Anamero Dekeri, an astute business man and politician, speaks with EMAMEH GABRIEL on the state of the nation, his foundation among other matters
You were among those that championed Gov. Godwin Obaseki’s campaign in 2016. Close to two years into his administration, how would you assess his performance?
I don’t agree with the use of the word ‘championed’. Obaseki is a friend; so, I simply did what a true friend ought to have done. When you see a true friend embarking on a worthy cause, you are duty-bound to key into the venture and support in the best way you can. That was how I became part of the campaign project. On his performance so far, I will say he has done well. I see Obaseki as Edo State’s hidden treasure and I am happy that he is running the affairs of the state diligently. We have witnessed a tremendous revolution in almost all strata. You would have noticed his diligent approach to the industrialisation of the state as he strives to attract investments into the state. The man is a technocrat whose economic ideology is driven by long-term vision. When Obaseki talks about Edo, he does so with passion. I am close to him enough to know his worldview; he is not a greedy person. The interest of our people and the future generation is paramount in his thinking and developmental agenda. He is committed to building on the foundation laid by his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole.
Has he gotten the priorities right?
You would recall that when he came into power, the first major project he embarked upon was the resuscitation of the Benin Technical College. What is that meant to achieve? He wants our children to be equipped with vocational and technical skills required to drive the industrialisation agenda of the government. The governor wants the next generation of leaders to be immersed in the task of building on the foundation that has been laid. That is vision!
One of the first places the governor visited was Okpella. He was there to assess the moribund fertilizer plant, which is key to the agricultural development of the state. Today, the fertilizer plant is undergoing reconstruction. He also visited the fertilizer company in Auchi, took inventory of progress of work at the company. Few months after, the company was unveiled by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo who commended his industrialisation drive and commitment to continuing the industrialisation programmes of Oshiomhole. The fertilizer company in Auchi alone has created 500 direct jobs; more employment opportunities will be created through the economic activities the company will generate. The second phase of Edo Cement plant in Okpella was also commissioned by the Vice President. Also, last December, Rongsheng Glass Nigeria Limited in Benin was unveiled. This is one of the fruits of the administration’s efforts to attract investments to the state. There is also the N200 billion Benin Industrial Park and many other investments.
The governor is determined to industrialise the state by creating the enabling environment that encourages investments. Ultimately, the initiatives of the Oshiomhole and Obaseki administration is transforming the state from a roadside ticketing and okada riding economy to an industrialised economy – an economy where youths are positively engaged and one that supports commerce. To achieve this, Obaseki has realised the need to take some painful decisions.
He is determined to move Edo State from an agrarian state to an industrial centre. We must also give this to Oshiomhole. The foundation is the most important part of a structure; this is what the Comrade Governor has done for the people.
Once an administration gets its vision right, things work out well for successive administrations. Why has Lagos become a model today? Asiwaju Bola Tinubu got it right. Without playing politics with the state, he brought in Babatunde Fashola. We all witnessed what happened during Fashola’s era. Today, Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode is doing very well, building on the foundation his predecessors laid.
With the huge industrial potential of Edo, would you say the state has been able to maximise its resource utilisation?
When, Obaseki came on board, one of the first projects he embarked on was the construction of the 25-kilometer Agbede-Jagbe road. The essence of the project was to open up that axis for access to the massive land in that area for agricultural purposes. That road will encourage mechanise farming. And guess what? It will not only create jobs opportunities for the people but it will also help in boosting food security for the entire country. To the best of my understanding, investors are coming into the state because the needed environments, like infrastructural challenges are gradually being addressed.
Are there supportive institutions to make these programmes sustainable even after his tenure?
Enduring systems are never built on individuals. They are built on institutions. We can clearly see that Obaseki is building institutions. For instance, he is reforming the tax system. He is revolutionising the internally generated revenue (IGR) collection methodology. There is nothing he does that revolves on an individual; they are system-driven. After Obaseki, the institutions he is currently building will remain.
What values are you bringing to support the industrialisation process of the state?
We will continue to expand our network to create more job opportunities for the youths. The agricultural revolution is one area we want to key into. We are working out modalities to acquire land for mechanise farming to create both direct and indirect jobs for the teeming youths. I have mentioned to the governor that we are interested in Gelegele Seaport project. I am also making plans to bring in investors to play key role in the project.
Given your stride in the business world, what influences your decision to delve into politics?
I had struggled for years to dissociate myself from politics because of the way it is perceived in our clime. Many people see it as a dirty game. It kept me wondering how I would be branded a politician. In the cause of my philanthropy, I discover that there is a limit to what you as an individual can do to help an extremely deprived society. I told myself that I need a platform to affect a greater number of people positively. As an entrepreneur, I have limited resources to touch the lives of thousands of people that are looking up to me. If I have a better platform, I would be able to touch more people. So, this is the whole idea. This is the only way we can build new culture that support selflessness.
My humble background has taught me a lot about life. I have seen it all growing up as a teenager and I have tasted the harshness of life. So, I don’t need to be told what people who are in position I was are going through. My joy comes when I am able to affect positively the lives of people around me. The driving principle of religion is faith, and faith is worthless without hope. Faith runs on the vehicle of hope. If you take hope out of faith, it is useless. That hope is what I want to inspire in politics.
I was a bit reluctant to come into politics because it is seen as a dirty game. At a point, I asked myself – is it politics that is dirty or the people practising it? We need to make a clear distinction here. All what evil requires to succeed is for all good men to do nothing. If everybody stays away, then what happens to the system? How did we get to where we are today? We had decent and patriotic politicians when we were very young. But today, it is something else. If you are passionate about your people, you must be ready to sacrifice for them.
Why are you interested in political office?
The drive is to touch the masses and set a new standard of representation. What we hear is that the salary of a lawmaker can pay tens of medical doctors or teachers. Imagine the difference it will make if I employ 10 medical doctors to go around my senatorial district with the salary I earn. First, I will declare my salary and allowances to my people. Then, I will open a trust account where my salary and allowances will be paid into. The money will be used for the public good, to empower my people and develop my senatorial district.
You started your humanitarian service since early 1990s, will you continue this if your people do not support your political ambition?
For me, philanthropy is a calling. It is a pledge I have made. One of the things that give me joy is giving. When I give, I get the kind of satisfaction wealth, fame and business success cannot give me. One thing nobody can separate from me is philanthropy. It is in course of expanding my philanthropic works that I am seeking a political office. I see politics as a platform of expanding the reach of my humanitarian works.
So, my intention is to focus on empowerment. We must get the unemployed youths and women to stand on their own. People will continue to run to others for help except they are able to stand on their feet. When they are independent, their thinking and orientation will change. It is only then, they will want to support individuals that are vying for political offices on the strength of their merit and not what they want to give them. They will not mortgage four years because of a pot of soup that will not last for two days or a cup of rice.
The reason Nigerian masses appear so naive is poverty. A hungry man can easily compromise. If you are hungry, everything presented to you looks like food. It is a psychological thing. I weep when people scramble for rice every Christmas when we go to villages to distribute rice. When the supposed breadwinner fights for rice, what would you expect from the women? That is the level of poverty in the society. Poverty has reduced us to a ridiculous level. We must, through legislative intervention, begin to guide people to create wealth.
This is the reason Anamero Idofe Anamero Foundation has been involved in educational development since 2012. Since then, every pupil of public school in Edo North gets, at least, four exercise books from the foundation yearly. Recently, scholarships were given to 10 students in Okpe, Akoko Edo Local Government Area. On the same day, 10 women were selected for empowerment. Last October, two 10-classroom blocks built by the foundation for two public schools in Okpella were unveiled by Gov. Godwin Obaseki and a four kilometre road near completion.
In advanced democracies like the United States, parliamentarians have specific areas of interest. Are you thinking in this line?
When we talk about advance democracies, we must understand that they are different from us by all indices. The literacy level is higher than us. We bridge the gap between the advanced world and the rest; we must begin to address the challenges in the education system in a strategic manner. When you educate an individual, you have liberated several generations to come. This is why I invest so much on education.
The level of employment and poverty in Edo North, for instance, is still extremely high. Several youths that should be assets to the states are not actively engaged. What are their challenges? Yes, some of them are graduates. But that is not enough. What other things can they do to contribute to the growth of the society? It is not just about the certificates; we can give the horde of jobless youths some direction. Our women are hardworking, commitment and diligent in the calling. But there is limit to what they can do. Some of them are doing very well in agribusiness and trading. Anamero Idofe Anamero Foundation has been actively involved in the empowerment of the youth and women but to reach a larger percentage of these groups, we need to put in place robust institutional frameworks that are supportive of the society we want to build. And I think that society is one that is progressive, developmental and wealth creating.
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