Stella Ukhurebor, firebrand daughter of late Prof. Ambrose Alli, former governor of Bendel State, is a grassroots politician and astute business icon. She told Tim Okojie Ave, in this interview, that a woman can become president of Nigeria based on competence and capability. She spoke on other burning national issues, including the untold hardship a hike in fuel prices will cause in the country. Excerpts:
As a front runner in the chairmanship race in Esan West Local Government Area, what are you going to do differently from those who had been there?
Well, I think there are so many things to do differently, but my approach towards administration in the local government itself is a different one on its own. Among other things, I want to give enough attention to revenue creation in the local government. We cannot continue to do the same thing same way and always expect a different result. I do not think there is any or at least more than three local governments in Edo State as we speak that can survive independently in this state for even a short time without total dependence on the state government. This is not normal at all. As a government, we must begin to work towards independent survival through more revenue creation. This is part of what will bring about my venture into so many areas that our financial and partnership strength can carry. I am very careful in making promises, I do not want a situation where, as usual, so many promises will be made without the implementation of any. This time, I am more focused on implementation of my ideas as dividends of democracy to the ordinary people in the society rather than articulating thousands of promises, including what are not achievable, just to deceive the electorate. We talked about toilet system the other time, we talked about how water can be drawn from AAU campus Dam to the neighbouringcommunities of Ujemen and maybe a little part of Idumebo and others. I drew this plan when a keg of water was N50 (fifty naira in these areas). It has even become more necessary now that the keg of water in the same communities is running into N100 (hundred naira) and above, thereby making life unbearable for the indigenes and students of Ambrose Alli University. We also talked about recreation centres as it has become big problem in Esan West that every holiday and yuletide season, the ever busy town of Ekpoma become deserted not just by students but also lecturers, their children and even the indigenes of Esan West which, of course, is not their fault, but as a result of the lack of fun centres anywhere in the local government. These and others are some of the problems I am coming on board to fix and, as the third tier of government, which is the grassroots, the people must be involved and carried along either through town hall meetings or any other means, as local government administration ought and should take the form of a semi-direct democracy.
How will you address the insecurity problem in your local government area when you get the ticket?
The truth is, insecurity has really become a global phenomenon and narrowing it down to Nigeria, it has become a major issue. Esan West, being a sub-system in all of these systems, cannot be left out. We also have the challenge of insecurity here just like every other places. But I must say that I think where we are getting it wrong is the everyday attempt to fight this insecurity with a “top to bottom” approach, which cannot yield much result as the “bottom to top” approach. So, I will be adopting and adhering to – unless there is need for change – the “bottom to top” approach in Esan West Local Government. In doing this, I will first of all involve or bring in the ex-service men we have in different villages, kingdoms, and wards in the local government area.
What is your take on Esan man or woman becoming the governor of Edo in 2024 and who’s your preferred candidate?
It is a good thing and would, of course, be appreciated by every Esan man or woman to see an Esan man at the helm of affairs after our amiable governor successfully finishes his tenure in 2024. The truth is, I really do not have a preferred candidate as I speak but as a grassroots mobilizer, I also listen to the people. I am a woman of the people and. most of the time, their opinions and Interests are what shape and direct my decisions in politics. However, one thing should be clear, Esan is Esan and we could have the best candidate from the most unpopular town or village in Esan land, it doesn’t matter. At the same time, it should be understood that we cannot do this alone. No single senatorial district or tribe in Edo that has ruled this state has done it alone or requested to do it alone. It has always been the support and collaboration of others. So, if we are saying we want to lead, the support of others is very paramount and therefore must be asked for in humility and brotherly love as it has always been.
Do you share the view that a woman can become the president of Nigeria? If yes, what are your reasons?
First of all, I really do not like the fact that we try to see it as unusual for women to occupy certain positions in the country. It should rather be viewed from the humanity perspective and not necessarily gender. So, I very much share the view that a woman can be the president of this great nation. My reasons are not far-fetched. Capability, integrity, credibility and, of course, competence do not recognize gender, it can be part of the way of life of anybody. So, if any woman has all of this quality more than a man in a race, the woman should have her way through a majority support regardless of gender. That is how it should be and that is the way to go. But it should be on the basis of competence and capability, not sympathy of womanhood.
Can you score the performance of Obaseki as governor?
Governor Godwin Obaseki has done well so far, but the problem is that many people who have been in politics for a very long time may not understand his kind of approach. What we have in Edo State currently is a man working hard in silence to create a new order not just for us, but also for the generations yet unborn. One of the most difficult things in politics and governance is changing a negative status quo that has existed for a very long time, become part of the body polity of a system and more like a natural way of life to many. In Esan West, for Instance, Governor Obaseki has constructed more roads than any government since the creation of Edo. The roads include Ebhoakhua-Eguare Market Road, GT Road, GT Extension Road, Poultry Road, One Tee 4 Road, Eromon Road, etc. Other great initiatives outside Esan West such as The Tech Park which will produce the highest numbers of Software Engineers in the whole of Africa from our own Edo State in just few years’ time.The Edo Innovation Hub, Production Centre, the GIZ partnership, etc. These are wonderful initiatives very many people may not understand, but they are going to shoot Edo State above every other state in just a short period of time. So, I am scoring Governor Obaseki high in Edo State as he is doing wonderfully well.
Let’s take you back – tell us about yourself.
Mrs Stella Alli Ukhurebor was born on May 1, 1976, into the Alli family, Emaudo-Ekpoma. Stella is married to Mr. Tom Ukhurebor has three beautiful children.
Your Early Life and Education
Stella Alli was born in Kaduna State and attended Army Children Primary School, Abak, and Larmart Demonstration College, Mrs Stella Alli Ukhurebor also obtained a B.sc in Public Administration from the prestigious Ambrose AlliUniversity, Ekpoma. I am a woman of many parts, a trader who deals in fabrics, properties, and the production of palm oil. My exploits in the business world makes me a fantastic resource person and a human manager. I ensure excellence in all I do and this stands me out in the society.
Your political career
Am a grassroots mobiliser and former Special Assistant to Governor Godwin Obaseki. I played a vital role in the last gubernatorial election in Edo State. Before and during the electioneering processes, I mobilised so many women and youths in Esan West Local Government for Governor Obaseki, clinching my ward in a grand style. With the ward coming out with the highest number of votes for the Peoples Democratic Party and Governor Godwin Obaseki in the whole of Edo Central Senatorial District. Under the leadership of the political Leaders in Esan West LGA, I also led Obaseki’s Campaign in different capacities in Esan West. I have also served in various capacities. Presently, I am contesting for the Esan West Local Government Area chairmanship seat. I am the President and Founder of the Excellent Women Association of Nigeria (EWAN). It is a CAC registered NGO which has its members across the 10 Wards of Esan West Local Government. Through this Association, I have been able to empower very many people; it has been able to take people out of the street to learn skills and become better for themselves and the society and this association also takes up any case of gender abuse or right abuse in the society for free without any charges. The association also caters for the widows, less-privileged, and the aged in the society. Students are not left out of this as we also give out free exercise books to pupils in my community. This association has operated for more than a decade now without a single issue. It is an association built on integrity and trust and, by the Grace of God, it is standing very firm and progressing greatly.