Paul Agbonze Obazele
By Foster Obi
Nollywood star and two time President of Association of Movie Producers, Paul Agbonze Obazele, has outlined his policy direction to bring back the glory of the once flourishing Edo state, called the Heartbeat of the Nation.
Paul, who is running for the position of governor on the platform of Labour Party is a 1986 graduate of Auchi Polytechnic and also a graduate of Lagos Business School, ‘a son of the soil’, from Okhuesan Esan South East local government.
He outlined some of this vision while addressing his people as guest speaker in a town hall meeting recently.
Paul who is the Founding President of Legends of Nollywood and Current President, Edo Film makers Association told his people what he wants to do for them as encapsulated in what he called “Convenants”, with the people. He gave a graphic picture of what he intends to do, showing he has thought this through over the years before throwing his hat into the ring.
“One of my Convenants with the people is Agriculture. Before Edo state, there was a region called Midwest and Midwest region metamorphosed into Bendel state.
We had NIFOR . NIFOR was into agricultural palm produce. As at that time, our then governor General Ogbemudia was in the fore front of making the state Agriculturally sufficient and he did excellently well. We looked after it. Let me take you back to the 15th century of our great Benin kingdom, remember the Portuguese came in here and they traded with us for a very long time.
What was the trade? It was in palm oil. That was a very big sustainable income for us. Coming back to the present day, remember Malaysia came in here and went straight to the NIFOR thing, understudied us and took what our palm produce is and walked away. Today they are the largest exporter of palm oil produce. My brother, I am not going to sit down in Osadebe House and wait for oil derivation. I am going to think outside the box. I am going to look at what gave us visibility, very strong visibility, which is the oil palm thing. We are going to engage agricultural people, we are going to pull in our resources and persons. We are going to regenerate this strength that we have and which is oil palm product. It does not even stop at that. We are going to go back to our rice mills. Remember the Ekpoma thing, it is there. We are going to go back to that. Do not forget that outside the federal government parastatals and all that, agriculture is another sector that creates employment. So intentionally we are going to look into that and we are going to raise it up. We are going into it and in the process of doing it generate employment. We do remember that every sector is given what we call a palliative. The palliative we are going to create in that sector is that we are going to reduce our loan environment to single digit to create succor to those who are into agriculture, most especially the palm oil thing so that we can push it forward. Don’t forget we also have the yam thing. We have the yam farmers, we also have the cashew nut people. So agricultural sector is one of the sectors that will play a primary role in the catchment area of Edo state that will cause us to grow financially and bring stability to homes and people.
Also speaking on other areas, Paul, former Provost Filmmakers Corporative of Nigeria, said, “Let me tell you the truth, what we lack in this state is what is called human capital.”
The first thing we will look out for is the workforce in Edo state which has the highest demography…the youths. We must engage the youths, we must develop them. We must have what we call capacity building. We must have the empowerment thing, there is no need for us here to go and look for workforce outside to come and work in Edo. In the process of doing that here we encourage corruption and capital flight. You see people pad budget, and whatever stuff they use to get these things in. If we concentrate on what we have, the vibrant and dynamic youth we have, the educated people we have, we make them understand that the state cannot function without them, we give them the reason why they have to give back to the state, you will find out that the state will now start working and the capacity will be built, that is the difference between Paul Obazele and the rest.
I have done this before. I did it in the entertainment industry, when I was a two time national president of the Association if Movie Producers. It is in on record that for the first time in the history of this country, we contributed 5.2percent to the GDP growth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You are going to see a complete turnaround and what is called transparency. You will see it, you will know it, you will beat your hand, on your chest that you are an Edolite.
Talking about healthcare, the vibrant trailblazer said, “ Again, there are antecedents to things.” We have been in this terrain before. I look forward to what I can do for people so that they can come back and stay loyal to me. Why did I use the term me. When I ran as president of Association of Movie Producers, the first I did was to guarantee the healthcare system of my people. What we did was to provide a HMO for them. We provided health insurance scheme for them. Now if you look at my seven points Convenants, I did not call it agenda..the agreement we have of what we are going to do for the people, the first of it all is HMO. Every born child of Edo state will be given that. Number 2, every child of Edo state will have what we call a Welfare Security Number which is a social insurance. If we deal from ages 01-17, we look at 18-55, we create such healthcare for them. You will find out that people died because of N2000, N5000, ordinary malaria which is not supposed to be. Once we have these things in place, the HMO is given to you. The premium on HMO is N27,200, maximum is N30,000 and we are just a population of four million seven hundred and seventy seven people (4,00777). That can be provided for. It means that I have done that for you and you will look for what you will do for Edo state.
Then we will look at our parents who have worked, 55 years and above and we look at how we can cushion effects for them and give them extensions, such hands of fellowship, to make them understand that yes they are senior citizens, yes that it is our duty to look after them, yes we will look after them. Now such thing is done and the moment you do it remember there is a saying, “a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.”
If you look at Edo State very well, our byline is called ‘The Heartbeat of the Nation.’ The nation today is sick because the heart is sick. If you don’t look after Edo state very well, Nigeria will continue to be sick. Therefore, the first thing we have to do is to heal the heart which is Edo state. So paramount to what we want to do is the healthcare system.
Now you asked me again about the security of the country, remember if there is no security in Edo state, prosperity will not come. Because of the healthcare we are going to provide, you will find that multinationals will come and pitch tent here, because every company will come to a place where there’s favourable and enabling environment for workers. We have provided that. We now come in to insecurity. Fighting insecurity is that we must provide light in every nooks and cranny of the state. How do we provide light. There is what is called a solar system. The moment we mount this solar system light, we will have CCTV in them. If you go to a place, there is what they call a cockpit. It is where you see everything that is happening there. If we go back to the topic we are dealing with today which is corruption, in the cockpit, we are seeing every policeman at the checkpoint. We are seeing everyone committing crime at every where. In real time we are seeing them. In the process of providing this thing, remember we have been able to generate employment, we are dealing with security men, we are bringing in employment into it, so we have used one stone to kill three birds; light, security and employment.
We are going to have shifts all round. Remember in this state called Midwest, Bendel state, we used to have three shifts running in this state. So if we have 24 hours a day, we can have 8 hours shift and you see we will a security tight environment.
I am so sorry for what is happening in Akoko Edo. What affects you affects me. I cannot say I am happy with the state of things, I am seeing and hearing. It beats my imagination but again there is always hope at the end of the tunnel. There is hope at the horizon. A new dawn has come, that becomes paramount in our government which is your government because like I said to everyone I started with consulational forums, there is going to be town hall meetings where we are going to discuss what is peculiar to each senatorial district and I know that road is very paramount to us. The roads will be dealt with. The lights will come in. The streets have solar lights but we don’t have anything to power it. The energy from the sun powers us and there is enough battery that will run with it and in the process because we are running such security check, those things will be reduced and drastically dealt with. The life style of an average Edo man is paramount. There is nothing that is going to shortchange that. Like I said, the death of every human being demoralizes me, not to talk of the death of an Edo man, so it is priority and I guarantee you that we will deal with this together .
Remember just like we heard the whistle blowers talking about corruption, we are going to have people who will give us information to sniff them out wherever their hideout is. And we will use whatever way we can to curb it. Like I said, ‘we no dey run from things, na things suppose they run from us.’
The people who do that, they live amongst us and until we start implicating them, we will not have a headway so need you, you need me. You are part of this government. I am not saying this because I want to win you over. You can ask my people, in anything I have done, I get them involved and they tell me what their fears are and try to allay it and take it.You can also find out, one of the biggest thing that has happened to us or one of the greatest dangers we faced as film makers were pirates but we were able to face it to curb it. We fought them seriously, we took the war to their domain, the once we caught we jailed them during my administration. Please you can research all these. I am saying to you, the people who perpetrate all these crime against humanity, against average citizen of Edo state we will get them, They have names, they have places they stay, they have relatives, we will get them. It is only when the left hand washes the right hand that and the right, the left hand can it be clean, therefore I need you to survive, you need me to survive. We need the government to push these things for us and you are involved.
I like your questions how are we going to keep taxes low? Very simple thing. Each government is developed through the taxing of people. Nobody is going to be over taxed as it were. Nobody is going to be made to pay over. Nobody is going to be made to evade taxes. We will not do that. The only that we need to do for an average businessman and an average agency person is to create an enabling environment . For example in agriculture remember we said we are going to do single digit loan interest for them. We are going to do that and we are going to create an enabling environment for it and because we know what your earnings are, appropriate taxes will be made. No overtaxing, no evasion of tax. We will stand our guard, we will provide what is necessary for us to Edo State, because the taxes you pay are the taxes we use to provide quality education for our children. We must do that. I want to believe that the reason why people avoid paying taxes is because the government has not been transparent as it were. Again for us to stay on top of the game, there is going to be a situation where education must be paramount to our tax collector so that they will not be made to overcharge or over bill.
The Actor, Producer, Film Director told his hosts, “ I am delighted and honestly honoured to be here, on this platform tonight, chatting with the best and greatest minds in the nation called Nigeria and from the extract of Edo state. I am not flattering anybody, I know the capacity of an average Edolite, owing from the fact that I have fraternised with different citizens of Nigeria, and I know what our capacity and strength is.
The real Nigerian is an Edo man who stands his ground to tell you the truth no matter how bad it is. He will tell you your breathe stinks, not because he hates you, but because he is actually telling you the truth as it is. When you need a friend, when things are rough and tough and you have an Edo man as a friend, most especially an Esan man, he will stand with you to the end.
“I am very happy, I have my brothers and sisters that are here standing and believing in the efficacy of the state called Edo state, actually the Heartbeat of the Nation,” in an overwhelming reception.
Picture: Paul Obazele addressing his people in a warm reception.