From Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
Prof. Ben Odoh is the 2023 governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Ebonyi State. The former Secretary to Ebonyi State Government (SSG) in this interview denied speculations making the rounds that he has backed out of the contest, among other issues.
There is speculation that you have been settled to withdraw from the 2023 governorship contest to support a certain candidate. How true is that?
You all know me very well; I am not one that can be bought with money. I have strong values. I am a man of conviction. It is the same people who destroyed our billboards that are saying this kind of thing. We did not withdraw from the contest. Withdrew for who? Who among the candidates is supposed to be talking about being governor in this state? In decent environment, none of them is qualified to contest for Chairman of local government. That is the truth and the records are there. There is nothing in their lives that warrant them to be talking they are running for governorship. Governorship is not a village union leadership; it is about governance. That information is not true; we have not withdrawn and we are the candidates that will win the election.
Political campaigns have commenced, when is your campaign council coming out, and who is going to lead it?
We are not in a hurry to do that, and I will tell you why. Campaign Council positions are mere nomenclatures, and these nomenclatures are vulnerable to bribery and corruption, and we don’t want that. We have our Strategy; our campaign structure will flow from the polIing units, to the ward levels and to the local government levels.
Those who will manage at the level of management and leadership are exclusively our responsibility. We are not going to be announcing that this man is this or that, because once you do that many of them are likely going to face compromises, and we don’t want to compromise our campaigns; we want to deal with the real people who are going to work for us at the polling units. Elections are won at the polling unit level and not at the state level. So we have our plans clearly cut gradually, we are appointing those we consider suitable for certain positions. We are going to approach our campaign differently because the political realities are unusual.
Your campaign billboards have come under serious attacks with almost all of them completely pulled down. Have you been able to unravel those behind it?
The Billboard destruction is rather an unfortunate situation, we contracted a reputable advert company in Ebonyi, paid them to host our billboards from July to match next year. But midway into the advertorials, they informed us that the Government people were demanding to pay and take up our spaces, they said no, that we have paid for the spaces, and they got angry, and began to destroy our billboards, the State is claiming that they didn’t pay them but it’s not true, because we also know that there are many other billboards in Ebonyi hosting commercial adverts that are non political, none of them has been removed, it’s only our billboards because they also have vested interest to take over our spaces.
This is happening for the second time in the space of 3 months; we’ve also observed that billboards of other political parties too are being removed; they want to create the impression where anyone who comes to Ebonyi would think as though APC is the only party here.
How will you respond to the challenging issues of insecurity and communal clashes in some communities if you become governor in 2023?
What has happened in Ebonyi is a situation where vested political interests have been pursued at the expense of the common man,
One thing that I’m committed to do is dispensing social justice; it doesn’t matter who is involved, once we dispense social justice, much of the tension in the state would begin to reduce significantly.
If you visit many of these communities where we are having crisis, you’ll discover that over 80 percent of the causes are all linked to political involvement. As a governor, from next year, my focus would not be on petty communal leadership tussle; as I speak to you now, many communities who have elected town union did that on the alleged instructions of some powerful government officials, not on the basis of who the community prefers as a leader.
Any society that is created that way must have tensions; there must be people who would say no to this, and this is what causes the tension. The Effium crisis started from the motor park, the two persons involved were of appointees and elected members of government, so you can see the link and the relationship.
Once these things are curtailed, we’ll not have situations where weekly or monthly you have tensions in our communities.
We are going to work day and night to create conducive economy in our communities so that our people can go to work and keep busy with activities, once they are busy, and they are able to make choices that suit their peculiar community needs, these things would diminish.
First thing we are going to do is to have a sustained audience, we’ll listen to each of the communities, let us get to the root cause of these issues; we’ll take a compassionate and dispassionate position on the matters there, anyone who is found being part of the crisis, the steps we will take off course would be that we are not approaching from the point of bias.
Surveillance is going to be the key, in every part of the state we are going to have a surveillance team, even in the capital city, we are going to have an organized, official supported security system, cleanly dressed with vehicles that are equipped with telecommunications gadgets; if there’s a crime, with the aid of the radio message, we’ll cordon off all the boundaries and deal with it effectively; we are not going to encourage thuggery, our people need to be respected and treated with honour.
Once we do all of these, you will see that we’ll have a society where people would go about their normal business without harassment.