By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin-City
Chief Lucky Igbinedion is one of the pillars of the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in Edo State, and was a two-term governor of the state. In this interview with some select journalists, he sheds light on a number of issues from the postponement of the Edo State governorship election to the performance of his administration as governor.
How would you react to the postponement of the governorship election in the state?
I take INEC by its word. INEC has promised a free, fair and credible election and I don’t’ have any reason to doubt the Commission.
How prepared is your Party? There have been comments that you have not been campaigning with the party’s candidate?
I wonder why people would be reading meanings to my silence. I think I am a very dignified person in the sense that I have served the state as a local government chairman and as a two-term governor and our own candidate is matured enough. He does not need to be baby seated. He doesn’t need a feeding bottle. As far as I am concerned, our party is well grounded and our party chairman is very versatile and very capable. He has been doing very well. He has my full backing. He has my endorsement and support.
Are you still in PDP?
I have never left the PDP. That is one thing for sure. I have remained a staunch member of the PDP since inception. We were the founding members and I have never denied being a PDP member. It is true that I have not been active the way people expect me to be because I believe that after serving the state, it is better to take the back seat and I am not a political jobber. I have other things to do. I have my business to run. I have my family life to live as well. I believe that once you have served the public, there will come a time when you will have to take the back seat and allow new hands to come on board. The PDP candidate is matured. He is well grounded and he knows the state very well and has gone through the mill all through the local government to the state level. I am playing my role as a PDP chieftain. And you know that experience counts. From time to time I volunteer my wealth of experience. I speak with the party chairman and other party members. It is not about making noise.
Sir, ever since you made the comment that the next governor of the state will come from your political family, the state governor has seen this comment as an opportunity to renew his attack on your person and even your administration?
I don’t have the same background with the incumbent governor. We come from different backgrounds. I have never criticized this government and that is not my style. It is now time for the people of Edo State to really look inwards and search their souls and ask, under which administration have they lived a more comfortable, prosperous and secured life, a more people oriented life. I leave the people to make that judgement. But him, he believes in listening to himself. I believe in watching and listening to other people rather than making unnecessary and vile, rude statements about other people. Without mincing words, the condemnation of the Igbinedion administration seems to be the greatest focus of the present government. Of course, what comes out of the mouth, it is like an egg, once it is broken, you cannot put it together again.
Can you tell us some of your achievements as governor?
Oh, several, several and that is why when I listen to some people ask what did the PDP achieve in the past 10 years, I just laugh because it is either the people that are talking conveniently forget the facts of where we were before 1999 when we took over or they are just deliberately propagating falsehood. This was a state that was purely known as a civil service state. This is a state that we brought about industrialization, this is a state we revived the educational sector, this is a state we turned into a centre of sporting activities, this is a state where we inherited a wicked self-sustenance policy handed down to agencies and parastatals and we moved away from it. this is a state that workers and pensioners were being paid as at when due, this is a state I left in 2007 without owing a single debt whether local or foreign. This was a state that people were happy to wake up and go to work. When I came, there were no banks here except Union bank and First bank but with the enabling environment that I created, the security level that I created, various companies started coming in but because of the wickedness of some people the propaganda they decided to employ, they say no, PDP has not done anything and I challenge them that the PDP government did far better than many administrations before us and better than this administration by far. PDP did fantastically well.
Your administration was accused of laying off workers prematurely?
In any work environment, when you get to the retirement age you retire. When we came on board we discovered that our wage bill was over bloated and for one reason or the other we had to do some restructuring but we also employed many teachers. Like any organisation, companies retire and employ. The federal government retires and employs, so it is a continuous exercise but we were not owing anybody.
Sir, how do you feel knowing that the PDP candidate Pastor Ize-Iyamu left your party for the then ACN, later APC and back to PDP?
Like I said, he is above fifty and everybody has the right to associate with any political party and you know that our politics is very fluid. Our politics is not really based on ideologies as of today. People dump one party for the other for different reasons but for whatever decision someone takes there must be a reason.
Are you in support of his candidacy?
Hundred percent, I am hundred percent in support of Pastor Ize-Iyamu who is the candidate of my Party, the PDP.
Sir the issue of plea bargain you opted for how do you react to this?
It depends on what you mean by opting for plea bargain. You don’t know who initiated the plea bargain, whether it was me or the EFCC. I just felt I should move on with my life first and foremost. What happened had happened but I can tell you that I never stole Edo State money, I never mismanaged Edo State money. I was never charged for money laundering locally or internationally. As far I am concerned those talking are just talking out of ignorance or malice.
Did we have the money to be stolen? We were receiving one of the lowest allocations in the federation. I can say categorically that my administration was one of the best and I impacted positively on the lives of our people.
I have no regrets whatsoever. I did my best and my best benefited the people of the state.
Did you achieve all you set out to achieve as governor?
It is not possible to complete all you wanted to do, otherwise, America would have stopped working, and Britain would have stopped working. That is what I mean by a continuum. When people believe they can just come and stop what you have been doing. If I say I did all I wanted to do, I would be lying to you. If any government says it has done everything it is lying. No government can do everything. You do your best with the resources at your disposal and I think we did our best with the resources available to us then. The priorities at that time were different from the priorities of today. If I had not paid those pensioners, setting up the foundation for industrialization, created environment for security and peace, education, sports all that, they will not be talking about what they are talking today, the cosmetic projects that they are doing. The Ambrose Alli University was formerly known as Edo State University. I was the one that converted it from Edo State University to Ambrose Ali University. I renovated and renamed the Ogbe Stadium to Dr. S. O Ogbemudia Stadium. I did that because I believed in continuity. There is no area my administration did not touch. When you invest in the people they will not be a burden. My administration did perfectly well in human capital development and the evidence is there for all to see.