…asserts APC, party to beat in Edo come 2024
Less than a month in charge of the affairs of the Nigeria State, the administration of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu has made striking decisions to reshaping the economy. Consequently reactions (commendation and criticism) are pouring in from across the nation and beyond. Sniffing for more comments; The9JaTREND reporter met with Peter Enosoregbe Uwadiae Igbinigie Esq. in Benin, the Edo State Capital over the weekend. In this exclusive interview, Igbinigie in his appraisal of the performance of the President Tinubu administration so far, argues that Nigeria is headed the right direction of leadership, and that the people only need to give the much desired environment for the administration to thrive for the benefit of everyone. He also bares his thoughts about the comments of the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki on the 7th State House of Assembly in relation to the newly inaugurated 8th Assembly. Igbinigie slamming the Governor for his comments say; Edo never had a State House of Assembly in the past four years. As the claim of the Governor to impactful reforms, sustained development and growth were mere fallacy, he declared. Peter Enoseregbe Uwadiae Igbinigie Esq. is a Benin based legal practitioner, and State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State.
Appraisal of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s performance in office so far.
I want to start by congratulating Nigerians for voting the President in the February elections. Asiwaju is a man who has the knowledge of the history of the country, one who had transverse the nooks and crannies of the country and has identified the aspiration of the people. From the very moment he was sworn in as the President, because he has the fore knowledge of the country he felt it was right to hit the ground running, and towards that he thought it wise to let Nigerians know that some of the policies of the last administration that were kept in wrap, should be unveiled; the removal of fuel subsidy for instance.
People blamed him though; but there was something critical about the removal which many persons do not know; it was not President Tinubu who even removed the fuel subsidy, but the immediate past administration of Muhammadu Buhari kept it in wrap probably because of the fear of possible violent reaction from Nigerians. But what do Nigerians actually need? We need a man with the courage, dexterity, and boldness to face issues head on; and no need dwelling in pretenses now, like the successive administrations did. It was clear that the 2023 fiscal budget of Nigeria did not capture fuel subsidy beginning from the month of June; hence everyone must now be ready to face squarely the consequences.
To begin, we are aware he has directed the office of the Vice President to put in place palliative measures to cushion the harsh effects of the removal. The new President knows that fuel subsidy constitute institutional decay which if allowed to continue, will translate to bad economy and to addressing the situation; firstly is to put these institutions in their proper place and ensure the right persons are appointed to man them.
Like the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), I am not surprised that the Chairman, Bawa was arrested. Then the man who plunged the entire nation into Economic woes, acute pain and crises; the Central Bank Governor, Emefiele, he knew that the hammer would come certainly otherwise, why was he on the run when nobody was pursuing him. He was caught at the border of the country and that is being addressed now. Now, with the calibre of persons the President has appointed to join him run the affairs of this country, breeds the confidence that Nigeria would be better for it.
From his Chief of Staff who had seen it all in the National Legislature, and bringing it to bear on the Executive, will tell you that there is going to be a robust relationship between the two arms of Government and the calibre of persons he has appointed into his media team, will tell you that the fourth estate of the realm who are architect of the Nigeria image, will also have a robust relationship with the Presidency.
I am quite convinced and excited; that the man mean well for this country, all that we are soliciting as a ruling Party and stakeholders in the project Nigeria, is that the people should give the enabling environment for this Government to thrive. And in no distant time, I strongly believe that we will begin to see the benefits.
Some of the actions: floating of the naira, signing of the electoral bill…
The steps taken so far by the President shows that there is going to be a synergy between the public and private sector, which of course drives the economy of every nation. Talking about floating of the naira; few Nigerians before now benefits from the foreign exchange market and marketing. Hence the President directed the CBN to ensure a harmonized foreign exchange rate for Nigeria which has now led to floating the naira; certainly this will positively drive the nation’s economy.
Also, the unbundling of the power sector; with the President signing the Electricity Act into law, making it possible for even individuals and private Corporate bodies to generate and distribute power; is a very bold step which only a man who mean so well for this country can take.
Now, the student loan which is now captured by law is something which I am also very happy about. I think the right thing the President Tinubu administration need to do now, is putting the right persons in the right positions. This is very important because the administration may have in place good policies, but implementing them is entirely another issue. Therefore, I want to advise that he must identify the right persons with the desired capacity and capability, courage to work for the nation and her people instead of themselves.
So generally he has done well so far?
Yes, so far, he was sworn in on the 29 May, 2023, less than a month in charge of affairs, we are already feeling the positive impact of his Government. Strikingly; the monetary policy of the Tinubu administration is already hitting hard at those who had the monopoly of foreign exchange (hard currency) and we are gradually learning to live with the realities of the removal of fuel subsidy. Also the few persons appointed are putting policies and program in strategic places that will make Nigerians know that this Government is people oriented. In my opinion, I feel we are headed the right direction of leadership.
Issues in Edo State:
The State House of Assembly was inaugurated a couple of days ago and the Governor, Godwin Obaseki was quoted in the media to had commended the 7th Assembly for effective legislation which he said; helped sustained development strides of his Government and in the same vein, he has urged the 8th Assembly to do better. Now, as one of the opposition Leaders in the State; talking about sustained development and appraising the immediate past Legislature, do you agree with the Governor?
I totally disagree! We are living witnesses to what has happened in the past four years. Do we really have a State Assembly in the past four years? No, we never had an Assembly! And that was acknowledged by the immediate past Speaker himself: Marcus Onobun that for the period they were in office, they had a turbulent stay and that the conviviality experienced during the inauguration of the 24 members, was quite distinct from that unfortunate beginning of the 7th Assembly. We never had a functional Legislature in the past four years. Rather, what we had was a rubber stamp; 10 men sitting in Government House dealing directly with the Governor; they were quasi executives!
Look, the constitution is very clear on the issue of what constitute the Legislature. If you have a House of Assembly; it is to be populated by at least 24 members and that same House ended up being populated by 10 members. 14 of them were not inaugurated and they represent constituencies which never had representation for four years. So, how did the Government impacted these constituencies; who represented them? And that was why there was this lopsidedness in terms of Government policies. The Obaseki Government has not positively impacted on the Edo people as expected because the 14 denied members were elected to be their representatives in that Assembly, so that whatever issues that they have in their various constituencies can be brought to the attention of Government.
And when you talk in terms of laws that were made within these four years, there was none that enjoyed popular acceptance. Yes, the Governor had a field day because there was no functional Legislature. What is the whole essence of the Legislature? It is to act as check and balance to the actions of Government but because he never had any check, he had a field day. So for the Governor to had commended the 7th Assembly; it was most myopic and unfriendly as he ought to know that he was not elected for only a section of Edo people, but for everyone.
So what he has impacted on the 7th Assembly was to have an Assembly which was not representing the interest of the entire State; an Assembly he would wake up in his bed room and say do this or that and they would happily oblige him, an Assembly which had no objection to any action of Government no matter how negative, an Assembly that the Governor had in his pocket, an Assembly the Governor can direct to doing things which are not normal.
Let me recall a situation past where the Governor just woke up one morning and said he wanted to conduct the local Government election in May 2021; it did not work. Again in 2022, he made attempt and as opposition, we kept reminding him that he cannot conduct the local Government election when the humongous amount is not captured in the fiscal budget, and if the legislators were quite at home with their constituencies, they would have known that Government cannot spend tax payers money without being budgeted for which is tantamount to stealing in the real sense of the word. But the Governor had a field day until the opposition rose up to the occasion; to say he cannot conduct the election, look at the budget of the year, from the first letter to the last, there is nowhere the issue of local Government election was captured and after due realization of that the man capitulated and said he was not going to conduct the election. Now, he has again said he wants to conduct the election in September, but let me remind the Government that they have started spending tax payer’s money and a supplementary budget has not been submitted to the House of Assembly to take care of the money being spent. If the State House of Assembly had woken up to its responsibilities would it not had challenged the Governor that the money being spent has no approval of our constituents? Is that a House of Assembly the Governor said had fared well?
So I made bold to say that in these past four years we did not have any State House of Assembly. But we are lucky now that the 8th House of Assembly has been inaugurated with the 24 members; we believe very strongly that the entire State is being represented. We can now begin to see people speaking in respect of their constituencies as against the few who spoke on behalf their constituencies and the other 14 larger constituencies of Edo people were left unattended to and that cannot be said to be a good House of Assembly that fared well in the circumstances they found themselves.
Talking about reforms; the Governor also said in the past six and half years, his administration embarked on the journey of reforms highly supported by the 7th Assembly and also want the 8th Assembly to join him in this journey. As opposition, can you identify some of the reforms in agreement with his assertion?
This is a very laughable assertion in the sense that there was no functional Legislature in the first place let alone reforms. What reforms is the Governor talking about; the ones that have negatively impacted on the people? Instead of improving on the legacies left by the Adams Oshiomhole administration, he embarked on the destruction of existing infrastructure in the State. Reforms must positively impact on the people. The education sector for instance, the Governor wants to give laptop to the man in the Village where there is no network and no light to charge the laptop. The Government does not prioritize its education reforms rightly just like every other sector. It is important that peculiarity of the areas being dealt with is considered; visit the schools particularly those in the rural areas, there are no teachers, the red roof revolution of the Oshiomhole administration had since been stopped, even as they are fast dilapidating and no effort to do anything about the situation. I visited a school a couple of days ago in Ovia-North-East, I am still in tears to find that in this era, pupils are still sitting on the bare floor in Edo State; is Ovia-North-East not part of Edo? Same finding in Orhiomwon, no roof over the head of the pupils, absolute sorry state! Can one say this is reform in this prevailing situation?
Isn’t in the area of road building, in the era of Oshiomhole, we saw the kind of roads that were built; roads with accompanying walkways and proper drainages. But this cannot be said of the roads the Obaseki Government is building; the one in my area, within six months it was already pulling off because of poor quality.
What reforms? Isn’t the demolition of the State library? And in the health sector, what is the state of affairs? Sorrow! Not even one new hospital built and the one built by the Oshiomhole administration, Obaseki has privatized! So, the Edo people can safely say that there has not been a Government in the past six and half years and they are anxiously waiting to kick this anti-people Government out of power. Now, to think about it, it is the civic responsibility of Government to keep safe lives and property of the people but what is the state of the security architecture in Edo? How has the Obaseki Government impacted on the people? Very often, we hear of unexplainable killings, attacks and all manners of security threats. Is this a hallmark of a Government that prides itself to have positively impacted on the people?
But there is EMOWA (Museum) in replacement of the demolished Central Hospital, Shoprite in place of demolished State library and Ford Mart Supermarket just to mention a few
Let me say this: which Government that means well for its people would destroy an educational edifice that was a role model to the remaining States of Nigeria? Now the Governor has demolished the library and sold the place to a private enterprise: Shoprite; is that not a misplacement of priority? And Shoprite is not owned by Edo State but individuals. Also, the Central Hospital, he demolished the place and sold it to private enterprise, same with the pediatric ward; the building directly opposite the Central Hospital, the Governor sold it and now a super market.
So how does Obaseki justify all of these and say he has meant well for Edo people? Demolishing existing infrastructure and not replacing them, is that not misplacement of priority? Now he has turned the entire State to a private enterprise.
As far as I am concerned, Godwin Obaseki has not done anything in the past six and half years to qualify his administration as one Edo people are Happy about. When he came, he promised he was going to stop the activities of agberoes (touts) but today the level of ticketing particularly in the markets is something which had never been experienced in Edo State. The situation is so bad that the poor woman who hawks sachet water buy ticket and it is so centralized that the man holding the ticket, does not even know where the money goes to and above all, the internal revenue of Edo has grown so high to about N4bn now. But has this reflected on the quality of life of the Edo people in terms of infrastructural development and overall running of the State Government? The answer is No! All these money goes into private hands and pocket of the Governor and because there was no functional Legislature to interrogate him; he had that field day. However, I can assure that with this 8th House of Assembly, it will not be business as usual because the opposition has members in there.
Talking about the opposition, the APC has eight members and Labour Party one. So this makes the opposition minority in the House and in the days ahead do you see it having the required psolitical muscle to confront the Governor in his usual ways of throwing anything at the Legislature and it is approved?
Let me tell you, the functionality of the House of Assembly is not just the way we look at it from outside. Even if we had not up to eight members, the mere fact that we have opposition in that Assembly, the ruling Party: PDP members are going to be in consultation if they want bills, resolution to be passed hence there is going to be a lot of lobbying and consultation with the opposition unlike what they had before now, all members were of the same political Party. I can assure that the eight members of the APC, they are going to be working in synergy with the Party. They are going to be responsible and responsive to the yearnings of the pẹople. So, they cannot close their eyes to the ills of Government as it was in the past. They will check the excesses of the Government even though they are not in majority. For example, at the national level, the APC has been in majority but bills are not passed, until they enjoy the support of the opposition. This we already know and those we sent there are intellectuals; tested and trusted, we know that they will not betray. We have Party ideology and manifesto. They have been given the mandate to represent the Party and the people hence they cannot afford to derail like those who do not have the interest of the people at heart. Even though they are minority voice, they would be heard loud and clear to the extent that it would be known that it is no longer business as usual even the Governor himself will know. The democratic practice of law and doing the right thing will now be seen in Edo.
Ahead of 2024, what is the way pointed by the APC in Edo because we hear alignment and realignment is already taking place.
Well, 2024 I can tell you is going to be a very strategic year in the sense that Edo people are tired of the Government of Obaseki and we are also very conscious of the intricate nature of politicking now in the country. It is no longer as it were where the ruling Party would say we are the dorminating power; all the political parties have taken shape and are very well informed in terms of political arrangement in the country; albeit the States. As for the Governorship race, the APC is a Party that was founded on transparency, equity, fair play, justice and the rule of law. We believe that firstly, every Edo person is at liberty; has the constitutional right to contest an election provided he meets the requirement of the constitution. Then two; we are also aware that politics is anchored on civility and equity. If one must win an election, he or she must strategize from the wake of picking the candidate to the election proper, because election is a process which starts with identifying the candidate, where the candidate is from, the acceptability of the candidate and the Party, etc.
So the APC knowing this; we are consulting with all the facets of the State with view to arriving at that position of general acceptability by all, because history has shown that any political Party which do not recognize the equitable stand of Nigerians, do not usually win election at the end of the day. We are aware of that, we are also taking cognizance of the recent happenings in the country, which will be a mirror to considering whatever steps the political parties would take at the microcosm level, and that is at the State level. We knew what has happened at the national level, we knew how everything played out and Edo State is a microcosm of the microcosm so that been so, we want to believe that these areas of common interest must be identified so that when we are choosing our candidate, first of all the location he or she comes from will be considered, capacity of the candidate and his or her acceptability will also be considered; how he has been able to walk through the thick and thin in the State to the extent that his name is mentioned far away in the fringes of the State, he is accepted. So we are a Party today that is not only interested in participating in the election, we are a Party that is well positioned to winning the election and in doing that we want to say with the greatest respect that we will do those things that would make us win from the very beginning.
So as at today, we are still looking at all of these variables and by the time we finish our consultation and there is this air of relief, that this is the particular way to go; the Party would go that way and let me assure, that we would do our best and we are also going to come out with the best who will be the best for the State because it is our believe that come 2024, the APC is the Party to beat!