Senator Monday Okpebholo, popularly known as Akpakomiza, is the Senator representing Edo Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly. In this interview with Omoye Aminu, Senator Okpebholo, who was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks on his commitment to purposeful leadership, his interventionist measures across sectors in Edo Central, his plans for the senatorial district going forward, and his role as Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Procurement. Excerpts:
Tell us a bit about your background.
I was born in the 1970s to the family of late Chief and Mrs. Peter Okpebholo of Udomi Community in Uwessan-Irrua, Esan Central Local Government Area of Edo State. As a child I attended Udomi Community Primary School and Ujabhole Community Secondary Secondary, both in Uwessan-Irrua. Unfortunately, the untimely death of my younger and only sister, resulting from complications from unhygienic water supply in the village fetched from the stream, cut short my dream of finishing my secondary school in Ujabhole Community Secondary Secondary.
After the unfortunate demise of my younger sister, I relocated to Jos, Plateau State, to live with my elder brother, where I eventually completed my secondary school education. While leaving the village in tears and agony, I made a vow to God that if he blesses me financially, I would fix the problem of lack of hygienic public water in my community.
After my Senior School Certificate Exam in Jos, I got a job with a small firm that deals in books and computers with a paltry sum as salary. However, my smartness in salesmanship quickly endeared me to many big individuals, corporate organizations, government agencies and European missionaries in Jos and beyond. One of such big company was Nasco. I became exceptionally successful in the sales of computers, such that many people encouraged me into setting up my own firm, which I heeded with every sense of determination to succeed. Thus, at a time many businessmen were still peddling in analogue enterprise, I saw the future in computers and quickly keyed into the business by floating Chapman Computers Limited. The company soon became a household name in Plateau State. Indeed, God answered the prayer I prayed while leaving the village, and as such the first millions God blessed me with was committed towards fixing of the water problem in my community as I vowed years later after I left the village.
My foray into the ICT sector paid so well that I later established Interweb Satcom Limited, a giant industry player in broadband sales and development. As a young man with a strong unstoppable determination to succeed, I found myself dealing with foreign entrepreneurs as Interweb Satcom Limited began to be very famous in digital hardware. Both Chapman Computers Limited and Interweb Satcom Limited became mega companies in trading, importing and competing with global industry players from Europe and America.
I, however, did not stop the pursuit of knowledge even when I was already successful as a businessman. So, I went back to school and obtained a degree in Business Administration from the University of Abuja. Furthermore, I am currently pursuing my Masters’ degree in Policy and Leadership Studies in the same University of Abuja.
The public acknowledgement and recognition of my skillset and competencies by eminent Nigerians from various fields of endeavour, who were friends and associates of Chief Tony Anenih, endeared me to the late Iyasele of Esanland and the black race (Chief Anenih).
My valuable relationship with Chief Tony Anenih opened up vistas of political engagements between me and political heavyweights across the length and breadth of Nigeria, and, therefore, on my own, I developed the idea of politics of development and service to humanity. As someone who places value on friendship, I took Late Chief Anenih as my mentor, hero and father.
Today, in Edo Central Senatorial District, popularly known as Esanland, my verifiable sectoral interventionist measures in roads, security, education, water, transport, health, agriculture, and human capital development are a testament to the fact that where governments at every level failed, as an individual I succeeded.
What were your campaign promises to Edo Central Senatorial District and how far have you gone in fulfilling these promises? What is your next plan for your constituency?
During my senatorial electioneering campaigns I promised the people of Esanland that I would do whatever it takes to tackle the lack of potable public water which is a major problem in Esanland. For decades, successive governments at different levels have told the people of Edo Central that they cannot provide water for them because of the topography of the senatorial district. But I refused to accept that decision as a finality towards efforts in solving the age-long challenge.
Before my election I sought after professionals in the water sector who advised me to launch a borehole water system scheme which, in their estimation, will help to solve the water problem. I believe in the plan because I had provided water through borehole water system for my community and neighbouring communities in Uwessan as far back as 2007 in fulfilment of the vow I made when I was leaving the village due to the demise of my sister from complications arising from unhygienic water. So, we launched the scheme before my election and were able to provide water in communities that nobody thought we could get water. After my election we have continued in that trajectory in the provision of potable, safe and clean public water through the borehole water system scheme, and we have been able to provide accessible clean potable water to a high number of communities across the five LGAs in Edo Central Senatorial District, free of charge.
I have also done a lot through my interventions in the road, health, education, transport, and agriculture sectors. In addition, our human capital development policy has made many self-independent and self-sufficient.
For over a year now, I introduced a free public transportation scheme in Edo Central that has continued to operate without any hitches till date. That is novel in Nigeria! At a time governments are finding it difficult to provide free public transportation for the masses, here is an individual who has done so. Most importantly, the free transportation scheme in Edo Central has become an immense support system to workers, traders, business owners, farmers, students, clergymen and various types of commuters in the post-subsidy removal regime in Nigeria. My plan is to change the infrastructural deficit narrative in Edo Central Senatorial District even though as a lawmaker, my primary responsibility is to make laws for the good and well-being of the society.
Howbeit, with a strong determination and productive engagements with my colleagues and heads of ministries, departments and agencies of government, I am optimistic that I will be able to facilitate many sectoral projects to Edo Central through the Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP), also known as Constituency Projects, and through other intervention programmes in the incoming fiscal year.
As Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Procurement, what are your observations since you resumed office?
As Chairman of Senate Committee on Public Procurement, I have observed with keen interest the manner our procurement laws and regulations have been flagrantly breached or violated in most cases. I have also noticed that our procurement processes and procedures in most cases were shrouded in secrecy. As a democrat, I strongly believe that the business of government or governance shouldn’t be transacted in a secret cult-like modus operandi, especially in a democratic dispensation. The process of governance should be open, and agents of government must be transparent and accountable in the discharge of their duties to the people of Nigeria on whose pleasure they serve.
What are your plans to improve on the public procurement process in Nigeria?
Under my leadership as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Procurement, the laws and regulations guiding our procurement process must be complied with forthwith. The procurement processes and procedures must be transparent and the relevant officials of government entrusted with the responsibility to serve must do so with every sense of accountability and honesty to the Nigerian people.