By Alemma-Ozioruwa Aliu
Special Adviser on Community Development to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Newman Ugiagbe, in this interview, speaks on the political crisis in Edo State, saying the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, cannot impose his will on the state.
There are claims and counter-claims over what led to the attack on Governor Obaseki and some dignitaries at Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s residence in Iyamho. Can you give us an insider’s account?
Recall that a few years ago when his then deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, was vying for governorship position, people were harassed and nobody was brought to book. Oshiomhole is getting it wrong because then he was governor and the face-off was between him and his deputy. Now, he is the National Chairman of our party.
If the first citizen of this state could be attacked, it means we are not safe. If the first citizen of this state, who has immunity, could be treated like that alongside dignitaries like the Oba of Lagos, we are not safe.
This is enough for him to resign from office because if this is going to continue, he does not deserve to be our National Chairman. If the governor of a state in the same political party with the Chairman cannot have peace in the home of the National Chairman, why is he the National Chairman?
Why is the Edo APC crisis becoming hydra-headed?
I see the APC in the state as one family even though people have different interests. Anybody standing in the way of the governor is an enemy of Edo people because when a child is doing well in school, the father does not need to follow him to see his headmaster to influence his result.
As of today, the governor of Edo has done more than any other administration. I have been in government for 15 years. I know what I am talking about. I have served in the local government. I worked with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as Special Adviser.
I have worked in different capacities but I must say that what Obaseki has brought to Edo is amazing. We are planting and some projects are already bearing fruits. More are yet to bear fruits but we are going to see them any moment from now and anybody who says Obaseki is not coming back, I think that person is just wasting his time. God knows why He brought Obaseki and he is doing well. This is a governor who believes that every kobo that belongs to government must be spent on the people because they own it.
Before now, money was shared everywhere by government but that is not the case again. Even people in government are now hungry. And oga (Obaseki) will look at us and say “you will leave here poorer than you came because we are here to serve.’’ How many governors do that? For me, crisis or no crisis, I will tell those people who don’t believe in Obaseki to sheath their sword and enter the moving train. It will make Edo better. We all need to come together because the governor means well for the state.
But those against the governor say he does not deserve a second term…
What they need now is to join the winning team. The wind of change is blowing. What has Obaseki done that makes him not to deserve a second term? Let them tell Edo people what the governor has done that makes him not to deserve a second term. This administration came to build on what Oshiomhole has done. I am baffled that some persons are against Obaseki. I just believe they are doing that for their selfish interest, but Edo people will speak at the appropriate time.
Some people are accusing Oshiomhole of being behind the crisis. What do you think?
Oshiomhole’s position will not change the will of Edo people. Gone are the days when one man decides the fate of the people. Such cannot happen again because the governor is working. Oshiomhole brought this government, he should stand by it. If he decides not to stand with us, we will still get to the Promised Land.
You said the opposition against the governor’s ambition is not really about performance but selfish interest. Could you expatiate?
One area of distinction for Obaseki is a programme called Edo-Jobs. It was birthed as a practical strategy to realise his campaign promise of creating 200, 000 jobs for the unemployed resident in the state. Of the 200,000 jobs, about 90,000 have been created so far. There is also Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation, Edo-Best.
It is Obaseki’s education initiative aimed at transforming the public education system. It is also aimed at improving learning outcomes in Edo. 8,700 teachers have been trained and equipped with tech devices for improved teaching outcomes. More than 150,000 school children at the basic education level enjoy digital learning under the Edo-Best programme. In the civil service, it will interest you to know that salaries of workers in the state including pensioners and political appointees are paid monthly as and when due.
To make the working environment conducive for civil servants, Obaseki would soon complete the Edo State secretariat complex. He also created the Edo State health insurance scheme for civil servants.
The completion of judges’ quarters is in line with Governor Obaseki’s promise to build decent and comfortable houses for judges in the state. He renovated the High Court Complex and Abudu Campus of the College of Education is almost complete. The campus would serve as a training centre for basic education teachers. On road construction, so many contracts have been awarded.
The Ossiomo Power Plant is a Public Private Partnership, PPP, between Edo State government and Ossiomo Power Company. It is aimed at increasing electricity supply in the state. He also built the Emotan Gardens Estate.
The first phase of units in the estate has been commissioned. The Edo Taskforce against Human Trafficking was created to curb illegal migration and human trafficking. This has been lauded by the United Kingdom, UK, Department for International Development, DFID, and also United States, US, Embassy, European Union, EU, Ambassador to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS. They said the task force and other strategies adopted by Obaseki brought about the reduction of illegal migration in Edo State from first to sixth among originating sources of illegal migrants to Europe.
On security, there is new security architecture in the state. The state government recently procured two Armoured Personnel Carriers, APCs, for the police, launched Operation Wabaizigan, and marine police base was established in Gelegele.
When Obaseki came into office, one of the areas he needed to touch differently was community development. That is why he created the community development committee. We have Ward Development Committee in the 192 wards of Edo State with the minimum membership of 15. We have more than 4,000 members and these members are all on government payroll. Governor Obaseki felt it was time to carry the grassroots along. Through the committee, the people can determine what they want the government to do for them.
The committee enhances grassroots inclusion and inspires grassroots development by building a connection between wards and the central government.
It also speeds up grassroots development, identifies priority projects in individual communities, monitors and protects community projects, and empowers rural dwellers for societal growth.
This committee is under my office and I oversee its activities. Today, the state is more stable because development is coming through the grassroots.
When developing the annual budget, this office makes sure all the wards through this committee make input. The committee cuts across party lines. All the members come from all the parties. They are opinion leaders from all fields including traditional rulers.