Political tension heightens in Edo State as Governor Adams Oshiomhole, last Monday led thousands of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) supporters to protest alleged plot to use INEC to manipulate the scheduled voter’s registration in favour of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) . In this interview with selected journalists, the governor insists that anything short of credible election will be resisted by the Edo People. PATRICK OCHOGA was there for LEADERSHIP.
Sir, you led a protest to the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) office in Benin, what really happened that Monday?
We can’t say he is a fake INEC official. It is just that he is an INEC man. There is no dispute about the fact that he is an INEC man. He was seen carrying the DDC machine marked for Igueben. Our people saw him coming in the morning before 8am to drop the machine. He was apprehended. When asked what is the machine for, he said they used it for training at Igueben but he was asked to take it to Uromi and that they started doing registration since yesterday.
Having done the registration in Uromi, he is now bringing the machine back to Benin. The voter registration supposed to start on Tuesday but it began in Uromi on Sunday. This confirms the information we have that they have prepared to take machines to secret locations.
Whereas in other states, they did registration at local government level, in Edo they were going to do it at every ward as if it is a general registration exercise and of course in addition they have 472 machines whereas they need only 192 if they were to do it at every ward. If it were to be done at the local government, they need only 18. Clearly they have over 200 machines they were going to use secretly to register people from neighbouring states including some thugs.
Do you think the leadership of INEC, Prof. Jega is aware of this development?
No he is not. Jega is not aware of some of these things. This is purely an arrangement between Mrs. Umeh of INEC in Edo and their boss in Abuja. Between the two, they had a deal with the PDP to use the voters’ registration exercise to doctor the exercise.
They were going to mix up the names in various polling units. They would take a name in polling unit A to polling unit B. On that day, you go there you will not find your name. There are a couple of things they plan that is based on the voter’s register but as luck will have it we got one of the boys and he has confessed.
Can we know more about the meeting you said was held at Chief Anenih’s place?
They met three days ago in Abuja basically to say that they must rig the election. They plan to use the military, the voter registration exercise and recruit ex-militants. They also said they have a deal to settle a lot of people in INEC, particularly those in ICT unit. What they have done shows they have a deal with ICT. It is all how to rig the election.
The PDP said you were not supposed to lead the protest because you are a sitting governor and a candidate.
Who are they to decide my role? That it is coming from them is not an issue. If it were members of the public, I might pulse for a minute. Airhiavbere cannot walk the streets of Benin where he claims to have come from. Dan Orbih cannot walk the streets of Benin; Chief Anenih cannot walk the street of Benin and even in Uromi outside the bullet proof vehicle.
I will not conduct my office according to their dictates. I will conduct my office according to my own style. I have a mass background; these are the qualities that brought me to this office including mass protest. If as a governor, I feel that an institution of state is being mismanaged, I have the right to say no. If it is something I can seat in my office and clean-off, I will do it.
But INEC is not under my control. I am the candidate whose election is being manipulated and I am not one of those leaders who ask people to go and die while they remain in the comfort of their office. I want to lead by example. If I ask my people to go and protest I will lead the protest and share the burden of protesting under the sun.
We went out last time and it started raining. People said I should get into my car. For a minute I almost got in and I said no why should I be inside my car when these people who are following me are in the rain? I am the candidate. I came out and we walk.
The rain became heavy. If PDP said what I did is right, I knew it is wrong. If they said what I did is wrong, I knew it is right. I am ready to lead more protest. Any attempt to rig this election will be resisted. I am not going to hide. I am not like Chief Anenih who will plan at night. I work in the day time.
This country is ours. We cannot allow a man in his nineties to mess up our future for those who still have more years to do. There is no hiding place for them. If we are going to fight you, we give them ultimatum. We don’t do like cowards who go in the dark to go and kill or use tipper drivers to go and kill their enemy.
In view of what has happened today, what is your message to the people of the state?
They should remain vigilante. We want to have free and fair election but we must be vigilante. They must have the courage to come out and deal with those agents of darkness. They will not be able to change the rules of the game in Edo. What they did not do in Cross River, they cannot do it in Edo.
Someone phoned from Abuja to inquire if half a million people actually occupy INEC, I said yes I authorized it. If half a million people occupy INEC over false manipulation of voter registration exercise, it is just to imagine how many people would pull out if they attempt to rig the election.
There is no hiding place for all of them. What caused trouble in the Arab world was one truck pusher who was being harassed by a policeman. The man said with all my hardship you are still coming to harass me. He said if the policeman did not kill him, he would set fire on himself.
That fire he set on himself is what is burning Arab nations today. Abuja must understand why they can’t allow an old man in his nineties to create trouble. President Goodluck Jonathan has enough headache managing security in many parts of the country. If he allowed an old man who has no part in the future to create crisis in Edo, it is his luck.
But we must fight them. I am putting everything into it. They are holding nocturnal meetings on how to rig election. What we have show today is that we have enough men and women that if the system fails, there is no hiding place for them. We have the capacity and we will deploy the capacity. I have the will to deploy the capacity and I will be there. If I ask people to go and die, I am not going to be at the back.
What will be your area of focus in your second term if re-elected?
We still have a lot of the infrastructural deficit. In Benin City, we have done many roads but the roads yet to be done are more.
We still need massive investment in rural and urban infrastructure. We need to deploy water and electricity to rural communities.
We need to open up more rural roads, health centres and equip them. We are not done yet with infrastructure. Of course, infrastructure is a means to an end. It attracts investors. In the second phase, we believe that a number of persons who want to locate companies in Edo will have the required environment for them to do so. We have to continue what we have started.
The flooding problem has not been resolved. We are dealing with it. We have solved a lot of it. We have addressed that of the five junctions. There are other drainage works we need to work on. We are working on power supply.
Edo will be the hub of power supply to other states if the federal government deregulates their monopoly on the power sector. A number of IPP are interested in coming. A number of farmers are coming and all of that will lead to job creation.
There is this talk that you are not doing much in industries?
Which government is setting up industries across the country? There is none. What government can do is to create the environment for private people to create businesses. Government cannot run businesses. We are doing something to revive the existing ones. They are working at Okpella Cement now after I threatened them with revocation. It was privatised by PDP.
Bendel Brewery was run down by the PDP. They have a huge debt profile of over N1.8bn guaranteed by the state. We worked out a deal and we have started paying. With that debt, you can’t get investors and there are challenges with the Churchgate Limited. Until we resolve all of those issues, there is not much we can do.
The same thing happened at Juice factory at Ehor, Fertilizer factory at Auchi and the Cassavita. All those were failed project. We want to privatize them. The only asset there is the land. All the equipment there are second hand. They have never worked. We are bringing a lot of businesses to the state.