By Chukwudi Nweje
Chief David Edevbie was former Delta State Commissioner for Finance, and Chief of Staff to the oil-rich state between 2019-2021.
He was also the Director of Finance and Administration of the Yar’ Adua Campaign Organization and later the Principal Secretary to President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua. In this interview, the University of Lagos Economics graduate speaks on various issues including his desire to govern Delta State.
Let me ask you a direct question; why do you want to be Governor of Delta State?
My motivation for attempting to be Governor of Delta State is borne out of a passion for serving my people and leapfrogging the state into the league of developed polities across the world. Our state is endowed with infinite possibilities of greatness, and these opportunities need focused, prudent and accountable leadership to harness the prospects for the greatest good of our people. The world, including Nigeria and Delta State, is at the edge of a new order. Hybrids like me will activate this new order driven by knowledge powered by technology. By hybrid, I am referring to technocrat-politicians whose grasp of the economy and governance is not only firmly rooted in their homeland but have a global resonance that will engender that much-needed interface between the homeland and the globe. So much has happened in the last 20 years since the turn of the millennium, and a lot more is going to happen. The core of this is that we now need to do things anew. In doing this, we need new ideas that run with the times, new energy to cope with the exerting demands of the time. New drive and passion. These are what I am ready to offer to Delta State and Deltans. I am convinced that I embody the new ideas that will drive the world, Nigeria and Delta State inclusive.
So, what are you offering to Delta State and Deltans?
Good governance is essentially the efficient management of resources and accountability for the stewardship over those resources in a people-oriented manner. Development is about the people. So, our essential goal will be to factor the people into every government policy. I have done some deep thinking and quite a lot of reading to conceptualise how Delta State can be developed. I took time to read the development aspirations that drove some of the regions in Nigeria in the 1960s. I discovered that similar aspirations took Singapore to the league of developed nations. Similar aspirations took Malaysia and Indonesia close to the margins of developed nations. I have worked in all three countries and others that are popularly referred to as Asian Tigers. But the case of Nigeria has arrested development. I have also looked at contemporary global reality and how the world is changing regarding knowledge and technology-driven tendencies. A perfect blending of the past with the realities of today is what Delta State needs from 2023. Without necessarily reinventing the wheel, I am offering Delta State and Deltans an agenda of modernisation. I am offering Delta State and Deltans a new deal to fit into the new world order. By us, I am referring to the people of Delta State. This new deal will be driven by industrialisation, power and energy, security, ICT, social infrastructure, embracing education, health, transportation, rural and urban development, and public sector reforms. I am offering a new vision in sync with a new world order. We must lift our people.
In all of these, what do you really think are the development challenges of Delta State?
The development challenges of Delta State cannot be taken out of the context of the problems of Nigeria. Some of the challenges appear intractable, but with diligent application of the intellect and rigorous commitment, these problems can be overcome for the good of our people. Some of the issues I have highlighted include poor power supply, absence of industries, insecurity, inadequate access to healthcare, inadequate social infrastructure, inadequate education infrastructure, lack of ICT, youth unemployment, low per capita productivity, and poverty. The present and previous administrations in Delta State have done a lot in remedying the problems. But development is a process. What is needed at the moment is to leverage on the modest gains with new vigour, a new sense of urgency, new ideas, a solid determination to alter the paradigm to reflect contemporary realities and leapfrog our state into the league of modern societies.
Let us now come to a contentious issue in Delta State politics which is the governorship rotation. What is your opinion on this?
My opinion on rotation is guided by our party’s position and Delta State’s multi-ethnic configuration. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) makes a strong case for rotation or zoning in its constitution to ensure equity, fairness and justice. This is not only fair but has gone a long way in creating a stable polity where nobody feels shortchanged. Delta State is a multi-ethnic state with about eight or so ethnic nationalities located in three senatorial districts. From the onset, the temperament of the people and political leaders of Delta State aligned with the principle of rotation and zoning. The essential impetus for this orientation inheres in the fact that without zoning, some people are bound to be shortchanged because of the demographic advantage of others. So, to eliminate political inequity, the concept of rotation was adopted based on senatorial districts, and this has worked perfectly for Delta State. The fact that Delta State is among the three most stable states in Nigeria attests to the success story of rotational governorship. So far, all the three senatorial districts have benefited from rotation clockwise, and it is logically going back to where it began, which is Delta Central. I must add, however, that merit has never been sacrificed on the altar of rotation. The most qualified candidates from each zone have always emerged.
But the opinion out there does not appear as smooth as you have just painted. The thinking is that you contested in the primaries of 2014 when the governorship was supposedly the turn of Delta North senatorial district?
I indeed participated in the primaries in 2014. It is also true that many aspirants, irrespective of the senatorial district, also participated in the primaries of 1998 and 2006, which were transition years. But at the end of the day, rotation or zoning took precedence over personal aspirations. You must examine the motives of aspirants in contesting party primaries. Significantly, several aspirants contest the primaries to test their strength and gain requisite experience for the future and not necessarily to win. Others contest to negotiate alternative positions for themselves in a new government. Others are just serial contestants who love the attention received during the process. You can compare a first-time aspirant to a candidate preparing for WASC or GCE. They see the opportunity to participate in the primaries as the equivalent of the mock examination. So, the question of multiple aspirants in the primaries is not a problem. It was always resolved in favour of zoning at the end of the day. After I contested in 2014 and lost to our now governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, I joined the vanguard of his campaign to make sure he won the election to be governor.
Subsequently, he appointed me as Commissioner for Finance in his first term and later as Chief of Staff during the second term. This trend and narrative show that the issue of my contesting the primaries was in the context of a political understanding which is not lost on those who understand politics. The fact that I came a close second clearly establishes my general acceptability across the state.
You have been in government since 1999 with some breaks; what new ideas do you want to bring to play in governance?
Life is dynamic, so is government and governance. The world is changing, and as a technocrat, I am changing with the world. Yes, I have been in government, and I have brought in ideas that suited particular periods. We are entering a new global era that demands that we think anew according to the imperative of the day and tomorrow. We cannot do what was done between 1999 and 2020 this time around and expect good results. We must do things anew. This is 2021, 21 years into the present millennium. The world has rolled out an ambitious order that will climax in 2050, and my eyes are primed on that goal. Africa, and by extension Nigeria, has missed the MDGs, and it is doubtful if we can accomplish the SDGs. The end of that timeline is almost here. However, we cannot afford to miss the concept of a new world that will engender global megatrends from around 2050. In my thinking, I have tried to be futuristic as I look into the crystal ball. I can see the need of deploying long term perspective paradigms.
First is the issue of population, which we must plan for and leverage through human capital development and industrialization as well as agriculture. Investment in agriculture which is the green gold, can turn the fortune of Delta around. Massive cultivation of oil palm and rubber alone will put our state in the league of prosperous polities by any standard imaginable. Leveraging the private sector, we must galvanise our populace on the path of production. This will logically lead to the industrialisation of our state and massive employment and wealth creation. We also need to enhance economic opportunities and wealth creation through ICT, bridge the digital divide and erase economic inequality and poverty. We need to look into urbanisation and the problems of infrastructure deficit, health, education, housing, transportation, pollution, flooding, food and other issues that demand that we think out of the box.
We can then begin to think of new and smart cities. A brewing ICT revolution is likely to climax in 2050 and plunge the unprepared into the deepening abyss of poverty. My eyes are on that date as I think about Delta State. We need to bridge the digital divide and put our people, particularly our youth, on the digital road to development and prosperity. We must explore technology to shape our future in transport, communication and energy. We must improve manufacturing in quantum leaps, and we must embrace artificial intelligence and robotics. I intend to deploy policies and programmes to secure and protect our people from the jolt the world order will cause from 2050. We must invest in human capital and skills to make our youths compete favourably in the new world. But before doing all these, we must tackle the nagging problem of electricity. We must invest massively in power and energy to unlock our economy and to drive our ambitious and realizable aspirations. Our goal will be to locate Delta State and its citizens in the global traffic of human activities. My thoughts for Delta are grand, and I will deliver on them when given the mandate to govern. A new world of infinite possibilities is upon us, and Deltans must be prepared to prosper in that new world. I am stepping out as the agent of that new order.