Edo 2024: What I’ll do for the people when I become governor

Mike Onolememen

In this interview, Mike Onolememen, former Minister of Works under President Goodluck Jonathan, explains why he joined the Edo governorship race


Why are you in the race to succeed Governor Godwin Obaseki in next year’s election?

It is no longer news that I am interested in the gubernatorial election in Edo State come next year. Someone asked me why I took the decision. The truth is that in the past four gubernatorial contests in Edo State, I’ve always been interested.  For about three times, I was prevailed upon by the leadership to let it go to other persons. Sometimes, we just accept but I believe this is the right time. You can see we are all about the same age bracket. So, we don’t have any limitation.

For me, it is my intention and it’s something I have thought about for the past 15 years. That is about four cycles of election. I believe this is the best time in a sense for this project to crystallize because whether you like it or not, we have come of age.

Having said that, my driving force for this project is the fact that governance in Nigeria have not really been stellar because we’re going from frying pan to the fire. By now, one would have expected that in terms of governance, Nigeria should have been much better than what it is.

What are you bringing on board that you think gives you an advantage over other aspirants?

As somebody who has been in government, who knows the purpose of government, I believe that with my experience in government either as Executive Director of the Petroleum Trust Fund or under President Olusegun Obasanjo when I was Minister of State for Defence where I had a lot of activities within and outside the Nigerian boundaries in quest for Nigeria’s sovereignty. If you look at the space, you discover that so many people are populating the space without any iota of experience in governance. Governance is a very serious matter. It is not a place for every person as it were. However, you cannot limit participation in governance.

I believe that despite all that, if we are to excel in what we do in governance, people with requisite experience should be sought out. Unfortunately, in our country, that is not done often.

I have looked around the country and the present dispensation, and I know that given the opportunity, I will be able to do things differently. That is why I threw my hat into the ring in order to be nominated and win the ballot when the time comes and do the right things that Nigerians will be proud about.

You were a foundation member of the PDP. All your political life, you were a member of the PDP. Why are you gunning for the ticket of the APC?

It is true that I have been a member of the PDP. Up till this year, I was a member of the party, but something happened that I just couldn’t relate with.  Right from the beginning of the year, I set out to run for a senatorial seat, that is the Edo Central Senatorial District. In that primary election, I won in a very stylish way. I got 90 per cent of the votes and the remaining 10 per cent was shared by the remaining five aspirants.

But at a time, I thought it was over, the Governor of the State, Godwin Obaseki had come in and was supporting somebody who did not even partake in the primaries to take over the ticket. Initially, we thought it was a joke. We went to High Court and from there to the Court of Appeal and from there to the Supreme Court. Funny enough, the Supreme Court gave them judgment. For me, that was the breaking point. From that point, I did not accept to go further because it was one too many. That was what happened.

In any case, those in APC today were once in PDP with us in Edo State. Many of them are people we have done things together politically. When we are together, we don’t discriminate against each other. Because of that, it is the same characters you are dealing with. So, you don’t feel as if you are a newcomer. We can go to each other’s constituencies and talk to the people. Our people are very smart and they know where their bread is buttered. I have made serious consultations in the three Senatorial Districts and I am satisfied with those consultations. It is the satisfaction I got from that exercise that is pushing me on.

You are new in APC even the parties are literally the same. Have you met with Oshiomhole because some of his boys like the former Minister, Clement Agba are showing interest in the race. How much of consultation have you done?

I am well known throughout Edo. By training, I act more than I talk. My actions speak for me. I am not the traditional politician who just talk and talk and no action. I am full of action. I am an architect, project manager and God has given me the opportunity to display these skills, either in agencies of the Federal Government or outside the country representing Nigeria and all that or in the military. To the glory of his name, all the opportunities I got, I made good use of them and this will not be different. I am very passionate and whatever I do, the people are always at the height of it all.

We will do whatever we have to do to the best of our knowledge and leave the rest to God.

Still on my visibility at the grassroots, I am not running for councillorship and at the leadership level, I know all that matters. In wards and local governments, I am at home with everybody. When Inu Umoru was alive, I was always with him in Edo North. I was always with Yisa Braimoh, Abubakar Momoh and all of them.

What role do you think zoning will play in this election?

From what I can say, zoning is cardinal in this forthcoming election that we are talking about because when we started in Edo State, majority of the stakeholders were asked to come to a roundtable to agree on a formula. This is to ensure that the process was not rowdy and at that time, it was agreed that the most populous senatorial district would take the first shot. And that was how Lucky Igbinedion became the Governor of Edo State.

And of course, when the leadership of the party took that position, we all queued behind them and we worked for the candidate and the candidate won.  After Edo South, it was now the turn of Edo North and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole got that ticket and he ran with it for two terms. This was after Oserheimen Osunbor had his mandate truncated by the court. At the end of his tenure, you recall that there was a bit of antagonism and Edo South wanted to come back to it but were prevailed upon not to do such a thing, that is was not just about having the population but that we all came from a common source and that as brothers, we should relate with one another that way.

Like I said, Osunbor’s tenure was truncated by the court of law and that was how Oshiomhole came in. Having said that, we have accepted the process of zoning and counter zoning like we have experienced.

Going by this zoning, it has fallen upon the Edo Central Senatorial District where I come from. We truly believe that looking back and seeing what it has been, it is only fair that Edo Central is given the opportunity to fly the flag of the party in the coming gubernatorial contest and I also share that belief.

Having looked at the possibilities, I came to the conclusion that it is a venture I really want to partake in.

You’ve talked about zoning and fairness. How are you working toward this dream, are you in consultations with other stakeholders so as not to make the process rowdy?

Well, let me say that we have not been quiet on this. There have been a lot of consultations in this direction. We believe that at the appropriate time, we’ll come to that point where we’ll be able to showcase one particular candidate for the office.

The party is one and we all belong to the party. Within the party, we see ourselves as one, we may have come from different senatorial districts in the State but the interactions we have had are such that there are no acrimonies. There may be differences and in a political contest, there are always differences but we are managing the process in such a way that we need to understand one another and do away with acrimony. At the end of the day, whatever the outcome, we will all agree on it.

What exactly do you plan to offer the people of Edo State differently from what others did in the past?

There are quite a number of things to offer, some of them similar, others different. It is a work in progress right now. We won’ts go the townhall and start reeling them out because when the time comes for us to really showcase those things, you will be shocked that some people have also gone that way because of access to those classified issues. And because of this, you hardly see politicians talking about those issues in a gathering like this. Suffice to say that everyone comes with his or her own ideas about governance and at the end of the day, it is how it resonate with the people that will tell who will take the day.

There are other indications like we often see everywhere in our country that this might not just be enough to give you the ticket. As politicians, we are working with as many people as possible from different senatorial districts in other to get their buy in to our project and we are doing that right now.

You have always put your party first and that informed why you agreed to stepdown for others in the past. Will you be willing to do this again if you are called upon to stepdown one more time?

Well, it depends on the situation. If there is merit in it but I don’t see such a situation right now. In time past when we had that, we were always been told to wait for our turn and we believe our turn is now. I was in the frontline in 2007 and Osunbor was third on the log but I stepped down for Osunbor, who eventually made it and was governor for about 18 months until Oshiomhole was sworn in.

You cut the picture of a gentleman, but politics is quite a tough task. How do you intend to run your politics preparatory to getting the ticket of your party?

Everyone will always have the opportunity to play the game differently. I will put the people first so as to get their buy in. I will prioritise the areas we are lagging behind in the State. These are cardinal areas I will focus on in a way that has never been done. More importantly I will be focusing on human and infrastructural development because if you see the country as it is today, you agree with me that we still have a lot of work to do. Afterall, the purpose of government is the pursuance of happiness for the greater majority of the people. The only way you can bring that about is if you are heavy on human and infrastructural development. These are the two areas where the people will benefit. More often than not, people relate with these things and I am focusing on them because I know it is the right thing to do.

Continue to read from the source: The Nation