Alhaji Momoh Aremiyau, the executive chairman, Etsako East Local Government Area of Edo State bares his mind to EMAMEH GABRIEL on the controversy surrounding his emergence as the All Progressives Peoples Congress (APC) candidate in the just-concluded LG polls
Your emergence as the chairmanship candidate of your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the recently held local government election was trailed with controversy as there were allegations that you were imposed by former governor Adams Oshiomhole. What can you say about this?
Let me be honest with you, as some people have yet to understand the fact that in politics no winner emerges without power play. It all depends on how you play your cards. But one thing is always certain, when a winner emerges, there must be complaints. There were complaints about Oshiomhole’s support for Governor Obaseki during his election, and others he had supported in the past. But one thing people should be more concerned about is the merit of the decision taken by party leaders. It happens everywhere. There must be leaders in a political party but that does not mean such people are godfathers. They are leaders who understand the dynamics of politics better because they have been in and out of power and have worked closely with some of their followers who they have taken time to study over time. No leader imposes someone on the people, he can make a choice and go ahead to consult with the party and other stakeholders of the party and if at the end of the day they support that person, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Why did he pick you?
I have been there working for the party, Adams Oshiomhole has tested me when I was appointed the chairman Edo Produce Board and my records are there to speak for me not only on how I expended the board and created more jobs for our youths but also the revenue of the board to the surprise of the government. I made that board popular and it became the pride of every politician in the state seeking for appointment.
But given all your achievements as the chairman Edo State Produce Board, why were you removed?
I was never removed. Those were the contrary insinuations in some quarters. People were only complaining because they felt they were not benefitting enough. You can’t satisfy everyone at the same time. That is the challenge of being in public office. There must be complaints. I completed my tenure and subsequently in Oshiomhole’s second tenure I was appointed executive director of revenue in Edo State Board of Internal Revenue.
Despite your wealth of experience working in public office, some say your vice has a threatening credential. How would you manage someone with such career profile?
(Laughs) We have our schedules and they are clearly spelt out. My responsibilities are different from hers, though she is there to deputise me should the need arise. I am not intimidated by credential because my wealth of experience as you pointed out can help me deliver on my mandate. You can take a look at my credential from when I had been in government in the 90s till today. I was once appointed manager, Edo State Waste Management Board. I have managed Edo Courier and from there I was appointed as the chairman, Edo State Produce Board, and from there I was appointed again as Executive Director on Revenue Matters in Edo State and when Obeseki came in, I was among the only four people who served under Oshiomhole and succeeded in coming back under Obaseki. Till I was elected local government chairman, I was a senior special assistant to Godwin Obaseki on Local Government Matters. So, I don’t see any reason why that should be peoples’ headache. I am good to go.
What are your programmes and what should the people of Etsako East be expecting from you in terms of service delivery?
Let me start with Okpella. As you can see, most of the roads are impassable and even if the state government wants to intervene. There are areas they will not go into. These are the areas I want to ensure are given a little face lift to ensure that people can come out of their houses and even enable motorists to ply such areas.
How do you intend going about this?
You know a local government has limited funds to execute most of its project, so because of that I have prioritised three major areas in the three axes that make up Etsako East: health, education and infrastructure even with the limited resources that would be coming to us. We shall be looking at projects that will benefit the entire people of the local government not those that will service individuals. We will also look at projects that will help us generate revenue in communities like Ibie and Agenebode. We will also try to engage the people to make them active and productive citizens through other programmes we will be rolling out as time goes on.
You have a company like BUA in Okpella for instance and with Dangote coming on board, what efforts are you making to partner with these groups and other investors in this community to up the revenue generation of your local government?
The information I got is that some individuals are diverting the revenue accrued to the local government for private use. It is illegal for somebody to go and ambush somewhere and start collecting government revenue is enough to incur God’s wrath.
What are you doing to stop that?
I don’t believe in hearsay. I have to investigate the allegation to get the fact. I am setting up a committee to look into it and when I get the feedback and find out what I heard is true, I will not play with such people because that is stealing.
Your political teacher as some persons would describe Oshiomhole today, has been accused on different occasions by Okpella people of being against them. Can you defend him on this?
It is really unfair for anyone to say Oshiomhole did not mean well for Okpella. I always laugh at people when I hear them say so. I was in the government when Oshiomhole started the roads in Okpella but as at the time he wanted to start fully in other parts of Okpella, it became too late that the government could not raise funds to execute these projects.
Why are you defending Oshiomhole?
I can defend Oshiomhole because I have worked with him. Have you found out how the defunct Bendel Cement, now BUA came back to life? It was Oshiomhole’s effort. When the cement factory was sold by the Lucky Igbenidion’s administration, when Oshiomhole came in years after, he gave them ultimatum to start building a factory to produce cement here in Okpella because they were only bagging then. Check the number of youths from Okpella and other parts of the state and the country the company has absorbed. Our boys who were jobless and roaming streets are now gainfully employed. The economic activity of the community is booming and investors are trooping in while others are still planning to come in because of the presence of BUA in Okpella today. If Oshiomhole hates Okpella why would he influence the coming of Dangote to build a cement factory worth over $1bn? The factory as you know is on-going as we speak. These are projects that will have lasting impacts in the life of the community which is different from road construction that will be reconstructed again in few years.
Okpella is known as the economic hub of Edo North but for four months now, the community has been in total blackout and this has affected economic activities there. What efforts are you making to resolve this challenge?
I’m trying my best to ensure that in a few weeks from now, power is restored In Okpella. Enough of the power play among different groups. I am meeting with concerned stakeholders. I have met with the Director of BEDC and also with the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella to get to the root cause of the blackout and what can be done about it. There is hope.