• Tuesday, April 23, 2024
businessday logo


Edo guber: My vision is to do better than Ambrose Alli – Yakubu

Edo guber: My vision is to do better than Ambrose Alli – Yakubu

John Yakubu is a trader and governorship aspirant in the 2024 off-season election in Edo State. Yakubu, who was also a former chairman of Esan North East Local Government Area and 2016 Edo State deputy governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), spoke on the mounting interest by the Esan people to govern the state, his focus if elected and the state of the nation. CHURCHILL OKORO brings the excerpts:

In the past few weeks, aspirants from Edo Central Senatorial districts have been talking about power shifts to the district. Why is this so?

It is not just about only aspirants from Edo Central senatorial district; I think the Edo people are talking about power shifts. To be honest with you, anybody talking about a power shift to Edo Central, they are referring to fairness, equity and justice so that people from the region should be allowed to be part of the leadership process of Edo State. That is not to say that the person who will be the governor must be of Esan extraction. What we have is Edo. The Edo South has had the opportunity twice, the Edo North has had the same opportunity for eight years, if another person from Edo Central is given the opportunity, we strongly believe it is fair and equitable for us to be part of the leadership process in Edo State.

Is this the turn of the people of Edo Central senatorial district to govern Edo State?

It is not actually about turn. We have men with proven capacity and will on how to drive Edo State to the next level of development. These persons cut across three senatorial districts. They are not only in Edo Central. It also abounds in other districts. So, for us as a people, we are not just concerned about Edo Central Senatorial district, we are concerned with Edo State because from Iguobazuwa to Akoko Edo, it is actually one state. We are all Edo people. So, what we are talking about is how to take Edo State not Esan to the next level. It is fair for Esan people to begin to aspire for the leadership position of the state. In doing that, every Edo man or woman will be involved.

It is well known that politics is a game of numbers where the majority wins the vote; can Esan people upstage the other two regions with a perceived majority?

Can you differentiate between an Esan man and an Edo man on the streets of Benin? So, if you cannot do that, why do you think the Edo people are not willing to put a majority vote behind an Esan man? So, when you talk about the majority, it is about Edo people and not tribe or religion. It is about Edo people pulling the weight behind the person. A lot of people are already saying let’s pull our weight behind an Esan man across the political parties. It is not about Edo South or North, the program and project are about Edo State.

When Ambrose Alli was the governor of the defunct Bendel State, it was not about Esan but the whole of Bendel State. This was the same as Professor Osunbor Oserhiemen’s. So, when you talk about the majority, the Edo people are looking for who is capable to do the right thing.

Do you see Esan people forming an alliance with one of the two other senatorial districts? If yes, what will be the implication of these political negotiations?

Politics is about negotiations. Politics is about reaching out to other people and telling them what you think is right. The Esan people and well-meaning persons from Edo North are part of that movement and the Edo people are buying into it. We are negotiating with our brothers across the other senatorial districts on why a capable Edo man should lead. I am an Edo man but of Esan extraction and have lived here in Edo South senatorial districts for many decades. I am aspiring for the governorship of Edo State not because I am an Esan man but an Edo man.

Aside from the likes of Professor Ambrose Alli and Professor Oserhiemen Osunbor, has there been any meaningful development in the region in the past decades of uninterrupted democratic rule?

It is my vision to do better than Ambrose Alli. Some of the things he did, I enjoyed from it. If after many decades, people are asking whether I want to do better than him, that is a challenge to me. This means I honestly need to do better so that my name can be registered at that level or a higher level.

When Ambrose Alli was the governor, of every sector in the state; from Esanland to Edo South to Delta, not a tribe could come out to say because he didn’t come from their area, he never made an impact. He did well across the entire state. For me, that is my major concern. A lot of things may have gone wrong with project development and other related issues in Esan that need the attention of the governor, whether the governor is from there or not, he should pay attention. Let it be known that given the opportunity to govern this state, I will take Edo as my constituency. When we would have finished, it would have been clear to everybody that we had an Edo man as a governor.

In a developed clime, they do not talk about their local government areas but they talk about the people, they talk about the development of the society and how it will affect them even outside the office.
Take for example, if we have a functional general hospital in Edo South senatorial district, then we should have the same in the other two districts because it will be difficult for an ailing man from Edo Central to come to Benin because he wants to receive primary health care. So, we must spread all we have in Edo State so that every sector will be properly represented. We must begin to look holistically at what we should do in our state.

I want to do more than Ambrose Alli because I did that when I was a local government chairmanship. Thirteen years after, if you go to my council today, you will be surprised what the people will tell you. I had an opportunity to be the chairman for just two years and ten months (between 2007 and 2010). The visible projects are still there. We have 774 local government areas, and I am the only one that built a police barrack. During my time, I asphalted eight roads; the longest was 1.5km with drains on both sides. I built about four boreholes to address the lack of water in Uromi. The only state council staff quarter you have in Esan North East was built by me in less than three years. These are verifiable projects.

Read also: EXPLAINER: What are West Africa’s options to reverse Niger’s coup?

You have expressed interest to govern Edo State. What is spurring your interest?

A lot of people ask me why I am so passionate about this state. I do tell them my heart beats for Edo State because we must rejig the state in a way that productivity will be re-enacted. We must make sure our people go back to work and it cannot happen the way things are going currently. We were never used to unemployment while growing up because everybody was working. Over time, we have lost a lot because we want everything for ourselves but nothing for the people.

How do we continue like this? It will be difficult to survive. If we do not retrace our steps in the next few years, this nation will be too hot for even people leading us to stay. Imagine a situation where people do not have a meal to eat and you think you will sleep with your two eyes closed while the little money in government is spent on buying land cruisers at the expense of the people.

It is sad. We are destroying the state, destroying the nation and, at the same, praying for manners to fall. If there is no money in this nation, let it reflect on those in charge. Let it be seen in the faces of everybody. We do not have money to provide desks and chairs for our children but we have money to buy land cruisers and keep Japan afloat.

Let’s take for example the current economic situation. Nobody is saying we need to maintain the subsidy regime but the transparency is what is needed. If it is difficult for you to buy fuel at N600, it should also be difficult for that man in government. Times are hard, and some people are buying with government money and telling us to go and sleep with an empty stomach. Once there is equality, the government will move well.

If the governor knows he is going to use his salary to buy fuel, then he will do those things that will make the economy work. But as it is today, they have their markets and we, the masses, have our own markets. This is wrong. We go to the same market but while they buy with ease, we buy with pains. This is because they have unlimited access to government funds. Nigerians must begin to look for accountability. Nigeria is a struggling nation, where those in authority give out everything free of charge to their friend and relations.
If given the opportunity to govern this state, we will demystify government and governance.

Should you emerge victorious in the forthcoming election, which of the sectors will you prioritise to drive development?

Let me commend the present Governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki for looking in that direction. One of the first things we will do is power. We must have at least 18 hours of power supply to the people. This will jump-start industrialization in the state. This has pushed me to some power stations to study how they are able to get a 24-hour power supply, and I discovered it is not rocket science. Power will be our major priority. Six months into our administration, Edo people will begin to see the light, and we can compete favourably with China. As a matter of urgency, we must ensure light generated in Edo, aside from the national grid, cannot be less than 250 to 300 megawatts. Individuals and organisations will be encouraged to come, establish and earn their money. Edo State will be the first among the other 35 states to be self-sufficient in power.

The second area we will focus on is agriculture. When I talk about agriculture, it is not what we had before. How do you ask our farmers to go back to the farm and you expect them to come with cutlasses and hoes? In 2008, I sent my officer to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan to buy high-yield metric tonnes of maize, which was placed in the council and given to some farmers in Uromi. Members of staff and I went to the farm and planted these crops. We realised a lot back then. It is about willpower. How do I stay here in Edo when the Ewu field and flour mill will be looking for maize in the North? Farmers should be thought how to farm and supported. We have the land for export.

If we take over government today, the whole of Ikpoba River will be turned into a fish pond because I have demonstrated there are a lot of potential and profits in it with my own pond at home. We must harness them for people to make money. We must reduce unemployment and take advantage of these things we have so that people will be able to feed their families.

Security is another key issue. All these plans we have cannot be actualised without securing our people. I have been saying that we will not allow foreign invasion of our land. There is no Edo man that will go to another state to intimidate or terrorise them. To that extent, we will not allow people to terrorise us in our land. I will not just implement it, I will be there leading the charge. How do you come to my farmlands, not only will you destroy my crops, but you will also harass my people. We are going to be very serious about security. It is not a one-man thing. Edo people will realise Edo owns the lands and will take charge of it.

I will not give out the state money to any individual. This is the kind of government I am thinking of running but we must get the people involved.

How concerned are you about the internal wrangling in your party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the harm it may cause to your ambition?

All parties across the nation have their problems. Even some are bigger than that of PDP. I am sure in the next few months; the issues concerning PDP will be settled so that we can move forward as one party. I strongly believe that we have the capacity to settle the problems we are passing through now. I am a party man; I have been in the party since 1998. I have not moved an inch anywhere. I do not see PDP tumbling or sinking.