Olorogun David Edevbie, who was recently declared by the court as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State, speaks on the ongoing intrigues in the party, his plans for a safer and better Delta as well as other issues in this interview with Cross Udo
What is your reaction to the controversy surrounding the PDP governorship ticket in Delta State and the recent High Court judgement?
I am confident that whatever differences we have within the PDP in Delta State at the moment will be resolved amicably in due course. At the moment, all parties are exercising their fundamental legal rights as they deem fit. That said, I would rather discuss my vision and the services I hope to render to the people of Delta State than dwell on what I believe to be a needless controversy because before the primary I was the leading candidate of our party. I was widely acknowledged as the most qualified aspirant, and if our party members were left to decide freely and to put the party’s interest above all others, I was the most acceptable. I would, therefore, instead rely on that dimension to prove how I merit the party’s support as the gubernatorial candidate than just the litigations brought upon us.
Many will question how such a promise of prosperity is different because most politicians make such promises, particularly during general elections
Let me begin by highlighting the deliverables, and then I will explain why my promises are different. Rather than just promises, I have sets of “policy to public benefit” strategies. Anyone can make political promises, but very few people have the competency to prepare legislative frameworks, stakeholders’ mapping, and the consecutive execution of processes that translate political vision through executive policies and implementation to achieve better public services and benefits. Hence, I have set out policy frameworks that will do the following: Deliver a dramatic change in the fidelity of energy supply to meet private, and public electricity needs essential for creating and sustaining jobs and economic activities. It is a plan that is hinged on creating renewable power supply hubs in all three Senatorial zones to target vital sectors and provide them cheaper, steady electricity and makes them very business-friendly hubs; and a promise to leverage our existing equities in distribution companies to facilitate the delivery of a 500MW power plant within 36 months, as well as encourage speedy development of Independent Power Plants through deliberate public-private partnership initiatives. This is an absolute priority and a critical pathway to our progress because a steady and predictable electricity supply is at the core of modern development.
There are many power projects around the country, yet the energy that is critically needed is often never available to users, how will these be different?
This is where understanding the policy ambiance is critical. In our case, we will be starting by augmenting the areas of policy weaknesses in the 2017 Power Sector Recovery programme required to prioritise investments, restructure the sector and re-evaluate problems around energy payments and tariffs. In addition, we will have a target-setting approach where we determine, for instance, how much energy is required to keep all businesses in our principal economic activity areas like Asaba, Warri, Ughelli, Sapele, Bomadi, Escravos, Agbor, Kwale, Oleh, Oghara, Koko, Ozoro and others well served with steady supplies, especially at the most economically demanding hours of the day, such explicit quantification and delivery of qualitative services in that sector is now even more possible with the recent enabling law on electricity generation, transmission and distribution at the state level by the National Assembly. We will determine what energy mixes can meet these demands and how and who can deliver them, first for 12 hours daily and then incrementally until we have a steady 24 hourly supply within 36months. Our vision is such that when an investor thinks about Nigeria, Delta State should be the number one go-to place, and this is also why we have to work on other critical issues like security, enhanced MSMEs and youth empowerment, agro-industrialization and revitalisation of social infrastructure using modernised and effective ICT, Transportation, Education, Health, Housing, and urban infrastructure.
Security is a major concern for Nigerians and not surprisingly for Deltans as well, what will you do differently?
Indeed, although the state government has made very effective efforts to ensure security, such that Delta State is considered a haven for many Nigerians that have been displaced from other States where the security situation has deteriorated beyond control, we still have profound security problems, and we have to take more measures to address them so that we are more resilient to the threats we face increasingly as a result of poor federal social and security policies. We are conscious that we can’t deal sustainably with security issues without attending to their socio-economic root causes, including managing our multi-cultural diversity, providing sustainable economic activities, widening our credit and social support systems, and generating opportunities that improve the wellbeing of citizens. If these are properly managed, building a bottom-up security system architecture supported with technology to enable it, including using drones and other ICT support, will result in better security outcomes. In this regard, the emphasis would be on using a community-based system where everyone is involved, with a core built around traditional rulers and our community vigilante structures working with the Police and other security agencies seamlessly, in addition to enhanced State mechanisms such as the Delta Hawk outfit and the Waterways Security Committee among others.
When you talk about modernising and providing prosperity to Deltans, how will someone who visits Delta State recognise such changes a year after you are elected?
Visual changes are significant because many visitors to Delta State may not stop but pass through our cities on their way to Port-Harcourt and beyond or from Edo State to the South East or from the South East to Abuja and beyond. For those visitors, I can assure you of significant changes in our urban infrastructure as our Public services will set out structures where you do not have to drive through kilometres of an unpleasant landscape without health, safety, and welfare provisions for human convenience. What is already available, which is better than you will find in many states, will be enhanced as our urban planners, architects, landscapers, botanists, and artists will be provided opportunities within a public-private partnership framework to transform our infrastructure for a healthier, pleasing experience. But more significantly, for those who will stay, visit or live in Delta State to generate social or economic activities therein, they should expect the following modernising changes for prosperity; an insistence on higher standards in infrastructure delivery in health, housing, and transport with increased connectivity of our available multi-modal transport system, that is, connecting the airports in Asaba and Warri with rail, waterways and the Ports and jetties. Public and private users can execute seamless and efficient transitions to get the most value in logistics to enable their activities. When I refer to higher standards, I mean that what often differentiates the quality of infrastructure you see in our environment and other developed parts of the world is the quality of choices the leaders insist upon when what they planned for is delivered. We will set up a quality ombudsman unit to raise the bar on the quality of infrastructure delivered and public services rendered.
Housing is particularly important because many parts of Delta are developing, and some citizens of the state express disappointment at what they see when they arrive at places like Warri, and it doesn’t meet the description of an oil city, what will be different?
Indeed, in that regard, part of the problem has been the over-centralisation of the federal structure in Nigeria, where you have too many federal activities with little room for state beneficiation of our natural resources. While not excusing how much more we need to do on our part at the state level, I am taking a detour on this question to the federal-state asymmetries in governance because of your reference to Warri as an oil city. When federalism was partially effective, Federal resources were used to beneficiate resources in our region such that we had the Delta Steel Company, Ovwian-Aladja, Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals, and the Warri Port all operational. At that time, no one disputed the characterisation of Warri as an oil city. Today, while oil and steel are not in less demand, these facilities are moribund, and Delta State and its people have little say in how those impactful industries are run. Notwithstanding this setback, we owe our people no excuses to make the most of a flawed federal framework and possibly show the difference we can make if true federalism was in play; hence we will be building housing estates and new smart cities which will have eco-friendly designs incorporated with health, safety and environmental features, along with urban renewal as the nodal points from where we will showcase the modernisation drive because within and around these smart new cities, we will create spatial franchises where private initiatives can also thrive in urban modernisation. Still, in the light of propositions that have been resolved between neoliberal and developmental schools of thought in development economics, we need the government to energise such processes, and we intend to do that from the Smart new cities in all three senatorial zones of the State. So structurally, these are what you may see in the modernisation drive, but these are the hard dimensions of modernisation. The more important dimension is the soft modernisation, which will be in the regimes and processes that affect the lives of the people daily; how they access health services; what support the State provides for them from the cradle to the grave when they are born, are ready to begin education, are prepared to marry and start a family, fall ill, become bereaved, are celebrating with loved ones, need to travel, require their cars or other needs and accessories fixed, need to start a business or sustain one. These are the soft aspects of modernisation. It is about how we create an enabling local and state government structure and regimes for enabling decision-making and service provision to make these things easier for the citizen. These are the embodiments of the notion of progress, development, and modernisation. So, if you ask what will change and what will be seen, I assure you there will be hard and soft modernisation changes to see, feel and experience. We will expand on these when the tyres hit the road before 2023. For now, anyone can see the details of our strategies for implementation on my website.
Looking again at competencies, how will you convince voters that you are better placed to deliver and show significant difference from what other contestants offer?
The contest for the Delta State governorship should be about competence and the content of the leader’s character that will be elected. Although the PDP does not underestimate any political foe, I rank very highly in competence and trustworthiness, and that’s why I have earned amongst my party members and our party supporters in the state very strong support for the governorship candidacy of my party. I have provided services at the leadership level internationally, within the state, and at the federal level under the Umaru Yar’Adua presidency, which if you will recall set out the framework for some of the enduring governance benefits of the Niger Delta Amnesty program and the Niger Delta Development Commission. During crisis moments, when quick decisions need to be made, when networks and international, state-wide, or federal coordinating contacts and know-how are required to effect the developmental needs of the state, you need someone with hands-on knowledge and experience in state, political party and federal policy networks, in that regard I can humbly say that I have earned that competency with years of loyal and effective service at these different levels of governance.