Governor Adams Oshiomhole in this interview with Simon Ebegbulem of Vanguard, reviewed his seven and half years in office, and declared that he has nothing more to prove after defeating the Edo political godfathers, revamping the economy of the state and laying solid foundations for future development of the state.
HOW has it in the last seven and half years?
Quite exciting. Very exciting, no dull moments. I am reasonably happy. Have you achieved most of the dreams you had before getting into office? I think dreams are not frozen. There are couple of things I was clear about, first was to reorder the politics of the state. For me that was the starting point because this state play host to some of the deadliest vicious godfathers in Nigeria political history. Where electoral fraud is celebrated and where the people are dismissed as none relevant for the purpose of electioneering and where pay chieftains advertised that they are no vacancies even at the eve of the elections. They pronounce with arrogance and managerial finality certain decisions and so be it and he people gave up. If you look at my bill boards in 2007, one of the issues I had to address flowing from conversation with various groups was that we should fight against election rigging and instil one man one vote. Today on that political front, I believe its mission accomplished and as I have said elsewhere, I have nothing more to prove.
Political life support
Coming from outside, without money armed with only my reputation, we are able to remove PDP from the local Governments, from the wards from the state and now up to the Federal level. And those who have dominated this state they are all practically retired and those of them who were still living on Abuja oxygen has been banished to their village because that political life support was switched off on May 29, so they are effectively and practically dead politically in every sense of the word.
And to crown it all, those who were hurting me over the period they are now the hunted. So on the political side I think it is 99 per cent complete. There is really nothing more to prove. I have proven that these people are not invisible. I have said so at the beginning, seven and half years later, they are out. Down and out. And in compete disarray. It cannot be better than this.
On the governance side, I believe we have impacted very positively on the people of the state. There is no senatorial district that we cannot readily point out major infrastructure in terms of roads, schools, hospitals etc, we have the best rural roads anywhere in the country. Our rural roads are on the same standard in some cases much much better than any federal road. Same 7.3 meters wide, standard designs, drainage where necessary, laterite base, stone based before the asphalt. And none of the roads we have built has failed, whereas in some states if you build a road one season later the road has failed because it is just about asphalt and no solid foundation. On the educational side I think we have made tremendous progress. In my campaign I saw that we have in this state many schools where primary school pupils were sitting on class rooms with potholes and class rooms without roofs, no windows, mud buildings completely dilapidated like pig houses or chicken. That was the kind of situation we found all over the state. and I found that even at that I saw couple of schools where teachers where brining plastic chairs from home to school to have somewhere to sit, even as we have class rooms without windows, no doors, they were even not enough.
I remembered at Ugbowo there was a school I saw, to the left primary one, to the right primary two, one hopeless dilapidated building. We have dealt with that. Now if you review Vanguard coverage of education in Edo state you wil find that Edo was always in the bad headlines in terms of the number of examinations that are cancelled in Edo state,cancelled WAEC result, NECO results because of the activities of miracle centers.
Our people had to resort to miracle centers because there was no way children in public schools can pass any exams because they were not being thought. And so for parents who desire their kids to go to university or polytechnic, they needed miracles to pass and so we had miracle centers all over the state. And the result was that every year you hear WAECH, NECO cancelling tens of thousands of results from Edo state. Again those are history now. We now have what our people refer to as red roof revolution, very decent class rooms, we have synthetic ceilings, aluminum windows, glasses, beautify ties, principle and teachers offices etc. we have done a lot of such schools across the 18 Local Government Areas in the state, we have not finish but the ones we have done, we have seen monumental changes. The last time we had a review we have such modern class rooms between 40,000-50,000 primary school pupils. And about 30,000 secondary school pupils. Looking at a ratio of 40-50 pupils per classroom.
We have seen the impact, we also lifted the ban on employment. The previous PDP government banned employment into the public service, both in the education, health, every aspect of the civil service. We lifted the ban and we employed about 1,000 teachers in 2011, and since then we have been recruiting teachers.
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And even today we just approved the recruitment of 260 additional teachers to be deployed to our primary schools and another five hundred to be deployed to our secondary schools. But the result of these interventions has meant that enrolment in public schools has increased by more than hundred per cent because typically now the Edo child tells the parents, I want to go to Osho Baba red roof school because it is more beautiful than any private mushroom school.
Since I came here, our teachers have not had cause to go on strike. We pay them salaries as at when due. A moment ago, some workers in the health sector came to congratulate me for what they described as ‘Comrade Alert’, that when other workers in other states are grumbling they have not been paid for six months, they get their pay before 26th of every month. We have sustained that up till this point.
And in the health sector we have employed more doctors, we built a hospital that I believe I more beautiful than any public hospital in Nigeria. Right now we have placed orders for state of the art equipment. Like I told the CMD of University of Benin Teaching Hospital, I told him that when our own equipment arrives, they will find that what they have there is like Mongo Park equipment to compare to our own digital equipment. I am very proud of it because we insist that our people deserves the best and the latest technology. We have equipment to do proper diagnosis so that proper medication can be given to our people.
Installation of the equipment
When I told the people that rather than build ultra-modern state of the art government House, governor’s office, presidential lodge, I will rather build state of the art hospital to provide for our people’s health needs. I am very proud of it, it has been completed now, we are furnishing now, and it is 75 per cent ready.
So I don’t have any fear that oil or no oil, over the next few months they would have finished installing the equipment and the hospital will be open to the public. In Benin City here, our urban renewal program is there for everyone to see, look at the Airport Road, people cannot remember how that road looked like. When we were going to build it people said no, it is not possible.
Our opponents trivialized it that we want to pull the Oba’s palace. But we are fortunate we have an Oba that is more exposed than any of us and he said the palace cannot be obstacle to progress, so let no body pretend to love the palace more than the Oba himself. And he asked us to proceed to do it even if his palace has to be moved, he is willing to do so in the interest of development. And he said with regrets that when he became Oba some years ago, the city was more beautiful than how it was when I assumed office in 2007. And under his signature he had cause to write to the PDP dominated House of Assembly in 2009, regretting that the PDP refused to approve the budget which was meant to kick star the urban renewal of Benin City and other parts of the state. He asked them to respect Benin if not as the Headquarter of BENIN Kingdom, but as the capital of Edo state.
We have aggressively worked on the moat, removed some illegal structures that blocked the moats. We have done about 90 per cent of the Benin City water storm masterplan under which we are having a huge comprehensive drainage system that span about 14 kilometers. Just three days ago I conducted the leaders of Benin Forum who are appointed by the Oba round to see various sites where we are working.
So I think there is no question that we have not fixed all the problems but obviously we have re-ordered the politics, we truly have returned power to the people and thirdly, we have shown that Edo is viable, it is not as the PDP used to tell us that it is a poor civil service state where nothing is possible to one in which everywhere we can point out what we are doing. We have built a new university, we have made major investment in the old University.
Just a moment ago I had a conversation with a committee of Professors of education on the kick starting of the Tayo Akpata University. It used to be the College of Education Ekiadolor but we behave up graded it. We want to put additional facilities to make it a full-fledged university.
So I think in every aspect of life, health, infrastructure, urban renewal, I believe effortlessly we can show what we have done and even what we are doing. The whole essence of our intervention in education is the human capital development, it is the most important infrastructure.
The other day I was looking at UNESCO report, where they were trying to make evaluate in terms of what various states and Federal government are devoting to education in relation to UNESCO recommended bench mark of 24 power cent. And I was shocked that UNESCO is not dip in understanding what represents investment in education. First is that they just look at budgetary allocation which can be very misleading.
In Nigeria, in many states budgets hardly perform, if I allocate 30 per cent and I release 3 per cent, how could you evaluate government performance by just looking at allocation, for me that was cheap and very misleading. But when you look at the real numbers of actual releases, you have to see beyond your capital expenditure and look at what we are spending in the payment of teachers’ salaries, all those are in the educational sector, it is not what you use to build schools alone, you have to factor in what it takes to impact knowledge is the presence of a clean and enabling class room, environment and a well-trained, motivated and well remunerated teaching staff.
And when you add those numbers together, you have done well and you can easily show what has changed. In 2009, Edo came around 30-32nd in WAEC result. Two years ago we came third, last year in NEC we came 2nd, up from 32 position to that number. Those are objective criteria for measuring what has changed and what is changing. And I believe that by the time we are done, we should be approaching the first position. What has happened in Nigeria which is still happening in many states, government just quietly privatize education, including primary education even as we have so much rhetoric about free basic education.
In truth it is like giving you watery soup free which no decent person will want to eat because it does not have the minimum nutritional ingredients but it is free. In Edo what we have done is to give you free education with all the ingredients that you will expect. Not only have we built modern schools, our teachers even now, no teacher in Edo sate will tell you that his salary is owned for two months, no. teachers in primary and secondary schools are our first line charge because education is basic. I have argued that even if we shut down the bureaucracy, we must never shut down the educational sector. The day nations start stop learning that is the beginning of the end. But in addition to that, we have extended free education for example to senior secondary schools, so that for the first twelve years, the Edo child pays nothing if you attend government schools.
Introduction offree bus ride
Six years of primary education free, then under the UBE, first three years in junior secondary school free. We have also extended it to senior secondary school free. And for effect, we also introduced a free bus ride to any child that is in uniform going to school or coming from school, it does not matter whether that school is public or private.
Again, that means that parents don’t have excuse to send their children to school. And in the South South, Edo state has the lowest out of school children population which is about 6-7 per cent. Whereas our richer neighbors pose between twelve and 20 per cent. So we are the best in terms of out of school. The logic of universal Basic Education is compulsory basic education that every child must be in school.
But we understand that the best incentive to make any child go to school is to make those schools appealing. Like I told the Exco when we were designing this current red roof, I said the idea is to have a primary school class room that is more appealing to the child than the house of his parents. So he will look forward to leaving the house that is not so comfortable to that class room that is comfortable.
Now we are buying colored furniture so that when the child goes to school he is excited by what they see. Prior to 2008, around 10am you see school children wandering the streets, you wonder whether they were ever in the class rooms, but you don’t find that now. As you talk to teachers, they will tell you that the children leaves the classes because it is hot, it is dirty. The kids prefer now to stay inside class rooms, they don’t rush to close. The request now is that Oga we want red roof too. No future government in this state can reduce those standards, our people will not accept it.
But I am the first to admit that what we need to do, is much much more than, one thousand per cent more than what we have done. Which is why we say here that Edo is work in progress. We talk about taking Edo to the next level, we must continue to plan to get to where we ought to be and where I will we will be in the future.
But you are being accused of leaving huge debt profile and again do you have any regrets in some of the actions you may have taken?
This is an area I quarrel with the media because public finances is not like a secret cult activity where you had to be a member of the cult to know the dirty things they do behind the scene. Public finances is public and because it is public, it is not in the mouth of a mischievous politics opponent or a dead brain as we have in PDP which has no understanding of the rudiment of public financing to throw numbers that are so bizarre and then a respectable paper like Vanguard parrots them, no.
Understanding simple governance
Sometimes I am surprised with PDP because when you put a guy who made a pass in History as your best, as chairman of a paper, what do you expect, he is not able to understand simple governance and he reduces governance to his own level and then proceeds on those bogus figures that can only make sense in the world of fools. Sometimes I don’t like joining issues with PDP because I don’t want to be seen as a mad man like them.
These PDP people are practically brain dead, so when they say all these lies ask them what do we owe and place a call to DMO, they will give you the figures. So it is not something about speculation. Government finance is not secret. Let me start by saying that in the South South, Edo state is the least borrowed. All the other states are PDP, check out from DMO we are the least borrowed. We also earn less than any of these states in terms of revenue accruing. So the only loan that I have contracted since I came here was the only bond we have taken was the N25billion bond.
And one project that we are doing in Benin here is N30billion, the Benin City water storm master plan which has enabled us to construct a six lane from Oba market to Siluko road, all the way to Upper Siluko to Ovia North East LGA. One project N30billion but the bond was N25billion, but of that N25billion by November we would have liquidated it because we are paying N530million every month. So I am not passing on the bond to my successor, we will liquidate it by the end of my tenure, it was programmed that way.
So I am not passing on the bond to my successor, we will liquidate it by the end of my tenure, it was programmed that way. So I am not handing over a huge debt profile.