go for    regionalism. You haven’t told us exactly what you want from restructuring so let us clearly define this restructuring.

The PDP in the state recently accused the governor of trying to privatise some government owned infrastructure, what is your take on this?

For me, I take with a pinch of salt, anything the opposition party brings because some of their tantrums are very ill conceived. When you say you want to privatise, what is the man proposing, you probably do not know what the man has in mind. Conceiving, Build, Operate and Transfer are all part of Private Public Partnership.

But the governor wants things to be run proficiently, professionally for the benefit of all. So, having known what we mean by privatisation, I can’t jump into the bandwagon of those PDP elements condemning every move the government makes, that as opposition, it must be criticized. I don’t like criticising just for the sake of it because first, you must know what the issue is before you start criticising.

I am not aware that five star hospital has been put up for sale and they must know   that this APC government is not like theirs where privatisation was another ploy for cornering the common wealth of those who you are supposed to protect. Because PDP sold our assets, destroyed the economy of the state and that is what the APC is still trying to revamp today. The privatisation is to serve the interest of the people and not the personal privatization that the PDP did.

How do you see Edo Grazing Bill and the opposition against it?

First, let me confess that I have not had the benefit of seeing the details of the bill, I have only got snippets of it from here and there and that could be dangerous. But be that as it may, we are all elected representatives of our people but if the people in their numbers have risen against any bill, I think that is the beauty of public hearing and subjecting legislative action to public analysis, scrutiny and criticism. So, if they have come to say we are not for this bill, it means they must go back to the drawing table.

An example of such engagement with the electorate is what is playing out in the US right now. The Republicans went populist in their campaign to repeal the Obamacare and have it replaced by a more citizen-friendly bill but they have got stuck at Capitol Hill and all efforts to actualise it have not succeeded even with the strong arm of Trump. The Republicans even within themselves are finding it difficult because many of the legislators are listening to their people. So, the same is what I will recommend here. Once you start something, however well-meaning the effort is and having already brought a bill but once the people say no, you must echo their voice on the floor of the house.

Don’t you think the style of governance in Edo state where the governor gives out cash to politicians may backfire against your party in future elections?

I think Governor Godwin Obaseki is smarter than that. What I believe is happening is that he wants to lay a solid foundation for massive infrastructural development which is very obvious for all eyes to see. I am believing too that when you are in Rome, you have to behave like Romans but at some point you will have to balance these issues.

I have no doubt that the governor by his employment generation drive and many other programmes, which are yet to be put in the public domain will address the issue of stomach infrastructure in a more sustainable way than what was being done before and we will not allow anything that will negatively impact on what the party is doing in Edo state for the betterment of us all because we know where Edo state is coming from, how Edo state has suffered from bad governance and we now know that our best bet is supporting this good government that wants to improve the infrastructural facilities and revamp the industries that never took off thereby generating employment.

And we will not have people coming in the name of lack of stomach infrastructure to truncate this steady movement to progress. You must realise that in the next few days, the fertiliser factory which was established with fanfare but never turned out one bag of fertiliser will be turning out fertilisers right now and it will take the hands of human beings to make those products and those human beings   will be employees and that is stomach infrastructure in a sustainable way.

The massive agricultural intervention that this government is going into is yet another one that will take on board so many hands. So, I believe that the government of Obaseki will give back to the people, the desired stomach infrastructure in a more sustainable way.

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