July 10, 2018

SPECIAL REPORT ON EDUCATION, HEALTH, WATER AND INFRASTRUCTURE IN ESANLAND



An interview with Hon. Sergius O. Ogun, Federal House of Rep. Nigeria
Esan North East/Esan South East

By @WPP Jr

Like you said, we’re like the Jews in the midst of Arabs. An average Esan man is enterprising you know; that’s why we’re everywhere in the world.

Now they say our population is not large enough to produce a governor in Edo State but if we tell every Esan man to come back home, I’m sure we will be the largest ethnic groups in Edo State, that’s the truth.” Sergius

Please introduce yourself, who is Mr. Sergious O. Ogun, are you married or single, any children etc

I’m Deacon Barrister Sergius Oseasochie Ogun. I am married to one of the most beautiful and kind woman in the world and I have two lovely kids. I was in business, in the oil industry before I came into politics. I’ve a Foundation called SERGIUS OSEASOCHIE OGUN FOUNDATION that has been working in most of the communality’s in needs and society. It’s through my foundation that I became exposed to most of the needs in community that drew me into politics.

Why are you in politics?

That’s really because of the exposure I got from meeting different village people. For example, so many years ago, we build my father’s house in the village and we have to sink a borehole and my mom advice us to bring out the taps so people can have access to water. So, we did that because we don’t live in the house, we all resides in the city. That alone, plus the appreciation we saw from people, just ordinary bore hole we don’t often drink from because we reside in city, folks were praying and celebrating me and I was wondering how much did it cost. Although it cost money to sink bore hole in my part of the world but that’s something my contemporaries then will just put in their back pockets, go to a night club or fly to London for a weekend. When I saw this I was surprise, it opens my eyes, so speak, to see the poverty in my own part of the world of Esanland. I’ve lived mostly outside of Esanland.

So from there other issues came up like notebook, people wants to go to school, time for school to resumes, and parents are talking of going to sell their cassavas to buy notebooks and children are not able to resume schools because they don’t have notebooks – school suppliers to resume schools. So I decided to step in and provide notebooks. From there others youths were talking of enrolling in NECO, WAEC because my foundation has been involves in note books distributions.

A friend advice I should conduct mock exam, so that whoever pass the exam I can enrolled them for NECO/WAEC. So that is how the free NECO/WAEC enrolment came about.

Again there was a medical outreach, and then my mom has to go for cataract operation in the UK because my siblings reside there. She did one operation in one eyes but the following day she refused to go for 2nd operation eventually she return back to Nigeria and after a few months she had to return again to complete the operation on her 2nd eye. Here, in Esanland I have my uncle at home, who kept complaining, he couldn’t see, so my elder brother came from the UK and had to send him to UBTH (University of Benin Teaching Hospital) for cataracts operation and he came back home and he was very happy. And the wife told me she can’t see also, and we had a couple of complains from the community like that.

So I organise a medical outreach, it was suppose to be optometry’s, eyes doctor to examine folks with eyes problems, we also quickly realize, having  basic eyes checkups is  not enough because there might be folks with other ailment, like malaria, fever, diabetics, some other issues. So I put a full medical team together to check eyes, BP, and advice as the need arise. We had full medical team in Ughoha for three days to share drugs, give them eye glasses, you won’t believe the reaction, there were celebration and the villagers were happy and over joy. So the people starting telling me, you’ve not ask us for anything, we didn’t vote for you those we voted for abandon us, people starting urging me to come out and run for an office. And again I saw the need to use government platform to do things for our people. In a nutshell that’s how I came into politics.

Since you were elected in 2015, with your experience crisscrossing through Esanland, you can see the decay, the disfranchisement and destruction of Esanland by failed past leaders. For instance, we have a situation where people come to Esanland, with promises during election, once they get voted into office, they abandon our people, and how do we reverse this trend?

Thank you. That’s the key, that’s a very important question. I think the elites from Esanland should work together, possibly organize debates. For me now, I don’t see any reason why I should go to ITV, NTA, AIT in Benin to debate what I am going to do in my constituency. When people in my constituency right now, under the present Benin Electric Distribution PLC – BEDC Plc, who has refused to supply electricity to villages in Esanland, I will come to that later. Is part of the battle I am fighting right now to make sure villages whose electricity are cut off for about three years now are restored. People don’t have light to watch television, listen to radio, and no major television station we can tune into in Esanland.

 

In Agbazilo, where I’m from, Uromi, Ubiaja, Esan North East, Esan South East, most time they watch NTA Enugu and all. Now you go to Benin to do a debate that people in Esanland cannot even see. My take is we have so many professional Esan groups. One of them in Port Harcourt, Esan Club 31, NBA (The Nigeria Bar Association) NMA (Nigeria Medical Association), if these groups can come together and begin to organize such debate in Esanland – for me in Uromi, Ubiaja, for the Senatorial seat maybe around other parts of Esanland,  for those of us who wants to contest for a position. So this pressure group are able to task anybody that promise he or she is going to do SYZ.

 

I will tell you why I am laying this foundation. During my campaign I did say clearly, that there is need to create wealth to offer opportunity to number of young men going to Libya just because they want to go to Europe. They are perishing in numbers and their parents is living in denial believing that one day their kids will come back, build a house, bring a car and so many things.

 

And I also saw the amount of poverty, and growing up in Esanland it wasn’t like that many years ago. We might not be so rich then, but people were able to eat. So I said we’re going to create wealth then we can assist people with business, that was why I started my forth intervention fund for the project of Oria Farm. We could farm the land and do the entire value chain, which will create jobs.  Now, the plan there was to have beneficiary have one hectare of land, one hectare to a young man, a young woman and then when we harvest we’ll have a plan to process, we will take care of the full value chain. At the end of the day people will be employed to work in the factory, to create more jobs. The point is, why that was my vision, that was what I campaign clearly on, I started seeing pressure, that you have to do things in every unit, in every wards and that’s how you win elections and all.

 

Why I am talking of the elites to task politicians when they talk to them. The elites can able to see the big pictures, because most of them either school abroad or are living outside of Esanland, so they know how development comes. If you leave it to local politicians, to rural people who are uneducated, they are only interested in what you’ll bring today, maybe the rice you are going to share, little money you are going to share and then you come and sink a borehole, one year down the road, you are not going to work anymore but you would have taking the vote. So you need these elites that can task the politicians. There is a school that is dilapidated here, we don’t need a new school, we need you to renovate this and put something in place. Then there is a Health Care Centre that’s dilapidated, not in use anymore we need you to renovate it instead of building a new one just because you want to put your name there. No.

 

You want to create jobs, how did you want to create these jobs, how are they sustainable. I think when we do this, again like I said, the elites are the ones to clearly articulate this, then task whoever is going to campaign so that when you win election, they let you know clearly we have your 4 5 or 6 or 2 point agenda and how you are going to achieve this. And they meet with you every six months, perhaps every one year and said look “How far have you gone with the project” because knowing that in three year time you are going to come back and start campaigning again. So, I think that’s one of the easiest ways to get politicians to keep to the promises they have made.

 

What’s your greatest challenges in Esan North East/ Esan East Federal Constituency in terms of service delivery?

I wouldn’t say I have a challenge. Like what I said before, people need to know clearly, I was in business for 25 years before coming into politics. There are projects that you don’t benefit from today but these projects will help the young ones and they need to clearly appreciate that. But the biggest problem we have today in Esanland is electricity and water. It is a shames in this 21st century people are still going to the stream to fetch water. There are communities that are not even hooked up to the national grid right now, example is my village Ughoha. There are still villages in Esan South East, part of Uromi – big city; the community that are outside the big city like Uzea, some few remount villages.

So, for Esan North East, fairly I can say, there is light because I live there and my mother’s house is there where I spent some time when in Esanland. 

On Esan South East, I think because of the way it is located, is big with so many communities living far inside and most of these communities are not serviced, they doesn’t have electricity. They are almost like cut off from civilization; they don’t know what is happening, that’s a big challenge that must be address as soon as possible.

INFRASTRUCTURES

In 2017, 310million was budgeted for federal constituency project in entire Esanland, of which N130million was for Oria farm.

That amount, N310million Esan folks think is way too little, and why considering the needs?

Well, as you know people are fighting today saying there’s no need for the zonal intervention fund, again that’s what they called The Constituency Projects. As far as the people are concern, you know; they think is just pocket money for legislator. So that money is quite small but the government will tell you clearly, they don’t even have enough, is usually a battle to even get that.

Secondly, we’re aware that, I think for me, my own constituency was about 110 million or 15 million that came. There will be deduction because the job will be awarded to a contractor and the ministry will make deduction and all that. Now, talking about corruption, we don’t know how much the executive that will award job will take from the contractors. At the end of the day how much really comes to the constituency is under a N100 million. How much really is going to be spent because the contractor needs to make profit, that’s one of the biggest challenges we’re having right now.

But people don’t see this, they just sit down and assume and make statements and all. But having said that, what we have try to do, I think, what my predecessors did is to reach out to other committees and see what can come in, and they lobby for one or two little project to add to constituency projects so our people can feel the federal presence.

Now tell us about Agbazilo Mechanized Farm Oria. Who does it benefits, is the project sustainable, and what happen to the project after you are gone?   

Agbazilo Mechanized Farm Oria

Yea, good question, like I’ve said, I’ve a foundation and I’ve a heart to reach out to young ones, especially with the school program, and there is a girl child program that I am planning to launch soon. It’s still at the planning stage.

I like to mentor young ones. I’m 55 years old, turn 55 last month. I’ve lived largely outside of Esanland. I’ve been to other part of the world. At a point I lived in Europe and I’ve seen things. Like I said, in my introduction, is  not about me, I’ve just two young kids and my wife work with an oil company, so, to a large extent is not about my tomorrow but is about the future of where I am from. I was born in Kano, I came back during the war, I went back to Kano to live with my uncle, came back to finish secondary school. I schooled in Auchi, came to work in Warri, school in Uniben, (University of Benin) lived in Warri, marry in Warri, went to Europe came back; I’m in Port Harcourt right now.

All these places that I’ve been to people build that place that’s why I went there to work. So, who is going to build Esanland? Who is going to build the old Agbazilo? Somebody have to do it someday. My prayer is that, when I died they should bury me in my house in Ugboha, my village. If we are all staying out there who is going to develop our place? To answer your question, I plan to mentor the youth and grow the farm, by the grace of God, if I’m re-elected in 2019, which will be another four years, by which time we would have fully set up the value chain. Because we have a rice mill there now, we are planting rice, cassava, maize and soya. So we have the rice mill there now, that’s part of the value chain I was talking about. Then we’re going to have a cassavita plant and we’re going to do something with the soya beans. If we can train these young ones, have a farm manager, the farm will run itself.

I actually thought initially the young ones will get engage there and work but you know how these things work. You tell the leader of a party to bring peoples and they bring all manner of people and the young ones are complaining the farm is too far and all that. What I’ve done now is to engage workers which were never part of my original designs for that project. I’ve to engage workers now that we pay every month.  But going forward will be, fine, this is the produce from the farm, at the end of the year; this is how much we are making. So before the money is share, we have to look at the overhead, the cost of running the farm. Is very simple, we do agreement and we sign. We are not there right now but you know; we’re going to get there definitely. Going forward, that’s how I think the Agbazilo Mechanized Farm Oria is going to run.

We are putting infrastructures there, a rural road, one kilometre that we have done leading to the farm, and I am working on another one and half kilometre that will take us through the farm, that’s beyond the farm a bit. We’re planning of having a solar farm there, yea, I believe the project is going to run itself.

Under the current administration, there is effort to drive renewable energy, like solar energy, wind turbine, mini dam. We’ve heard there is funding available from federal government to develop renewable energy. Have you thought of exploring that area to apply for those funding to develop renewable energy in Esanland to provide clean electricity to power water board, schools, and rural hospitals in our communities?

I’m not aware funding is available for renewable energy from the Federal Government but on my own. I’ve discussed with a German firm, there is a group in Nigeria that brought me in to help discuss about land for solar farm, to make some hectares of land available for that project. I think it was early this year, and they should be coming in next month July, 2018. On my own personal arrangement, we plan to have a solar farm; I think they say, they can add about 35 megawatt to the national grid. But I’m not aware of any other plan from the Federal Government.


I guess we’re doing Wind Turbine. Yes, the part of Esanland, Edo State, where we’re farming right now, Oria, Illushi, you know is very close to River Niger, we have enough wind there to support wind Turbines. But I don’t know the Federal Government plans in regards to that.

Ongoing rehabilitation of the Uromi Substation at Oyomon Road, Uromi.  
Ongoing rehabilitation of the Uromi Substation at Oyomon Road, Uromi.
To add to that in 2017 budget, I had N100million to renovate and completely refurbished a substation in Uromi. Right now the project is on, the building has been completely renovated, and the obsolete equipment there, not functioning are actually been taking out. The new equipment will be installed perhaps in July and then we will commission that. The plan is that by the time the substation is complete and the new equipment is installed, we can double the amount of electricity available to all Agbazilo and I hope that will boost electricity supply to homes.

We hear of Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria, how it has turn farmers to millionaires in many parts of Nigeria, why is such service not available to Esan farmers?

Well, very good question again. I was talking to Dr. A. Stanley, PhD, a researcher/ consultant to one of the oil company. He told me there is a young man from Agbazilo who could actually help organize traders, farmers to enlist in the cassava programs and they can provide the facility. So, I introduce the young man to them, as I talk to you  now, there is complain, that guy got hold of the fund to begin the process  but he disappear with the money.

Some years ago, I actually contested for this position, I did the Fadama again and it was in my village. I got the people to fill forms and they pay the token but one of the lawyer handling the money run away with the fund. But as God will have it in my own unit, my quarter, they were saying they were not able to get involved in the 34 village in the FADAMA Project. I said to them, I’ve not register my own 250 hectares farm land in my village. So I said ok, since everybody does not register and we can set up another group and some of you can join me that one eventually worked. Otherwise in Esanland they don’t believe such thing.

They had told me Fadama doesn’t work, and I said to them you don’t loss anything, you take time to follow it through and I can’t remember the amount now but that money actually came through and they were supposed to complete the requirement to get more money, again they didn’t follow through on that. So this things do work our people don’t believe in it.

I’m planning to batch and track 400 people in Agbazilo Mechanized Farm Oria. What I am planning to do is batch into groups so that they have corporative of 18-20, then they will be register as corporative, with this they can approach and apply for funding from initiative from international companies/ABP (Anchor Borrower Programs) of the CBN. The Anchor Borrower Programs really work with corporative because you have to bring collateral; some of these expected beneficiaries we are talking about don’t have collateral of any such. I was hoping that with the land available there, with what we have on ground can serve as some collateral, even on my own part I can provide collateral for them, usually they want to do this with corporative. Is still a plan that’s on the pipe line, by the grace of God we must implement it later.

WATER SCARCITY IN ESANLAND

Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme was originally designed to supply natural spring pipe borne water to Ewohimi, Ekpon, Ewossa, Ebelle, Ewatto, Ogua, Igueben, Orhodua and Udo is moribund. Is there a plan to resuscitate the water board, possibly expand it to supply more Esan villages with constant water?

Yes! There is, I don’t know if you are aware of the Esan North East Water Project, that’s sighted in Ugboha that works takes water to Uromi. Basically there was an issue when they award the contract, that project would have be commission by 2012. Because the reticulation in Ugboha has not been completed, the community resisted it. 

Esan North East Water Project, Ugboha
Esan North East Water Project, Ugboha 

But right now, I’ve been at the forefront in making sure that works. Not knowing really, not going through the contract, I just wanted to make sure there is water. At the point of going to commission last month, the people of Ugboha discover the 60% reticulation that has been accomplished there was the issue of quality of pipes that the contractors used, for that they stop the commissioning, although the minister came and handed over the project to the Governor of Edo State. As far as Federal Ministry of Water Resources is concern right now, the project has been handed over to the state water board to run.

But there is stage two of that project that’s where I am going, to take water to Ubiaja and environs. I’ve already started discussing that with the minister, who said to me, “I want to finish the entire project that I meant. I’m not talking about new project right now.”  I’m told that the project is going to be 10-15 billion. I will pursue that with the minister.

Having said that, the Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme, I’ve pushes some money in the budget, some 80million there about and I told the committee, we’ll need about 100million to revive Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme.  There is 100million budgeted in 2018 to rehabilitate Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme, it has been signed. Hopefully, with this government I hope they will fund hundred percent, if they are able to fund it 100%, iIm sure by this time next year, that water board will be up and running.

Image by Esanland: Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme

Image by Esanland: Ewohimi Iyagun Water Supply Scheme

EDUCATION

Now let’s talk about the state of Education in Esanland.  We have historical colleges’ with a deep history. Uromi Tech, Ewu Tech, Saint Ja bosco, Pilgrims Baptist grammar School. Apparently, these premiums colleges need total upgrades, possibly power with solar energy, any plan to seek federal funding for the redevelopment of these premium colleges.

Well, you know what is today. This government keep talking about shortage of fund; lack of investment is why we have decay in educational sector. Well, you’ve talked about these technical schools, you even need to come and visit some of the primary/secondary schools we have around, you’ll not even rear chicken or pigs in some of those schools. Yet we expect great minds to go through those schools and come out bright. Besides the physical infrastructures, there are even no teachers. Especially in Esan South East, we have so many remote villages there. They post teachers from what I heard, they will go back to Benin and work it and they stay back in Benin. So, most of those schools, like when you go to Emu, high school in Ugboha, Ilushi, Oria, you have just a principal, and maybe a teacher, that’s all.

You tell me, if the principal read English and the teacher read history, who’s going to teach Biology, Geography, Physic, Chemistry and Mathematics? The NECO (National Examination Council) WAEC (West Africa Examination Council) that I enrol for the young ones, six hundred every year, in actual fact, we don’t get six hundred, because we want to enrol as many people as possible, that’s why we raised it to six hundred. If you follow strictly the Mock Examination I set for them, the pass rate is less than 2%. Is appalling, again because these children are not taught anything, what are they expect to produce. Yea, funding for the schools, talking about federal is not there.

I’m sure you know now, we have NICT (National Institute of Construction Technology) Uromi. I have sponsor a bill that has passed 2nd reading in the Senate; my prayer is that before this assembly end, it will become a law. That institution need a lot of funding, it will help in skill acquisition for Esanland youths and Nigerians in general.

Are there plans by Federal Representatives working in collaboration with Edo State government to implement Home Grown School Feeding program of the Federal Government in Edo State?

I don’t know. I’m not aware of any School Feeding programs in Esanland, not even entire Edo State. I did debate this on the floor of the house with colleagues from Osun State, who raise this issue, and we debated. I said it clearly, is not in my own state. If they say there is Home Grown School Feeding else where we only hear it but we don’t see it.

Even the NpowerProgram, we have short listed people and the names has come out but there is no program for them in Esanland, perhaps in other parts of Edo State, yet year in year out, we create a lot of money for this social programs but Esanland is left out.

NOW LET TALK ABOUT HEALTH:

Don’t you think we should channel fund that’s budgeted for solar streets light to solar panels for rural clinics. The benefits are far greater than street lights, I will think.

Clinics in Esanland need lots of improvement, when are we going to begin powering rural clinics with renewable energy – like solar.

As you know Rome was not build in a day. Because of the decay in the system, it will seem that anything is not been done but a lot is been done in that direction. There’s need for the solar street light because even right now, our transformer is been vandalized in Esanland. You’re supposed to have the civil defence; their responsibility is to save Federal Government assets. On weekly basics I get complain of transformer been vandalized, cables stolen and the community has to raise money to buy cables and try to secure the transformer. But if we have solar street lights, since we cannot rely on public light, perhaps some of this will come down. If a man is walking toward a transformer and he can see there is light and can be seen, he might think twice. That is why most of us are embracing the solar street light programs.  

I have one now in Uzea and in the 2018 budget, I’m trying to have a minimum of 1 kilometre per ward and we have 31 wards in Agbazilo. That might not have covered the whole ward, at list we start from somewhere.

Talking of health, my 2018 petty project, which is the Federal Intervention Fund, is the renovation and provisions of Primary Health Care Centres with provision for solar lights. As you know, Primary Health Care Centres are the baby of the State Government and the Local Government. But we at the Federal have to intervene here because we represent people at the rural areas at the Federal level.

Three years my king dies because he suffers from complication with kidney. If we have a Primary Health Care Centre, they would have be able to stabilized him before sending him to specialist Hospital in Irrua but there was no intervention of any such, and he passed, that was painful.

In this 2018 budget is the:

1)      Renovation and Refurbishment of the 31 Health Care Centres in the 21 wards. At list, one ward will have one Health Care Centres renovated.

2)     The renovation comprises of solar lights, to provide lights for the wards at the night, as it is right now, it’s in a terrible state. Imagine a woman is going to deliver; they are using a candle or torch light, in this 21st century that’s not acceptable. Even if you buy generator, as a politician. You go and buy small generator for them and you commission it and everybody will celebrate you, but that is not manageable because how will they service the generator and pay the petrol to run the generator and all? I just said, solar will do the magic.

3)     The plan, when I was discussing with minister of States for Health, who is coincidently from Edo State, that I wanted more funding from the government. He said they don’t have that kind of fund. But I said to him, “This is my constituency projects. I want to do this but I need you –the Federal Government to do the renovation why I concentrate on the solar.

4)     He said to me, the most important thing Primary Health Care Centre really need is water. What I’m planning to do in this budget is to sink boreholes in one of this Primary Health Care Centres in the ward, where you can get water, is not everywhere in Esanland you can get water, provides solar panels and lights for the premises and wards and do some renovations.

5)     I’m sure the fund in the budget will be enough to accomplish it but I may have to seek for extra funding elsewhere to complete the project, when we do this, it should go a long way in meeting primary health needs of the rural communities.

6)     I’m also planning to bring basic medic outreach that will cover the villages every year. The report that normally comes to us is high rate of High Blood Pressure, follow by diabetic but they don’t even know their health status you know; some of them are anaemic. Perhaps they are not eating the right thing. With all the vegetables and fruits that are in abundance in Esanland, people are not eating these things. When you’re eating fruits, they think you are poor.    

7)     We want to embark on health sensitization and we are inviting Esanland folks, NGO’s living outside of Esanland to join us and be part of health sensitization in Esanland/Edo State. Please we need private sector driving medical outreaches in Esanland/Edo State.

8)    Once the installation of solar units starts in the Health Care Centres, we plan to have training program for the staffs of these Health Care Centres, then provide simple test tubes for sugar level and all, then we have to announce to the people to go and check up so they know their health status. It is when you know your health status and you’re advised then perhaps mitigate some of the ailment they are going through right now because people just die immediately.

9)     I have so many acquaintances that I know, people just passed on, this is something that can be taking care of. Somebody has high blood pressure, he doesn’t know. He says, his eye is feeling dazing and that’s it, he falls down and dies. People are diabetic, there are things they should avoid but they don’t know. In Esanland, we eat a lot of starch, yam in the morning, pounded yam in the evening and the next day is the same thing, and then they take alcohol. This is some of the things they should avoid but because they don’t know their health status, they just die immediately.

10) So my plans is, beside the renovation, providing water and solar light for the Health Care Centre, we should have health care test kits and let people know they can go to this Centres and check their health status and get advised.

POLITICS/ELECTIONS

Now, the president sign in-law, “Not Too Young to Run” Can you educate Esan folks more about that bill.

Yea, I don’t really think is a new thing because if you cast your mind back - during the colonial era. If we talk about folks like Awolowo even our own dear Anthony Enahoro, who was 37 when he move that motion for independence. The law is good because we have lowered the age limit for people to contest for elective position. I think my colleague in the house, Hon. Omosede is 35. I think she was 35 when she won election to the house, now it has be reduce to 30 for the House of Rep, I think Senate is 35 and for governorship is about the same thing, going on to presidency.

I don’t think the age is the issue. I think the bigger pictures the young ones should be pursuing is to garner relevant experience and then work as a group to get funding. Over 60% of our population are youths so they should work together to get to position.

We don’t want to talk military generals because they force their way into power. Ya-adua was in his 50, I think late 40 when he got into government. I think Donald Duck was in his late 30ties when he became governor, same thing with our dear formal governor, Lucky Igbenedion. These guys were in their late 30ties early 40ties when they became governors.

If you ask me, if you become a governor at the age of 40 and at 48 you are done already, what stops you from becoming the president? Jonathan was how old whenhe became the Deputy Governor of a state, and then he was in the mid 50ties. Is good there is no barrier. So if there is a young man that wants to become the president of Nigeria and he can work round getting the resources and the votes, he shouldn’t be limited by age from taking positions.

Under “Not too young to run” Does the law permit independent candidate.

That has not been passed, it has gone through both chambers of the National Assembly between the Senate and the House, and it has not been passed into law. I don’t know what the delay is. But that would really be a good thing if that can come up.

As you know Esan folks living outside of Esanland are highly skilled and wealthy. We started a project at esanland.org called the “Esanland challenge 2018 and beyond”. The objective is to get Esan folks living outside of Esanland, Edo State to come home and invest in Esanland and Edo State, beginning from reconstructing their family compound, friends pulling fund together to build community centres, renovate and equip schools, construct borehole, rebuild markets etc from one Idunmun to another. What’s your message to Esan folks living outside of Esanland

What’s your advice to Esan folks who might be interested in running for an office for the sake of developing Esanland, Edo State and Nigeria?

I’ll advice that they get involve. Is not enough to sit down there and contribute via social media, that is important. At list come home from time to time let your people see you. What people put on social media might not be 100% correct but when you come home and interface with people you know the real problems. And then while you visit often and you relate with this people and our people are not asking for too much.

Now I have a couple of borehole program going right now in my constituency and people are so happy about it. These are manually dug boreholes because that’s the easiest way to get water in Esanland. Except you have to bring a massive rig. Some of the project that was done by the formal governor, Comrade Oshiomole although they were dug with Massive rig but they couldn’t find water but these manually dug ones, they go very far and they get water and the community are able to manage it,

When I see them celebrating and I am wondering what’s was going on. When people from outside Esanland or Diaspora come home and interface with our people, even if you can throw one of two little project in there, and we are talking of solar light. You come to your community where your father and mother is from and you contributes by sinking manual borehole, install solar street lights, you’ll get the attention, they will begin to appreciate and report to you things that are happening in your community’s then you become a leader in that community. Then you begin to interface with other community so it’s so easy to be into the system.

But you have to come back home, not just on social media, is not going to be done on social media alone. You have to interfaced with the community-the people and that’s the way I think we can develop Esanland. I’ve said I’ve worked in stage build by other people. I want to be part of the people that will build Esanland. I will retire home after my terms in politics, then groom and mentor the young ones, when God calls me home, I want to rest in Esanland. That will be my advice to every other person in Diaspora today.

There is division amongst Esan folks. We all know Esan folks are a minority in Nigeria, and are like the Jews surrounded by Arabs, how do we encourage /promote unity of purpose and collective development in Esanland.  We urgently need a National Lobby Group without political or religious affiliation, to build structures and bring development to Esanland/Edo State, promote inclusive grass root organizing so we can develop and stabilized Esanland, Edo State and Nigeria. 

Yea, I think we have the Esan “Club 30” Association of Esan Professional members. Also “Club 31” which is based in Port Harcourt, and the Esan Professionals that are based in Lagos, and I think they’ve begin to interfaced. Then, there is another one which I can’t remember the name now. If we are able to bring all of them together, although they are not political, they might all belong to different political parties, with sympathy for the various political parties but those associations are not without any political colourations.

If we are able to encourage them, they would be anxious to those problems you just highlighted.

Esan Professionals had a workshop, I think it was late last year or early this year and the Governor came and I attended and that was in Uromi. There were so many things that they brought forward, which I think if they are able to see them through the people will be able to benefit from them.

Now, they were thinking of developing a skill and acquisition centres in Irrua, and I told them, you have NICT (National Institute of Construction Technology) in Uromi, so why then go build a new school, or build acquisition centre when you already have a school with the facility to offer skills and acquisition to Esan folks in Esanland. Instead of investing in building another structure that money can be used to award scholarships to Esan youths to come to NICT. They can do short training, or three years program, ND-National Diploma.

The Club 31 too, they also help people out to get jobs and all. They need to do more now and take it to the next level. They-Esan Professionals are talking of agriculture but they need to be louder, we need to hear more of community organizing-inclusive development in Esanland, they need to begin to form themselves into pressure groups, to challenge state government.

Like you said, we’re like the Jews in the midst of Arabs. An average Esan man is enterprising you know; that’s why we’re everywhere in the world.

Now they say, our population is not large enough to produce a governor in Edo State but if we tell every Esan man to come back home, I’m sure we will be the largest ethnic groups in Edo State, that’s the truth.

If you even talk of the population they talk about in Benin, we have a lot of Esan people there doing one thing or the other. That’s why for me I said, we need to develop Esanland. Let some of these Esan Professionals come back home and begin to seriously get involve in Esanland development.

There are Esan people in Benin, Warri that can’t pay their rent and they are there struggling and they are sending messages home, if we can build industry in Esanland, these people will come back home and work. There is a huge potential for agribusiness, from processing to small scare businesses in Esanland that will create wealth and transform the lives of our people. Enough of the talk, we are minorities, we are not we have the numbers, wealth, skills and experience, that’s why we need to create jobs and get our people busy.

Another very painful thing our young people do not really want to work these days. If you go and check most of the farms, we have so many commercials farms in Esanland now. If you go to Oria, Illushi, Onogholo, you should go and check, the people working there are not Esan young people, if you check the gas station-the filling stations in Uromi, Ubiaja, the young people selling there are not even from Esanland, they are Akwa Ibom, Ibos-from the East, I don’t know why our young people don’t want to work anymore. So, we need to guide them and we need to counsel them.

There is no problem if you are graduates and you must do sophisticated work and we can find one for you all well and good. I think we need to reach out to the young ones in Esanland because unemployment create security risk for our nation and community, we need to guide these young ones well to help get rid of poverty in Esanland right now.

People are talking of Local government autonomy that we don’t have at the moment. Is there anything the National Assembly is doing about that, to free the local government from the yoke of State Government controls?

At the National Assembly the Senate voted for it I think it scaled through the House. I actually heard when the bill came to the States, it passed through States Assembly’s but I don’t really know the Status of that. But if you ask me, I’m 100% in support because they are the first set government closest to the people. Security wise light and other infrastructures. The autonomous that you expect the people can easily tap into the Local Government Chairmen and the Councillors. Who said if you hand over money to the local Chairmen, they won’t do anything, who said that would happen.

You passed this fund to them you publish whatever is coming to them. If we know a Local Government is getting N100million every month, the Local Government Chairmen will  clearly tell how that money is spent and what projects he intend to use that money for. Autonomy for me is the way forward.  

Are you running for re-election and why 2nd term in office. If re-elected, what’s your goals

The Agbazilo Merchanised Farm Oria project, we have a budget  from 2015 -16-17 and in 2018 is the Primary Health Care Centres, and 2019 budget for me will be the renovation of schools, even though I am doing some right now in. We’ve renovated Ughoha Grammar School, the only secondary school in Ughoha community that was burnt down. We’ve build 6 blocks of class rooms and fully renovated and I hope to do more of that. I’m planning to renovate Agadaga Primary School in Ewohimi right now, the plan is to put them in constituency projects intervention fund, so in every ward we can at list renovate one school. Also possibly provide solar panels. 

Because I know growing up in Esanland, we used to go to school to get extra moral studies and read in the evening through the night in the community. If we can put one or two solar panels in one or two class rooms that will be good. That’s what I plan to do in the 2019 budget.

Beyond that we will see how we’re going to sustain the projects we have on ground. To see the:-

1)      Agbazilo Merchanised Farm Oria  project running
2)     Schools renovated
3)     Health Care Centres up and working.

We can build on that. The farm really I plan to take it further than what we have on ground now. I plan to bring cassavita processing machines, at list in a ward, have 5 cassavita processing plants centres where the rural farmers can go to and process their cassava.

Those are some of the encouragement we can give to our people. Because they plant this cassava, like I’ve mentioned to you, I have my personal farm, the cost of planting is not commiserate to what you have put in planting. There are cassava people planted over a year or two ago, they have not harvest it because the price in the market is not worth it.

They’ve discovered, if they harvest and sell they will be losing money. I think we can take them through the value chain, where they can harvest and process, they will make more money from it. Those are some of the things, by the grace of God in my 2nd tenure that I will be addressing. The bottom line is to create wealth. I can’t emphasize that enough. We need to create opportunity for the young people to take advantage of.

CBN governor says this clearly recently, that there is going to be total ban on importation of Glucose Syrup. I don’t know if you know much of this, we used cassava and rice paddy to produce Glucose Syrup. Nigeria is spending billions every year importing Glucose Syrup for the confectionary industry, Cadbury, Nestle, that’s what they used to produce sweets and all.

Yet we say, we are the largest producers of cassava in the world, is an irony we are still importing Glucose Syrup. Part of the plans, when I talk of cassavita processing plants, small Modular Plants, if you have them in community and rural people harvest their cassava and process them, the process of manufacturing Glucose Syrup is not so complicated. It’s a very simple cottage industry to set up that I am planning to train people to blend cassava and paddy rice mill it together and they have Glucose Syrup.  When we do this, we can take advantage of this ban the government is talking about. We have trucks to evacuate this produce, and then we can sign agreement with big companies in Lagos and in the East who are in need of these produce. I want to create wealth, that’s the only way to eradicate poverty in our communities.

I call on Esan professionals to take advantage of this opportunity and set up cassavita processing plant and manufacture Glucose Syrup, there is a big market in Nigeria.

Are you active on social media and what are your handles on social media?

Yea, I used to be active on Social Media but not a lot these days due to work schedule although my staffs do. I should be getting back now, because, well, I worship at Christ Embassy where I am a Deacon, we had platform called KingsChat, and my Pastor actually said we should migrate all our contacts to this platform, where we’ve a large population and a wider reach. Beside WhatsApps, I’m not pretty active on Social Media but folks can reach me on WhatsApp on my telephone number.

Folks complain when they called me, I don’t pick. When I am in the plenary session I can’t pick calls. Although I have my PA- public Assistant, I always has my phone with me is just that I can’t pick all the calls at the same. I have one telephone number and I can be reach on that number and WhatsApp, just leave a message if you call and I am not available.

What are your favourite hobbies?

Well, I do a lot of exercise, I used to gym a lot, basically spending one hour, most time I do that every day of the week except on Sundays. I’m in the gym when I’m in Abuja but when I am in the village I go the farm for hiking.

My family is in Port Harcourt, I’m in Port Harcourt right now, and I walk and hike around the massive Estate where we live. Minimum one hour to 30 minutes of walk everyday.

You can engage your Federal Representative Hon. Sergius O. Ogun at:
Tel/Whatsapp+234 803 305 5951.
If you call no response please leave a message.

@WPPJr
Editor/Publisher