Senator Damingo Obende is a businessman and a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) who represented Edo North at the 7th senate. In this interview with journalists in Benin City, Obende narrated how his party got victory at the just-concluded elections. Francis Ogbuagu, was there.
Your party has won all the 24 seats in the state house of assembly. How did you people do it?
First and foremost, I want to say that we give all the glory to God because there are a lot of people who probably worked harder than us and they did not get even one or two seats.
Then having given glory to God, we will also look at the leadership structure of the state, vis-a-vis the governor himself, Mr. Godwin Obaseki and Oshiomhole who is also providing a backup leadership.
So, I believed that because of the collaboration and because of the sensitive attached to the feelings of people. We have done well and doing well, has to do with the fact that the governor is delivering on his promises and if people naturally do not want to vote for APC for one reason or other, you either because of Godwin Obaseki or because of Adams Oshiomhole and a few people like us that are in the party.
We have personal relationship with the people, so people will obviously want to vote us and that is why I can say that the party is doing well because of the leadership structure.
But there are fears that as a house dominated by one party, it may lead to a rubber stamp house that may not be very favourable to the people.
Well, we have one body and, in this body, there are a lot of components, looking at the tongue and the teeth. They are living together yet they fight themselves every time either the teeth are biting the tongue or the tongue is wagging the teeth.
For me, there is usually a legislative tension whether it is one or three political parties. The moment the tension starts, then it becomes an issue of deliverables.
Looking at the issues that brought up their heads during the presidential election, looking at the crises, do you think they worth it? The INEC said they should not snatch ballot box, they still went ahead to do that. What do you think?
There is a price to be paid when you are building an institution. I call it institutional strengthening. It is not something you give an instruction and immediately you get an answer. People are naturally ballot box snatchers. So, it will take a long time for it to get out of their blood. Some, they just carry the ballot papers, go and thumbprint and come and stuff but if you check, the rate is minimal now.
Many have lost their lives but, for me, I think it is part of the institutional strengthening. I believed that as we go on, things will take shape.
What are the ways out that the APC should take ahead of the next year governorship election?
I think addressing community challenges, individual complaints and reaching out to so many people by way of engaging them will solve the problem and that is why I am happy.
We have almost a year to go before the election and we have a lot of jobs to do. The leadership of APC in Edo state will obviously do the job. Yes, we have 24 over 24. It is a reflection of the will of the people but, like what you said, working against ourselves, is where the challenge is but I think that will be resolved.
What agenda are you setting for the incoming senators considering the crises that trailed the selections of the leadership of the house?
One thing I am grateful for is that majority of them that are going back have served in the 7th assembly and they saw the collaboration and the peace that existed and how the then government of (former President Goodluck) Jonathan could manoeuvre and navigate a lot of issues without running into crises.
So, the 8th assembly did not have that benefit. It is an experience to them that when the legislature is not together, it becomes practically impossible; one, for government to run smoothly, then, even they themselves to have anything to show in their various constituencies.
So, my advice for them is that they should cooperate and collaborate with the government so that it can run smoothly so that both the executive and the legislative can work together in a way that the common persons could feel the impact of governance.
One of the challenges the 8th assembly had was the way the leadership emerged and that caused a lot of confusion almost throughout the tenure; what plans do you have to avert a repeat?
The party does not need to be advised because the people running the party now know what it is for the leadership of the party not to be in tandem with the leadership of the executive but we are all going to work together by the grace of God. Zoning will be done properly and those who do not have business contesting for specific positions will not even apply for them.
Naturally, I do not think the senate presidency was going to be zoned to the central zone but somebody got it but now if they are doing proper zoning, if is now going to the central, then other zones do not have to compete with them. So, I believe that it is going to be fine.
Nigerians are complaining of economic hardship and now Buhari has got the second term and Nigerians are expecting better economic policies. What advice do you have for the president?
If you remember his speech, he said that things were going to be tougher. When he used the word things are going to be tougher, it did not mean the economy. He was looking at it that this is the time for us to give our best of being the last lap of this administration.
Obviously for him, he will commit his time to doing much more and harder than what he did before and if you are doing much more and harder than what you did before, obviously, there will be respite in the economy and I believe that the people will smile at the end of the day.
And looking at that, economy is one issue yes, government must have the responsibility in providing the enabling environment but our youths and women must be engaged. Skilled men and women must be encouraged and by the time all these things are flowing, no matter how small this money is, the ripple effect becomes comfort to the people. I believed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term his last lap, is going to witness development.
“I believed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term his last lap, is going to witness development.”