Dr. Pius Odubu is a former deputy governor of Edo State and two time House of Representatives member. He is an aspirant of the All Progressives Congress in the forthcoming primary. In this interview, he spoke on issues with governor Obaseki and APC members, his chances and what he would do differently if he emerges governor and other sundry issues.
Why do you want to be governor?
From the beginning, I have always wanted to make a difference in the life of people and make the society better. I grew up in a rural area and I saw firsthand, the deprivation in terms of infrastructural facilities. Given the opportunity that I had, I thought I should make a difference and be able to create an environment that is completely different from when we were growing up. When I applied for a specialized degree, the question they asked me was why do you want the specialized degree and my answer was that I wanted to be optimally prepared to make a difference in the society. One sure way to do so is to be in government at the highest level of governance. I have been through the length and breadth of Edo state. Various governors have performed well; the likes of Late Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, Prof Ambrose Alli and comrade Adams Oshiomhole. There is need to continue from where they stopped. A situation where we take one step forward and three steps backward is not in our collective interest. If I am favored, I will hit the ground running such that at the end of the four years, one would have done the greatest good to the greatest number of persons within the shortest possible time.
In view of your experience during the 2016 governorship primary, what would you say are your chances now?
In 2016, we put up a good fight such that everybody far and near appreciated our efforts. Great as that may have been, our efforts were not good enough at that time. The dynamics now have changed, such that those factors that militated against our emergence as at that time are no more. We have taken note of where we didn’t perform well that time and we have made corrections. The people of Edo state now have the opportunity to assess every aspirant and I am sure they now know that I have what it takes to continue from where Adams Oshiomhole stopped. Don’t forget that I was an integral part of that government.
There is rumour of alleged anointed candidate from Abuja. What is your take on this?
It remains in the realm of rumour and I don’t believe anybody would want to anoint anyone. However, we the aspirants in APC have agreed to work in a manner that it will be one for all and all for one. That is, at the end of it all, whoever is selected would have the support and blessings of the others. This is our idea and not any leader’s idea. I think it is an idea whose time has come and we have decided to change the narrative of electioneering in Edo State. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that aspirants will all agree to support whoever emerges as candidate. The process leading to this primary is unique because you don’t see the aspirants castigating and abusing each other. It is usually the negative utterances of aspirants that the opposing parties leverage on during the campaign for the general election to rubbish whoever emerges as candidate. We have agreed to work together as one and when the time comes, we will sit down with the leaders of the party and select one of us and all others will support that particular person that emerges.
What is your take on the crisis rocking the state’s APC?
There is no crisis in Edo APC rather, what we have is misunderstanding arising from the activities and conduct of His Excellency, Governor Godwin Obaseki. Mr.Obaseki from the onset came with the notion that leadership of APC in Edo state should be retired. Leadership in political environment is not an appointed one; it evolves from the various constituencies overtime, therefore, nobody has the right or the power to say he is retiring anybody from active politics. The governor’s disdain for politicians had manifested in his utmost disrespect for the political class. The leaders are not being consulted or carried along and people who worked for him were neglected. This gave rise to the misunderstanding contrary to the governor’s claim that the misunderstanding arose from the national chairman wanting to be godfather. This is far from it, as Comrade Oshiomhole has never at any time in the political activities in Edo State wanted to be a godfather and I can also say he has not interfered in the business of governance in the state. When this misunderstanding was brewing, Comrade Oshiomole called the leaders and the governor to a roundtable to sort things out, not once, not twice. The leaders always showed up but the governor never honoured any of the invitations. That is what created the situation we are in today. It is certainly not the interference of Oshiomhole in governance or politics of Edo state. Instead, it is the refusal of the governor to carry along the party leadership and leaders who worked assiduously for his victory.
In-house fighting caused APC Zamfara and Rivers states; are you not worried that the party is heading towards that in Edo if it is left unresolved before the election?
Yes, we are not happy with the governor’s style of governance but we have also said we are not averse to reconciliation. I told you of the several attempts made by the National Chairman to broker peace and the Governor’s refusal to embrace reconciliation. The leaders then decided that instead of sitting back and watch the fortune of our party dwindle; we should critically engage the Governor with the sole aim of bringing him to the roundtable so that we can dialogue on the need to settle the issues. But he refused to come. Be that as it may, we are not going to allow him destroy our party in Edo state. Some of us have offered ourselves to save our party. Edo state is an APC state. Anytime, any day we will win here handsomely.
A reconciliation committee headed by Chief Bisi Akande has been set up by the president to resolve Edo APC crisis; what is your take on this?
Let me correct the impression that the committee was set up by the President as it was the National Working Committee of the party under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole that did so. We must respect party supremacy and we thank President Muhammadu Buhari who always insists on party supremacy. That is what is lacking in Edo state and what Governor Obaseki has refused to embrace which led to the misunderstanding. We welcome wholeheartedly the reconciliation committee; recall that about a month ago, four of us (aspirants) addressed a press conference where we said we were ready for reconciliation. We even implored the NWC to set up a reconciliation committee to look into the misunderstanding in Edo State. This is not the first attempt as there had been several attempts to reconcile the warring factions in Edo state but the Governor frustrated the initiatives by going to court to stop the committees from functioning. I am happy that he has accepted this and our memorandum is ready. We will gladly appear before the committee to state our position on issues that have been playing out in Edo state’s APC. We are convinced that he will do justice to all the burning issues in Edo state APC. It is not about who wins but about doing the right thing by our people and for our people.
Are you going to support whoever emerges as the party’s flagbearer?
I told you earlier that we have agreed to work with whoever emerges. In fact, if Obaseki decides to come down from the high horse to join us, we will work together. All we are simply demanding is for him to be a party man, respect the party and its leaders and also embrace party supremacy. Unless that happens, he is in for a rough ride.
What method of primary do you prefer?
It is not up to me to decide the pattern of primary to be used by the party. Whichever method the party chooses is okay by me provided the process and the primary are free and fair.
If you emerge as the governor, what will you do differently in terms of governance?
I will show gratitude and appreciation to the party members and the masses that supported me by delivering on my promises to them. I will make sure I carry the leadership along, embark on human capacity development, and empower the youths, women and other layers of the society. I will also make sure that I continue with legacy projects of Adams Oshiomhole as no one government can complete all the projects in four years. We must not play politics with peoples’ welfare. If there are projects started by your predecessor and they are of immense benefit to the people, you should by all means complete them. So for me, I will be pro party, pro-masses, pro-youth and pro-women. By the grace of God, if I become the Governor, I will focus on human capital development, infrastructural development and vocational training. This is because the government can’t possibly provide employment for all, but if they have vocational training, they will be able to start businesses of their own to take care of themselves and even be employers of labour. I will also strive to create an enabling environment to attract investors to the state.