By Ndubuisi Oji
ALL Progressives Congress(APC)gubernatorial aspirant in Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki has said that he wants to be the next governor of the state, so that, he can consolidate on the achievements of the Adams Oshiomhole’s administration.
Obaseki, who is also the chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team, recently spoke to journalists on many issues.
You were part of the team that came in with Governor Adams Oshiomhole in 2008. Why was it that people didn’t get to know you until few years ago?
Certainly, I am. But first, I will say that I paid to serve. Secondly, I thought that I would just come in and help organise things and go back to what I was doing. But as chairman of the Economic Team, I realised that what we had anticipated that existed in government did not exist. I had on my instinct invited people to come and help the government to take off; but I then realised that we cannot be talking about an economic policy or running an economy when there was no engine to drive the economy.
So, for me, I realised that it was much deeper. So, I had to set up the Economic Team and institutionalise it and ensure that it was properly resourced to now support Comrade Oshiomhole’s effort.
This took quite a lot out of me. As an economic team, what are you supposed to do? You expect that civil servants should have done their work. There are policies in place and you come in and advise and make comments on what you think would happen, the options, why those options and choices. But I found out that I got dragged in more into first, helping them to create a base. I asked the question: What is the purpose of government and its objectives? I did this to see how we can begin to build the base on which we can now actually advise the government.
My aim at that point was not to become a political appointee. So, to that extent, I didn’t feel that I had to be in front. I was just there to support and help the Comrade Governor achieve the goals he had set out. And I felt that I would be more effective if I was apolitical. We looked at decisions and issues dispassionately and the truth is that within the first two, three years, I had no interest in politics. I didn’t see myself dealing with the intrigues, subterfuge and others. It was during Governor Oshiomhole’s re-election that I understood and appreciated that one can fix the bureaucracy, but it is beyond that; because if you don’t also fix the politics, nothing will abide.
Looking at how far you and Governor Oshiomhole have come, can one say that your governorship ambition is payback time?
It is not payback, because the question I had always asked after the governor’s re-election is: Now that he is in the second and last term, what happens after him? The thought was always there; who will continue with what we started? But even if it was there, it wasn’t something that I pursued strongly, because I don’t see how I can even do that; the energy and time. If you think about Nigeria’s politics before the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as president, you got to have a thick skin to be able to fight. And, in any case, since I didn’t have that political background and history, it wasn’t something I thought about doing initially.
But after Buhari succeeded despite all odds, I said it is possible. That gave me the perspective of the ability of an outsider to come in and take over power.
More importantly, I looked around and said we’ve been here together in the last seven years; I cannot absolve myself of any key policy that was made. And I said to myself, because the future is going to be more challenging than where we are coming from, we run a huge risk of losing the gains of what we have accomplished. What are those things that we have accomplished? First, we had to restore effects of governance by ensuring a sense of accountability, professionalism in the civil service, planning which helped us to earn the trust of people and getting money to execute projects. After going through all these, I realised that we have done the easy part, because we had a plan and money to build infrastructure and now created that expectation from the people that if government can, then it should continue to do it, but we are going into an era where oil prices have dropped drastically and those expectation are real and can still be accomplished, but with a different mindset and management style.
Do you stand a chance of picking the APC’s ticket given the array of aspirants in the party?
The truth is that after 16 weeks, I am the person to beat. A lot of political actors have failed to realise that the political environment has changed drastically; that the current economic reality is going to affect our politics more than we understand at the surface. The thinking of most of them is let’s just grab power, once we are in Government House, everything will fall in place. But I say that it is beyond that.