Steve Ovirih

Ondo Events had an exclusive chat with Prince Philemon Ebiesuwa, a bona fide Ilaje man and stakeholder who is equally an APC chieftain from Ondo South Senatorial District. Ebiesuwa, a Geologist and an ex ‘UItes’ bared his mind in this interview on his days as IRDC Chairman and also gave Gov. Akeredolu a strong credit on his achievement so far.

Excerpts:

Ondo Events : Your name rings a bell but for the benefit of those who do not know you, who exactly is Philemon Ebiesuwa?

Philemon Ebiesuwa: Thank you very much. I am Prince Philemon Ebiesuwa, a native of Awoye Community in Ugbo Kingdom, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. Sometimes, I introduce myself as a Pure and Applied Ilaje man; I am a Geologist by profession , 1986 graduate of the prestigious University of Ibadan.

After my National Youth Service in the old Anambra State, I taught as an Assistant Lecturer
/ Tutorial Assistant in the University, where I taught Geological Sciences. The University I taught then has now been christened Enugu State University of Technology (ESUTH). I left there and had a stint with Shell in the Exploration Department . I was also a Consultant Geologist with Crowther and Associates Mining and Petroleum Company. So we were consulting for Shell, Agip, Mobil and Chevron as well as other outlets in the oil industry. I was also a website Geologist and logging Engineer. Within those period, I equally worked as Advanced Drilling Technologist . The work took me to at least five of the Niger Delta States where I had the opportunity to interface with the people and I experienced almost a similar lifestyle with what obtain in Ilaje, where over 70% of the people live on water.

Since I came back to stay fully in Ondo State, I have been assisting my people in Community development and that was the reason my community alongside 43 other oil communities of Ilaje kingdom chose me to be the pioneer Chair of Ilaje Regional Development Council ( IRDC). I must say with all sense of modesty that the IRDC under my watch built the best Town Halls in the oil Producing communities. In fact, we wanted to show to the world that our area is not harsh to development that it is the commitment that matters. We were committed to showing our people that we can develop the oil Producing areas no matter the ecological challenge or difficulty of the terrain. Thus, with the little money we had as seed money then at the IRDC, 55 Million Naira in 2005 for 43 communities, we re able to build town halls, construct terrace concrete buildings, walk ways; we carried out quarter lays, provided medical assistance for the ages, pregnant women and infants. We equally gave scholarships to students of secondary schools and tertiary institutions who are of Ilaje origin. We executed so many of these lofty projects not that we had adequate fund but we were buoyed by our resolve to make impacts and made our people feel the input of the Development Council under our watch. It will interest you to know that we embarked on ‘reverse osmosis’ but we were not able to complete the project before my tenure lapsed. We have water challenge in Ilaje because our water is salty as a result of sea incursion so we engaged one company to provide us reverse osmosis technology, a means through which sea water can be converted to drinking water. We demonstrated it and it worked when I worked onshore. Quite unfortunately, we were not able to complete the reverse osmosis project because of the increase in the cost of materials and that along the line I handed over as my tenure ended.

These are some of the things we were able to complete based on the fund at our disposal. Members of the public reposed trust in us and we didn’t disappoint them.

Ondo Events: Ondo State in the past five years has been managed by the APC led government of Gov. Akeredolu whom the people of Ondo State had given a second term Mandate. What’s your assessment of his government?

Philemon Ebiesuwa: The government of Arakunrin Odunayo Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has tried beyond my own personal expectation considering the paucity of fund in the state. This also attests to the managerial competence of the Governor and his high level of transparency in the administration and democratization of development in the state. The Governor has performed creditably well in my frank, sincere and unbiased assessment. In Ilaje where I come from, I am particularly pleased with the government interest in the area of the Deep Sea Port development as this shows Gov. Akeredolu’s interest in opening the Ilaje nation to big time maritime business. I know once the Port project is concluded, it’s going to turn not only Ilaje but the entire Ondo State to a new economic hub. I share the same experience with Excravos Gas To Liquid Project ( EGTL) when I was the IRDC Chairman. The EGLT project employed over 5000 youths and personally as the Chairman not less than 500 Ilaje youths were employed under my watch both as casual and semi casual workers. So, I know if the Seaport project is completed in Ondo State, it will shift the attention of our youths from crime and restiveness to engaging in productive activities from which they can get noble livelihood.

So, Gov. Akeredolu has tried. Even in the area of consolidating on the security of the citizens of Ondo State, I am particularly impressed with the role Gov. Akeredolu is playing to ensure Ondo State is safe from the activities of bandits and criminal herders. The recent employment of teachers in Ondo State is quite commendable. Doctors have also been recruited and these gesture considering the fund challenge everywhere is worthy of positive evaluation. The government has been able to manage successfully three state universities: OAUSTECH, UNIMED and AAUA. Some Governors would have merged them and rescind the decision to own three statutory universities but not Gov. Akeredolu. We just have to say a big kudos to him on that. I assessed our Governor and I gave him a strong credit on his performance.

Ondo Events: What agenda will you like to set for Gov. Akeredolu in Ilaje Land in the Governor’s second term?

Philemon Ebiesuwa: Thank you very much Steve. Well let me start by saying that Gov. Akeredolu’s commitment to road network in Ilaje is very commendable. I will like to see our Governor do more in the area of the township roads. Also, most of our communities are water logged. The other area where transportation can be added is in the area of boat transportation for the locals so as to make transportation challenge in the Coastal communities reduce to the barest minimum. I will want the Governor to consider the provision of potable water for our people because that is still a challenge and we always have water borne diseases in our area. Our people have Medica facility challenge for example in the whole of Ugbo Ward 6, there is no single quality health facility and people rely on the services of who in the least can be best described as quacks. As you know when people who pretend to be experts and are not handle patients’ health challenges, you know the consequences. We want the Governor to concentrate on the development of Ilaje in that area. And we are confident that not only Ilaje but the entire Ondo State will benefit from good governance which is the resolve of Gov. Akeredolu.

Ondo Events: As a stakeholder Ilaje man, what will you do differently if you are called to serve in any capacity?

Philemon Ebiesuwa: Hmm…Steve, that’s a good one. If I am opportune to work with the Government in any capacity, I am going to align myself with the “REDEEMED AGENDA” of the Governor which is poised to consolidate on Gov. Akeredolu’s agenda in the first term of his administration. The agenda is geared towards taking Ondo State to the next level of industrial growth and all round development. Having worked in Ilaje in the area of Community development, I understand quite well that there is need for partnership in Community development between the government and the Communities. Projects don’t really need to be imposed on the Communities, rather there will be Community based consensus on what kind of project to be introduced and executed in our respective communities as this will give our people a sense of belonging, creating participatory governance. I will ensure I call stakeholders meeting regularly to take inventory of the need of our people and then prioritize them into my development agenda for each Community then pick the ones that will be implementable within the limits of available resources. It will be the projects that the community have a preference for and not what I want , so there won’t be imposition of projects. All in all, I will ensure the good governance brand of Gov. Akeredolu is replicated in whatever capacity I am charged to function.

Ondo Events: Finally, Prince, do you still experience dichotomy in Ilaje nation?

Philemon Ebiesuwa: It is used to be there but it has thawed off now. It’s no more pronounced like before. I think it is gradually fading off. Many people are getting more enlightened and we are all Ilaje. If a Kenyan who still has cousins in Kenyan can go on to become US President , so why would an Ilaje man be fixated on whether someone is Ugbo or Mahin ; it’s uncalled for. There is no Ugbo man that is not related to Mahin or Aheri or Etikan. They are all related.

Dichotomy Is a tool only in the hands of the elite politicians used simply to undo their opponents to achieve political gains. Rather than preach dichotomy to achieve cheap political gains, if I am in a position of authority, I am going to let people realise that public fund is public trust that must be used Judiciously for the goods of the majority and the benefit of all.