Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri is the candidate of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) in the July 14 governorship election in Edo State. He sits atop Typha Cenia Nigeria Limited which specialises in oil and energy. He speaks with PATRICK OCHOGA on the forthcoming election and the need for the people to ensure that their mandate is not stolen by election riggers.
The ACN and the PDP are campaigning vigorously all over the state , but your party, the ANPP, seems to be campaigning only in Edo South. What are your chances in the coming election?
It is not true that we are campaigning only in Edo South. We are campaigning in the 18 local government areas of the state, because as a governorship candidate, the whole state is your jurisdiction and constituency, so we are campaigning extensively in the north, central and south senatorial districts .
We have visited almost over 70 percent of the wards across the state and we intend to cover as many areas before the close of campaign activities. I must say that our chances are bright because we represent the change that the people want and am that change that the people are looking for. I will bring to them the most desired change that they want to see: the changes that will reflect in the life of the human being; change that will reflect in the future of the people and their day-to-day living.
Over the last years, the state has been moribund and the people need to move forward, and that hasn’t happened in the last 13 years of democracy in Edo State. We intend to bring that to bear. Some of the things you may know is that the industries we inherited from Bendel State have all gone moribund: the Okpella Cement Factory, the Agbede Warrake farm, Bendel Wood Treatment Plant, Bendel Insurance Company, Bendel Printing Press, Edo Line.
All this are due to bad leadership in Edo State over the years and that bad administration has reflected in the people extensively and it has taken negative effect on the people and that is what we need to change.
People believe that it will be a straight fight between Oshiomhole and Airhiavhere of the PDP, what is your take on this?
I don’t know whether they are fighting but I think they are politicking because I don’t see anything special about the way they choose to play the game. We have our own style of playing politics and it is in gentleman-like manner, because we believe it is the people who have the answer and they are the ones we should go to. I don’t have any bias about the way they are politicking; what we are saying is that they should not over-heat the polity so that it doesn’t affect the election.
They are allegations and counter-allegations between the ACN and PDP over the sewing of fake youth corp members’ uniforms, stockpiling of ammunition and plans to bring in mercenaries - all in a bid to rig the election; do have confidence in the Prof Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in conducting a free, fair and credible election?
Oh yes, Jega is not the problem; the people are the problem. They cannot be stopped by INEC because even the field officers are not INEC people; is it not corps members that are going to conduct the election? Are human beings not the ones going to supervise the election? They should rise up and say ‘no, we want credible election.’
Jega has been instructed that there should be credible election.Jega will not be at the polling units or collation centre; it is the people that will do the job.
We want the people to know that their actions or inactions might lead to the pain that the children of this state will bear tomorrow; that posterity will not forgive them and they must realise; that whatever action we take will have direct effect on the people and the effect may be long lasting for decades, and for those that are culpable and take part in that connivance to perpetrate that evil, posterity will not forgive them either. Jega can only conduct a free election if the people in the field are willing to ensure that the election is free and fair.
On the issue of allegations and counter-allegations, I think that both of them are planning to rig the election. We are aware that they are piling up arms and sewing uniforms in order to ensure that fake policemen are everywhere to help them to thumbprint (ballot papers) but be as it may, all these are to over-heat the polity, and at the end of the day the genuine voters will not go out to vote.
So, what happens is that the fake people will now have their way to thumb-print, and that is why I am saying that it is the people that can stop all these. They can make all their plans, let the people come out in their thousands to vote. In a particular unit, there would be paper to thumb-print; it is when voters don’t come that they will have papers to do that.
If you have, for example, 1,000 voters in a unit and INEC brings out 700, the people should protest. So, like I have said, it is again with the people and they must commit to change and do things the right ways.
People of the state believe that Oshiomhole deserves another chance because of his performance; what is your reaction?
It depends on your definition of performance. To the best of his ability the incumbent governor has tried. He has also demonstrated to the people that, yes, democracy has some dividends that the people can enjoy, but the question I am asking is: what effect has this on the people? how have we been able to build the human capacity, developed them and create wealth?
It is true that some roads were built, but how many children are in one particular classroom? Ok, you have 12 classrooms with three teachers or one classroom with 75 pupils? How would they go to school and assimilate? The worst standard is 25-30 people in a classroom and, in most cases, it won’t come to that because the teachers want to have personal contact with the pupils.
Yes, he has performed but what I am saying is that what he, Oshiomhole, has done is not good enough for the Edo people. The Edo people want things that will affect the family directly, the youths positively. They want to hear that school fees in Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, has been reduced to N18,000; they want to see ANPP coming out and start paying bursary to the students.
We are not looking for vainglory. Yes, the schools is asphalted, you can drive 100kilometres in one hour, beautiful, but the masses do not have jobs nor can they afford to buy bicycles or cars to drive on the roads. It’s good to make roads, but to ride on the road, you need a vehicle.
People just have to be comfortable enough to buy vehicles or buses, and in any case, I do not see roads, water, basic health care and education as issues of manifestos or campaign; they are the normal basic rights of a citizen, so it shouldn’t be an issue that will make one a super-star. Even areas that are supposed to be their right, a lot is lacking and nothing has been done. Crime is on the increase. The people need things that have direct bearing on their lives.
At least, when the PDP was in power and the ACN took over, it brought something different from what the PDP did; so we are going to bring in different things from what the ACN did, which, to me, is appreciable.
If elected in July 14, what exactly will your government do differently that the ACN is not doing?
We want to create wealth and concentrate on the human capital, revive all the comatose industries and built new ones. We also want to built two new modular refineries in Edo State, build a fertiliser plant, ethanol plant, vocational sill development centres, bring back Agbede Warrake Farm, and at the end of the day, we are creating wealth so that the people can stand on their own.
So it’s completely different. Because of my pedigree as a businessman, I know how to create wealth, convert almost empty resources to valuable resources. I know how to go into our forest and make money out of it. We want to have one local government, one crop syndrome. That is a situation where every local government council will produce a commercial crop. It is a huge departure from wealth sharing, because their heart is not there.
In 2007, you contested the governorship election. Today your hat is in the ring once again to contest the July 14 governorship election; what drives your desire this time around?
It is the failure of the leaders to bring the desired change, and the plight of the people that are motivating me. Also, the failure of the past administration - you can get inspired from it negatively or positively, coupled by the pains I see our people passing through. So I seek the opportunity to bring the desired change.
They is talk that the PDP is depending on federal might to emerge victorious in the governorship candidate; as a candidate in the race, what do make of this?
The federal might they are talking about is plot to manipulate the election, and that is why I said earlier that the people should resist it because it is the people that matters, in this circumstance, to resist federal or state might and let the voice of the people come out loud and bold. I am not bothered about that.
If they don’t allow the people to decide, they will be calling for anarchy. Nobody today is enjoying Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi , Maiduguri and Jos, so Edo State is too unique and so nobody wants it to start burning.
As a self-made man, how have you impacted on your immediate environment?
I have been involved in developing youths and building infrastructures and have done quite a lot to help the society grow by putting a large number of them in training. I have sponsored Bendel State super league for five years. In Obayator, I have the National Centre for Wielding Engineering and Technology, which is being sited there.
I have been part of the system and I have the experience to positively inspire the people here. But as a governor that will be accelerated because then we will have the authority to access their fund to support them because we know exactly what to do.