Crusoe Osagie, Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on the outcome of the September 19 governorship election which was won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki. He also speaks on expectations from the governor in the next four years as well as allegations of arrest and bankruptcy levelled against him by the All Progressives Congress (APC). Excerpts:
Before the Edo election, you boasted that your principal, Governor Godwin Obaseki has 75 per cent approval ratings and that the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu won’t score up to 30 per cent votes. With the election over, can you say that you have been vindicated?
I believe that I have been vindicated by the outcome of the election. That was manifested in the massive votes the PDP got in the election. The APC only got few votes in Edo North which makes it appeared as if it was their stronghold but we all know what happened during the election which I don’t want to stress here. There were lots of vote-buying and other illegal things. That was why they were able to get the number of votes they got in Edo North. But with the kind of margin we saw in Edo South and Central, it is clear that my prediction about the personality of the governor was spot on. In Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha and Egor which are the three largest local governments in Edo state, the governor scored over 70 per cent in those three local governments. He scored 70 per cent in Oredo; he got 71 per cent votes in Ikpoba-Okha and scored 73 per cent in Egor local government. He even defeated the APC candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu in his local government of origin, which is Orhionmwon. So, it is clear that the people of Edo state believe in the governor. They see that he has worked hard for them in the last four years and they gave him another term overwhelmingly. Overall, his victory is a collective one for the PDP and the good people of Edo state and we believe he will justify the fresh mandate given to him with more laudable and people-oriented projects.
There are reports that some aides of the governor, about 42 or so who resigned their appointments and joined the opposition prior to the election are already returning to him, seeking forgiveness. How true is that?
I can only speak to what I have seen. For example, I have seen that those three duly inaugurated House of Assembly members who at the last minute went to join the illegal assembly they were having in Ize-Iyamu’s house, the three of them have come back to join their colleagues in the legitimate House of Assembly. The three of them, Yekini Idiaye, Nosa Okunbo and Emmanuel Agbaje even paid the governor a congratulatory visit yesterday. Based on that, one can rightly say that other things may be happening behind the scene as those who were deceived and left the governor’s camp have now seen the light. But I can’t say what I don’t know. What I have seen and know is that three of the House of Assembly members who initially pitched their tents with the opposition have come back. I believe that as we get along, many more people will see the futility of working against Obaseki because he is the person God and the people have chosen at this time to lead the good people of Edo state. He is also the most popular and qualified person to play that leadership role as at today.
The APC has raised an alarm that the governor has ordered the arrest of members of the party after his victory in the election. How will you respond to that?
That is absolutely false. Since his victory, the governor has been waving the olive branch and white flag to the extent of even calling on Comrade Adams Oshiomhole that the fight is over and they should join hands together in building the state. That alarm that he has ordered the arrest of APC members is just untruthful statement. It is that irresponsible fellow called John Mayaki that is doing all that and he should be ignored. It is completely false and there is no truth in it. Like we said earlier, the Police is an independent institution with a clear mandate to ensure the security of life and property in the country. The police are controlled by the Inspector General of Police in Abuja and it is wrong for the APC to accuse the Edo State Governor who is still relishing the victory given to him by Edo voters in the September 19 gubernatorial election, of ordering the arrest of its members.
Now that his mandate has been renewed, what should the people of Edo expect from Governor Obaseki in the next four years?
The governor has performed his duty as governor in his first term with a lot of tact and planning. That planning was not just confined to the first four years; it actually extends to the next four years and even beyond. For example, the modular refinery is almost completed in Edo state now. What has happened now is just the first phase. The second and third phase is about to start. Also, there is the Ossiomo Power Plant project which 55 megawatts have been completed now. That project is actually a 550 megawatts project. So, the governor has his work well-planned out for him already from now till the next four years. Most of the developmental initiatives that he introduced in his first tenure, he has done it in such a way that it will span into the next four years, which is why it is very important that he wins this election. Edo people realised that if anything contrary had happened and another person emerges, a lot of these big dreams that have been started will all be cut short and the people will be shortchanged. So, our plans are very elaborate. What we are going to be doing in the second term is scaling the initiatives that we already started and ensuring that it spreads across the state. We have Edo Production Centre where small and medium scale businesses are using to enhance their outputs as at today in Oredo. More of these projects are going to be established across the three senatorial districts. The planning has been done and the strategy has already been established. It is just to ensure that now, all these things get to the entire Edo State. We have created about 200,000 jobs. With the establishment of all these projects, I can assure you that hundreds of thousand jobs will be created and more developments will be visible across the state.
During the election, the APC raised the alarm that the governor has frittered the resources of the state on seeking reelection and that the state may go bankrupt. What is the financial strength of Edo at this moment?
Governor Godwin Obaseki is an astute planner and a prudent manager of resources. He did not use state funds to prosecute his reelection. He had massive support from the people and all of these people put their money where their mouth is and they contributed to sponsor his election. If you recall, a pressure group made up by some supporters of the governor by the name, Obaseki Mandate Forum, purchased the expression of interest and nomination form for the governor when he was in APC. That is the kind of massive support that the governor received throughout the election period. Just a few days after the election, the governor paid salaries and pensions to the tune of billions of naira. So, that tells you the financial state of Edo state. We are very financially stable; we have planned very well and operated the government in a very responsible manner. There is no such thing as bankruptcy in Edo state. With Governor Obaseki, the finance of Edo is in safe hands.