Another Labour leader, former President of PENGASSAN and Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele is angling to succeed incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole, a former President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) after eight years at the Osadebey House, Benin. In this interview with Titus Akhigbe, he spoke of his hurry to develop the state if given the chance by taking off from where the Comrade Governor stops. Excerpts;
People are saying that you are a young man and thus need not be in a haste to become the governor of Edo State. Do you really have what it takes to govern the state?
It is unfortunate that you hear people say something like that. We are in a country where people call a man who has crossed the age of 40 years a young man. The Prime Minister of Britain, Cameron, clocked 40 years of age when he assumed office. Barak Obama was not older than 47 years when he was elected president of America. Those who are saying that I am in a hurry to become governor of Edo State, ask them what they have done. Part of the reason that I am in a hurry is because they have not added value. Oshiomhole has done his best but when I look at those who want to succeed him, I doubt if they have the capacity to be innovative and creative to find solutions to our current challenges and the ones we may face in the future. What I am guaranteeing is that I have solutions that will help us secure our today and guaranty our future.
People are also expressing concern that a labour unionist is spending eight years in office as governor and another unionist is aiming to succeed him?
That is to tell you our level of reasoning. First thing is, I have toured all the local government areas in the state. As a journalist, go and find out from the people who among all the aspirants have the best plan for the state. I have heard so much positive comments about me. The people are so shocked that I have so much solution to the myriad of problems we are going through and problems that may confront us in the future. If a country like America can have two generations of the Bush family becoming president of the country and even another Clinton desiring to become president after her husband occupied the position. The question that we should be asking again is what value would this person add? What is he bringing to the table? Not what he is bringing to your pocket. Who can inspire our youths? The youths will look at me and be inspired that “if Peter Esele can wake up and desire to be governor and act towards that direction, then I can do it too.” What you should ask yourself about a labour unionist succeeding another is: “is he qualified to be in the position?” I was a former president of PENGASSAN (Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria); I was a former president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC); I was a former board member of NEITI (Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative); I was a former board member of Petroleum Pricing Product Regulatory Agency (PPPRA); I am a director of a major pension company etc. I studied in Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and Wharton Business College. The current minister of finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele we were on the same programme at Wharton Business College. So, how would you say am not qualified to be the governor of the state? That’s why am even more qualified because I understand the relationship between business and employees and what I need to do to make business generate jobs thereby creating employment. I understand the symbiotic relationship between employee and employer and also how to work the fine line to achieve one goal – profit for business, and job and better life for employee.
As it is now, it looks as if the governorship position has been zoned technically to the Edo south region. Many are of the belief that you are actually aiming to become deputy governor?
Would somebody be in the race and go and pay N5.5million (fee charged for collection of governorship intention form) for deputy governorship slot? No. Let’s be reasonable. That’s why I always say one of the reasons we are where we are is because of the way we reason. I don’t blame people sometimes. Its just because of the way some people have been doing their stuff. Have you ever seen where they collect form for deputy governor? No. I have toured 18 local government areas. Do you know what it means to tour 18 local government areas? I have gone through several wards. Imagine the emotion, resources, risk and hazard. I will go through all that because I want to be deputy governor? People can say what they want to say. I have not seen where the governorship slot was zoned to Edo South. Before you go to the next question, that the incumbent governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is favourably disposed to an anointed candidate. I have not seen the governor hold the microphone and say this is his candidate. Can anybody show me where the governor held the microphone and say: “it’s Obaseki that you must back?” I have not seen that. People are saying that the governor is doing it underground. No matter what, we are in a democracy and everyone is free to aspire. It is left for the delegates to decide who will be the gubernatorial candidate. That’s why you keep hearing me say that the party structure must create a level playing field because if the primaries is not free and fair, we are going to face a major challenge in September when we go head-to-head with the opposition party.
You are a notable figure from Edo Central district. Recently, the speaker of the legislative arm of the government, who hails from that part of the state was impeached and his position was taken by somebody from southern district. This led to protests from that district against the act. What is your take on this?
One thing that is very clear is that we need to know what the impeached speaker did before he was impeached. That’s number one. Then people say that whatever we do, there must be ethnic balancing. We have three senatorial zones. Today, if you look at it, there is no ethnic balance, in the tripod now, one arm is missing. But the bottom line is that I am not somebody who supports mediocrity. I believe zoning encourages mediocrity no matter what people would say. I believe zoning encourages people to be corrupt in an office. Zoning encourages all manner of things that are wrong. But if this is how they want to run things, and I think it is imperative that the party (All Progressives Congress) balances itself out, whether we like it or not that doesn’t justify it, I have to be the next governor of Edo State.
As an experienced labour unionist what do you think is the way out of the subsidy imbroglio?
If you look at the protests that have been carried out, you will see what I call a technical fault has been made. In the game of Lawn Tennis, they will say a double fault. There were some errors made by the labour leadership. When you give notice, you don’t just give notice to the government you also give it to yourself so that you prepare ground for whatever action you want to take. And then there was so much division and friction among the movement. We always have what we call threshold for strike. Before you go on strike you must be very happy to get 100 percent. But if you cannot get 100 percent don’t go to strike with below 80 percent. That is the threshold. Once you go to strike and it’s below 80 percent, I doubt if you will survive for two days. If you survive two days, you cannot survive the third day because you must lose steam especially when it’s a national strike. When it’s a national strike, you are going to face those challenges – energy level dropping. What we normally do is that we heat the system very hard, maybe for two or three days, before we decide to talk. However, based on the economy, based on what is happening around the world, I think the best thing is for discussion to have started immediately.
What advice would you give to the two factions of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)?
I think they need to reconcile. I think the NLC needs to be one.