Chief Dan Osi Orbih, the Edo State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with FRANCIS ONOIRIBHOLO, speaks on the political crisis in the state and other issues of interests. Excerpts:
How do you see the political development in Edo State particularly when the State House of Assembly is yet to commence sitting with their full elected members over six months after their election?
First and foremost, let me say that for those of us from Edo State, seeing what is going on in the state now is not what anybody is happy about. Indeed, we have witnessed very strange happenings, political happenings in the state under the APC government of Godwin Obaseki. The sad aspect of it all is that Edo people have come to realise that the APC is a party that came to the state with falsehood, deceit and promises that have remained unfulfilled. Initially, they came with a posture that they came to government to correct what PDP did not do well but it is interesting to note that they have spent more years now in office than PDP did and today the state is worse for it.
Just yesterday, I embarked on a journey to Uromi to attend the first year remembrance of Chief Tony Anenih. It took me several hours to travel from here in Benin to Uromi. I observed a few months or a few weeks ago the governor was lamenting the state of Federal roads especially in Edo State, I think that governor must first of all reflect on the adage that you must first of all remove the log in your eyes before wanting to point at another person’s own. I embarked on my journey to Uromi after receiving various reports about the poor state of the roads. I decided to take the Agbor route that was going to take me through Igbanke down to Igueben down to Uromi. That journey took me over four hours because of the bad state of the road and it will interest you to know that this particular road I took was a state road totally in a state of disrepair and abandoned. So, the governor should start by fixing his own roads instead of lamenting the situation of Federal roads in the State.
So, are you saying the governor is yet to fulfill his electoral promises?
It is regrettable that all the promises APC made to Edo people have come to nothing. We were told that this particular governor was the engine room of Oshiomhole’s government being the Chairman of the Economic Team. We were told that he is a technocrat; we were told he is a man who will create 200,000 jobs within his first few months in office, all the things we were told about the governor we are yet to see any. They promised they were going to establish farms and engage thousands of our youths, the first experiment was a disaster, what they did at Sobe in Ovia North East local Government was totally unacceptable. They invested hundreds of millions of naira in a phantom programme for maize cultivation and at the end of the day, not even N10, 000 was realised from that farm and not one hundred youths were engaged. Instead, he brought a friend from Lagos, an unknown fellow in Edo State who has no track record of having a successful farm anywhere in Nigeria and huge sum of money was paid out for the man to go about that project and today the government has not been able to account for the huge amount of money that was lost.
So, for me I think that we have never had it this bad, today there is so much confusion and threats even within the APC, they are threatening themselves, threatening fire and brimstone, bringing down people’s properties, arresting people. So, I think we cannot wait to send this set of people packing because they have shown they do not have the business of running any government, they came on a selfish agenda for self-aggrandizement and we must put a stop to it.
Last time you spoke on the crisis especially as it affects the State House of Assembly and people were looking up to you and some of the leaders of Edo State to really intervene in this matter because the way we are going now you will discover that there is threat all over the place, are you comfortable with the way it is now?
I want to use this opportunity to invite Adams Oshiomhole and Obaseki to come before me so that I can resolve their political differences in the interest of Edo people. I have seen that theirs is a party where they cannot settle internal issues; I have seen that external intervention for the good of Edo people cannot be ruled out as a way out of the present political quagmire we find ourselves. So, I am prepared to step into their problem and resolve it amicably for the interest of Edo peoples it is for them now to accept my open invitation to resolve their problems.
There are rumours that following the crisis in APC in the state some people are negotiating with your party, the PDP for a governorship ticket if they fails to get the ticket of their party, the APC how true is that speculations?
Our political party, the PDP is open to membership from all who are interested in building our democracy, unlike what you have in APC, ours is a truly democratic party and it is not in our nature to discriminate against Nigerians who want to join us. We have leading funding members or foundation members of APC who I have seen saying that there is nothing like the democracy in PDP who have since retraced their steps back to PDP, in the same manner I believe either now or in the future many people who will discover the difference between the APC and PDP will definitely come to approach PDP to be accommodated as members.
We are not in negotiation with anybody about the ticket of our party in Edo State rather those who have enlisted as members of the party who will satisfy the constitutional provision for vying for the office of governor within the party are free to indicate interest. If Obaseki decides to join PDP as member of the party and is interested in contesting the governorship, he like many others who have already shown interest will have to face the members of the party for primaries. The Edo governorship ticket is not a piece of cake for negotiation with anybody, all those who are willing to contest the governorship will be prepared to subject themselves to the rigors of party primaries and it is left for the party delegates for the nomination of the governorship candidate to decide who will best represent the interest of the party and Edo people, that is how democratic our party is.
To travel from Benin to Ekpoma now takes over four hours and the situation is all over the country and people are saying Nigeria is collapsing in terms of roads and other infrastructure, how true is that?
Well the situation in the country generally is lamentable. There is no single road today that you can point to that you will say this road is better than others, all the roads are in very bad states coupled with the rising unacceptable insecurity in the country. Today, anybody embarking on a journey from Benin to Abuja by road must be prepared to at least, spend a minimum of 12 to 14 hours and the situation is so bad that I have been reliably informed that the National Chairman of APC who is from Edo State who has an aged mother in Iyamho now uses helicopter from Benin to Iyamho to be able to see his mother, I feel that will not solve the problem of the state of our road. Let the National Chairman of APC use his good position to tell them at the Federal level that the state of our roads in Edo State is in very bad shape not every person can afford to hire a helicopter to travel from Benin to Irrua or Iyamho or Ogbona as the case may be. I think he should think about the millions of Edo people who do not have access or the resources to engage the services of a helicopter, let him in the interest of our people take the message to Fashola and Buhari to address the state of roads in Edo State and other states of the Federation.
There is fear that the rate at which unemployed graduates is increasing, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder if the situation is not addressed as quickly as possible, do you agree with such opinion?
Well, we now have a situation where university graduates with second class upper division in different discipline are prepared to do just any job at all just to earn a living. The other day a friend told me that the cab that brought him from the Airport to my house was driven by a graduate from the University of Benin and he got to know when he engaged the driver in a conversation expressing his disappointment over the flood in Benin City and when the guy spoke to him he was forced to ask him, are you educated? The young man told him that he has a Second Class upper division in Engineering but for the past four years he has been looking for a job he has not been able to get one until somebody told him that they were recruiting drivers in one of the companies in Benin City he went for the interview and that is how he found himself doing the job he is doing now as a driver.
So there is no doubt that the greatest challenge we are facing today is the army of unemployed youth who are highly qualified, highly educated but no jobs, this situation definitely can lead to frustration, can lead to several other things that nobody will wish that we experience in this country. I believe that government must create an enabling environment for people to invest in ventures that can create employment opportunity and how do you create an enabling environment when you have two hours of power supply and 12 hours of darkness, no nation can progress without addressing the power sector. As at today, there is nowhere in this country where you can enjoy 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply. In fact, it is difficult to record four hours of uninterrupted power in this country anywhere outside the presidential villa, so we have a problem. Government must create enabling environment by providing very essential services like power, you must make power available, there is nothing you can do without power, that alone can affect your cost in anything you want to do and you will find it difficult to break even as a result of high cost of production or whatever, eventually you will have abandoned industries, abandoned commercial outfits because of this problem.
You can see the rise in transportation cost because of the bad roads in the country because it is taking so much cost from those in the transportation company to service their vehicles, to buy tires and to put those vehicles in good shapes, the type of wear and tear that they experience because of the bad roads now in the country is unimaginable. So government must create an enabling environment for us to be able to have a situation where individuals who are interested in business can actually come around, invest their money with the hope of making some profits.
Is your party, the PDP and Nigerians missing Chief Tony Anenih, is just one year now he is gone, how do you feel after one year of his absence?
No doubt that Chief Anenih is a man that we must continue to miss, not just in one year but as far as the history of our state and country is concerned we will continue to miss him.