An average citizen in Edo State today barely exists, not living – Gideon Ikhine

Gideon Ikhine

An All Progressives Congress aspirant for the Edo State governorship election, Gideon Ikhine, has described the outgoing governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki and the People’s Democratic Party, as the destroyers of every legacy that the founding fathers of the state spent their lives to bequeath the good people of Edo State. In this interview with BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, he said the administration did not only destroy the landmarks the state is known for but achieved in the area of turning the once vibrant youth of the state into disabled youth even when they are not physically challenged in any form. Ikhine reassures that his becoming the governor of the state will return the state to her lost glory and restore the youth ability. Excerpts:

Why are you in the race for the state’s governorship position and how can you describe the place of the state in the current economic disposition of the country?

Talking about Edo State, are we where we are supposed to be? Are we challenged by the situation in the country? The answer is yes. It is good to have ambition. It is good to have a dream. It is good to have personal drive but above all, what is more important is the interest of the people.

What drives me is my vision of transforming Edo State into a destination of first choice for any person coming to Africa. Somebody might say this is quite laudable. But I want to tell you about these achievements and they’re achievable.

Edo State today is situated geographically in one of the best zones in Africa. Edo State is like a hub. You cannot go to the East, West and North without passing through Edo State. If you have such a state and you pass by and you look at the present situation you can start from the human capital.

An average citizen in Edo State today barely exists. They are not living. We must give these people hope. We must give them a life. When we christened our campaign ‘The Beacon of Hope’, there is a reason we christened it ‘The Beckon of Hope.’

We need to reestablish the beacon that made it what it was. Today, we are not where we are supposed to be. What is the value we have as a state? The value we have today as a name is the Benin Kingdom. How have we been able to take advantage of the name? To transform it into socio-economic value for the people. We have not done that. These are some of the things we want to do. Focusing on tourism and rebuilding our infrastructure.

In your desire to return the state to its heritage and make it a tourism destination in Africa you need capital both money and human resources, but the cry is that Governor Obaseki and the PDP have sunk the state into serious debt. How can your dream be realized?

Everybody seems to realise today that we are in serious debt as a state. How are you going to pay that debt? Every person is running to become governor. Do they have programmes?

Do they understand the geography of the state? Do they know how they are going to transform the state from where it used to be to where it should be today?

So, to think of becoming the governor of Edo State you must first think of how to grow the economy. If you cannot grow the economy because you cannot tell them you are going to give them free health, education and housing. Before you can give all of this you have to first and foremost create wealth and give it to them. The government has no cash to give to the people but it can provide a platform for our people to be rich. That is where I come in.

Today Edo State is in debt. How are you going to pay the debt? Where are you going to get the money from? Agriculture outside tourism is going to be one area we are going to focus on. And in focusing on agriculture, we are going to look at food crops and cash crops.

We are going to be looking at ranching, that is cattle rearing, and we are going to look at farming. These are things that can provide basic things for people. And if we are going into agriculture this will help us to develop smart cities around and in Edo State.

If you look at Edo State geographical history, the names and cities you have been hearing since 1963 are still the same cities you are hearing of. They cannot go any further rather they are deteriorating. So we are going to create smart cities because you build smart cities with agriculture.

Those of you that have been to Europe, when you go to Europe you will know what is called the city centre. You will see what I’d call an industrial area. All the city centres in Europe were developed by the Jewish people and they were created out of farms.

That is why if you look at the Israeli types of farming you will see the cubits system. We are going to do this. Why are we focusing on food? If you look at your Google you will discover today Lagos consumes N4.6b of food daily. Not monthly but daily. Ibadan almost N2b daily. Onitsha N3.6b daily. This is what people consume daily. So as a state we want to be able to provide enough food for our people. And be able to feed the neighbouring states. There is really no land in Lagos to farm.

Here our land is fertile. So why can’t we take advantage of it? Why can’t we think of going into mechanized farming and put people there? The richest people you have in Europe and America are farmers. Why do they have that interest? They have the basic needs wherever they are as farmers. I don’t know how many of you grew up to the point that when we were growing up every traditional stool in Nigeria had their police in the palace. We used to call our own “Inunakpa”.

“An average citizen in Edo State today barely exists. They are not living. We must give these people hope. We must give them a life”

Are you suggesting that if you become the governor you will reintroduce palace police and to what extent would that help to curb insecurity in the state?

The traditional rulers have the responsibility to secure their kingdoms. The problem is that those ruling in governments have stripped them of those responsibilities and I am saying if I become the governor of Edo State, I will restore those responsibilities, I will give them the power and authority to establish palace police and vigilante that will work with the security agencies to provide security for lives and properties of our people.

This is why I am not contesting for the position to rule Edo people. I am contesting to lead my people and a leader must be someone who is ready to make sacrifices and that is who I am. So, I will not be in contention with the traditional rulers. Our functions are already defined. There will be mutual respect for the seats.

You said you will respect party supremacy yet you are still in the race after your name didn’t appear from the screening? Don’t you think this will be seen as disobeying your party?

Party leadership will be respected anytime any day. You will recall that after the screening, the National Publicity Secretary of our party came out to say everybody can go and collect his form so long as you know you are fit and capable.

I have looked at every person in quotes that you said have been screened. I want you to recall that in a football team, you have goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and a striker. Everybody is important to play as a team to score. But in that football team you have only one striker. I am that striker standing before you today. I am prepared for this with the programme that I have.

What I am telling you today is work done. I can tell you that in the last 10 years I haven’t done more than four hours at night. A reader today is a leader tomorrow. How many of them can boast of such a programme? And demonstrate practically how they will implement it? I have picked the form. I am on the reserved bench waiting for the leadership of the party to see if they will trust me with this last minute of play to take the mantle of the party and win for them.

How do you intend to run an effective campaign with just one man standing by you?

Politics is being organic. The more noise you make the more nuisances you become. Why do I have to import people from Edo State to come and submit forms? I don’t engage myself in prodigy nature. I earn my money. I have never worked for the government. I have worked in the private sector to be where I am today. What is needed is what is done. You don’t expect me to come here and hire a crowd to impress you? You heard just now, the youth put themselves together to buy this form. It is not because I cannot afford it but they trust me with their hard work. If I start to demonstrate my leadership by being very prodigy I don’t think I would have been where I am today.

Why do you consider yourself in the reserve bench when you could have been in the first eleven?

Well, nobody is on the pitch right now. If you listen to what I said, I said the national working committee has come out to say everybody can go and buy form. The national body is supreme to the state. And the state working committee has also said that everybody can go and pick a form.

So, if you say we have four anointed we are now coming in on the national scale and to the entire state. The voting population of Edo State is about 95%, while the political class is just less than 5%. So we must be sensitive to the leaning of the people, because at the end of the day they are the ones that are going to vote. So, we must listen to their yearnings.

What was the frosty relationship with Adams Oshiomhole?

God forbid bad things happen. Don’t you know that any child that abuses his father will not go too far in life? He is our father in the state. I can never have any frosty relationship with him.

What of the report of an anointed candidate by Oshiomhole?

There is what we call a will. Even God will not tamper with your will. I am not sure you are quoting him correctly. He has never on any occasion come out to say I have an anointed candidate. Please don’t misrepresent my leader.

Who amongst these other aspirants do you think can effectively govern the state?

Like I said, all the aspirants that we have, all have the capacity to lead Edo State. I am sure you heard before they were about 29 but now that the sieve has started working, we have 12 aspirants now. What happens to the other people? It is not a question of money. Money cannot lead people.

The strongest capital requirement you need for setting up any business or driving anything in life is your vision. A man that doesn’t have vision cannot lead people. So they all have vision and at the appropriate time we will sit together and align our visions to ensure that we liberate our people from hardship.