Comrade Philip Shaibu is the deputy governor of Edo State and running mate to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, Governor Godwin Obaseki.
In this interview, he speaks, among other issues, on the achievements of the Obaseki-led administration, the threats of violence in the coming election and efforts of the government to ensure a peaceful, free and fair election. SUYI AYODELE brings excerpts:
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been your mentor for many years. Do you feel betrayed by the happenings between you and the former governor?
From the outset of this administration, we had an understanding that our mandate was to work for the people; the mantra was one man one vote, no man is God, let the people lead.
We thought Oshiomhole was on the same page with us in this mission of enthroning the will of the people above all other personal and private interests but unfortunately, the man seems to have totally abdicated the principles we agreed to uphold.
It is painful, but we have resolved that irrespective of whoever is involved, we would never give room to godfatherism again.
Through this election, we will put an end to godfatherism in the interest of the majority of the Edo people.
*What has been the pressure from your people at home for you to join forces with Oshiomhole and how have you been able to overcome the pressure?*
Let me make it very clear that my people are fully in support of the Governor Godwin Obaseki’s gubernatorial ticket and they are doing everything possible to ensure we are reelected.
They are standing with us and have not minced words about it. For them, it is not just a question of Oshiomhole or Shaibu, but that of the development of Edo State and in the past four years, we have shown that we are committed, first, to the people and we will uphold their interests above all else. This is the basis for the unanimous support that we have, from not just Afemai people but all Edo people, in Edo North, South and Central.
*You alleged that Oshiomhole was importing thugs and assassins into the state. How true is this?*
Remember Oshiomhole is my father and before now I was staying in his house each time I visited the village. I have informants in his house who give me updates on a daily basis about happenings in his house.
He waved his immunity to call Osagie Ize-Iyamu a thief in 2016; I am not waving mine, but I can boldly tell you without mincing words that Oshiomhole is arming youths in Edo State. These same boys are my friends and they tell me themselves. It is true; Oshiomhole is stockpiling arms ahead of the governorship election.
We have reported to the law enforcement agencies and we hope they take action to protect the lives and property of Edo people.
The last time we told the security agencies about the assassins that were brought into Edo State by Oshiomhole, they thought we were joking, so we gave them details of these suspected persons which they confirmed. What happened during the campaign is a confirmation of what I just told you.
One of them told me that they were going to do that and I alerted the security agencies that I got information that there were plans to disrupt our campaigns and where they would be coming from. It also happened during the convocation ceremony at Edo University, Iyamho; we were attacked in front of Oshiomhole’s house; that was the day I resolved to stop going to his house.
We were able to get all the names of those behind the attack from the video and a petition was written to the Police but as I speak to you, nothing has been done, instead, our own supporters were the ones that were arrested.
*How is the state government dealing with violence?*
If you check, we have been the ones preaching peace to our supporters, urging them not to retaliate or fight back despite attacks and threats by Oshiomhole and his allies. They have resorted to violence and thuggery to cause mayhem and disrupt the forthcoming election, having discovered that they cannot win in a fair contest.
Their plan is to cause trouble and undermine the will of the people during the elections, using thugs and even security agencies controlled from Abuja. What we can do is to guarantee the safety and conscientize our people not to take to the streets and not to go violent.
But I am using this opportunity to call on President Buhari to rein in the national chairman and his followers and stop them from setting Edo State on the path of chaos and anarchy. We will continue to do our best to ensure the safety and security of our people as we pray that the election is peaceful.
We thank God that we are alive and by the grace of God we will emerge victorious in the forthcoming gubernatorial election. I can assure Edo people at home and in the Diaspora, that the governor and I mean well for the state, and Edo by the grace of God, with the way we are going about it, will become the envy of other states in the country.
*Youth unemployment is a major issue in Nigeria. What is the situation in Edo State beyond using youths for elections?*
When we were contesting to be governor and deputy in 2016, we promised that one of our major targets would be job creation.
As at that time, our opponents were wondering where we were going to create the jobs from and how many civil servants, we would be able to employ. We laughed over it because for them, it was about employing people into the civil service and for us, it was about creating an economy and the enabling environment for these jobs.
Whether you like it or not, the private sector constitutes a large chunk of businesses that can grow our economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and for us, we said it was going to be a massive drive to bring in the private sector that will help us drive the economy; we know that government, basically, is to stimulate a private sector-driven economy.
Whether in the formal or informal sector, these are the drivers of the economy.
What government needs to do is to stimulate them, create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and open up space; we discovered Edo was just a civil service state and we were not taking advantage of our geographical location, so when we came on board, it was about dealing with the issue of electricity which is a major factor to drive any business, and as they call us now, an MOU government, we signed different MOUs with these companies, including the Ossiomo Power plant, and before the election, the power plant will be ready and in use; we created an industrial hub in Ologbo and set up creative hubs in three different centres; the one on Sapele Road was the first, targeted at getting these artisans and galvanising them to produce within the state.
Also in agriculture, we were able to expand our roads, especially those infrastructure leading to agrarian areas.
We opened the roads and converted their manual style of farming to a mechanised one; those sectors that we opened created those jobs that our opponents didn’t quite understand.
*So in the last three years and eight months, how many jobs have been created by your administration?*
As of November 2018, we had created between 150, 000 to 165, 000 jobs. By November last year, BusinessDay came to do their own checks, and according to them, we had created over 176, 000 jobs.
But my own figures then showed that we were already hitting the 200, 000 which we promised in 2016. If you check the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) website, you will see those statistics; these are not figures that are manufactured.
We created the EdoJobs agency, for monitoring, jobs creation, job matching and to also help the government ascertain the number of jobs created, and lost and why we lost those jobs as well as areas where we needed to expand to be steady in our drive to create more jobs and an economy that works.
What we basically did was to look at the economy and create a one-stop-scheme, dealing with employment, industrialisation and at the end of the day, growing our economy steadily and increasing our GDP. That, to us, is what governance should represent.
The government should provide for the people, create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive rather than being involved directly in the business. The government shouldn’t run business, but supervise and support businesses to thrive.
*What are the plans to sustain this current position if re-elected?*
In the area of agriculture, there is a lot to gain. We are already looking ahead of Post-COVID-19 and we discovered that the global economy is in a bad shape. We want to take advantage of this situation. When things are bad that’s when leadership should think out of the box and take advantage.
COVID-19 is here and we are taking advantage of the setbacks to increase our GDP. As a government, we want our state to be a food basket because food must be available for people to eat.
The way COVID-19 came unexpected and the level of mop-up of food by state governments and individuals, if we don’t take time, post-COVID-19, there will be a serious food
crisis and we’re already looking towards that direction.
We are expanding our farms and bringing in mechanised means of farming and the experience we have in Sobe, Anegbette and Ologbo. We are already increasing more farmlands in other parts of the state including Esan land. We are looking at food production; the power sector and the manufacturing sector will be ready then. The Benin Port is also on and when you drive through Ekenhuan Road, you will see the kind of work that is going on there.
When all these are put together, we’re looking at over 500, 000 jobs in those sectors. In the agricultural sector alone, the last time we checked, if we open up Sobe, Agbede and Agenobode farms, we will be getting over 156, 000 jobs there; that is formal; in the informal sector, you know the multiplier effect.
Also, the transport business will open up in those areas and that’s about 250,000 jobs. For us, it is not about creating jobs but creating wealth because if you don’t create wealth, obviously, the level of poverty will continue to be high.
We are determined to drastically reduce poverty and unemployment because for us to secure our state, it is not about building more police stations or prison yards but to get our young ones rightfully engaged. We want to create a revenue base for Edo so that with or without the federal allocation, we can run our economy, pay salaries and deal with issues of infrastructure; at the end of the day, monthly allocation from the federal government will be used for future development and savings for the state for the rainy days.
*Do these achievements you just shared represent the thoughts and voices of the ordinary man on the streets of Edo because the opposition says otherwise?*
I prefer we deal with those on the streets; those on the streets have the numbers and are the ones feeling the impact. Political opponents will always say the opposite because they want to sell their product.
According to them, politics is about lying and saying anything beautiful for their own bride and saying anything negative for the opposition; they have said it many times and we can see it from the videos that in the media where the governor was the best guy in 2016 and the other guy was the bad person, but today, they have changed the story. So don’t even listen to them; I think the street is critical and what they say is what we believe.
The governor earned the name ‘Wake and See’ because when we came on board, the governor said this style of building one school and making noise about it was not a good way to go. He said, “Let’s not make noise, let’s work for the people and let the people be the ones saying what we are doing. Let’s localise our achievements and let the people in those communities speak for them.”
The governor is an economist and when you look at the cost of commissioning and broadcasting everything we have done, it will create more jobs, build more schools and construct more roads. So we decided that at the end of our four years, we can put everything together and show the world.
Imagine Oshiomhole saying the governor didn’t build any classroom; it only shows you the level of desperation.
For us, it’s not just about building classrooms but the content. Before, our children were just going to school, but now they are learning. What makes a school is not just the building but the activities that go on there. Are the teachers well trained?
Are they teaching well? Are they impacting the right knowledge? When we came on board in November 2016, we realised that there were lots of educational gaps in the primary and secondary schools; though there were buildings the content wasn’t there.
We started with the basic education, we created a programme called EdoBEST where teachers are trained and retrained; where they are trained on modern and innovative ways of teaching to retain the pupils’ attention in learning; they were given palmtops where teachers no longer have to bother about writing lesson notes as the lesson notes have been downloaded in those tabs.
So in the morning when they log into the tabs, we monitor them from our office; we know when they are logged in and when they are teaching, whether in Oredo or in the villages.
They are learning the same subjects; the same contents and the teachers don’t need to bother to write lesson notes. Now, our children in primary school can read and write.