A chieftain of the main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a former Senior Special Adviser to Edo State Governor, Honourable Louis Imhandegbelo, was recently elected Chairman of Esan South East Local Government Area of the state. In this interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on the recently conducted council elections, the developmental strides of Governor Godwin Obaseki as well as his dream for the people of his local government. Excerpts:
The long anticipated local government elections in Edo State have come and gone and you were elected the chairman of your local government, what informed your decision to contest for the chairmanship?
I wish to state that so many factors inspired me to contest for the chairmanship position in my local government. First and foremost, I must tell you that I have lived 80 per cent of my life with my people in this local government and knowing what the life of our people used to be, and seeing what it is today is one major factor that gingered me into vying for this position.
Again, I believe that those that have been saddled with the responsibility of managing the affairs of this local government area in the past years were not proactive and productive enough to give our people the best.
What is that thing you want to do that your predecessors have not done before?
I think when we get to the office our people will know why we have come to lead them but presently Nigeria is going through difficult times. Hardship is biting on the masses.
Nigerians are daily accusing the government of bad leadership. How do you intend to tackle the issue of poverty which is very prevalent in your local government?
If you followed my campaign, you would understand that we are not just coming into government because we want to be in government, we have made plans. We have looked into different areas and sectors where we can affect the people of Esan South East positively, and we are working towards that area.
If you don’t know, let me say it, this is the hub of agriculture not only in Edo State but in Nigeria. The good people of Esan South East are predominantly farmers with large and uncultivated farm lands. But nobody is cultivating the land assets because the government of the day at the grassroots level had not done anything about it and they (past governments) did not encourage the farmers in this local government.
If our local farmers are given the needed support they would definitely do well in their farming business. Look at the education sector for instance, go to some primary schools in the local government here, you will discover that from primary one to six, you have just one or two teachers plus the headmaster . It wasn’t like that in our days; t h i n g s h a v e changed so we are going there to put things right and make a difference.
The cost of governance is high, how do you raise the needed funds to make education better and change the narrative?
If the government is not giving us funds, we would invest heavily on agriculture by cultivating the land, raise revenue from there and give our people a better life in return through a series of welfare programmes and policies in critical areas including the education sector which is the hallmark of development in any society.
Your local government has been under serious siege for the past five years due to the activities of herdsmen. How do you intend to check the activities of these criminal elements to ensure farmers and other indi- genes can go about their business without fear of molestation or being killed?
We are all aware of the security challenges in facing Nigeria. For us in Esan South East, my people have been victims of this ugly incident. Our farmers are no longer safe. So as the chief security officer of the local government, fighting insecurity will be our priority.
I’m going to use this opportunity to call on other chairmen and my colleagues in the council and in the entire senatorial zone. If they are doing better than us we would emulate them, if we are doing better than them they should equally emulate us. We already have a blueprint on how to go about it.
We would work out modalities of finding a lasting solution to the incessant attacks on our farmers by Fulani herdsmen and other criminal groups. The issue of insecurity in Esan South East will be tackled within two weeks of this administration. We are fully prepared to sanitise the system.
We are not going to reveal our secrets to them, but what I do know is that the issue of insecurity in Esan South East will soon be a thing of the past. And what matters to my regime is that there is not going to be kidnappers, banditry, herdsman among others.
Talking about youth restiveness, joblessness and other social vices, what will you do to provide employment for the teeming youths of Esan South East?
I’m a youth; I know the pains of my people. The average Nigerian youth is on the street looking for how to survive the hard times. So being a youth, taking care of my fellow youths is my primary responsibility. I just told you about agriculture, who is going to work there, is it my old father and mother? It is youths.
When they are engaged and busy, the issue of insecurity will be a thing of the past. If they are gainfully employed they won’t think of crime and criminality. The people are killing, kidnapping and stealing because they are not engaged. We are going to engage our youths in agriculture and make them have a sense of belonging. As the chairman of Esan South East, I will make empowerment of youths a top priority.
Now that you have emerged winner of the local government election in Esan South East, would you say that Governor Godwin Obaseki has done well by conducting the local government election?
I’m highly elated over the results of this election. I’m happy because I have been in this business of politics for a long time. I have paid my dues; the people are in love with me because of my track records. You see the kind of crowd that turned out to receive me during our campaign. They have tested me; they know I have the capacity to turn things around.
So, I was not surprised to have an overwhelming victory in the election. This is one of the most peaceful elections I have ever witnessed since I joined politics. It’s like the election of my amiable Governor Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki during his second term.
You saw how people trooped out to vote because they saw light in his government, they believed in him. They knew he had a mega transformation agenda for Edo State. So that is the same thing the people of Esan South East saw in me that made them come out in their thousands to cast their votes for me.
Some people in Edo State hold contrary views and are saying that there was no election, what is your take on this?
When I hear people say there was no election I will leave that to you. You monitored the election from unit to unit, ward to ward and local government to local government, you as a journalist will provide answers to the question. If they say there was no election, all those crowds you saw coming out from their various homes to the voting centres what were they going to do, fight or dance?
Will you run an open door policy because people have always accused politicians of closing their doors to the electorate after assuming office?
Right now, you are in my premises, did you see my gate closed? I will not close my door against anyone, we are going to run a government that is meant for the people. By the way, who is the government? Is not the people? When you shut the door against the people, it is no longer a government.
The Peoples Democratic Party runs an open door policy that is why we are democratic and democrats. So, the office I am occupying now is not mine, but the people’s. The people just elected me to hold the office for them for a period of time. So for the time I am going to be there, I will make sure that dividends of democracy are delivered to the people.
Would you say that Governor Godwin Obaseki has done well for the people of Edo State?
Yes, our amiable governor has done so well in governance. He is in fact a big blessing to the people of Edo State. You can see the development that is ongoing in various sectors across the state. It is only ungrateful elements that will say he has not done well.
What is your final word to the people of Edo State particularly your constituency?
I want to first thank our amiable and pragmatic people for this opportunity to serve the people of my local council, and I promise that I will not disappoint him. I also thank the party chairman and leaders for their support. I promise that I will do all I have said in my electioneering campaign. But above all, youth empowerment will be our priority.