Hon Matthew Iduoriyekemwen is a leading aspirant seeking the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic
Party ahead of the September 20, 2016 polls. He served as two time lawmaker representing Ikpoba-Okha constituency at the Edo State House of Assembly and also a commissioner in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).in this interview with some journalists in Benin, he speaks on his aspiration, the PDP national chairman, and other sundry issues. Monday EBALU was there for nationalTRAIL. Excerpts…
How is the Campaign going so far?
So far, the campaign is gathering omentum, right now I just joined the state executive to tour the 18 local government areas, and I am sure that the field is okay, we have come across a lot of people, people are coming because everybody is committed towards taking Edo state to the next level, and that is the level of greatness which we think Edo State rightly deserve to be in the face of greatness in all the administrations. If you look at my campaign, we say greater is still possible, but we will change that after the primaries hoping that we emerge for a greater Edo. We have declared a clear programme for the development of Edo state, the current APC government has done their bit and Edo State people have seen the best of the APC government, but I want to take governance to another level that will directly affect our people, that will make the people appreciate the essence of creating development and an elected government, a government where we hope to redirect the economic structure of the state, where we hope to make a solid economic foundation for the overall development and economic growth of the state, where the people will see the direct effect of governance affecting them individually, a government that will be participatory where everybody in Edo State will have a sense of belonging and see themselves as part of that government, a government that will go above parochial, partisan interest and see Edo and the interest of its people as first , second and third option.
Feelers within your party is that some people are working to make sure one of the aspirants, Osaro Onaiwu, emerge as candidate, what do you make of this?
Well, I don’t listen to rumour and work with speculations, but I will tell you for sure that the valid candidate for the PDP is going to be determined and decided by the PDP members in Edo State. The support from the PDP governors across the country for the party to win in the state is not targeted at an individual. Everybody have to sell his or herself to the people, if they are to pride themselves about being in PDP, I think I should pride myself most among all the contestants. I have been in this party since inception, I have legislature, I experienced, I have also served in NDDC, I have shown to people my account of stewardship, I have all the experiences it takes over and above anybody when it comes to putting personal CV on the ground, but then personal politics is not like that. We all agreed as aspirants that everyone of us competing, should sell himself to the party members and whoever emerges, every member of the party irrespective of your own personal aspiration should join hands to ensure that PDP is delivered in the election of Edo State. If anybody comes out to say there is an anointed candidate in the PDP by anybody, there is no truth and there can be no truth in it.
Do you think that the PDP has what it takes to win Edo State?
I have gone round most states in this country, and I have seen states that Edo is better positioned, where the government has done extremely well. I always tell people, I don’t believe in criticising a particular government, but I always tell you that with the funds that came to Edo State, I would have expected to see more on ground. Yes the APC have done their very best, and we have seen the best that can come out of them, now it is an opportunity to give room to somebody else even in the face of challenges to express himself and try to see what that person can achieve. There are many PDP states that you will go to and you will wonder if it is Nigeria, because of the performances of the governors. In all of those states, both the allocation and the revenue profile are far below Edo State.
What is your reaction to Ali Modu Sheriff’s emergence as PDP National Chairman?
You should realise that yes, PDP is in opposition, but PDP still remains the biggest party in Nigeria, PDP still remains the party that has structures across all the local governments in Nigeria, PDP remains the party that has the proper ideal of a political party, and because of those ideals, no matter the vastness of the country and the differences in individual thrust, the party will remain the primary interest of loyal party members. But because of the way the party is too, you should expect divergent views when the issue of congresses comes, you must realise that there is one thing that is a denominator among all politicians, and that is interest. So it is virtual that some persons will prefer a particular candidate to be chairman of the party whether at the level of the national, state, local government, or ward, but what is important is once you become the chairman of the party, it is the interest of the management team of the party led by the chairman of the party and the national executive that the interest of the PDP must remain paramount and must comes first. And what is that interest; to provide a government for Nigerians where Nigeria will have an even spread development, where every Nigerian will feel that spirit of self belonging in the country, where you will see yourself as part of the country no matter which part of Nigeria you come from, and I still believe that PDP is the only political party in this country with real party ideal.
What’s your reaction to Femi Fani-kayode’s remarks on Ali Modu Sheriff, when he emerged as chairman of your party?
FFK is someone I have great respect for, as a party man he has stood out at different times to speak in defence of the party when others are afraid to speak out, but I also think that as an elder statesman in the party, he should also know that in democratic practices, it is not every time that your own wish, or will can come first . As a true party person, if he supported somebody else and it is unfortunate that the person you supported didn’t win, if the party’s interest is far ahead of yours, you should queue behind others at once so that the party can move forward. The issue of apologising to Buhari doesn’t arise, because Buhari is president of Nigeria, he has never been a member of the PDP so what are you going to apologise to him for? That someone who is a member of the party who was presented from his geopolitical zone had majority acceptance than those who decided they want to be national chairman. I think that the statement is unwarranted, and if he actually said so I think it is a most unfortunate statement to make in these turbulent times that the party has found itself.
What’s your take on the anti corruption war by the President?
As far as I am concerned I am not against Mr. President fighting corruption, but I am taken aback. I would have expected that all the time you need to develop this country, you use it to talk about fighting corruption.
If he is fighting corruption, it should be done holistically, not selectively, that is why some persons say he is not fighting corruption, but a persecution of the opposition, because there are cases of persons that have been brought to the fore as governors and other APC people up till now, EFCC has not even thought of looking at them. There has been cases of people who have mismanaged funds. I pray that the EFCC do not reduce itself to becoming an instrument by presidency to hunt the opposition, because that will be taking up to dictatorship not democracy. If we allow him to continue like this, it’s like we are taking three steps forward and about a hundred steps backward. The fight against corruption is commendable, but it should not take all the efforts of government. Let all governors since 1999 till date come out to explain every single element of what they did with their security votes. So there is nothing affecting PDP as a party, when they are doing what they are doing, let them also show to the world monies that are coming into this country how they are being spent.
How about the budget, what have you to say about it, considering that it is delaying?
For the first time we are having issues with budget in the National Assembly that is APC controlled, they could still criticise the budget that was presented. We must know that Nigeria has to compete with countries that have respected us and see us as giant of Africa; we must know that there are things we must keep as Nigeria’s problems. Right now the quality of life is though today and all you hear is that is due to the effect of the PDP led administration. If you knew there was a problem and you came with a mind to solve it, so why almost one year into government you are still discussing the problem not the ways you want to solve it.
Today dollar is selling for more N200, and we are been told we have not seen the last of it, nobody is addressing it; we are seeing foreign government policies that we know are not working. So life is getting harder for the common man and you continue to lay blame on the previous administration when you are now in charge.
What will be your area of focus if elected Governor of Edo State?
In Edo State right now, we don’t have an economic base, one of the areas of thrust for me is to lay an economic foundation for the state, and when that becomes the focus of government , those things that are basic to living are taken care of. Guaranteed food, clothing, shelter, then you now think of security. If you take care of those things and there is security in place, you are going to attract entrepreneurs and investors to come here to do business. As we speak, in Edo today, because of taxation, many people are closing down businesses in the state. Some persons are beginning to move to Asaba, especially those electronic dealers in Mission road in Benin, so as a government, those are the areas we will look at. To me the performance of any government is not speaking English and making verbose economic theories, it is the happiness and satisfaction that are derived by the citizens of that place.
But the governor is said to be supporting an aspirant because of the economic policy put on ground?
Well, I am not in APC, but I will say if that is the idea, you are in Edo State, you are in Benin City, and you live in this town, if they ask you as a journalist to talk to people about the economic status of the state, what would you say? Do you see any economic activities by government in this state, do you see policy of government to strengthen the economic activities, instead, economic activities here are been tightened, squeezed, and strangulated. If they say we have a strong economic team, what has the economic team offered to us, what have they on the table to show us. The index of a good government is the satisfaction and the happiness of the people. I don’t like to use the word failed, but I have not seen anything that the economic team has done.
What will be your major source of funding government, if you become governor?
Now I have always been one of those that say that until we go beyond the point of government, or state government, relying on allocation from the federation account, and that only then we are not ready to move forward. I think Nigeria is about the only country where every month, money is collected from government coffers. Every government should be able to look inward, and as I said we can only achieve this, if we set up an economic agenda to lay up an economic foundation to encourage entrepreneurs to come here and do business. There is nowhere in the world where government account for more than 15 to 20 percent of employment in those days. What does government do, government create the enabling environment for different people, for entrepreneurial development and growth. For example; look at that place they call industrial layout on Sapele road, is there anything happening there?, they have no infrastructures and no incentives to attract investors to come in there, so it is just there.
Those are the area people overlook that I am going to take a serious look at. Once that is done, those industries will engage persons from Edo State to work and solve the issue of unemployment. When the persons starts making money, they will start paying taxes to government after sometimes. It is those taxes that government need to maintain infrastructures, and when some of these things are there and the government is doing well, through their own corporate social responsibility; they will also chose some areas where they can partner with government to bring development. So whether naira falls or not, economic activities will still go on, and it is how you encourage and strengthen economic activities that will give you the economic push that you need in your state.
Do you think NDDC is doing well?
I don’t know the situation and circumstances under which they operate, but I will like to make this clear that NDDC is underfunded. Yes there could be some high expectations from people that they are unable to meet, I have been close to the commission long enough to know that when people say NDDC’s budget for the year 2016 is N300 billion, we have the misconception that the budget estimate is the amount of money available. The budget estimate is the propose spending, but I tell you most of the time the monies that goes to the commission some times when it comes to performance by way of money released to the commission, it is not up to 30 percent. The only thing I think NDDC should do right now is that they should stop awarding new jobs, concentrate on all ongoing and existing jobs, put funds into it, let the people finish those jobs instead of awarding new jobs and you have no fund to fund them. If you go to NDDC today, I heard the debt profile is almost up to N1 trillion based on certificates of performance that people have already presented and submitted, and you don’t pay you want those people to go back to site and continue the next milestone.
Your advice for the people of Edo?
My advice is for people Edo to pray for a candidate who has love of for them, a candidate whose business is Edo first and not business as usual, a candidate who is really zealous and hungry to see the proper and genuine commitment to the development of our state. And that our people should go beyond partisan affiliation to see the real person who can bring the desired positive change to the state, that is what should inform the decision of the people to vote and I think looking at the array of persons in both parties, PDP appear to me the only party that has serious candidates.