David Edevbie, David Edevbie: Simply the best to succeed Okowa

By Ochuko Akuophia

In Delta State and across the length and breadth of Nigeria, Olorogun David Edevbie is a household name. He’s a three-time Commissioner for Finance in Delta State and Principal Secretary to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua during which time he joined in the formulation of policies and their successful implementations nationwide. The Urohobo High Chief was the immediate past Chief of Staff to Delta State Governor. The cerebral technocrat, who is an aspirant for the 2023 Delta State gubernatorial election on the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), expresses the belief, in this interview, that, with his wide-range of experience in the private and public sectors, he can make government to be reflective of the people being governed for the betterment of the society. Excerpts:

All over Delta State and beyond, you are noted as a top class technocrat and development economist. What is, however, unknown to a few people is the driving force behind your ambition to become the governor of Delta State in the 2023 election…

I believe the word ‘ambition’ is a bit too personal and does not accurately reflect my innermost resolve. I simply want to make Delta State a better place to live. I am driven by the collective aspiration of most inhabitants to take our beloved Delta State quickly to greater development heights and make life more abundant and meaningful for everyone. I am in a way trying to ‘donate’ myself as the channel through which to give effect to the yearning of Deltans to join the rest of humanity as a new world order beckons.

Most Deltans home and in the diaspora are aware of the resources available to the state and are fed up with the current situation. They rightly feel that I should be the torchbearer to lead our people into the realms of greater economic prosperity. And, I am ready for that! My participation in the governorship race is, therefore, driven by a desire to render service to the good people of Delta State. It is a compelling and inspiring call to service.

How do you explain your transition from technocrat to a politician?

I have observed that the word ‘technocrat’ means different things to different people. Suffice to note that a technocrat is essentially defined as a person who has technical knowledge as well as some political power. A technocrat is a person who applies modern, transnational knowledge to developing societies.

Such a person is concerned with the application of problem-solving analytical skills to the perplexing question of development. In addition to implementing change, an equally important contribution is often creating awareness amongst his/her people of the potential directions of change.

Politics, especially in Nigeria’s First Republic, was mainly the preserve of intellectuals and our top political leaders were technocrats educated in England or other foreign countries. They developed policies that were designed to make Nigeria a world power in a few decades. This was also mostly the case in the Second Republic, but things took a different turn for the worse after that.

Today, sadly, our best and brightest flee the country or go into the private sector for well-paid jobs as a result the current quality of service delivery in politics and in the public sector leaves a lot to be desired. I am still essentially a technocrat. However, over time it has become abundantly clear to me that to implement the kind of changes we all desire in this country, one must not only possess political power, one must control it from the top.

Hence my reluctant but necessary metamorphosis to be a politician. My transition from being a technocrat to politician dates to 1999 when I was appointed as the Commissioner for Finance in Delta State. I served Delta State twice consecutively in that position. I later served as Director of Finance and Strategy of the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Campaign Organisation in 2006 and 2007 and worked with politicians from all over Nigeria.

After that I became Principal Secretary to the President as a replacement for the Chief of Staff. In this capacity, I not only initiated policies and supervised implementation, but was largely in charge of the day-to-day running of the Presidency. And, of course, the Presidency is pan-Nigerian, and I had to work with politicians, technocrats, and other people to drive the system.

Outside the foregoing, I tried my hands at practical politics in 2014 when I participated in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) primaries. It was a step by necessary learning process for me. I went on to serve as Finance Commissioner for the third time and subsequently as Chief of Staff to the current Governor of Delta State. I am now consulting and campaigning to be the next Governor of Delta State.

Your popular mantra is ‘Modernise Delta. It has even become a sing-song in all the nooks and crannies of Delta State. What is this all about?

The slogan or mantra as you call it ‘Modernise Delta’ is a product of development thinking that seeks to leapfrog Delta State into an Industrial Revolution and make it a power player in the new world order.

Mine is a forward-looking development agenda and is the result of critical engagements involving business, government and civil society leaders, academics, technology pioneers and young people within Delta State, Nigeria, Africa and beyond.

The ‘Modernise Delta’ agenda is, therefore, the product of the enlightened wisdom of many who not only understand the development problems of developing economies, but can also proffer solutions. In crafting the ‘Modernise Delta’ vision, we took cognisance of our contemporary world, where it is now and where it is headed.

We then took a critical look at what the development problems of Delta State are. What we discovered was not peculiar to our state. They are the symptoms of underdevelopment in Nigeria and Africa. The problems range from epileptic power supply to insecurity, low industrialisation, infrastructure deficit, poor healthcare and education, high unemployment rate, low per capita productivity, poverty to parochialism and other ills.

Then there is the poor spread and restricted access to ICT, especially the internet. Having identified the problems, we set out in search of solutions. The solutions gave birth to the “Modernise Delta” agenda.

The agenda is focused on five key development goals of energy, security, job and wealth creation, social infrastructure, and public sector reforms. If you permit, I can briefly elaborate on what we intend to do. We will invest in energy to make it affordable and available.

This will easily accelerate industrialisation, productivity, and development. We have devised strategies to confront and eradicate insecurity. We have strategies for collaboration, intelligence gathering, community and neighbourhood participation, and use of technology such as drones and CCTV.

Tackling insecurity will create an enabling environment for investment and industrialisation and boost productivity. This is tied to job and wealth creation enabled by agriculture, industrialisation, and creative industries. Our comparative advantages in all of these are comparable to none in Africa.

Our social infrastructure will embrace ICT and, especially mainstreaming us on the internet global highway. We will focus on inter- modal transportation. Education and healthcare, sports and recreation, housing and urban and rural development will be part of our social infrastructure package.

Quite significantly are public sector reforms that will ensure that we have a government that reflects the people being governed and proactively interfaces with the private sector. We are set for a new Delta ready to take its rightful place in Nigeria and the world. In less than four years, our ‘Modernise Delta’ agenda will take Delta State to the world and bring the world to Delta State.

In all this, what is your relationship with Governor Ifeanyi Okowa?

Suffice it to say that our relationship is very cordial. He is my friend and political leader. And, over the years, we have supported each other in several ways. I worked with him as a colleague for approximately five years and subsequently for him for about six years initially as Finance Commissioner and later as Chief of Staff.

I know that he reposes a lot of confidence in me as he once said and I quote, “Olorogun David Edevbie is a technocrat with charming and urbane disposition in the discharge of his responsibilities as Chief of Staff Government House and there wouldn’t have been a better choice”.

On another occasion, Governor Okowa had said: “Olorogun David Edevbie has continued to blaze the trail by providing and offering leadership at various levels of governance. You have provided sound and relevant professional advice for the government at different times, and, we thank you for always being there for us.

Over the years, you have carved a niche for yourself, maintaining a charismatic and unblemished leadership style that has endeared you to many Deltans and Nigerians. You have exhibited absolute leadership traits of a man committed to doing things differently as it is in developed and organised climes”. I don’t think anybody can ask for a better testimonial than these. And, I hold them very dearly to my heart.

How prepared are you for the PDP primaries and, how do you consider your chances with delegates?

I should say that I am fully prepared and that my chances with the delegates during the PDP primaries are bright if they are free and fair. To start with, I have consulted far and wide and taken my campaign message to every nook and cranny of Delta State.

I consulted party leaders and members. I consulted opinion leaders. I took my message to different interest groups. I sought the prayers and endorsement by our highly-revered royal fathers across the state. I left no stone unturned.

My team worked day and night. We crafted a manifesto and a campaign message. And, in recognition of my preparedness, no fewer than 200 groups and associations have endorsed my aspiration and, by extension, my candidacy.

I was in the shortlist of three by the DC-23. Indeed, the Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) has endorsed me again as the Urhobo aspirant of choice for Delta 2023 governorship just as it did ahead of the 2014 PDP primaries. My consultation was untiring, and the delegates saw and identified with my message.

Even before the consultation, I set up a committee to carry out a needs assessment of all communities in Delta State. Many of the delegates were surprised when I told them about the different needs of their communities. This is a pointer to how prepared I am, and the delegates know this. I have received the blessings of the majority and assurances that I will be their choice candidate during the primary election.

What is your message to delegates and Deltans in general?

My message is simple and that has been what I have been propagating this far. Vote for me. Vote for progress. I understand what the problems are, and, I am in the right position and well-equipped to provide developmental solutions. They should join me so that we can together modernise our beloved Delta.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.