Rev. Peter Obadan is the former Deputy Governor of Edo State, now a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress [APC]. In this encounter with PATRICK OCHOGA, he bares his mind on his expectations ahead of the 2016 governorship election and other national issues.
Seven years down the line of Governor Adams Oshiomhole administration in Edo State, what is your assessment so far?
It is out of place, I will say, for me to start scoring the Comrade Governor as APC leader in the state. I think it is those who are watching us and those who are seeing us govern that ought to score us. It is like asking the Comrade Governor to score himself. We have enjoyed relative peace in Edo State, without a peaceful co-existence there cannot be development, be it social or economic. For that, I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back. There is also no doubt that we can look back to the last seven years of the administration and declare that the administration has done better than what the previous administrations did or achieved, that we can also declare. I must also highly commend the ability of the government to pay salaries as at when due, it is one of the very, very few states in the country that has kept fate with the people on the issue of payment of salaries. There are so many areas you can talk about in terms of comparative analysis between what it is now and what it was before. But like I said the public is always the best judge of what they see and perceive of the APC administration in the state.
Who do you think should succeed Governor Oshiomhole considering the caliber of interested persons and the agitations by some ethnic group to produce the next governor come 2016?
Well, Edo State is no longer a state where we present a learner for the management of the State. So, we definitely would require somebody with a measure of experience, somebody with a good level of qualification, somebody with good level of interaction with those at the centre, that also has a firm knowledge of the country, that is the type of man we would want. In addition he should have the ability to develop the state, to attract investment to the state, to enhance the productive capability of the Edo people. That is the kind of person we are actually looking at, and don’t forget in this state now we have the National Chairman of the Party who is from Edo State and it should be a pride to all the Edo people to ensure APC produce the next Governor of the state. It will certainly be a thing of Joy if we have a candidate that is returned un-opposed. Don’t also forget that the Comrade Governor will be leaving behind a legacy, he would want somebody who will equally excel. So, that is the type of character we will be looking at. Also the politics of Edo State is leadership driven.
The leaders of Edo State politics are yet to meet to look at the issues holistically, it is not going to be one man show, I can assure you on that, it is definitely not going to be one man show. So, the leadership of the state will look at the whole issues, because this time around we will definitely pick the best for the people of Edo State because there are some that are going to be playing their last cards in politics and they will be going into political retirement. So, nobody is going to allow godfatherism, which is the basis upon which some of us pulled out of the PDP. I think at the appropriate time who ever emerges from APC will be a thing of joy to everybody, he must be a man that has learnt how to follow.
There are fears that the opposition party may capitalize on some recent policies of Governor Oshiomhole’s administration to stage a comeback in 2016. What do you think?
Governments policies or pronouncements can never be favourable to everybody, that is what people must learn. The interest of the generality of the people, this is what is paramount where policies are being formulated and then policies are formulated at times because executive needs to step on toes, it is only those with fore sight that appreciates such policies but policies must be implemented with the milk of human kindness, it cannot be draconic which is always the problem at times. In my opinion, policies when formulated and presented, if the original intention or the intent for which it was created turns out to neglect the intended objective, the policies formulators are always willing to withdraw, there is no shame about it because when you talked about management by objective, you also talked about management by exemptions. So, you look at the two, you want to achieve a particular goal if it is not definitely favourable, you discovered that the effect will not achieve the objective rather will sink you further, such policies are withdrawable and there is always no shame about it. That is why some of these policies are laid before the peoples opinion and like they say you present it before the court of the public. So, APC is a grassroot party and APC will do anything that will favour the majority of the people. We cannot be playing to the gallery yard, promoting the interest of the very few every time. To make it clear, and what I am saying in effect is that, yes there are noises about some recent policies but I don’t have all the facts that led to the formulation of all these policies but I know the state is eager to raise money. With an attempt to equalize, you don’t keep increasing the gap between the rich and the poor, a good manager will try to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, that is the economic management. I know I have always heard from the Comrade Governor, that we are stratifying, that this policy will affect these areas and will not affect these areas, especially the land use charge. Even if that is done, they may also have to look at the rate. But I did not hear about the intention of the government to demolished churches in GRA directly from the Governor and I think those are overzealous people even of course, personally I would resist such acts against churches unless and unless government does not realize or appreciate what government itself is benefiting from the church. When you pulled out churches from the system, you create avenue for criminalities.
Are you calling for immediate reversal of these policies?
If churches and mosques are included I will say they should be excluded because they have a secondary role which they play, they are actually supportive of the intentions of the government. Whatever laws the government make to create peace and order, to create happiness within the system, churches and mosques compliment in no small measure the efforts of government to realizing this. That is why churches and mosques cannot be subject to taxation but individual there who earn income could be taxed but the church itself cannot be regarded a trading concern because it is a charitable organization. So, if that aspect of it was included I think it is an error. But again one thing many people have not given consideration to is which area constitutes the GRA by the definition of our law? Which are the churches within GRA actually, maybe the ministry of land would have to tell us. In my opinion the whole GRA is bounded by the boundary road, the airport road, the Sapele road, Ikpokpan, that is the old GRA, anything out side that is not GRA and I have looked round the four walls, I don’t know the church that are there, maybe one or two. The church of God mission, airport road which I belong to is not in GRA, what about the Faith Centre, is equally not in GRA and they cannot be taxed. One man cannot use this pen to draw a GRA for us because we have a GRA that was legally created and that is the way I see it.
They are mixed reaction over Oshiomhole’s second tenure performance. Are you one of those clamoring for five years single term for the office of Governors?
People are entitled to their opinion, he who wears the shoe knows where it pitches. Have they looked at the revenue in the first tenure, was it the same in the second tenure? I am an accountant, the IGR in the first term was high because the state started enforcement of IGR laws which were ventually left dormant in the past and by the second term everybody has paid all the arrears, there was no arrears to collect and IGR was bound to drop and don’t also forget the money from the federation account also dropped and there were effective deducts. So, the states ventually have money only to run, to manage the re-current. You need to be very good in management to carry that through. In the first tenure all governors in the states were paying salaries as at when due. What happened there after, many of them could not pay six months, nine months arrears, only few states like Edo State were able to pay. So, you had little to apply for capital projects, and also to maintain the ongoing capital projects which they brought forward from the first term. So, it will be bad management to think of new projects and I think that was why people saw nothing happening in the second term. What was happening in effect was that at the centre they were just stealing these money, robbery the entire country and the states were suffering, it is only now that Buhari has assumed office we will soon start seeing a rise, we would soon start seeing activities. Well, the man that seats there definitely will take the blame but don’t forget that 90% of Nigerians are economic illiterate, they are not accountants, and they will not understand the economic crisis but some of us understood it, that was why once or twice I came out to commend him for ability to pay salaries because Edo State was one of the few states that would have fallen behind in the payment of salaries. So, for that alone I think he should be commended. So, when the inflow increases and nothing is now being done then we can start blaming him. So, that is the situation I don’t think he should be crucified for that.