Pedro Obaseki: I’m an ordinary guy with passion for change



Empowerment, development and opportunity (EDO) are the three planks on which Dr. Don Pedro Obaseki anchors his campaign for the office of governor in Edo State. The former university don, filmmaker and broadcaster says he will change the state’s political configuration and empower the people through the creation of opportunities for businesses to thrive. Anote Ajeluorou reports.
How are the campaigns seeing that you have formidable opponents in the race?
THE way I’m going about my campaign is making the other candidates to be scared to even engage properly. The first thing you notice in Edo State is the monetised political process. Take my cousin, Godwin Obaseki, who said he is endorsed by Adams Oshiomhole for instance. What I did was very simple; I went to the delegates and told them its implication. We don’t want godfathers to take over Edo State. The other candidate said he has N1.2 billion to contest the election. And I said, ‘oh, and you are a commissioner’; so I said, ‘how much does a commissioner earn?’ N500,000 plus. And as I went from ward to ward, I asked them, ‘if a commissioner earns N500,000 a month, in a year how much will that be?’ And they shouted ‘N6 million!’ And for him to have N60 million, he must have served for 10 years; and for him to have N600,000 million, he must have served for 100  years; and for him to have N1.2 billion, he must have served for 200 years. That means he must be older that Oba Ovoramwen himself!

So, I told them it’s a very simple thing. If they bring the money, na your own; take it, but do the right thing; don’t vote for the same person who will steal your money. When you stand in line or a politician gives you N1,000 and you vote for them and they don’t perform for you, even if you go naked to the Oba’s shrine to swear, it will never affect them because they had propitiated you in the past. They had washed themselves of any guilt by giving you money you don’t deserve from the money they stole. So, we are in a vicious circle; let’s make our voices emerge beyond the dark, tainted politics we have now.

And the fact that I speak all the major languages in Edo State stands me in good stead. I speak Esan very well. My mother is Igbanke. My knowledge of Benin is part of Benin studies. I grew up the grandson of the last Obaseki of Benin. My father used to be in charge of state forestry of Bendel State. Let them negotiate with me on what their role will be in my government because none of them can win.

You are so confident about yourself in this election, why is that?
I’m not just confident. None of them has run a successful gubernatorial campaign before, except maybe one. I have. I was part of former Lagos State governor Raji Fashola’s non-party campaign and I delivered twice, and I understand how the machinery of gubernatorial elections works.

Filmmaking and broadcasting are not exactly money-spinners. So, who is funding your campaign?
My bank account is open to the public.  I’m just a broadcaster; I resigned as Vice Director of DAAR Communications Plc in 2013. I used to be a filmmaker; of course, I have not made money from filmmaking. I told myself, what can be done to galvanise those who are tired of the old ways things are done in the state. I said I will be a pillar of hope. So, I left Nigeria in June last year to Dallas, U.S. as guest speaker to the Obaseki Foundation, where I made my intentions known. I also went to Denmark, then to Germany and held town hall meetings with Edo people, and I canvassed my position. I realised that through Western Union, Edo Diaspora remits close to $15m, a year, and that is a lot of money, the highest in Africa. In the U.K., I also held meetings. So, I’m asking Edo Diasporans who want change in the fortunes of their state to donate towards my campaign efforts.

So, when one thousand Edo persons decide to drop $100 – that is massive. So, $100, here, $500 there; that’s what I have been using to run my campaign. Then my old boys in my primary and secondary schools, my old students as well at the University of Benin will also help. I realise that I can galvanise enough support from these people.

Going forward, I know what to do to win the primary, which consists of about 4,000 people. I have just been leveraging on the simple fact that I’m just an ordinary guy who has some level of God-ordained anointing. I actually see myself as David, the proverbial David from the house of Jesse. I’m knocking on every door and every place. I’m talking to women, talking to men, to youths.

Delivering the dividends of democracy has been the main issue. What added values are you bringing to the table that will make Edo people vote for you and not the old brigade?
I think the major thing that has been missing is passion. Oshiomhole has a very high degree of passion. It’s just passion. I think there is a need to rethink the entire process of governance in Edo State. I don’t think government should be the primary provider of labour, of employment. But I believe government must provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive. And once that happens, it will automatically open the vista for all.

So, I decided to build my entire campaign on three letters – EDO! I’m an APC member, but I’m an Edo man. And APC might change tomorrow, but my Edoness will not go away. So, the best way is to raise hope. When there is a preponderance of hope, people who are intelligent by nature, instead of resorting to criminal tendencies, will find ways to employ that intelligence for positive growth. I’m one of the few people who are involved with the direct migration of Nigeria from analogue to digital. I will make Edo State an ICT hub to empower the people. We can create the infrastructural development and human capital to move the people forward. You cannot move the people forward if you don’t move their brain-power upward. So, I have a passion to move the people forward through developing their mental capacity.

I will just open the window of opportunities. will re-engineer the internally generated revenue (IGR) in the state. Edo is the only place in Nigeria where a major cash crop can grow without it being planted – the oil palm tree. Talk of rubber trees. Sir Victor Uwaifo had to sing about it in 1977 during Udoji bonanza, when the people abandoned rubber taping.

Meanwhile, every car you use in Nigeria uses rubber. I checked and discovered that 70 per cent of edible palm oil consumed in Nigeria is imported. Not that people are not producing it here; just that production is not meeting demand for palm oil even when we have oil palm trees here in abundance. Not because there are no arable places to farm it; it’s because there are no investment in the oil palm sector. Meanwhile, the white man came to Nigeria because of palm oil to feed his industries, not because of crude oil. Palm oil is used in virtually every facet of life. There’s a huge market for palm oil and I believe I can turn Edo State into a breadbasket for the country. What you need to succeed in agriculture is arable land and water, and Edo State has these in abundance. In equatorial Africa, it’s only in Edo State that rain can fall for seven days non-stop! You can’t see a brown tree when harmattan is raging.

Go to Ewhu in Edo North; there’s abundance of lime stone up there and close to Akoko in Ondo State, and Ososo, Okpekpe are inundated with lime stone and nobody bothers.

You’re an intellectual. Some will ask, so why go into government?
Bad men rule because the good ones don’t want to get involved. In America, before you become president you are either from Yale or Harvard universities. But in Nigeria, the first graduate to have ruled was Musa Yar’Ardua, and we have more universities than the entire Africa put together. So, I told myself I will not continue to be a willing victim to the perceived motor park democracy. Here in Edo State, it’s motor park touts that make the laws. We probably have some of the most educated people in Nigeria in Edo State. So, why should I sit back and allow those people make the laws, and when you infringe on them you go to jail.

In Nigeria, those who made third class and pass joined politics and rule the rest of us! That is the truth. So, all those who are saying change, change; what is change if there is no total overhaul of the entire value system? If we don’t change in the real sense all we are going to have is exchange. And exchange is no change. Exchange takes us back to all those old people who are taking us back today, who junket from one party to the other and who go into government and amass more wealth and more wealth.

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