Before we proceed, I think it is necessary to make some clarifications. I do not see a crisis, because the word ‘crisis’ is a very strong word. What we do have was a disagreement between some actors within the party over the out-come of the congress that took place. You will recall that some time last year, the ACN, ANPP, CPC, and a few other political parties had decided to come into alliance or a merger, so to speak. In the merger we’re talking about in Edo State, ACN happens to be what you may call the big partner in the sense that it’s the party in power, and it’s the party that controls all the local governments as well as the executive branch at the state level as well as an overwhelming majority in the legislative branch. But in order to give every one a sense of belonging, it was agreed that if you allow a full blown election to hold, chances were that those smaller parties that came into the alliance like the CPC and ANPP, which didn’t have elected officials in the wards, or local governments, may lose out. So, it was decided to say ‘Okay, let us give everybody a sense of belonging. That was what led to the story of harmonization. Harmonization worked in Edo north, it also worked in Edo central, it was only in Edo south you had some ripples.
I think the facts are already known. Being a consensus-builder, the governor was of the view the key leaders in Edo South should try and work together so that everybody would have a sense of belonging. But it happened that Mr Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was one of the leaders in Edo South was of the view that congress should hold, that there should be full-blown congress. Of course, having insisted that congress hold, one would think that he would be ready to accept the outcome of the elections to come. It happened that when the first round of elections held, his group didn’t do well.
Surprisingly, he and his supporters protested that the process was flawed. Based on the protest, the governor, being the leader of the party, ordered a re-run. They had a fresh congress, and from the report we received, the result was even worse for the Ize Iyamu group. They found that difficult to accept. So, for that reason, they issued the governor a 7-day ultimatum to annul the results for the second time. In fact, I read in the papers that also they were giving the governor some demands and conditions to be met. Notably, that the governor should anoint Ize-Iyamu as the governor-in-waiting; the exco should be dissolved and eight cabinet positions be allotted to him. In the case of Chief (Tony) Omoaghe, he said the Comrade Governor should impose him on the party as state chairman of the new APC. He told the governor that if he was not make him party chairman, he would also exit.
There was another lady who wanted to be woman leader. To the Governor, that was not only undemocratic but also unconscionable. If you don’t give me what I want, I exit. And the governor clearly said he is a democrat and cannot succumb to blackmail. So they left, and being a man who plays politics without bitterness, the Governor wished them well. And as it has been stated with facts and figures, the party in the last registration exercise registered hundreds of thousand members.
So, if for any reasons, a few individuals within the party felt aggrieved, and they didn’t want to exhaust or avail themselves of the conflict resolution mechanism within the party, the governor has said that so be it. If any thing at all, it simply shows that these actors are not ready to abide by the democratic principle that APC subscribes to. So, to come back to your original question, I don’t see any crisis. I want to believe that it is the decampees that are over-dramatizing their exit to inflate their actual electoral worth before those have offered them sanctuary. I think the media itself is over-indulging them.
Don’t forget that until now, the traffic of decampees was in the direction of APC in Edo. You only need to wait for when PDP holds their own party elections, you would see the traffic changing direction again. It is a natural process.
In all of this, what I think is very significant is that nobody is saying that Oshiomhole has not performed. On the contrary, what you hear is that Oshiomhole has presided over a congress that did not favour them. So for that reason, they are bailing out.
And to tell you how selfish, greedy and hypocritical some people can be, Chief Omoaghe has made a song and dance of some appointees of the a Governor resigning in protest, his own two biological daughters employed by the Governor are still sitting tight in their respective offices as Special Assistant to the a Governor. Omoaghe encourages people to resign their positions in government and join them in the procession to PDP, but he is yet to tell his own two daughters to leave Oshiomhole administration.
I am sure if those two young ladies were to buy him beer from the May wages they drew from Oshiomhole, he would gladly accept the gift. These are the kind of individuals we are dealing with.
So the governor will only get worried the day Edo people begin to rise on the streets and saying that he had stopped working for them. And the governor has said time and again that he was elected into office to work for the Edo people and not for the godfathers, not for party leaders. So I don’t see any crisis. I only see disagreement and those who felt they could not exhaust the conflict resolution mechanism within the party and abide by the logic of democracy have chosen to leave and the beat goes on.
If you the controversy is restricted to Edo South, how come somebody like Usman Shagadi, who is from Edo north like the Governor, and somebody like a House of Representatives member, Abubakar Momoh, also from Etsako, has also left the party. Are these all a coincidence?
Well, I made the clarifications earlier that the ripples the party had were more pronounced in Edo South because you have somebody like Osagie Ize-Iyamu whose ambition to be governor is over ten years old. In Edo North, you also had a murmur in one corner involving Shagadi and Momoh. Just like Edo South, it was a case of political greed and inordinate ambition. As for Shagadi, he is just one of the party leaders APC had in Edo North. It was all about his big ambition to play a local godfather or trying to be a local tin god. Oshiomhole came and said farewell to godfatherism. He is not ready to fight the godfathers of yesterday and replace them with new godfathers, particularly those who don’t add value to the democratic process. Like I said earlier, the governor would only have lost sleep if the ordinary people, the real voters, of Edo north so to speak, are marching on the streets, demonstrating that the governor was no longer working for their interest. In the case of Abubakar Momoh, he has done two terms in the House of Representatives. Not satisfied, he wants to become senator. He wants to graduate to the senate, despite that many of his constituents have been complaining that for the past seven years, he has largely been a bench-warmer in Abuja. His people complain that all they see are big SUVs and fancy Agbada, nothing more. At the moment, there is what you may call an unwritten agreement within the zone that equity be shown in sharing of political offices. Momoh is an Etsako-man like Comrade Oshiomhole. He believes Oshiomhole should impose him on Edo North as the APC senatorial candidate. Now, ask yourself, will it be right or fair before God or man that by 2015 you have Etsakor man as sitting governor and another Etsakor man as senator. Oshiomhole is a man of equity, he is a man of justice. Within that zone, you still have the Owan stock as well as the AKOKO Edo stock. An Akoko-Edo man is presently the Senator by name Domigo Obende. From Owan, you have Professor Julius Ihonvbere, the incumbent SSG, who has also indicated interest in the ticket. Ihonvbere is bringing a formidable credentials to the contest as a scholar of global standing.
Orhionmwon Council debacle
It happened that the deputy governor (Dr Pius Odubu) and Osagie Ize-Iyamu are from the same local government area, and the governor called them and said, ‘Look, two of you are political leaders from Orhionmwon, we don’t want quarrel, call other stakeholders and sit around the table and agree on consensus candidates so that we don’t promote discord.’ He (Ize-Iyamu) said he wanted full-blown congress, and the field was thrown open. In that circumstance, there are two possibilities that would happen, either you emerge winner or loser. The winner should be magnanimous in victory, and if you are a loser you should be gallant in defeat. But to go into a contest with the mindset that it is either you win or nothing, I don’t think that it’s something that’s healthy. So, it’s wrong. He is being mischievous to say the governor is from Etsako land and he was trying to dictate. The governor only said ‘Both of you should meet and agree.’ That is not tantamount to saying Oshiomhole was trying to determine who gets what in his locality. I hope you understand the trend. I mean it’s misleading to say the governor is from Etsako, and he was trying to impose who gets what in Orhionmwon. The governor called them and said ‘Look, both of you are from the same area. If you have full blown primaries in intra-party elections, experience has shown that it could polarize the party.’ He was speaking from because there is always this ‘I-must-win-at-all-costs’ syndrome. The question I think you should ask is: is it true that he (Ize-Iyamu) is overly ambitious? He would not deny that. Two: is it true that he has asked the governor to make him governor? He would not deny it. Three: is it true that he is fighting for control of party structure with the deputy governor in his local government area? He won’t deny it.
Those are the facts and they speak directly to the root of the political disagreement they had which led to their defection from the party. If you look at their antecedents, it would help you profile the kind of person they are. I mean I was a national journalist by vocation until now and I happen to be conversant with the details of the period they were in office. I mean these are events of recent history. A decade ago or so when Ize-Iyamu similarly aspired to be governor under the PDP, he and like minds came together and founded what you call the Grace Group within the PDP, and their slogan was ‘No man is God’. So, when the godfather in PDP then said it wasn’t the turn of Edo-South to be governor, they pulled out.
On May 26 APC State Congress
In Edo north, you had less acrimony. In Edo Central, it was also less acrimonious because ambition wasn’t running haywire there. It’s only because of this mindset that I must be governor at all costs that the hoopla you had in Edo south happened. What I am saying is that what happened at the state congress is a reflection of the process that we had in other zones. But these guys (defectors) can’t abide by the rules and spirit of the game. You see, if you are sure of yourselves, you shouldn’t be afraid of elections. Just like a student, if you know you know your onions, you’ve read your books properly, you shouldn’t be afraid of facing test. So, you saw what happened at the Stadium On my way! May 26. I am happy you attested that it was most transparent and peaceful. To tell you how keen the contest was, some guys stepped down for the others. That is the kind of democratic practice the governor is trying to preach.
I read a report in the media earlier where Ize-Iyamu was quoted as saying he assisted Oshiomhole to be governor and when he won he promised to assist him too to be governor. How reasonable is that? It sounds like a cock and bull story. When you said you assisted Oshiomhole to become governor, I think you’re abusing the intelligence of Nigerians. I speak as somebody who has had a privilege of been a journalist at the national level. In terms of weight and clout, you don’t compare Oshiomhole with Ize-Iyamu. You’re talking of somebody who has had a privilege of leading the labour movement in Nigeria for two terms of eight years. In terms of visibility, Oshiomhole is known everywhere across the country. How then can somebody like Ize-Iyamu say he made Oshiomhole? That is lie number one. Lie number two is that Oshiomhole promised to make him governor. That would be a negation of what Oshiomhole stands for. If you go back to where we’re coming from, PDP of which most of these characters were leading actors, had run down the state. I tell you the mood in Edo state in 2006/2007 was that of a lynch mob. As a result of what PDP did to the state for eight years that they were in office.
When Oshiomhole left NLC at the expiration of his two terms as president in 2007, someone like Gani Fawehinmi said Oshiomhole was fit to contest as president of the country. But Oshiomhole said he would rather come to his state and start from there. Having been rendered a political on account of the ruin they had plunged when in office between 1999 and 2007, some of these characters were looking for a credible face to hide behind so that they could start walking on the streets of Benin. Oshiomhole was their savior. He came in with that national clout to contest the governorship election. These characters crashed into the popular procession. So, it is very wrong now to claim credit for Oshiomhole’s rise in 2007. In any case, we’ve also heard that when Oshiomhole became the candidate for ACN in 2007 some of these characters said ‘You’re a candidate now, we believe you’ll win but we doubt if you’ll get to exercise that mandate.’ They believed that the godfather was invincible. That the godfather was Almighty and would determine who became governor in the state. True to their prophecy, the ballot was stolen. But through dogged fight for eighteen months, Oshiomhole was able to retrieve the mandate. It was only then they appeared from their hiding to say ‘Well, you know we supported you.’ As a good natured person Oshiomhole has done more than enough to patronize them by going out of his way to empower them – materially. But they’re insatiable. You know when a man is driven by ambition, he is a desperado and a desperate man will do anything. We also have it on good authority that their current campaign of calumny against Oshiomhole is being funded by Abuja. It will interest you to know that they gave seven days ultimatum to the governor to accede to their request which included a commitment to anoint one of them as a governor-in-waiting; a commitment to anoint one of them as party chairman-in-waiting; a commitment to anoint one of them as women leader-in-waiting; the dissolution of the state executive council and ceding of half of the cabinet positions to them. Of course, those were a tall order. They knew that that wasn’t go to fly. The ultimatum had not expired when they started holding meetings with the godfathers in Abuja.
Impeachment plot against Oshiomhole
Of course, you know that is a day-dream. They believe that the only way to distract Oshiomhole from his promise of performing creditably is by causing confusion. They go as far as planting stories in the media, with due respect that is my constituency. Suddenly, we’re now having so many groups with so many names. But they’re all operating from the laptop of one individual. They issue frightening statements just to create a façade of high tension to justify what they’re getting from Abuja. It is just propaganda. Oshiomhole is on course.