Edo 2024: Obaseki Is Begging A Technocrat To Run — Emwanta

Hon Emwanta Adaze, a former Commissioner for Communication in  Edo

Edo 2024: Obaseki Is Begging A Technocrat To Run — Emwanta

Hon Emwanta Adaze, a former Commissioner for Communication in  Edo State speak more on issues surrounding the state political space

What were the opportunities and challenges in the portfolios you held? Any regrets?

I must confess that my time as Commissioner in the Obaseki administration created for me, a pathway of meeting and networking with great Edo people both at home and in the diaspora. It also gave me the opportunity of breaking new barriers. As Communication and Orientation Commissioner, l set up the Edo Media Connect forum by which we organized several talk to the people webinars that afforded Edos both at home and in the diaspora the opportunity of knowing what government was doing and this in turn provided a platform for the electorate to interrogate top government officials like Commissioners and heads of agencies. In turn, those in government got direct feed-back from the people. As Commissioner for Youth and Gender, among other things, l was able to secure the approval of over 100 adoption applications. Before l assumed office there was a backlog and prospective adoptive parents or guardians were in complete despair. It was for me a rewarding experience to have broken the barriers of these would-be parents and guardians. Before l was move from Communication to Youth and Gender Issues, l had forwarded the draft bill for the establishment of the Edo State Orientation Agency. My major regret is that this agency did not see the light of the day. Also, my successor jettisoned the future talk to the people Webinars we had planned for the year.

Share your experience as a member of Obaseki’s cabinet. What were the lessons learnt?
My experience as a member of the Governor’s cabinet can be best told by way of a book authored by me. I say this because l operated amongst vipers and snakes in certain instances. I survived by the grace of God. My number one offence as Commissioner for Communication and Orientation was my insistence on probity and due process.

First was the issue of a bill of over sixty million that was sent for my endorsement as arrears of National Broadcasting Commission license fee for the Edo Broadcasting Service, EBS. I felt that it was outrageous, so l had to engage the top management of the Commission for months until the amount was brought down to twenty million naira. Part of the agreement l had with the DG of the Commission was that the money will be paid straight into the account of the Federal Government through the remita platform. After the approval of the memo, l forwarded the remita details to the Edo State Accountant General, who credited the aforesaid account. This did not go down well with a particular media aide of the governor from Oredo, who indirectly runs EBS and the Nigerian Observer. I was later told that l made him to lose the percentage they usually get from such payments. Himself and others did many things to make the Governor move me away from the Ministry of Communication.

Hon Emwanta Adaze, a former Commissioner for Communication in  Edo
Hon Emwanta Adaze, a former Commissioner for Communication in  Edo

Why l was asking questions about the billions sunk into EBS and the Nigerian Observer, which had yielded no visible results. When eventually the Governor yielded to their pressure by moving me to Youth and Gender Issues, this same fellow and his evil cohorts begun a media campaign of calumny against me. They arranged protests and ragtag press conferences just to blackmail and disparage the image of both the Deputy Governor and l. You may ask, why the Deputy Governor?

They became frantic when the Deputy Governor helped me to resolve the crisis in the Youth House, by ensuring that the leadership vacuum was filled. After the Governor dissolved exco in May this year, these guys made him to forcefully disband the democratically elected leadership of the Youth Council and hand picked people who lost at the elective Congress of the Council. So my experience in the cabinet of the governor is not one without a sad side. But for the job experience gained, l will say it was rewarding, as l was given the opportunity to serve. For this l am grateful to God, the governor, the people of Egor and others who played one role or the other in the process leading to my appointment as Commissioner.

What are the ownership structures of the two Edo Refineries and Ossiomo Power? Name some of the economic benefits of these investments for Edo people
That question may be similar to that of the Dangote’s Refinery ownership question. Where can one start explaining from? The two refineries and Ossiomo power plant are by-products of a PPP arrangement and warehoused in MOUs. In any case, these MOUs are not private but public documents. So, l believe the ownership issue is very well articulated in those MOUs. The much l know is that taxpayers monies went into those projects, but l can only speak of Ossiomo power, which presently supplies power to government buildings, street lights and some private individuals.

Although they were times we did not have light in my office for days, which made me to have a stand by petrol generator. I believe whatever lapses that exit in the power network will be improved upon in due course.

The commissioner for Energy, if there is any at the moment, will be in a better position to speak on the benefits accrueble from the two Edo refineries and how their operations will help to address the rising local demand for petroleum products in the State. There is also the issue of local content and job creation. I look forward to a day when we will be given the opportunity of viewing a documentary on the activities of the refinery, as we do in respect of other projects of the State Government.

Why do you think Obaseki left you out of the new EXCO inaugurated recently in spite of your loyalty, commitment and dedication?

To the best of my knowledge no person has been appointed as Commissioner to represent Egor, my LGA. I actually opted out during our local government party caucus meeting before any announcement was made, when l noticed that some party stakeholders were afraid to speak the truth. My local government area, Egor is one of the most underdeveloped. Sadly, it is one of the three local government councils situated in Benin city with little or nothing to show of government’s presence there. So, l did not only withdraw my interest to return as a commissioner, but l had to also sacrifice my membership of the PDP to express my displeasure about the state of underdevelopment of Egor and the political tyranny we suffer. Four local government areas were excluded from the nominations and subsequent inauguration of commissioners.

They are, Egor in Edo South and the three local government areas in Etsako, where the deputy governor comes from. So any discerning political watcher can decode the reason behind the hide and seek game of deliberate exclusion. Sadly, it is worth emphasizing that I was being vilified, because of my close relationship with the deputy governor. Is that not funny? Besides, l was to resign before the House of Assembly election, after being verbally assaulted in government house. But on the plea of my Permanent Secretary who witnessed the incident, l had to stay back. Moments later, the person who verbally assaulted me apologized after she heard l threatened resigning as a commissioner. To err they say is human, but to forgive is divine.

Obaseki carries on like a Digital Governor. How much of ICT transformation has taken place in Edo State?

Sincerely the Obaseki government has done well in the area of lCT. Credit must also be given to the immediate past regime of Adams Oshiomhole for establishing the Edo State ICT Agency, which the likes of Yemi Keri once headed. As one who served in the present administration as member of Exco, l must confess that the use of ICT made our meetings seamless, as you do not have to be in Benin to attend Exco meetings. It remains a legacy that the Obaseki administration will be transferring to the next one. My only fear is the cost implications, as over ten billion naira went into the project, excluding the cost of annual software licenses, which runs into billions of naira also.

In trying to cut cost of governance by deploying technology, we end up creating humongous benefits for others in the tech value chain. I hope you get the simple analysis?
What would you consider as Obaseki’s biggest achievement so far?

In one sentence l will say the use of lCT in carrying out the business of government. Though it must be conceded that this ICT transformation is yet to be extended to the legislative and judicial arms of government, in order to achieve a broad-based ICT transformation. Permit me to also add sports, as Bendel Insurance just one the federation cup finals. I pay tribute to Rt. Hon Philip Shaibu and the technical crew of the football club for this great feat.

Why did Obaseki dissolve his EXCO last month and sacked all his SAs in the 18 LGAs?

I think he is in the best position to give the actual reason for his action, though some of us saw it coming. On the day of the dissolution l noticed my seat mate in Exco was not around. When l asked after him, l was told he was no longer happy with the job and so turned in his letter of resignation as a Commissioner. He was already on his way to Lagos when we arrived at the Exco chambers that morning.

There are other things l cannot say here, but take it from me that that the level of mutual mistrust within the PDP government at Osadebe avenue will certainly unveil itself after the governorship election timetable is released.
What are your future plans in politics? It is being speculated that you are crossing from PDP to LP to work with gubernatorial aspirant, Kenneth Imasuagbon as DG of his campaign.

I joined the Labour Party yesterday. As l noted elsewhere, the PDP and APC are two sides of the same coin. Edo people deserve a new political platform that will accommodate both the rich and the poor, the young and the old, indigenous and non-indigenous Edo people. Labour Party clearly represents that new political platform and that is why Edo people massively voted for the party in the last presidential election. It is true that l have agreed to work as Director General of the campaign organization of Barr. Ken Imasuagbon. We have been political associates for over fifteen years and still counting.

The language of our campaigns will speak more to issues than personalities. No one single individual or government can make Edo great, as the greatness of Edo is rooted in our rich cultural history and the resilience of our people. That was the mistake Trump made when he crafted a dubious manifesto of making America great again. After getting into office, that became a hard sell for him to the American people. My principal, popularly called the Riceman, who is well known in the 192 wards of Edo State will be unveiling his Better Edo Campaign agenda once INEC releases the election timetable. We can only make Edo better, by improving the living conditions of all, irrespective of ethnic or political affiliations.

Do you know who Governor Obaseki is backing for 2024 the same way Adams Oshiomhole backed him to him to become governor?

A close friend5 said the Governor is currently sending people to beg the head of his Alaghodaro team to accept to run on the PDP platform. Whether the beggee will accede to the request of the beggars is a story for another day.

What’s your view on zoning the governorship position to Edo Central in the interest of fair play, justice, and equity?

I think what is right is right and what is not fair is not right. The politics of Edo State sits on a tripod, denoting the three senatorial districts of South North and Central. In terms of the number of years each of the three senatorial districts have being in power, both as Governor and Deputy Governor since the time Edo State was created August 1991, Edo Central happens to be the most marginalized. The senatorial district has not produced a deputy governor in the last 30 years or so. The only time they had the opportunity of occupying the number one position as Governor, the tribunal removed the occupant of the office, that is Prof. Osunbor in favour of Adams Oshiomhole from Edo north. So if one is to speak truly and fairly, without an atom of doubt, l believe all right thinking political actors in the state should support aspirants or candidates from Edo Central to be Governor of the state in 2024. So without further ado, you do not need a soothsayer to know my position on the question of where the political pendulum should swing. This is why l accepted to serve as the Director General of the campaign organization of the leading aspirant from Edo Central, Barr. Ken Imasuagbon. He is the most viable and capable person to send parking the PDP government at Osadebe Avenue.

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