How did you become the Chairman of the Edo State Economic Team under Governor Adams Oshiomhole?
Certainly I was among the first and I will say that I paid to serve. Secondly, I thought that I would just come in and help organise things and go back to what I was doing. But, as the Chairman of the Economic Team, I realised that what we had anticipated that existed in government did not exist. I had on my instinct invited people to come and help the government to take off, but I then realised that we cannot be talking about an economic policy or running an economy when there was no engine to drive the economy. So, for me, I realised that it was much deeper. So, I had to set up the Economic Team and institutionalised it and ensured that it was properly resourced to now support the Comrade’s effort.
My aim at that point was not to become a political appointee. So, to that extent, I didn’t feel that I had to be at the front front. I was just there to support and help the Comrade Governor achieve the goals he had set out. And I felt that I would be more effective if I was apolitical. We looked at decisions and issues dispassionately and the truth is that within the first two, three years, I had no interest in politics. I didn’t see myself dealing with the intrigues, subterfuge and others. It was during Governor Oshiomhole’s re-election that I understood and appreciated that one can fix the bureaucracy, but it is beyond that because if you don’t also fix the politics, nothing will abide.
Is your governorship ambition payback time?
It is not payback because the question I had always asked after the governor’s re-election is: now that he is in the second and last term, what happens after him? The thought was always there; who will continue with what we started? But, even if it was there, it wasn’t something that I pursued strongly because I didn’t see how I could even do that; the energy and time. If you think about Nigeria’s politics before the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President, you got to have a thick skin to be able to fight. And, in any case, since I didn’t have that political background and history, it wasn’t something I thought about doing initially.
But, after Buhari succeeded despite all odds, I said it is possible. That gave me the perspective of the ability of an outsider to come in and take over power. More importantly, I looked around and said we’ve been here together in the last seven years; I cannot absolve myself of any key policy that was made. And I said to myself, because the future is going to be more challenging than where we are coming from, we run a huge risk of losing the gains of what we have accomplished.
What is your chance of getting the ticket at the primary?
The truth is that after 16 weeks, I am the person to beat. A lot of political actors have failed to realise that the political environment has changed drastically; that the current economic reality is going to affect our politics more than we understand at the surface. The thinking of most of them is let’s just grab power, once we are in Government House, everything will fall in place. But, I say that it is beyond that.
Being in Government House does not make things happen. You have to possess the capability. With technology and improvement in our electoral process, people will now determine who governs them; people will now matter in the political process. Having political structure alone will not in itself deliver political power.
Many have observed that those worked for Oshiomhole’s emergence are not with you. Who are your supporters?
First, Oshiomhole delivered himself. If he had not restored governance and built the infrastructure that he did. If he has not gotten the confidence of the people, nobody would have been able to perform any magic. People voted, and that’s the point I am making. Gone are the days when politicians think that the people don’t matter; when a few political elite will gather and say this is how we want it; when you can just carry the ballot boxes and fill in result sheets.
A lot of political actors just believe that there is a structure and system. So, they don’t need to work. I have gone round the 18 local government areas in the state. As I speak, I am going ward to ward. I have done 30 wards in the last two weeks and I am going to go round all the 192 wards. Somebody said something in one of the wards. He said: ‘But they said this man was imposed on the party but he is the only one that we are seeing. We don’t see those who were not imposed.’
Whose credibility will work for you; yours or that of Oshiomhole?
I don’t see the difference because I have been part of what we built in the last seven years. I cannot distance myself from any major policy of Governor Oshiomhole. I can only extend and improve on what he has done and we did it on the platform of our party, the APC. So, there is no difference as far as I am concerned.