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Edo 2024: Ighodalo, Better By Far To Lead Our State – Hon Asekhame, AIM Coordinator

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Says Edo people ‘ll resist rumoured federal might

Hon Dan Asekhame is the Founder and Coordinator of the Asue Ighodalo Movement (AIM), one of the many support groups working for the realization of the election of Dr Asue Ighodalo, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the next governor of Edo State. In this interview with a select group of journalists, the two-time Chairman of Owan West Local Government Council, addressed vital questions relating to the coming election. Excerpts:

In setting up this support group, what exactly was your focus or goal?

To do a house to house campaign and to also focus seriously on new voters, that is those who have not been registered before. We want to try and focus on them and ensure they come out to register enmasse and also to try and see what we can do to increase the votes of Asue Ighodalo by organizing our people and talking to them in a door-to-door campaign and street-to-street campaign. Our major focus is to ensure we sensitize people, make sure they come out to register now that the Continuous Voters Registration will start on the 27 and vote for Dr Asue Ighodalo come September 21.

Why are you supporting Asue Ighodalo. Why do you think Ighodalo is the man for the job?

Without being told, if you look at the political set up as it is now in the state in terms of those who are contesting, Asue Ighodalo stands out. I mean without mincing words or any iota of doubt, he is way taller than the others in all aspects. Just by listening to them, you cannot compare any of the other candidates with Asue Ighodalo. He has the experience, he is well exposed. He is somebody who has the capacity to manage the economy of Edo State. We must not hand over our economy to people who are novice to handle. He is someone who has handled very big organisations, who has been able to direct big institutions successfully. Just look at his antecedents and pedigree, everywhere he has been, it has been success stories. So, there is no doubt that he is better by far for the job at stake. I have been with him, he is a very cordial person, very friendly, very calculating and a visionary. If we give him the mantle, I know he will turn the state around. He will be able to continue the good work of Governor Godwin Obaseki. He is somebody with the requisite capacity to lead our state, and that is without doubt. I repeat, without doubt. So, if I have the interest of the state at heart, I believe that I should throw my weight behind the person that will be able to handle the economy and make it work for all.

You said just now that Ighodalo will continue the good works of Governor Obaseki. The opposition is latching on that expression to say Edo people should not vote for Ighodalo. How would you react to that?

Those people who read and interpret our statements like that are deaf and dumb people. These are people who don’t know anything that is going on in the state. If they are not blind and they can see and use their eyes, they would be able to see what Governor Obaseki has done. Look at the state now, look at the ministries, everywhere shining, people happy, everybody working, you don’t work for government now and stay at home, you must be at your work place to clock in and clock out, look at roads, look at the whole place, Upper Adesua, everywhere in the state is opened, all done by Governor Obaseki, look at loan schemes everywhere for traders assisting people to build their businesses and managing our economy and preventing people from dipping their hands into government coffers to grab our money. Big projects and a planned 30 year development vision for the state. These are the pictures I see, Obaseki has done very well. Today, there is decorum and orderliness in the state and all that. If you want to know how Edo State is, drive out of your house in the morning between 8 and 9, you will see the calmness of the state. So, anybody who comes around to say that whoever is coming to build on what Obaseki has done is making a mistake, then that person is blind. Yes, I will use that word, it means that person is blind and doesn’t know what he is talking about. That person is actually the enemy of the state. We want somebody who will build on what Governor Obaseki has done. I repeat it, we want somebody who will build on what Obaseki has done. That is continuity.

Aren’t you worried about the lies and negative propaganda of the opposition, especially by the All Progressives Congress (APC)?

No, they are making a joke of themselves. The last one they brought out where their candidate went to one waterlogged area and was saying that “no vehicle can pass here now”, meanwhile as he was talking, a vehicle, an Audi 80 was passing, right there in the video, and he is opening his mouth to say no vehicle can pass. And he said he is an intelligent man? A low car is passing, and you are saying “we have to park our cars so we can use leg cross,” and you are driving a jeep and claiming no vehicle can pass here. You are not yet a governor and you are already lying to the people. A car is passing, and you are opening your mouth to say no car can pass. That alone tells you the quality of the person APC has presented and wants to be the governor of Edo State. See, there is nothing to say about them. As far as we are concerned, he is not a contestant in this election. Like I said before, let me repeat, they will be the first people to vote for Asue Ighodalo. How do you expect that candidate to become the governor of Edo State? Are we jesters? Are we blind people? Are we going back to where we are coming from? So, any negative campaign against Asue Ighodalo by APC is just a campaign of calumny orchestrated by comedians and jesters. They are comedians, beginning from the party chairman to the candidate of the party to the deputy candidate, they are all comedians. So, when we want to relax and laugh, we go to their platform and laugh.

It has been alleged that the APC would deploy Federal might to win the election. Are you not worried?

See, that is what they are saying, and that is why they are not working. We are working day and night, up and down trying to convince the people to vote because we believe in voting and counting of votes. They are not doing anything, and relying on Federal might. I am not afraid of Federal might. ‘Federal might’ cannot come and change election results in Edo State. Tinubu will not do that. When he contested his own election in Lagos State, he didn’t not win. They had a sitting governor, and they had the money and the influence in his own election but he didn’t win, yet President Tinubu didn’t use ‘Federal might’. So, is it Edo State that they want to come and change the result? I know they will not raise a finger to help APC to change the results in Edo State or rig election. If you heard him saying “I want Edo State, I want to claim Edo State”, he is only trying to persuade the people to come and work but they are not working. They are waiting for him to bring the Electoral Officer that they will give money to and tell him to change the result. Not in this town! Not in 2024, we’re ready for anything, nobody can change any result. The hand you want to use to write the fake result, we will cut the hand off. We will give you a short sleeve in place of a long sleeve just the way it was done in Liberia. Do you want to rig the election in Edo State? No, now! Asue Ighodalo is on the street 24/7, our people are visiting markets, organizing rallies and going round the state, you are planning to rig the election, not here. Nothing like that will happen. We will go to any level to resist it.

What do you have to say about the clamour for Justice, Equity and Fairness (JEF)? Do you see Olumide Akpata going far?

We are one family in Edo State and we have said it is the turn of Esan people, even if there are only two candidates, we have said it is the turn of Esan people. Edo South has done it, Edo North has done it, only Esan that is left. Olumide does not even have the capacity to go far and so he can’t win. His coming out from Edo South is a big setback for him. He may be able to convince a few people but Edo South people are saying let it go to Esan people this time around. All he will benefit from this election is that because it is his first time, it will help to create awareness for him so that next time he comes out he will not be a new face. And LP, I must tell you is a party that is open to other parties. We go there to harvest people. PDP will go there and take some, APC will go there and take some. That is how we have been doing it.

If you were to advise Edo people ahead of the governorship election, what would you be telling them?

I will tell them that this is not the time to vote for a governor who will be waiting for leaders before taking a decision. The people are more than the leaders, and we need a governor who will prioritize the people above the leaders. They have heard what the APC candidate said. They have heard what Asue Ighodalo said. APC candidate said he will be waiting for leaders and it is what the leaders say that he would do. Asue has come to tell you that look, I want to work, I want to develop Edo State, I want to bring development and prosperity, I want to create employment and look into the welfare of the people. So, they are two different categories and on two different wavelengths. This is 2024 for crying out loud. We want a governor who will not wait for leaders to tell him what to do before he knows what to do. So, I will appeal to Edo people to please vote for Asue Ighodalo. He has the capacity, you have heard him talk, and he is the person who has Edo State and the development of this place at heart. I am not saying that he is not going to respect leaders or disrespect leaders but prioritizing leaders above the people is not in his agenda. I will appeal to them to vote for Asue, he will surprise Edo people. The man works very hard and he has the experience, clout and knowledge of economics to turn the state around.

Are you not worried that members of the Legacy PDP are reluctant to work with your candidate?

Looking at the issue of the Legacy PDP, in any family when one person is aggrieved, we look for a means to bring everybody to the round table to thrash it out. Injury to one is injury to all. So we are still appealing to the Legacy people to let us work together. Now, Obaseki is not on the ballot, what brought the anger is past now, so let us come together and work hard to deliver Asue. There are so many opportunities open to the party once Asue wins. I don’t want what happened before to happen again. Let us all come together to build Edo State. We don’t want a divided house. Up till now we are still appealing to them and we will continue to appeal to them. We want Chief Dan Orbih and others. So I appeal to Legacy, please come on board and join us.

As the CVR begins next week, what is your advice to the people?

Like I told you before our cardinal programme is to sensitise new people to register and vote. If you look at the state, most people who know the importance of elections don’t come out to vote. They are afraid of violence and thugs. But the last time they came out to vote they changed the narrative and I will be appealing to them to come out again this time. They know the difference between the two candidates. They should just sacrifice the two hours of that Election Day to vote. AS for the CVR, I appeal to everybody, go out early to register if you don’t have a voter’s card or lost it or it is damaged. Look for it now, know where it is, and keep it well. The exercise is just for 10 days, so we must not miss it.

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