The jostle for the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship ticket would soon commence, COVID-19 notwithstanding.
In this interview, Emman Gold-Idehen, a former Special Adviser on Project Implementation to late former governor of defunct Bendel State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia and now Special Adviser to Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi Campaign Organization on Political Matters, gives reasons why his principal deserves the governorship ticket.
Edo governorship primary is just few weeks away. What attributes do you think should determine who gets the APC ticket?
In my opinion, the attributes which I think an ideal politician should have are integrity, performance and compassion. People usually refer to politicians as untrustworthy but we believe that any decent politician must have credibility and integrity. You may ask what do I mean by integrity. If I come to you and say am so impressed about what you are doing and I make a promise to see you tomorrow morning to deliver xyz to you based on what I see you do and if you come the next day and I stand by what I told you, that is a man of integrity. So, if people refer to Chris Ogiemwonyi, as a man of integrity, it is a big plus, a man they can trust. If he gives you his words, you can take it to the bank.
Another aspect is performance in public office. How prepared is the man looking for the job? Take a look at his antecedent and profile of all the four aspirants he is contesting with. Find out what they have done in the past, how have they performed in those positions. If you look at Ogiemwonyi’s CV, you will be overwhelmed.
As close as I am to him, I couldn’t remember all the boards he has served; his profile and manifestoes tell you how prepared he is. He did 34 years in NNPC. As a young man from Orhionmwon local government area of Edo State, he went to Boys Western High School, by God’s providence, he found himself in NNPC, no godfather; he is not Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba or Ibo. He is from the minority. While in NNPC, the 34 years he spent in upstream crude, he was able to distinguish himself. He is the first man in the history of NNPC that has been the Chief Executive of three prominent companies within the conglomerate of NNPC.
He was Chief Executive in NAPIMS, Chief Executive in NPDC and Chief Executive in Nigeria Gas Company, NGC. He was sent to NAPIMS to do a clean-up and set the place clean. Hitherto, the joint ventures, Chevron, Mobil were dictating to NAPIMS which was supposed to be the other way round. But when he got there, he took charge to the extent that it was the body that is wagging the tail and not the other way round. He also told them that over the years, they favoured foreigners to the detriment of the people of the South-South and he told them he is going to give preference to the people where these resources are sourced from and he was able to invite indigenes or what you will call catchment areas to benefit from the resources and that earned him the name ‘Mr local content’ because of what he was able to do to the advantage of the people.
At NPDC, he was the game changer; he increased the production level within a short period of time. It is on record that before the estimated time Mr President gave to them, he made sure that delivering pipes to the various stations were working. In the history of NNPC, nobody heading these three components at management level has done what Ogiemwonyi has done. In fact, he was pencilled down for the Chief Executive of NNPC before other factors came in. He retired and within one year, he was made a minister where he sat at the highest policy making body at the federal Executive Council. They saw in him as somebody that can bring value to the development of this country, which is performance.
Another key factor in determining who gets the ticket again is compassion; you can have integrity but no compassion. You can be a productive person on earth but when you seek public elective positions, you need to have compassion and empathize, hear, smell and touch. If you cannot do that, you don’t have business being in public office because at the end of it all, if you cannot combine them and put smiles on people’s faces, you have failed. So, his mission is to uplift the standard of the people because this is something he had done in the past.
He said people call him ‘Mr Integrity’ ‘Mr local content’, but he is more interested in how to impact on the lives of the people and this is in consonance with what he has done in the past and that is why he is seeking to serve as governor. As somebody in the middle management level at NNPC, he saw the level of poverty in his community where he grew up; he was propelled to build boreholes in all the communities having encountered a village girl that was blind owing to bad water. He built skill acquisition centre, church, provided generating set all from his personal pocket.
Looking at his background, one would have expected that he will stay away from the murky waters of politics. Why politics for him?
I will start by telling you that when he retired from NNPC there was a grand reception held in his honour. I was invited to come from Abuja. The place was populated with dignitaries irrespective of political divide. As a young man that grew up in Benin City, I have never seen that kind of reception or gathering in my life aside the annual Igue festival. In the palace there was another reception for him. Esogban of Benin, Chief D.U Edebiri spoke glowingly and endlessly about him. And when he was asked by the Oba, he said he was filled with spirit and passion for Ogiemwonyi. In fact, you must be a super man for the palace to throw a party for you. With all this, somebody asked him since he is so loved in Edo why don’t you translate it into politics? So, it is because of the passion and love he has for the people that made him join politics. He said to himself he is not building any houses, or giving birth to children, but he wants to leave a legacy like Ambrose Alli, General Samuel Ogbemudia and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
There are other aspirants in the race for the ticket who are eminently qualified. What are his chances?
His chances are bright. All you have to do like I said earlier is to look at his profile. I am not condemning anybody but Ogiemwonyi stands out. Some of them say I have not been able to do this or that but when you make me governor, I will do this and that. But Ogiemwonyi will say no, I have done XYZ already and when he becomes the governor, he will only add to what he has done. It is not just being futuristic. So, if you look at that, the difference is clear. There are many people that he couldn’t even remember helping them. Many had walked up to him on several occasions to thank him on account of how he has assisted them. We need someone who can put smiles on the faces of the people. The economy of the country is so bad. We need somebody who can combine human and natural resources, a tested hand. A man who is well fed that will look at you and know you are hungry and want to be able to do something.
Finally, some of his critics are of the view that he is too elitist. How would you respond to that?
What is elitist about a young man that grew up in the village? He is from a humble background. He didn’t grow up in the government reservation area. He is a home boy. His primary, secondary and University education were all in Benin. In fact, he does more of a local dance than myself that grew up in the City. He can fit into any class. For someone who can dine with the high and mighty, middle class and the downtrodden is the kind of man we are looking for the job.