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Ogiemwonyi: Why Edo Voted Massively for APC in State Assembly Poll

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Before defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress in 2014, Engineer Chris Ogiemwonyi from Edo State was Minister of State for Works under President Goodluck Jonathan-led government. Ogiemwonyi had a distinguished career in the oil and gas sector, having headed NAPIMS as Group Managing Director. He disclosed in an interview with WESTERN POST’s AGENE AKHERE that the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, must insist on probing the activities of the Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Maduekwe, and that the working of anti-graft agencies must be strengthened. He also speaks about why the results of the presidential and National Assembly polls where different from that of the state House of Assembly in Edo…

Now that General Muhammadu Buhari has emerged the winner of the presidential election, the expectations of Nigerians that he would perform are very high. Do you think he will hold his head high?

I have 99 percent confidence that the man elected president by Nigerians will perform. In a simple language, I see him as the messiah that we have all been waiting for. I see hope and a new dawn in Nigeria. I see the locust days gone forever in Nigeria. It is definitely the Lord’s doing that this man emerged to take Nigerians to the Promised Land. It’s something that we must celebrate.

With all due respect, most Nigerians have been regarded as corrupt. You must have seen some of it while in public service. How will you advise General Buhari to tackle corruption?

We have laws in Nigeria. We have institutions to check corruption. But the truth is that these institutions were not allowed to work. First, I am going to say we must strengthen these institutions – ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission), EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and the Police Force, etc. So, by the time we strengthened these institutions such that there will be no sacred cow, the rule of law will prevail, if you’re guilty… I see the President-elect as a man who believes purely in the rule of law. It is for Nigerians to support him because in the process we might get to some areas where people will want to be spared but we’ll encourage Mr. President-elect that there should be no sacred cow. Whoever is corrupt should face the music because this country is blessed but it got to a point where about three percent of Nigerians were sucking this country dry like mosquitoes. So the time has come for reckoning and whoever is found to be corrupt should not be spared. I will explain to you in due course why I said that the institutions to check corruption should be strengthened.

Personalities all over the world have been giving kudos to President Goodluck Jonathan for conceding defeat in the presidential poll ahead of the announcement of the final results. What is your opinion about this?

What was his option? What option had he? It was so obvious that he had lost the election. I think by the time he called the President-elect we had probably heard 90 percent of the poll results so there was no option for him than to concede defeat. People said he conceded defeat in magnanimity but what was his option? He had no option than to throw in the towel.

The results of the Presidential and National Assembly elections held in Edo State on March 28, contrary to popular expectations, swung in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party. But the situation was reversed in the House of Assembly polls held two weeks later. What was the reason for this ding-dong affair?

First and foremost, you asked why the results of the election held on March 28 went the way it did. You see, many Nigerians were not too sure that Jonathan could be defeated. They were so concerned about the incumbency factor. But I tell you that what happened was that Nigerians were fed up in view of the various ills that bedevilled the country – corruption (the highest we have seen so far), insecurity, poor economy, bad power situation, etc. Everything was going downwards. So, Nigerians voted for a change. That is the truth. Then for the April 11 elections why a reversal?  Many of us came out to speak publicly. You’ll recall that we held a press conference on the 6th of April telling people the need to align properly. That Edo State will never again be in opposition. The Edo people listened and many other groups came out with that same slogan “We’ll never be in opposition” and people realised the benefit of having a government at the centre in their states. Edo people wanted to be in the scheme of things. Definitely, once we are properly now aligned with the centre the benefits are enormous. I am very happy that Edo State did. The Middle Belt did; the Yoruba with their high level of literacy saw the need. I am happy that the Edo people did too.

President-elect, General Buhari, and the APC National Chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, have both said that they would not welcome defectors to the party. What is your opinion about this?

Again, the issue of the defectors, people are probably looking at the area of integrity, people should be firm, people should be principled. Having said that, I should say we should open our doors to those who are coming. We should welcome them. But they should realize that they are coming after the rain has fallen. Like the Benin people would say, “If you want to fetch water, you should fetch it when the rain is falling”. You should not fetch water when the rain has stopped falling. The time people could have joined the party was when the struggle was on with high level of uncertainty.

Which of the serving ministers would you recommend should be retained by the in-coming administration?

They say that when the head is bad then everything would be bad. The government of President Jonathan was sick, so probably only two or three people in his cabinet can be said to have performed. But I cannot judge some of them because I am not an expert in the area they served. For instance, I understand the Agriculture Minister (Adewunmi Adesina) performed well. In the oil and gas sector where I have my experience, the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke, performed dismally. She encouraged high level of corruption with impunity. Despite the high caliber of staff in NNPC (Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation), she never allowed them to perform. She was madly in charge. She should be held accountable for the lapses in the oil sector. I am supporting that NNPC’s accounts should be audited. Let her face the music.

Since you joined the APC, you have been instrumental in stabilizing the party in Edo State. In a year’s time, the state governorship election would be held. A lot of people are now asking that what role will Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi play when the chips are down?

You’ll recall when I joined the party in November last year there was a high level of uncertainty about the future. I told them I was coming to support the party to win elections. Thank God, today the future is clearer. Talking about the future, in a democracy the people’s will, will always be done. So, am looking at the future with certainty but when it comes to making the decision that who and who will go for elective positions like the governorship, the people will decide. There are many competent people. It is the people’s decision. That is democracy.

Tactically, the governorship position of the APC has been zoned to Edo South and the two visible candidates are you and the Deputy Governor, Pius Odubu, and both of you are from Orhionmwon, how will both of you work together?

I don’t like politics of exclusion. Nobody has told me that only myself and the deputy governor are in contention. What I heard from the party is that the governorship has been zoned to Edo South and the zone has eminent people. It is made up of seven local government areas and there are competent people from these areas. When we get there the people’s will, will prevail.

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