Newly elected governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki in this interview with State House correspondents has dismissed insinuations he plans to be the new godfather in Edo politics. He also spoke on the acrimony that preceded the elections and his plans. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH presents the excerpts.
Sir, what is the purpose of your visit to the State House?
This morning we were privileged to meet with the President, essentially to express the gratitude of Edo People, myself and my deputy for the role, for the conduct of gubernatorial elections in Edo State. He insisted that Nigeria should have proper elections, credible elections, free and fair elections and that is what happened.
So, this morning we are here in the Villa to show our profound gratitude and appreciation for this, which on the surface will look normal but the implications are very far reaching. Because, this is a seating president whose party was contesting an election and insisted that the right thing be done and a level playing field be created for contestants. By doing so, that singular action has deepened our democracy, far beyond what we can understand and imagine today.
So, for that act alone, we felt we must come and say thank you. I am not just coming alone with my deputy, we came to say thank you with the representatives of the Edo people – our senators, members of the House of Representatives, our senior citizens and party leaders.
Mr President in his characteristic humorous manner, said he reluctantly congratulated me for beating his party.
He also pointed that his role first and foremost as president of Nigeria, is to be president of all regardless of your party, race, tribe, creed. We couldn’t ask for more from Mr President, he really played the role.
The polls are over, will you consider returning to the APC?
The answer to your question, gleaning from the comments of Mr President, he said that he wants to leave a democracy that is built on integrity, accountability and hard work. Those were his words and I subscribe totally to that. It will not show integrity, it will not demonstrate somebody that has ethical or moral foundation to do what you asked about. I couldn’t have contested in one party, won with that party and then consider moving to another party. It is not the kind of thing to do, it’s not the right thing to do and I am sure you will not encourage me to do that.
In achieving victory, you defeated the godfather. Will you consider replacing him in future?
In the case of godfathers in our politics, I have said in several fora that the whole concept of godfatherism is very dangerous to our democracy. And that is why when we came into the political fray 2006/2007, the mantra then was to get rid of godfathers from our political life. The reason is simple, the godfather has no constitutional responsibility, the godfather acts outside the constitution and controls people who are constitutional players. So, if we allow that sort of situation to continue, it will be worse than military rule. When people who have nothing at stake, no checks and balances just arbitrarily decide that this is the way the constitution should be interpreted or constitutional players should operate, that’s why problems come in. God forbid I become a godfather, I should be dealt with accordingly because it’s dangerous to the concept of democracy.
How are you going to go about unifying the Edo people, after such exchanges of hurtful words during the campaigns?
It is really unfortunate that there is so much bitterness. I can assure you that most of it did not come from my camp because we were not desperate. But that is neither here nor there. We also have to appreciate the role of the social media, since COVID-19, the import and the impact of social media technology is at an all time high. So, it’s not that in the past such hurtful words, hateful speeches were not used, but it was never at the level of proliferation and spread as it has had now because of social media. We will continue to try and heal the land. Fortunately, it doesn’t show that Edo people are divided, it shows essentially that Edo people have come together under one umbrella, that is what the election has shown.
We will continue to work with those who are outside our umbrella for the benefit of our people. Because, what is the purpose of election anyway? Is it not a contest for who will rule the people better. If the results of this election has shown that Edo people trust that I will at this point in time, be able to govern Edo better, give them what they want at this time, then my people, is that everybody should join me so as to be able to accomplish that goal.
Governors have been known to go to sleep after wining a second term. What is going to be the focus during your second term? You were also described at some point as an MOUs governor, so what will be the focus?
Well, we have done quite a lot of work in the four years. What we have done has been foundational. We have laid the foundation for the new Edo State. So, whether it is in the area of education, we are trying to reenact education in the state so that the next generation will be better prepared for the future, so that they are not prone to being trafficked, prone to illegal migration, that foundation has been set. Basic education is one of the best. What we have to do is build on other levels of education. In the area of infrastructure, we have done phenomenally well, but there is so much more to be done. We have invested with some partners in fiber for instance. Edo has one of the largest and longest fiber plantation today. We have more than four million kilometers of fiber. So that investment alone has been preparing us for post-COVID industrial revolution. Those are the kind of things we are going to do whether is in agriculture, arts and culture. That is one area we really didn’t talk about during the campaigns. We are
working very hard with all the major museums in the world to document Edo works across the world, and have an arrangement where some of them will be repatriated back into the state for our people to see what they created in time past. So, we are going to sign more MOUs because that is the basis for running the government of the future. Because, the ones we have signed most of them have materialised.