Godwin Obaseki is the flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 10 governorship election in Edo state. In this interview with ISAAC OLAMIKAN, he spoke on his plans to continue where the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole stopped if elected. Excerpts:
Basically, there are two prominent political parties in Edo State – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
You are known as a technocrat while your opponent, the PDP flagbearer, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is known as a core politician. How would you respond to this?
Every person is a political animal. To say that I am a technocrat when I have been in the corridors of power and politics in Edo State is creating the wrong impression. Yes, I have done other things in my life outside of politics. I have been an investment banker; asset manager; I have been a stockbroker. So, if that is what you are saying, yes I accept, unlike some other people who have done nothing else in their life except just partisan politics. To that extent, I don’t agree that the fact that somebody has been a partisan politician all his life and done nothing else gives him an undue advantage. If anything, it is a disadvantage because he cannot offer anything other than raw politics particularly the politics that has been practiced in this republic, which is the politics driven by greed and violence.
What are you expecting on September 10?
Come September 10, from what is on ground, clearly I will win the election. But what I am expecting is to ensure that as I go round, I am able to have a much better understanding of the needs of our people; to be able to build consensus amongst Edo people so that with that consensus, we can quickly accelerate our economic growth.
People agree that the comrade governor has done much in the area of infrastructural development. But there are complaints that the state lack industries. How are you going to address this when you become governor?
We have started already. People just see that the comrade has built infrastructure. But he built the infrastructure for what purpose? We built roads so that we can have access; we built schools so that we can train quality human beings. The reason for building schools is to improve the quality of the human being so that they can be a very productive workforce. The first phase is what the comrade has done, which is laying the foundation for our economic growth. The next phase is where I now take off from, which is now to begin to attract the investors; continue to ensure that there is security of lives, properties and assets so that people can now come into the state and locate their businesses in the state; produce goods and services in the state using the labour, materials and other resources found in the state.
What are you doing to bring together all the aspirants that you contested against during your party primary so that all of you can present a united front for the election?
We all have agreed that we are one party. We have all accepted to work together as brothers and sisters. All the aspirants have integrated into my campaign team. They are members of my campaign organisation. They have asked their followers to support me. We are one now; we are one family. We have spoken with all our followers. If you go to places like Orhionmwon, Uhunmwode and even Edo Central senatorial district where some of the aspirants come from, you will find out that we are in sync now, that we are all speaking with one voice.
Your running mate, Hon. Philip Shaibu, is a youth. Is that the reason you picked him?
Yes, that’s partly one of the reasons; but if you think about it, he has been part of this administration, part of our government. We started together with the comrade governor. We are like two sides of the same coin. While they were focusing more on legislative matters in the legislature, I was with the comrade governor working on issues on the executive branch. The combination of somebody with his kind of political skills and legislative experience added to my understanding of policy and what to do is such a fantastic combination. When you are planning, you want to bring as many resources to the table as possible. You don’t just go and carry the same type of resources for your use. You will not have that diversity to help you reach out to a much larger audience. We had to think very carefully the type of person to be deputy governor and his credentials and experience.
During the Edo south gubernatorial flag off held at UWA Primary School, Benin, people saw a different Godwin Obaseki speaking eloquently extempore unlike what obtained in the main flag off held earlier at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium where you were reading a prepared text….
That (Ogbemudia Stadium flag off) was my first outing. Where I had to tell the people of Edo State, in very clear documented and precise terms, what I had in stock for them. It was not supposed to be a rally where we just talked glibly. That was the allocation to set my template on what I would do so that the world would know what to hold me accountable for. In most advanced countries, that is the thing to do. The first time you are going out to meet the electorates you want to be precise; you want to be specific; you want to be clear; you want to be transparent so that there is something somebody can hold on to. You have a copy of that speech it is documented and is now historic. I don’t understand the point they trying to make; that I cannot talk; I cannot speak; I cannot articulate? But clearly I can. We are trying to change our politics. There are certain things that have to be done formally. Not everything is stage excitement. At some point you have got to be dexterous about who you are.
As the chairman of the Economic team of the state, can you recall some of the things that you have done that will remain indelible in the people’s memory?
What exactly has happened in Edo State which I have not been part of? What are those indelible things that have happened that I have not been part of? Is it funding the money required to build everything you see? Is it the ground breaking Azura Power Plant which is the only project of its type on the continent today? Is it the 2010 – 2020 economic plan on which the state is running? Is it the financial planning and reform which led the World Bank to offer the state a budget support facility which it has only offered to two states on the continent of Africa? Is it the restructuring leading the state to lend to micro businesses in a sustainable way? I could go on and on. So, what is that thing that has happened in the state in the last seven and half years that the economic team contribution has not made happen? That we are paying salaries today, that we have a robust financial management system that is helping the state to meet its obligations is an output of the work we have done. But we thank God and the comrade governor for been able to provide the leadership for us to do all of that. He set up the economic team in the first place and gave us the latitude to work. The credit goes to him more than me. - INDEPENDENT