By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Chief Dan Orbih is the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this interview, Orbih reviews the 15-month stewardship of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the governance of the state, explaining why the PDP decided to lift its self-imposed moratorium on its criticism of the Obaseki administration.
How is governance in Edo State?
In Edo State, I must say that Governor Obaseki assumed office after the end of the tenure of Adams Oshiomhole. For us, in the PDP we said we would give him adequate time to settle down to the job. So, you would have noticed that for about one year that we deliberately did not speak, for we decided to give him enough time to do the job he asked Edo people to give him the opportunity to do. However, we discovered that it was not in the interest of our people and the state to keep quiet in the face of failure on his part to address the very issues he promised that he was going to address if given the opportunity. First, there was this issue to engage 200,000 graduates. After one year, I will tell you quite frankly that the man has refused to provide jobs for these people and I can also say quite frankly that if you look at the statistics of those who had been repatriated from Libya, Edo State has taken the number one position and most of these people are people who were frustrated after looking forward eagerly to Obaseki’s electioneering promise that he was going to give them jobs. They became frustrated, no jobs and they decided to troop out in large numbers to Libya.
So you insist that it is the failure of the government that drove them out of the country?
Yes, the failure of Obaseki to fulfill his campaign promise to provide them with 200,000 jobs drove them out from Edo State and Nigeria.
But this problem was there even before Obaseki came?
But the number has increased. It is the increase in the number of Libya returnees that is worrisome.
Are you now saying that Governor Adams Oshiomhole managed the situation better than Governor Obaseki?
A lot of people left during the time of Oshiomhole, but the number has increased under Obaseki.
So, you are saying that Oshiomhole was a better governor than Obaseki?
I have not said so. Adams Oshiomhole was a total failure in the governance of Edo State; that is not the issue now. But now that you have brought it up, Adams came with the populist programme wanting to do things differently from what the average politician would do in government and a lot of people thought that he was speaking the truth, but they discovered after four years in office that there was nothing remarkable different from what others were doing. Things came to a head when I exposed his famous Go and Die encounter with a widow, and that was able to show that he was a preacher who was not practicing what he was preaching. I think Adams has gone and that page is full of regrets and disappointments.
So who do you say is a better governor of Edo State better between Oshiomhole and Obaseki?
That is a very broad question. I am talking about the Libya returnees.
Okay on the issue of youth employment?
That is ok. All I am trying to say is that not that Adams did very well, but that we have two different persons, one came on a populist agenda, I would do things differently and the other said, ‘look I am a technocrat, give me an opportunity, I will take the youths off the streets, I will give them 200,000 jobs.’ One year of his administration, he has not created 1,000 jobs. So, if you say let’s say he will create one or two thousand jobs every year, you will find out that at the end of four years he may not be able to create 4,000 jobs
So, what I am saying is that you don’t raise the hopes of people only to make them discover too early in the day that all that was political gimmicks. So, you will find out that there is an increase in the number of Edo people who are now coming back as returnees from Libya and it is a reflection of what Obaseki has done in office; he has failed the people. He promised them jobs, and he failed to deliver.
You have lately accused the Edo government of not being forthright in the supply of rice to IDPs in the state and been challenged by the government to show proof?
I have the official letter from the Customs Service conveying the message that the Federal Government has instructed it to make available to the IDP camps, seized consignment of rice, vegetable oil, clothes, and shoes. These things were conveyed in a letter to the state government. It would interest you to know that this letter was written in November 2017 but these people kept this information to themselves. Then the state government decided to go to the IDP Camp, in December during the festivity and they made some donations, and we have the evidence in the news report in Vanguard. They gave the impression that what they brought was from the state government even, hiding information that these items were donated by the Federal Government. Those of us who knew what was going on started giving serious information to the relevant people concerned that you have a right to demand for what was sent to you. The government only responded when they now knew that it had become public knowledge and that was when they now decided to take some items to the camp – things that they got as far back as November last year. And the government’s defence cannot hold water, and it is very clear now that the information is in the public domain; they are now cooking up stories to cover up. These people were given a consignment of 6,822 bags and instead of delivering that quantity to the camp, what they took altogether was 2,101 bags. What they donated during the festive period, they pretended that it was the state government that gave it. So, if you really want to take their defence seriously, it means that what they took there in December was the state government’s own donation to the camp; so it means that as at date, what they have actually taken to the place is 1,000 bags; not the 2,101 bags which is what you get when you add what they took in December and what they took in February.
How are you sure that the government is not taking these things in phases?
No, no. You need to read their statement. What they are now saying is that the rice was meant for Internally Displaced Persons and that they understand that there are some in one village, there are some in another village. We have taken pains to go and do our investigation; there are no IDPs in the places the government has mentioned. The letter was very explicit; the Federal Government mentioned the IDP camp where the consignment should be taken to and what the government has done is that they did not even follow the instructions of the Federal Government; they diverted goods meant for a particular camp. The truth which I must not fail to tell you is that members of the APC government took this rice and shared it among themselves for their personal use. It is painful that items meant for people who should naturally attract our sympathies and support are now being denied of items that are legitimately what rightly belongs to them. If they can do this, they can take anything. These are not people who should be entrusted with the right of managing our resources. The letter from the Federal Government did not mention orphanages. They have also come up with the explanation that the vegetable oil sent from Customs has expired. I am aware that the vegetable sent was in good condition and was certified good for human consumption. They did not even take one gallon to the IDPs. I think this is totally unacceptable and shows the level of corruption under the administration of Governor Obaseki. They want to trivialise it by saying that the police should investigate Dan Orbih’s claims, these are not allegations; these are facts. For somebody to say I gave some to one orphanage here and there, the instruction was specific; send them to the IDP camp.
Beyond the media, have you taken this issue to the government or the police?
Let me say that with all seriousness, I thought that with what I did that the governor should have written me, commending me and apologizing to the people of Edo State for this daylight robbery. Instead of them to render a public apology, they are trying to trivialise the issue by saying that the police should apologise. They are also saying that they discovered that some bags of rice were bad. They talk as if they are talking to people who don’t reason. You were asked to give something to Mr. A; is it your responsibility to say what you were asked to give to Mr. A is bad? It is for Mr. A to receive what was sent and he is the one in position to say that I have received it; this was bad, this was good. What this means is that on your own you were opening the bags which were not meant for you and checked them!