The heat of the general election is pervading across the country; as a member of APC, are you seeing the party’s presidential candidate winning the election?
For me, I see APC winning the presidential election with 98 per cent votes across the country from my interactions with Nigerians within the country and in the Diaspora. Everybody is yearning for change and retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari is that agent of change that Nigerians need at this moment to restore sanity in our nation’s political and economic governance, as well as security. Things are not working. I spoke with some people that came from USA because I used to live there and they were asking whether I am in APC or PDP. I told them I am in APC because a lot of people thought because I am no longer a member of the Edo State executive council I would have left the party. I equally told them that I am a strong APC member in the state and they wished that anybody but President Goodluck Jonathan should be voted for in the February 14, 2015 presidential election; at that time, the party hadn’t con- ducted its presidential primary.
The wish of most Nigerians is anybody apart from Goodluck Jonathan should be elected as the next president of the country. The PDP government has been in power for so long and the people felt they are yet to feel the positive impacts of governance in the country and so they are yearning for a change and total overhauling of political administration and governance of the country. Those are the issues that are currently on ground. Based on avail- able empirical records, Buhari is somebody who has track record and people are also convinced that he will not be going there to encourage corruption, stealing of public funds and will strengthen things up so that whoever comes after him will sustain his policies and create the right path for the nation to move forward and that is why I believe Buhari is the per- son that the country needs at this trying moment.
Is your assessment of Buhari based on political sentiment or on fair judgment?
No. My judgment is not because I am an APC member. It is purely because I know and I am convinced that Major-General Buhari has the human, managerial and educational credentials to make a good president of Nigeria. Sometimes, you have to be rational in your decision and it shouldn’t be based on political, ethnic or religious sentiments. Buhari has good track records. He has been there before and he demonstrated good leadership qualities. Look at what is going on in Nigeria. Our people are dying everywhere on daily basis. The Boko Haram menace has been going on for so long a time now and nobody has been able to do any- thing about it. I was a secretary of Jigawa State gubernatorial primary election committee. The day I left Kano after the gubernatorial primary, there were twin bomb blasts in Kano and people were calling to find out if I was safe. The chairman of the committee was called that Boko Haram had attacked his children’s university and they were looking for them. That was before we left Jigawa. These are things that were not happening before and we need sanity in Nigeria and I absolutely believe that Buhari with his track records of being a very disciplined and firm man will stop some of these things when he is elected as the president because we need Nigeria to grow better than it is now.
Are you disturbed by the ongoing advertorials in some electronic stations in Edo State sponsored by the state chapter of PDP on the alleged non- performance of the APC-led government; don’t you think that it will have negative effect on the party in the state?
You know that politics is somehow described as a dirty game and the advert will never of course dissuade the good people of the state from voting against the party in the February general election. This is time of politics and your competitors must always say bad things about you. If you are in politics expect nothing less from the opponents. They will always make up stories and the ability to have thick skin to absorb the stories is the only panacea to it. But we all know that it is part of the game. In political game, you must expect that your competitors are going to come up with all sorts of propaganda because they too want to take over your position.
In the United States of America, there is a proverb that says if your competitor does 10 sit ups and you are trying to overtake him make sure you do at least a 100 sit ups. So, that is what is going on. PDP too are trying. They want to make sure that they win by all means and that is why they have resorted to media campaigns. It is part of the game and that is not going to make the people change their conscience to vote for PDP. The people know what they want. They know that PDP had been in government in the state for a long time and nothing really good had come out of its government. In APC states like Edo state just take a look at the changes that have taken place in the few years of its tenure. The roads are better than they were before. There are lots of changes in all sectors of governance. I believe the facts are there for us to see and I don’t think that people will be easily carried away with adverts now. But it is part of politics and makes it more interesting.
Since you were relieved of your appointment as commissioner by the state governor last year, many people thought as it is currently in vogue with politicians in Nigeria that you would defect to the opposition party, particularly the PDP. Why do you choose to remain in the party?
I am not somebody that have penchant for jumping from one party to the other probably be- cause I was relieved of my position or offended or marginalised in one way or the other by the Edo State government or my party. But having been relieved of my appointment, of course, I will be one of the first so-called ‘big fish’ that the opposition party will meet to woo to join them. I got a lot of people asking me to come and join their party, but I refused to move and decided to remain put in my party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) because I am in a party whose ideology is equal to none among other parties in the country. So, I have always learnt to be calm when things happen and I don’t see why I should leave APC for PDP which we all started in those days when there was no APC. APC is the only party that I have seen that is really interested in the good of the people and changing the country political governance and interested in making things work in the country.
Despite the agitation for implementation of 35 percent affirmative action for women, only five women emerged as candidates by the two major political parties in Edo for the 2015 general election. What is your take on this?
I want to say that the men politicians still need to encourage us women in politics. Now APC for example gave women free nomination forms and they were not allowed to buy the forms like their male counterpart. Having given us free nomination forms is not just enough for us to be carried away with euphoria of it and re- main docile without working hard to actualise your political dream or goal of representing your people at whatever level you are aspiring to. You have to work hard. Like I said earlier, if your competitor is doing 10 sit ups, you have to do 100. As a woman, if your male opponent is doing 10 campaigns, you have to do 100 campaigns in order to overtake him and beat him to the game. Aspiring for elective position has not been easy. It has been a man affair in this part of the world for so long and we are fighting to change that because I am one of those in the forefront that women must come in and be in government; women must be in elective positions. We too have to work hard or even work harder because it is not an easy game. In appointment, it is very easy to al- locate slots to women, but elective position is a different ball game.
What are those achievements of yours as a commissioner in the state that you think you will be remembered for?
As a commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism, I pioneered the first cultural exchange programme between Nigeria and Germany when we have our artists from the Edo State Arts Council acted alongside Germany. We did a show on ‘Tempest’ written by Williams Shakespeare. It was very nice because it was acted on stage in mixed languages- English, Edo and Germany. Some members in the Edo State House of Assembly, the Secretary to the State Government and other government functionaries then were at the venue to watch the play. I also spearheaded a lot of stage presentations of cultural history. That is, things that happened in the past we started having cultural drama on them at the Oba Akenzua cultural centre in Benin City. I was responsible for making Igue festival a national festival in Nigeria. Igue festival is well known. It all started during our council meeting in Abuja. The council meeting comprised minister of tourism and state com- missioners of arts and cultural. At the meeting they needed to pick three cultural events from the six geo-political zones. For the South-South we were asked to go and discuss among ourselves and I just told my colleague’s pointblank that Edo State would be hosting the meeting and eventually I ended up hosting the South-South commissioners for Arts, Culture and Tourism. During the meeting, I told them why the annual Benin Igue festival should be among the festivals that must be selected from the zone. At the end of the day, it was taken and since then, the Federal Government has been playing active role in the celebration of the festival in the state. In the area of sports, when I came in, my main priority was to turn the sector around. At that time Bendel Insurance FC was in huge problems. Players were being owed several months of salary arrears and other entitlements probably as a result of communication gap between the former commissioner and the then permanent secretary.