The Executive Chairman of Etsako Central Local Government Area, Edo State, Comrade John Osi Akhigbe, has opened up on the sustainability of the legacy of late Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe…
Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Executive Chairman of Etsako Central Local Government Area, Edo State, Comrade John Osi Akhigbe, has opened up on the sustainability of the legacy of late Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe, a former Chief of General Staff and one of the illustrious sons of Fugar.
Akhigbe, a former Executive Director of Protocol to Governor Adams Oshiomhole who spoke with Saturday Sun in Abuja, also opened up on his relationship with other notable sons of Fugar, particularly, ex-Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, and concluded that Oghiadomhe is a man of few words.
What does style mean to you?
If you talk of style, every human being has his own way of life and whatever he needs. Style means a lot to me. It makes me feel good when I find myself doing exactly what makes me happy.
What are your fashion preferences?
I love native attires because I am a native man. But at times, you find yourself in situations that you have no option than to put on jeans and T-shirt.
Since you are a Comrade, what about the labour uniform?
That is purely our uniform. That one must be worn. But I am only talking about what I can take to anywhere and at anytime for any occasion.
What is your favourite meal?
I eat purely vegetable soup whether bitter leaf soup or just pure vegetable with wheat.
So, you don’t like pounded yam?
Not now! But I used to have preference for pounded yam.
But that is traditional to the Etsako people. Why don’t you like it?
Yes. That is our food. I used to eat pounded yam, but now that I am putting on too much weight, I have to drop pounded yam.
How do you keep fit?
I used to go to the gym, but no time to do that these days. However, I still make out time to walk. I walk round, take time out to cover some kilometres.
How has it been, occupying the chair of Etsako Central Local Government Area?
It has been very interesting living with my people, dining with them and doing everything with them. I find myself living with the people who know what it takes to be alive.
What spurred you to aspire for the position of a local government chairman?
I have been a grassroots man. I always love being with my people. It was as a result of this that I used to visit home once in every two months while I was in Lagos. I like being around my people; I want to feel what they feel, I want to live the way they live and I want to eat the kind of food that they eat so that nobody will tell me this is what it looks like being at home. So, when the idea came, I had to grab it because I always like to be with my people.
What are the challenges you met on ground?
It is the normal challenge you have in the country at the moment. The economy is so tight because successive governments were not able to improve the economy.
How are you coping?
Very well. Everybody knows that I am a grassroots man and an administrator trained by Oshiomhole. I tell people that I am a graduate of Oshiomhole University and I also tell them that I am now a professor. So, somebody who knows it all trained me on what it means to lead the people.
Why are you fond of Oshiomhole?
I am not a politician. I am an activist and he is an activist also and we found ourselves in politics. When I met him in 1993 in Lagos during the struggles for Abiola’s mandate, we didn’t really know each other. It was Femi Falana who told me ‘this is your brother.’ And thereafter, I continued to follow-up on him. He was in Labour, Transport and later, he became the Secretary-General of Textile Union. I continued to follow his track record till he became the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress. We met again during the Ettehgate and in 2004, 2005, we met and I asked him some questions. He told me yes, that he was interested in becoming the governor of Edo State. He is somebody I know I have studied over the years and I know his capability. I know he is a man who can make water to flow from the rock.
So, you are confident he will be the type of chairman that the APC has been yearning to have?
I am not just confident, I am overconfident because we really need a man who knows it all, a man who can speak truth to authority.
There are people who believe that Oshiomhole is more of an activist than an administrator. What is your take on this?
He is an activist. You can’t take that away from him. You can’t detach that from us. But we are administrators. Once you are a true activist who knows what it takes to act for the people, you will be a good administrator. That is why he was able to do what he did in Edo State. You know when he came in, people said oh, labour leaders cannot perform. But today, they have eaten their words because he did more than expected.
During our first year in office at the Ovonramwen Square, I whispered to him. I said “I am proud of you; you have defeated the enemy by proving that yes, an activist can become a good administrator.” And today, I am so proud that I got myself associated with him because I have learnt a lot from him. People wonder what I am doing in the local government today. They see a lot of things even when there is no money. It is because of what I learnt from him. If you have one naira, use it to better the lot of the people. Don’t just think of yourself. Oshiomhole is a man that I want everybody to be close to.
How are you preserving the legacy of the late Vice Admiral Mike Okhai Akhigbe?
He is my mentor when it comes to that. He came and left something behind that we can remember him for. And that is exactly what every leader should be able to do: for yourself, for your people, for the country and for your local government. He did something for the local government that he is being remembered for today. And I don’t want anything to touch that legacy. What I do is to make sure that I build on that. I replicate all he did. The little we have to do anything, we are doing them. Thank God for the kind of governor that we have that is guiding us, Governor Godwin Obaseki. I want to really tell the people that Admiral Akhigbe is somebody that we must imitate and we must replicate what he did and we must improve on what he did. So, I am not going to let him down because he believed in me. All he said was ‘Osi, please don’t let the light dim. Let it shine always.’ And the light of Admiral Akhigbe, the likes of Oshiomhole, what they left behind in Edo State, will continue to shine.
What is your relationship with other leaders in the area like Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, Sir Peter Aliu, Uduimho Itsueli and Dr Chris Itsede?
You are mentioning all the people from Fugar. These are my people. These are people I admire so much, people I believe in. Don’t mind whatever people think about them outside. Mike Oghiadomhe is a man that over the years, I have studied. We grew up together and I have got to know that he is the shy type who speaks less, but he means whatever he says. And he is a man that I believe we should all watch and continue to encourage to grow. With where he has gotten to, he has not reached the zenith yet. He is still growing.
And you talk of Peter Aliu; he is a man you can learn from; a man who speaks calmly; a man who releases the wisdom of God when he talks to you. You also talk of Imo Itsueli, a man full of wisdom. He is an administrator because when he talks to you, he speaks business into you, he speaks development into you. He makes you see reason that where there is no light, there can be light without connecting cables to that place.