Edo Contracts: Obaseki Does Not Comply With Procurement Laws – Emwanta
A former governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Kenneth Imansuangbon, the immediate past Commissioner for Youths and Gender Issues, Andrew Adaze Emwanta and Amen Ogbemudia Uhuangho, the daughter of late General Samuel Ogbemudia yesterday, formally joined the Labour party.
In an Interview, Andrew Adaze Emwanta gives insight on the happenings in Edo state.
Most political observers believe Governor Godwin Obaseki betrayed most of his erstwhile political associates like Adams Oshiomhole, Nyesom Wike, and even President Bola Tinubu. Do you agree?
It will be difficult for me to give a straight yes or no answer to that question. I was not there when they had their private discussions which made it possible for the Governor to be given the APC and PDP tickets in 2016 and 2020, respectively. But as one who was deceived and betrayed by the governor, l think there is an element of truth in the grievances of both Oshiomhole and Wike against the governor. Just recently the Governor sent one of his media aides to AIT to insult me and other PDP leaders who recently left the party. These were the same individuals who spoke for him when he didn’t have a voice. Such is life, particularly in Nigerian politics.
The reason l said the governor deceived and betrayed me is not far-fetched. The man never wanted me to succeed or shine as a member of his cabinet. I say this because, l saw him as a mentor and leader. But sadly, after appointing me as commissioner for communication and orientation, he took away the 3 parastatals under my ministry from my direct supervision, claiming that it was done on the advice of his consultants. First he gave EBS tv and the Nigerian Observer to one of his media aides to run. Second he handed over the Edo Communication Organization (ECO) to a group of consultants called Redwire, who co-managed the parastatal with the Chief of Staff to the Governor. Over three billion naira have spent on both EBS and Observer, but it appears more than half of it went into consultancy, quote and unquote.
It appears there is a frosty relationship between Edo State Governor and his deputy, Philip Shaibu. He was absent during the swearing in of commissioners recently. What is really going on?
What you call a frosty relationship between the governor and his deputy is the handiwork of the palace jesters operating as media aides to the Governor who wants the Chief of Staff to be part of the Governor’s succession plan.
How they want to achieve that is a story for another day. As for the absence of the deputy governor at the swearing in ceremony of new commissioners, l think that invitation coincided with an earlier invitation he had to attend the inauguration of the new Federal lawmakers from Edo State. Remember he was once one of them and he did the right thing by honouring their invitation.
When 14 members of the House of Assembly refused to be inaugurated during Obaseki’s first term, what was the impact on Edo politics?
The impact of having 14 constituencies not having their voices heard in parliament can only attract negative consequences. One of those constituencies without a lawmaker in the Assembly is Egor where l come from. This has greatly affected the delivery of democratic dividends to people of the area. Since the re-election of the Governor in 2020, no new project apart from streetlights have been completed or commissioned in my local government area. That is not to say the governor has no completed projects in Egor. But it appears the governor has gone to sleep, particularly in respect of the bad roads in my local government he promised to fix during the electioneering campaigns. As one who served in the Obaseki government during the period under review, l feel very ashamed.
Evboutubu, which is one of the biggest communities in my LGA has the worst network of bad roads. All attempts to call government attention to this underdevelopment was misinterpreted as political rebellion. Sadly, this is one clear example out of many others.
Political permutations and alignments are ongoing for the race to Osadebe House in 2024. Who do you think are the likely top contenders in the APC, PDP, and LP?
In the APC l suspect the governorship ticket will be picked by Prince Clem Agba or Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Majority of the foot soldiers of Senator Adams Oshiomhole are fully with Clem Agba. But Pastor Ize-Iyamu has majority of the leaders of Edo South and Central with him. The recent visit of Agba to the Benin Monarch brought out a major flaw in him. This has become a big advantage to the Osagie Ize-Iyamu camp.
There is a feeling in some quarters that the close ties of Oshiomhole with the presidential villa will make whoever he supports to get the APC ticket. But this is neither here nor there, because others have that same relationship and even deeper. Another aspirant within the APC to watch out for is Hon. E.J Agbonayinma. He is already making strong contacts across the 3 senatorial districts of the state. As for PDP, there are two factors. First is the Dan Orbih factor on the one hand and the Obaseki factor on the other.
Orbih will likely support Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, while Obaseki is still trying to convince one of his friends who heads a bank to come and pick the PDP ticket with his support. I heard the bank Chairman who is from Edo Central said he is too old to be a governorship aspirant. Second, the internal crisis already brewing within the PDP, flowing from the Orbih factor, will make it almost impossible for the party to have a valid candidate. At last count, the Labour party has over 10 aspirants. Prominent of these aspirants is Barr. Ken Imasuagbon popularly known as the rice man.
He is gradually pulling out his political structure from the PDP and will be launching same, in batches, into the Labour party before the time for party primaries. With the good performance of the party in the last presidential and National Assembly elections this year, It will be a long run, as picking the party’s ticket will not be a walk in the park for any of the aspirants. But l am 100 percent with Imasuagbon.
It was reported that the Governor mismanaged his relationship with the Oba Palace over the return of Bini artefacts from Europe and America, going so far as setting up Edo Museum for West African Arts. Can the Governor afford an open confrontation with the Oba of Benin? What’s the true position?
I will not like to comment on the artefacts issue, as the Federal Government has already issued a Gazette conferring custody on the Benin Monarch. So the best l can do is to congratulate the Oba of Benin and wish the Governor good luck with his West African museum project.
Governor Obaseki refused to organise LG polls since the tenure of the councils ended over two years ago. Is that not the same thing as authoritarian rule? Do you know when the elections into local councils would hold?
Who are those running the councils, and in what capacity?
I do not agree with the school of thought that the failure of the State to conduct local government elections is because the governor prefers to operate as an authoritarian. A faction of the PDP had gone to court last year to stop the conduct of the polls. But the law whose validity they contested has been amended to address the issues complained about. So going by the already released election timetable of the State Electoral Commission the council polls will take place on the first Saturday of September this year. I hope they don’t move it again.
The councils are being run by Heads of Local Government Administration HOLGAs, who are the equivalent of the State Head of Service at the local government level. Before the general elections the governor appointed liaison officers to assist them. After the election the liaison officers were sent parking. Local government councils in Edo State are now like burial grounds. Activities there are completely grounded due to political subjugation. It is a very sad tale, indeed.
The Governor has been accused of always issuing MOUs. What is your understanding of these MOUs and what does it mean?
MOU, which is an acronym for Memorandum of Understanding is one of the forms of conveying the terms of modern contracts. So if the governor chose to go into agreements for public infrastructure using the MOU model, l do not think there is anything wrong with that.
What any discerning mind or taxpayer should be interested in should be issues revolving around transparency, details of the profits accruing to government account, local content in the area of employment and subcontract opportunities and what have you.
The sad thing is that we have almost zero local content contractors involvement in the renovation or construction of government buildings by these present administration. Over 90 percent of government building jobs are given to a single firm owned by a foreigner. Does that not violate the procurement law of the state?
The story out there is that the Governor hires consultants from outside Edo to carry out government functions. What’s the true story?
It is true that the Governor has been operating with consultants for the past six years now. These consultants advise the governor and carry out certain governmental functions defined by the Nigerian Constitution, as amended and other enabling laws. This may be his own style, but the question for any discerning mind is whether the practice is backed by the law when viewed from the backdrop of mandatory constitutional provisions on appointments, the assets declaration law, forming part of the schedules to the constitution and local content or what in law we call federal character.
Let me start with the last. Most people complain that the governor prefers to engage his friends in Lagos as consultants than Edo residents. Another complaint is that a good number of these consultants and their hirelings are not indigenes of Edo State. On the issue of asset declaration, it is hard for anyone, including the Code of Conduct Bureau, EFCC or ICPC to know how much of state or taxpayers funds these consultants quote and unquote have ferried out of Edo.
Then lastly, is the use of private or corporate consultants as appointees, to perform official services, in advisory capacity, for the executive arm. The fact that it has not been tested in a law court does not make it right. Process infraction is a serious criminal act, which can be punished at any point in time.
What the Nigerian constitution provides for are Special Advisers. There are only two special advisers working presently with the governor. The others are consultants, who are even more powerful or influential than civil commissioners. You can do your opinion polls on that.
Cast your mind back to the 2020 PDP primaries. Throw more light on the rift with aspirants that contested with Obaseki.
The much l know is that as of today the three PDP governorship aspirants who stepped down for the governor in 2020 are not with him today. They say he betrayed them and didn’t keep to the terms of the agreement they had in 2020. That is the much l know.
How would you describe Obaseki’s style of politics, governance methodology, and human relations?
For want of time, I will prefer to rate him on each of those variables on a scale of 1 to 100. In politics l will give him 40 over hundred. I say this because he smartly outsourced his interest in politics to both the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie Esq and the Deputy Governor Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, who before now covered his political underbelly. If they leave him today, the Governor’s political rating will be less than 10 over 100, trust me. In the area of government methodology, l will give him 45 over 100. The reason for this rating is not far-fetched. The use of consultants or non-public servants to carry out functions of both the civil and public service is unknown to law.
These consultants and the contractors working with them would have ripped the state billions of taxpayers money by the time the tenure of the administration ends November 2024. If Edo were to be a limited liability company, Godwin Obaseki will pass as both the C.E.O and Board Chairman, while his consultant friends from Lagos are the board members. The local consultants made up of retired permanent secretaries and others, operate as a smokescreen covering the real insider trading going on under the name and style of government business. As for human relations, l will score him 15 over 100.
Every politician in Edo knows the governor has very poor interpersonal relationship within the political class. That is why he can’t keep friends or retain loyalty. Is this right or legal? Time will prove me right or wrong.