• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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I came into the gubernatorial race on conviction to serve Edo people – Ighodalo

Edo 2024: Group tasks Ighodalo on choice of deputy

Asue Ighodalo, a corporate lawyer and former chairman of Sterling Bank and Nigerian Breweries, is the gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. In this interview, he spoke on the controversy trailing his emergence, plans for the state, among other issues. Excerpts by INIOBONG IWOK

People keep tagging you the governorship candidate of Governor Obaseki, how do you react to that?

I came into the race by myself and I was asked by a number of friends, elders to consider taking up political office and I then prayed about it and discussed it with my family and partner in my law firm and then took the decision to do it.

Many things have affected my thinking and moved my thinking towards public office. I have been involved in a lot of public service over the years; in Edo state I have been in the economic team since 2008. I was in Oshomhole economic team from ‪2008-2016‬. I was asked by Governor Godwin Obaseki to chair the Alagudairo Limited by guarantee, which every year organised the economic submit of the state and had a board that periodically advised the government on economic policies.

Read also: The rise and rise of Asue Ighodalo

I was chairman of the Nigerian economic summit for four years and even when I served on the board of the Nigerian sovereign investment authority for four years, there were a lot of public related activities that we were engaged in, infrastructure development and all of these came to me when I was been talked to about considering public office it makes me to shift favourably towards that thinking.

I suspect that for many people it is convenient to set a narrative to distract fact and remove from the issues. I have also said many times before that when you look at the aspirants there are many people that are closely related to Governor Obaseki and even friendlier with him than me. So, I never understand why the tag that I’m the Governor Obaseki candidate.

Read also: Obaseki’s anointed aspirant, Ighodalo wins Edo parallel guber primary

I don’t think it is a problem anymore, I have managed to reach out to Edo people about what I think is important; economic, social issues, unemployment, security, I’m quite clear and I think Edo people now know who I am and stand for. Governor Obaseki and I have been friends for over forty years and I think he knows what I stand for, I respect him tremendously and I think he respects me too. I have worked as a corporate lawyer on the same side with him and we have been together. That is why he invited me to work with him in his economic team. But I came into this process by myself, encouraged by my friends and elders from Edo State and I have not regretted one moment coming into this race. I see a pact for the state in a way that I can contribute toward moving the state on the pact of prosperity and I’m glad I have come into this process and I would give it my all. I thank God we have gone through the first stage; I would do well by talking to the people, getting across to the people and do well by winning the election in September.

Philip Shaibu conducted a parallel primary in which he was elected candidate. What is your take?

When you hold an event in your house you can give it any name you desire, I’m sure the party will deal with this issue with the deputy governor, so we don’t get into unnecessary disrepute.

Some delegates said they were denied accreditation. What is your view on that?

I think the accreditation process went very well, you know we had ward congresses where we elected three ad hoc delegates from each ward, I think we had 192 wards and ended up having 572 delegates that were elected. The results went up to the national working committee of the party and based on the result, they were validated and confirmed based on the result and the delegates elected. We had the national delegates election a week after that was validated and confirmed and a list of elected delegates that would take part in our primary was confirmed by the national working committee of the party and was published and circulated to APC members in Edo State that is involve in this process, that is the list that was used to conduct the primary.

I saw the list and photo, names and particulars of the delegates. So, everybody that was in the list went into the accredited centre and were then led into the venue of the primary.

We followed the constitution of the party; we followed the guideline that was set down for the election. I want to commend the national working committee of the party they did well.

I did not see any proper delegate complaining, anybody can draw up a list in their bedroom and say that is the list of delegates.

We should not bring the party into disrepute, if you join a party, you should always abide by the rules of the party. We have a constitution which was updated up till 2017, we have electoral guidelines and the party has an internal mechanism for resolving disputes; I find it very strange that people resort to self-help.

I don’t think it is the proper way to proceed, I don’t think that people that seek to lead should not follow the law and the rule set down and behave in a manner that would bring any credible organisation into disrepute.

I think the primary election went well, and especially from the feedback I have received.

I thank the local organising committee for the organisation that was put in place. If you are not validated by the national working committee you could not come into the accreditation centre and demand to be a delegate.

We are not in the jungle and would abide by the rules and regulations and I thank many party members that came from far and wide to abide by those rules and regulations.

We had a smooth and transparent effective primary election that was presided over by Governor Lawal and Governor Sherrif of Delta State. We had a strong panel that had a former senator and advocate of Nigeria, everything went well, I give kudos to the nation working committee.

Are you concerned the division in PDP would impact on the chances of the party at the poll?

I think the party would deal with the issue, I don’t think anybody would just wake up and want to do something contrarily against the party and want to get that validated we are not in the jungle anymore when everything was forced. There is a lot of work to be done now, I am not losing sleep. We have to unite the party and get members together and forge ahead.

Certain person went to court to stop the primary. What is your take?

There would always be contestation and dispute in any gathering of humans; it is how those disputes are managed that matters. We have a strong internal mechanism for resolving disputes in the party and as a last resort we have the court when cases become difficult; it can go from the lower court to the highest court in the land. We must abide by the rule of law. All these issues would go through the normal judiciary process after they had gone through our own internal process in the party. I became aware that a certain person filed an injunction in court to stop the process after the primary and the court did the right thing.

There were a number of judiciary decisions which validated the position of the federal high court judge, but I think it is the proper thing and that confirms my thought that we are not in the 81 century and there is a process, precedent and the judge followed that process. I am not too worried that once we abide by the rule of law things would take their natural course. There would be a dispute but it would be resolved. I am not too worried as many people may think I may be at this time.

What ideas of funding do you have for infrastructure for the by-pass and Warri Sapele Road?

For the funding I discussed with you a number of times that there are different ways of funding.

If you remember the government of Edo State just recently had a concession arrangement with a group of DFIs on how to fund Benin-Asaba Road have discussed it before, I had a pet project for example, the Benin-Achi Road for instance, we would raise funding, and we would raise infrastructure finance. The issue with raising funding is for the funder to trust the process; if they know there is a way the money would not leak and would go to the project it was met for there would not be a problem.

I am not too worried about finding appropriate cheap funding, I have been raising funds commercially and corporate in the last thirty years on project financing and transaction.

So, I’m not too worried about finding appropriate well priced, cheap funding, and attracting infrastructure to Edo State.

All kinds of funding, green funding, blended funding, creative funding, there is a lot of money out there; there is at least 17 trillion dollars, earning zero interest that we can attract if there is trust in the governance process, if there is transparency.

I don’t worry too much about what we need to do is to be focused, put together the right team and meet the people in their point of needs.

There is so much to be done, Inflation is high, the continued devaluation of the naira. I was in the market the other day and I saw that people are suffering a lot; what we need is to have the right team.

I don’t think we would not be able to deal with many of the problems; the only problem is that we have to prioritise, because again you would take time to build trust because when you build trust you get more funding.

So, you prioritise during the period you are trying to build trust, I know that by God’s grace we would do this and attract funding.

What governance model are you adopting?

Governance model would be fully inclusive, our government would be accessible and we would go down to the grassroots and meet the people to see what the problems are.

We would have three regional development agencies across the state, so that we look at the comparative advantage point through the state. We look at the soil type we have and what is best planted where and how to attract industries.

I think the key thing with Edo State is to sit back and look at what we intend to do to alleviate the suffering of the people.

There are so many things we can do, we can start with tourism; but I think when we talk to people of Edo State there are three things that bothers them that is; insecurity, inflation and unemployment.

There are issues like water lights, all those infrastructure things and roads.

So, we would look at the developmental and the things that would speed development in the state. We would work with the federal government to start local policing.

We would start a system of local policing where every local member of the community would be responsible for security in his or her area and would be able to give that information to the local police forces.

We would ensure that we have adequate security; anybody that steps into Edo State would know that the security position is strong.

And another thing is that we must have effective sanctioning, nobody would be able to get away with criminal acts within the state.

The problem we have is that there is no effective sanctioning process, people commit offences and they don’t face sanctions that is not good. We would look into our criminal law to ensure that we have sanctions that fit the crime that is committed.