Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole recently marked the fifth anniversary of his administration. During a media parley, the former Labour leader spoke on his vision for the state, the challenge of the office and what keeps him going. MUYIWA OYINLOLA was there.
Congratulations on your 5th anniversary as the Governor of Edo State, your opponents would think the celebration was a waste of state resources.
but I call it practical accountability, open governance. In the trade union world when you are elected at a certain period you hold your meeting, you give report of your achievement and where you have challenges you explain it to the people. So I don’t see what was extravagant; I didn’t see people drinking champagne or eating three course meals, rather I saw women under the sun and when we finished, a few people came to the Government House for lunch.
My complaint when I was in the NLC was that politicians make promises at the beginning and in between they don’t render account, for me, at the heart of democracy is the commitment to report to your employers what you have done with the tools with which you are asked to work and that is what we did today and that what we have done in the past four years and God willing, we would do it over the next few years. And I want to lay a foundation that a future government would feel obliged year to year to tell the people what they did with their mandate.
I am sure you are familiar with the fact that the governor has the last input when a criminal or a suspect is apprehended. It goes through trials, the charges are laid before the court and he is invited to come and defend himself before the prosecutors to establish the guilt, the judge made up his mind whether the case has been proven or not where he is convinced he has that judgment and the suspect can appeal up to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court is convinced that the person is guilty and hands out the death penalty and it is the requirement of the constitution that the governor accent to it. If the Supreme Court finds out that 20 people were guilty of murder and they sentence twenty people to death and the governor in line with the constitutional requirement signs the sentences what is reckless in that?
When a reporter files a story, it goes through newsroom, the sub-editor, line editor looks at it, the editor sign up the paper, is that a reckless process?
Your Excellency when you were addressing the crowd you spoke about copying certain processes from Lagos State especially in the area of financial re-engineering. We want you to tell us the peculiar situation of Edo State?
couldn’t find area boys. Lagos was known for de-humanising mass transit called molue where you enter with clean cloths and come out with tattered rags and we are beginning to see roads that where blocked and opened up with several lanes, so for me, that shows that things are changing in Lagos but we need to understand what has led to those changes?
By 1999 when Tinubu was the governor I had to represent workers before him and he was obliged to convince me why he won’t do the level of wages we wanted him to pay and I realised that from that interaction that Lagos revenue was N600m and when you add that to what they get from the federation account, it was difficult to pay salaries. But today, I understand from IGR Lagos generates some good amount and with that they have been able to connect some bridges, things have changed in Lagos.
schools and fly private aircraft but for the government that is pro-people you can fly your jet but you must pay. Look at the intra-city tram which would have been done many years ago is now happening in Lagos. Imagine if somebody had made up his mind to do thirty year ago what Fashola is doing now, life in Lagos would have been lot more comfortable than it is now but we recognised that the fact we failed in the past is no reason why we should fail now.
We want to know how much the state has borrowed in to carry out all these infrastructural development in the state.
I don’t know about borrowing, I think the only money was in N25 billion bonds which we perfected in 2011 and every month we are paying about N550 million to service that bond. Of the N25 billion, we have already paid back over N14 billion, which means the net we have will be under N10 billion.
Looking at the large crowd that followed you all through the campaign days and even now, would you say you have met the yearnings and aspirations of the Edo people?
Somebody told me that the relationship between a master and cook is judged by what happened to the plate. If you ask a cook if his master is very happy with him maybe most of them would say yes because if their master is not happy they would have been sacked. But sometimes the best way to measure is to look at the plate and see what the master left in the plate. If the plate is still full, the master may have been diplomatic in not firing the cook but obviously he did not like the food but if the plate is clean it means ‘Oga’ enjoyed the food.
Charles Airhiavbere, I defeated him in his polling booth and ward in Edo South where he comes from. They placed adverts in the newspapers asking the Binis to vote for one of their own, playing the ethnic card expressly, describing me as a stranger because the Binis account for the majority of the votes in Edo State.
unsuccessful I but made reference to Lula of Brazil who turned the fortunes of Brazil around, so they were good argument for and against my candidature. If Edo was to be compared to Brazil, I will say we have changed the fortunes of Edo State exactly the way Lula redefined the place of Brazil in the world economy.
On the shortfall of revenue to states and how you have coped because some governors have openly complained bitterly about it?
Well, I honestly think that it is a shame that we should be talking of oil theft because the volume that is stolen cannot be stolen in jerry cans or drums but in vessels and I refuse to believe that the Nigerian Navy can be incompetent that it cannot police our waterways or the combined force of the Navy and the Air Force cannot even drop a knock out on top of a rogue ship.
foreigners with their Nigerian collaborators that bring their ship here to cart away oil as if Nigeria is a banana Republic, I wonder what they say when they get home. I think it is a national embarrassment.
What is your take on the national conference and what you feel is the way out for Nigerians to move forward?
Well, I have no new views, the one I have canvassed before and from pages of your newspapers and electronic media we even have a full broadcast of what I said but I also recognised that there are many Nigerians who believe that we should keep talking but I say we should get on with the job. I don’t begrudge those who believe that talking can solve it, but no one should begrudge me if I say we should start working.
the Trade Union Act and Labour Act recognise the status of collective agreement entered into between an employer and employee and the key issue is that both sides should act in good faith because making any statement for and against either side might not promote the cause of peace.
You had earlier said your only regret was the fact that your wife was not there to celebrate with you and what struck me was that you may probably be thinking of marrying another wife. How soon are we expecting that?
it would have been joyous for her to see that five years down the road, I have more people around me than I had before. Her second fear was that she never approved my involvement in politics because she was very proud to be referred to as the wife of Oshiomhole because she saw the affection because most Nigerians were happy with my stewardship at the NLC. She was worried that once I got into politics I would be ridiculed and all of that would go.
feasted on us and cheated the state that we have reduced them to political vegetables and placed them on permanent political oxygen. The leaders of APC came to Benin to show solidarity, when the party was formed, we believe that it would bring change to the PDP government but the way they are going we are wondering if PDP was a party of killers like Audu Ogbe would put it.
will see is the face of godfather and that was blasphemy and that is how far some people went and by praise singing like that you could become a minister, senator and governor for people who believe that the end justifies the means. I think that in every political party you would find some good and bad people, I don’t think that there is pretence that every person in APC is an angel nor is there a suggestion that everybody in the PDP is a devil.