Chief Solomon Edebiri has never pretended about his ambition to govern Edo State. He contested for the seat in 2007 and 2012 without success. But he is back in the race on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He speaks in this interview with Felix Nwane ri on his action plan to bring back what he described as the glory days of the state. Excerpts:
You are contesting Edo State governorship position for the third consecutive time. What is the motivating factor?
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 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. And 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.
Also, our state has been fragmented along north, central and southern lines. Without federal allocations, the state cannot survive. Our renowned educational institutions are decaying, while unemployment and youth restiveness are visible.
Trust in government is low and the essentials needed to stimulate socioeconomic development are most lacking. So, bearing in mind the need to rescue our beloved state; coupled with deep reflection and wide consultation with stakeholders who cherish the importance of good leadership, I am prepared and ready to manage what we have for the benefit of our people.
Many believe that the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has done well, and that it would be a great advantage to the state if the ruling party is allowed to consolidate on the foundation it had laid.
I insist that though 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 have 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. I have plans to establish new industries and to revive the ailing ones to create jobs for our youths.
I also have plans to pay salaries and pensions as an when due because I am a competent manager, and I have an unwavering concern for the welfare and future of the people of Edo State paramount in my mind. I have an agenda to transform Edo and bring back all those old good days we have lost over the years.
What does this agenda entail because it is one thing to have lofty ideas, but only an action plan can bring them to fruition
I believe that the current structure in Edo State strangulates creativity, so I will tackle the problems of the state by, first, correcting institutional and structural defects without which the problems will continue to defy known solutions. Our new PDP platform is uplifting and visionary.
It reflects the views of countless Edo indigenes, who believe in prosperity with purpose. A system is the reflection of the elements it is made of and the new PDP comprises of these elements, who can set the stage for a progressive government that can usher in the change we want.
The team we will put together if elected, will represent a platform of ideas, a team that follows its words with bold deeds. A team that can be believed, trusted and held accountable. This team, under my leadership, has a special commitment to advance the principles of freedom through the application of social justice through decentralization of government and thereby bring about the dignity and worth of every individual. These principles form the foundation of an agenda for the new Edo State from the year 2016.
We will offer social security that will guarantee a minimum level of well being and social support in terms of helping people get skills and find jobs. We will target subsidies in healthcare, education, food production and housing for public servants.
We will also provide special care for the disabled and elderly, introduce social security contribution insurance, where the state and the individual worker will contribute towards the latter day of life.
Do you stand any chance of picking the ticket of your party – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as some elders of the party in the state seem to have made up their mind on who gets it?
I am a member of the PDP, and 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 re-build 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 needs 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 s t rug gl e, that, yes the people have w a t c h e d 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.
What is the possibility of the PDP unseating the ruling APC after being out of power for eight years?
The APC has done eight years like the PDP did. So, the people are in the best position to analyse and draw a conclusion on the state of Edo then and now. They should decide on if this party did this and the other did that, who should we trust our mandate within the 2016 election? I also want people to realise that it was Adams Oshiomhole’s name that won him the mandate in 2007 and 2012, not the name of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
The party used his name to ride to victory. So, the PDP should also look for a name that can sell the party. The party must be very careful not to select anybody that the people may not want. I have no doubt that if members of the PDP can trust me with their ticket, Edo people will be grateful to the PDP by voting the party.
So, I strongly believe that Edo people will endorse the candidate of their choice and not a group of leaders as the era of hardline governors and pulling Edo backward is over.
There is this belief that businesses and workers in the state are overburdened by taxes. How do you intend to address this, and how do you intend to raise the needed funds for the developmental projects that you have outlined?
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 10 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?
I will introduce an agro-system based on one local government per crop system if elected governor. If we can endow them with one commercial crop, for instance, cassava in Uhuwmnode, timber in Ovia North-East, groundnut in Akoko-Edo, and we now harvest and commercialize them, bringing in the factories, producing and selling outside, then Edo State will be industrialised.
We will equally make the state a tourism destination. You cannot find a five-star hotel in Edo State. So, how do you host an international conference? There is no conference centre that can take 5,000 people. So, why would people bring an international conference here?
There is no exhibition hall that can properly take 500 exhibitors at the same time. So, why do we bring in international exhibitors? These are changes that we will bring into governance and we will not remember that woman in the market to be taxed N50, N100 per day, Our major focus is to bring in fresh things to the state and make sure that they are utilized.
That is the only way we can fight unemployment; that is the only way we get the youth engaged and that is the only way we can reduce youth restiveness, crime and poverty.