PDP WON'T RECORD UPSET AT TRIBUNALS - EX-WORKS MINISTER
As the election petitions tribunals commence sitting across the country, former Minister of State for Works, Engr. Chris Osa Ogiemwonyi, has expressed optimism that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would not experience a major upset.
He said that the PDP won elections fair and square and does not have anything to fear.
The former minister spoke about the Goodluck Jonathan government, the Ministry of Works and others.
The last elections have been generally adjudged free and fair, but there are still complaints in some quarters. How do you explain the fact that there are many petitions against some PDP candidates?
We all know that the elections were free and fair. As such, this time, there are less cases at the tribunals, compared to what we saw in previous elections. This is understandable because the polls were one of the freest and fairest in the nation's political history. In fact, I have no doubt in my mind that no PDP candidate would have his election upturned because the elections were largely free and fair. Those who emerged came through fair contest. Not minding whatever the oppositions are saying, PDP won squarely in all the states it won.
But, some political parties, such as the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC and Labour Party have gone to the election petition tribunal…
These are a few instances. Some people have made up their minds that they have to win by all means. But what came out of the elections was that the best candidates won. It is a question of advising our people to learn that when they go to battle, it is either they win or lose. If you lose, be a gallant loser. This is my advice for those who are crying when there is no cause to cry. So, for our friends in CPC, I will urge them to believe that the best candidate won.
The PDP of which you are a major stakeholder in Edo State performed poorly in some states, especially in the South West. Now, what are the chances of the party reclaiming its fading glory in subsequent elections in the South West and other areas where it didn't perform well?
If you ask me as a person, I will answer it, but my answer will be different if I speak as a member of PDP. As a person, the only way to reclaim the glory of PDP in the South West is to do more of internal democracy. That is, let your candidates emerge through free and fair elections (primaries) within the party. I saw in some problem, in some cases, even in my state and local government and ward. Talking about Edo State, the massive failure we received was due to the people we featured. What we are talking now about PDP in Edo State is to do a proper restructuring, refocusing and repositioning. What we are going to do is to allow the best candidate to emerge, irrespective of any sentiment. We will always try and feature our first eleven. We saw in some states in the South West where they featured their third eleven instead of their first eleven.
There are a lot of concerns that in Edo State, PDP performed woefully in the National Assembly elections. What is responsible for the supposedly poor performance of PDP in the election?
By the poor performance you meant, we won one out of the three senatorial seats; same also for the House of Representatives. I think one or two factors contributed. The first has to do with the issue of money politics. I was not in Benin, but I read in the newspapers that the state governor donated SUVs, plus cash to some senior citizens. We in PDP do not have that type of money. We were told that he opened the state treasury to fight the elections. However, I equally believed that people voted based on those they believed in and on track records. You can't blame the people; they voted according to their conscience. The only thing I know is that Mr. President did so much for Edo State. As a result, they voted for him.
It was recently reported that you have been banished by the Benin monarch, Oba Erediauwa. What was your offence?
You used the word, banished. If I was banished, I won't be going to Benin every weekend. But to set the records straight, I have a father-son relationship with the monarch. So, it is not true; he talked to me in his usual way, like a father will address his son, urging me to put more effort to get the Benin expressway on course, in terms of maintenance. You will recall and this is where I am so pleased; that the monarch is somebody that went through public service, knowing full well that as a minister, it is the funds that are available to me that I will utilise. We are so glad that Mr. President mentioned that in his campaign address when he came to Benin. He said he took full responsibility for the level of funds that is available to the Ministry of Works. He equally promised that we could look for alternatives, private-public sector to complete the project.
Now that the elections were applauded, people feel that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did well under Prof. Attahiru Jega. Do you think INEC actually passed, given the complaints during and after the elections and the attendant violence?
As an engineer, what we do most times is to look at issues critically, in terms of looking back at the past, today and the future. The best way to judge INEC is from where we are coming from. If you look at where we are coming from, you will agree with me that things have happened. In terms of scorecard, we must give INEC 95 per cent. That is my own assessment; things we use to hear happen at polling booths, such as ballot snatching, massive thumb-printing and bloodshed were reduced. We can only count a couple of them, unlike what it used to be. I would say that from all indications, putting them to analysis, I think Jega has done very well; that is the truth.
If you were to assess the government, which you participated in, what exactly would you say are the strong points of the last administration?
It did well in water supply. Water is life. Many people would have realised that the dams, before the advent of this administration, were in a poor state. They include Guroyo dam, Owena dam and many others. But today, one year after, there has been massive rehabilitation of these dams. There was the last one, which collapsed in Sokoto State. Also, the achievement in power was great. Again, people might be comparing us to other countries, like South Africa, as regards our power output, but looking at where we are coming, there is now stability; it has to grow, in terms of megawatts.
Look at infrastructure also. I don't care what people talk about roads. Don't equally forget that our country is so massive with 34, 000 kilometres of pave roads to be managed by government. People tend to compare us with Ghana, which has fewer roads. But here we have 34, 000 kilometres, which government has to maintain. We also have to construct new ones. Where we have problems is where there is heavy rainfall, as in South West and South East. Yes, there are challenges, but we are doing them. It is not so much in the northern states, where we have stable soil.
Let's look at education. Government, within one year, approved nine new federal universities, while approval was granted to four private universities. As a country, we should expose our people. We are hearing of Boko Haram, which abhors western education. Those people need massive orientation and the only way to do that is through either adult education or open university system. Our health sector has fared better. My assessment is the stability in the sector. For one, I recall the Minister of Health stressed the need to have one VVF centre in Ebonyi State. We know its ravaging effect. This administration has taken so many key areas. Six, how about the spate of kidnapping in Abia State? Peace has long returned to the area. But a year ago, it was AK 47 to AK 47. But today, there is peace in Abia and commercial activities have picked up. We tend to forget all these achievements. These are serious issues before President Goodluck Jonathan came on board. But my happiness for this administration is that most of these things have stabilised. In the next three years, we will start seeing growth, which is good enough.
You said that government has many roads to maintain. Are you saying that government does not have funds to maintain them, as massive as they are?
Before I came on board as a minister of state, I saw things the way you are seeing it now. But I now realise the funds accruable to government and they all have to go through the key sectors. If you see it that way, the funds we have is inadequate. So, it behoves on government to do judicious and prudent spending. Now talking on the roads, if you equally realise the numerous roads we have, government alone cannot do it alone. Even in the United States, they do more of PPP - Public Private Partnership - where you call in an experience contractor with enough funds as is the case now in Lekki, Lagos. The state government cannot do it alone. They call in a company to join them. That is the thing we will see in a few years ahead. Since government resources are attached to so many sectors; we should encourage private sector partnership. The roads, airports and others are important. The private sector should be encouraged to come in where government feels there are viable projects.
One of the worst roads in Nigeria is the one that leads to the seaports in Lagos and has generated much concern. It appears government is not bothered. What's going on?
We are equally bothered. If you realise, myself and Sanusi Daggash (former minister of works) had to first appeal to our people to stop parking on the roads. They are not parking spaces. They are supposed to be roads. What we have realised there is that they do maintenance of those vehicles on the roads. That is the beginning of the problems. Once you jack up a tyre and there is a small pothole, there will be crisis. But the problem in that road is man-made. But what we resolved is that in the next dry season, we will fix that road. People should equally desist from using that road as a parking space. We are worried and that is why we are making plans to address it in the next dry season.