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Edebiri on Edo 2016: This is our chance

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Chief Iyobosa Solomon Edebiri (ISE) is not your run of the mill politician as he confessed penultimate Friday. An encounter with senior journalists including a sprinkling of media executives and some veteran journalists confirmed that fact as seen in the way he sauntered into the parley. Clad in a black suit as if set for another business meeting, and not a political dinner, he had on arriving the venue of the dinner in Ikeja, Lagos, proceeded straight to the middle of the high table and sat down. Surely not your typical politician who would come in shaking, patting here and there, albeit pretentiously telling you how long he had desired to see you, though not from his heart. Chief Iyobosa Solomon Edebiri Chief Iyobosa Solomon Edebiri But when he spoke that night, almost everyone could see the honesty in the aspiration of the nearly 54-year-old businessman, philanthropist, and politician. Four years ago, Edebiri was one of three major governorship candidates that included the outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He stood on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, a party that at that time was visibly absent just before the election. However, his superlative articulation of the felt needs of the people during the governorship debate helped to bolster him, but alas, the permutations had already been set and Edebiri, despite his late bounce, only made it to the third position. Four years after, Edebiri who as a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT of the defunct ANPP was deeply involved in the formation of the now ruling All Progressives Congress, APC has seriously re-branded. He has ditched the ANPP and the APC, and crossed over to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and has now become a major challenger for the party’s governorship ticket for the election due later this year. The grassroots support he had four years ago has been bolstered by the support of a few strategic power brokers in the PDP, the foremost of whom is the iconoclastic Senator Roland Owie. Owie’s support nonetheless, there is no doubt that a sizeable proportion of the PDP machine in Edo State is backing one of the other aspirants recently crossed over from the APC. It was a point this correspondent put across to Edebiri that day. Asked how he would change the mind of party elders who control the party machine that he is better positioned to win the contest than the man that many of them are banking on, he said: “My primary assignment now is to convince leaders and members that I am best suited for the governorship position. Looking at where the PDP is coming from, the party certainly needs a man, who can bring the unity of the party back, a man who can create hope for the people, a man who can rebuild the party. If you look at the party against the backdrop of where it is coming from, the party needs a unifier. PDP does not need anybody that will divide the party into factions. “So, our primary focus now is to ensure that we go to the primary successfully and then to the field. I enjoy a lot of public support and I am very confident that if the PDP can trust me with their mandate, Edo people will trust me with their larger mandate to govern the state. That informs my commitment to this struggle, that, yes the people have watched me over the years; they have seen my antecedents and believe that this is the time. I only pray that the PDP can avoid the mistakes of the past, which caused it to remain in the opposition for almost eight years in Edo State.” All through the evening, Edebiri’s mantra for a free and fair primary echoed in the ear of his audience. His appeal for the PDP to present the best candidate is undoubtedly a reflection of the high stakes involved and the perception that Adams Oshiomhole, who has had the political dominance over the PDP since 2008 may for once be vulnerable. The comrade-governor is believed to be supportive of Mr. Godwin Obaseki, a political neophyte whose ancestry is believed to be ruffling royal feathers in Benin. So could the PDP by presenting a damaged candidate play into the hands of the APC? “Members of the PDP are determined to effect a change but only if they see a viable alternative, but if the PDP does not present a viable alternative the people could say they prefer to remain where they are,” Edebiri stated. Asked what has been his inspiration, he said: “My inspiration is born out of the potentials available in Edo State, which include human, natural and mineral resources. I want to serve as governor of Edo State because I am no seasonal politician but a concerned citizen, who has seen that instead of the state progressing, it is regressing. Our university graduates no longer have jobs waiting for them like in the past. Our state lacks industries to either accept people for employment or even internship. It is worrisome that a state prefers to remain a consumer nation instead of an export nation, which can only be made possible through production of goods and services.” He was to speak of his encounter with some Edo natives he met in Europe who when he challenged them on why they were languishing in a foreign land retorted to him “What shall we come to do, where there are no jobs and no infrastructure?.” That encounter he claimed has greatly stirred him to go and do something. Asked the tricky question of assessing the Oshiomhole administration, he answered: “The Oshiomhole administration tried to construct some roads, the effect of numerous bad ones in the state make a nullity of the very few that has been constructed. The low-income earners, who depend solely on their salaries for the day to day running of their homes do not get this to use when needed due to delay in the payment. I will fix all these when I become governor.” He did not leave without taking a shot at the controversy over the taxation policy of the outgoing administration, stating how he would increase income without increasing the tax burden on the people. “We seem to be limiting our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to taxing people; market women, taxi drivers, hotel owners and others. But I believe that the best way to generate income for the state is to make it an export, manufacturing state, a production state. If Edo State becomes the largest producer of rice in West Africa, is there something wrong with it? It is simple mathematics. If I ship out ten million bags of rice every month and tax each bag N500, do you know how much billions of Naira is that every month and do I need to tax anybody?” As he spoke that night, the supporters repeatedly chorused ISE, which is Bini term for Amen and also the acronym for his campaign organisation taken from the first letter of his three known names, Iyobosa Solomon Edebiri. As Edebiri and his entourage left that evening, the chorus of Ise, Ise was the quiet mutter of many.

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