New Telegraph

APC should field its best to reclaim power in Edo –Agba

Ahead of the governorship primary, what accounted for the earlier large number of aspirants in the APC?

There are contenders and there are also pretenders. I think what we are beginning to see now is that those who have started picking their forms are those who are truly aspiring. However, I think the number is a little bit large because at the last count, I heard that about 12 people have picked up their forms. And I think one reason for that is because of the abysmal performance of the current government. When Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the governor, the state saw some form of development in various areas like education, health, road infrastructure and flooding as well as erosion control but all that have disappeared and a lot of our people are not happy. In addition to that, there is a whole lot of poverty in the land and there isn’t any form of empathy coming from the government side. So, a lot of us are desirous of making a change in the state and to also make sure that we bring back the state on the part of growth that it used to be.

What is the true position in the APC because there are conflicting reports that the National Working Committee (NWC) has pruned down the number of aspirants from 29 to six, while another report has it that the NWC has given order for all interested aspirants to contest?

From the beginning, no one was deprived of collecting forms. What happened was that there was an in house arrangement by the party in the state to say let’s find ways and means to prune down this number so that at the end of the day, we will go into this election as one because obviously the position is going to be for one person and not 29. Based on that, the leadership of the party in the state called for a meeting of all the aspirants as at then and we all agreed that the prunning exercise should take place. All the 29 aspirants presented themselves to that committee that was set up for that and the terms of reference for the committee were made known to us. After that meeting, the leadership met again and called up all the 29 aspirants and read out their verdict, they read out the committee’s report. That was how it was pruned down to six. Some accepted it while others didn’t accept it. The leadership said what they did was advisory and wasn’t compulsory because it was the NWC that should really do the screening. It was a family arrangement to actually do the pruning. But some people who were pruned out didn’t accept it and there is this argument that some big names with experience such as Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who are capable of wrestling power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)… That cannot be right because I am among the six and I have almost 30 years experience in the organised private sector. I worked at a sub-national level as two-time commissioner for Environment and Public Utilities, and also as commissioner for Lands, Survey and Housing. I have been a minister, albeit Minister of State for Budget and National Planning. So, I know the connections between the national and sub-national and the benefits that can come from it. I have worked with multilateral agencies, so to say that the list has been pruned down to people without experience cannot be definitely correct. I have quite a lot of experience both in the private and in the public sectors.

Are you in tune with what the APC is saying that no zoning of the ticket and that any of the aspirants is free to contest for the ticket?

In fact, I was the first to collect the forms even before this family arrangement came up. I am someone who plans my life for what I want to do and that is also what I see that is lacking in government. Most times, we act rather than being proactive. Once I saw the timetable, I said I was going to be among the first, if not the first, to pick up the forms. A day before the collection of forms, we transferred the money for both the nomination and expression of interest forms. Even though I knew I was not going to be in Abuja on the day of collecting the forms, I made arrangements for a colleague of mine to pick the forms for me on that day and I think it was about 10.30am that day that he picked the forms and the advisory that we received later not to collect the forms came at about 1.pm. But because I am a party man, I called the state secretary of the party to say ‘I have just received your SMS saying we shouldn’t collect these forms until this family meeting takes place but that I have collected the form already.’ He said ‘well you have collected the forms means you have collected it, so we cannot change that’.

How do you see the high cost of collecting those forms; N10 million for Expression of Interest and N40 million for Nomination form. Isn’t that quite high to just get a ticket into an office because people have said that is what encourages corruption?

If you look at the cost of the forms and say it is high, then relative to all other costs, it is not because you spend more money on logistics. Moving around and moving your team around, you spend far higher. Again, it is also one way of pruning down the number of aspirants. It is one way of showing those who are serious. Give the forms for free and I can tell you that you will have over a million coming for them and with that, you create more confusion. With N50 million, 29 were ready to go for it. So, I don’t think it is on the high side when you consider other costs. This is just representing about one tenth or one hundredth of the total cost that is expected to be spent on the race. And again, when you look at government, it is not just about an individual, that is why it is called government because it is made up of like minds, people who believe in something together. So, you find out that friends and associates will also help you raise those funds just to ensure that they take back the state, especially when they believe that you are the one to pilot that growth and move.

What is actually the perspective of the APC concerning the mode for the primary election as it is generating another concern?

The NWC, it has been learnt, said it should be direct primary. What is the true situation and is there any illegality in the process the party has adopted? I don’t see any illegality in the mode the APC has chosen. The party’s constitution allows for two types of primaries – direct or indirect primaries – depending on whether the stakeholders agree to it. And again, I think the electoral law also said the same thing, either direct or indirect. All of these were discussed and we were all aware of it upfront. When you talk of money politics, you are doing it when it is indirect. You talked earlier about N50 million being much for forms but if you really want people of good intention to come into contest without having to also go about spending much, then direct primary is the right way to go where you ask the members of the party to select who their candidate will be but when you have select few to choose who will fly the party’s flag, you see that the highest bidder gets the ticket not necessarily the best to do the job.

There have been talks about zoning; do you agree with those who said that it is the turn of Edo Central?

I agree with our party’s constitution that says no zoning. Again, we are the opposition in our state, so we should be putting our best foot forward to reclaim power. You know that sometimes people talk about morality when it comes to politics; that should come in after you must have gotten power. We are in opposition, so the emphasis should be the best way we can get back the power to ourselves. Who is the best person we can put forward? Who has the experience and who has the capacity to deliver? I think that is what is very important right now. But again, in order not to dodge the issue, you will say that the state is sitting on the tripod – Edo North, Edo South and Edo Central. You will also look at the past and see what happened. How many governors have each senatorial district produced? How many ministers has each senatorial district produced and in terms of other political appointments. How many have each of the senatorial districts produced because you have to look at all of these and not take one in isolation. If you look at it from that perspective, Edo South has produced four governors; Edo Central has produced two. Ambrose Alli was a governor in this state. Those of us from the Edo part of the old Bendel State gave him support and voted for him. And all the things he did in the Edo part of the old Bendel State are still there. The Ambrose Alli University is still there and not taken away. Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor was a governor and he was there for 18 months. That is the second governor that Edo Central has produced. Edo North has produced only one governor in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Then, when you look at the number of ministers, Edo South has produced three, Edo Central has produced five, while I was the first minister to come from Edo North and I wasn’t a full-fledged minister, I was a minister of state and I did only three and half years. Now, we have a full-fledged minister and if you look at it, it is three, five and two.

So, who really should it be zoned to because if you are going to equity, you must go with a clean hands. For me, I belong to the three parts of the state either by birth, by marriage, by association or even by education. My both parents are from Edo North, my wife is from Edo South and my tertiary institution is in Edo Central. Also by marriage, my immediate elder brother is married from Edo Central and my wife’s immediate younger sister’s husband is also from Edo Central. So, which part of the state am I going to cheat? I think what is important presently is that our state is going through turmoil; there is no peace and there is acrimony every day. There is no respect for institutions and there is no empathy coming from the government. So, the state needs to be rescued and our rural dwellers are suffering. They are only remembered during elections and after that, it is four years’ time that someone will remember them again and that is just for one thing – their votes. But they are entitled to have good water to drink. They are entitled to have basic healthcare facilities. They are entitled to basic education. Their environment should be clean and habitable but everything that seems to be happening is happening in urban areas and that is why I am coming with my TRUST Initiative which is Transforming our Rural and Urban Initiative Together. I facilitated the current National Development Plan and also the Nigerian Agenda 2015. We looked at why a lot of progress has not been made and one of the things that came out is the total neglect of our rural areas. This is where 60 per cent of our people live and this 60 per cent produce 90 per cent of the food we eat. At times, what they produce does not get to the market and the post-harvest loss is huge. The 60 per cent of food loss means out of about 10,000 tons of food our farmers produce, only about 4,000 get to the market. We tried to investigate to know why all these are happening and e found out that it is because of lack of integrity and rural development. They are not considered as people and most of the food they produce does not get to the market because there are no roads. They don’t also have power, so they cannot store the foods when they are unable to move them to the market. They cannot also communicate and these are the big issues. You find out that when you are dealing with development and dealing with the rural areas and urban areas at the same time. You are also through that discouraging rural-urban migration; the various deprivations that our people go through will also be taken care of because there are two types of poverty. There is rural poverty and there is urban poverty. Urban poverty has a lot to do with money, not having enough money to take care of things you want to take care of but that is totally different from what happens in the rural areas. In the rural areas, it is as a result of deprivations, you have the money but you don’t have the access. You don’t have good schools and basic education and even when the schools exist, you don’t have teachers. There is no basic healthcare facilities that should be the basic for everyone. Edo, with 192 wards, should have commensurate 192 healthcare centres. It can grow beyond that but it has to take time for it to be done. If you have someone sick in the village; he may have come in from America with about $2 million in his pocket, for example, and he falls sick and dies because there is no hospital to go, will you say such a person is rich with his $2m in his pocket? That person is poor because the hospitals are not available. We cannot be talking of going to the moon when we have not addressed the basic things like the issue of hunger.

How do you intend to achieve your TRUST Initiative without lamenting over funding?

The most important thing about taking care of issues is not fund. Money doesn’t solve problems. It does to the extent of an individual who knows how to apply it. Currently, with the state Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) receipts, it is good with Edo but it is the application of the funds that is the issue. A while ago, I did mention that we are putting our funds wrongly, putting them into very big things that are not impactful. You don’t want to build a road that people don’t use. You don’t want to build a hospital that is not accessible and people can’t use. So, it is the application of the resources that is important. I talked about the rural areas. As Minister of State for National Planning, I was the chairman of the technical committee of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy and one of the things we did was to build rural roads within the agro corridors around the country. I went round the country to visit those projects and I could see the impacts. I went to Imo and Enugu states and I could see the joy in the faces of the people, who then could move their products up to the markets. So, we don’t need big money, we need someone who is prepared and willing to achieve something.

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