Gideon Obhakhan resigned as a general manager with MTN telecommunications to contest for Esan Central / Esan West / Igueben federal constituency elections on the platform of the All Progressives Congress in 2015. In an interview with IDRIS UMAR MOMOH, the former commissioner for education during Adams Oshiomhole’s administration in Edo state spoke on the crisis rocking the party in the state among others..
Sir, the All Progressives Congress in Edo state in 2019 general elections worked together as one for the purpose of winning the elections and at what point in time does division (the party leaders now divided ) now clip into its fold?
Well, we will always fight for the success of our party, the APC in every election. There is no amount of disunity that will prevent united forces during electioneering campaigns and the real election itself, but that does not take away the fact that bad elements within the party must be allowed to destroy the party.
So, the reason for the current crisis in the party in the state is the fact that some of us have decided to say that the incumbent governor of the state, Godwin Obasski must not come back for the second term because in this first term he has not done anything to strengthen the party to come back to its winning spree. If you look at the result of the last general elections, the party did not win Edo state. Why? Because of the governor’s arrogance, negligence and non-challant attitude towards strengthening the party for the purpose of winning elections. So for those of us who are in Edo People Movement (EPM) our resolve and commitment is that we will ensure that we strengthen the party. That is our number one objective, and the second objective is to shop for a credible replacement for Governor, Godwin Obasski comes 2020.
The crisis between the party leaders has now snowballed into the Edo state house assembly. As we speak some members-elect are yet to be sworn- in. What do you think will be the best way to resolving the political logjams in the party?
As it is now there is no house of assembly yet in the state, but what we have is just a constitutional crisis because according to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, a house of assembly can only said to be a house of assembly if it has at least twenty four members and a maximum of forty member. But the kangaroo and nocturnal inauguration that was purportedly done in June 17, 2019 has to been reversed. For now, there is no question of a house of assembly. We are waiting for the governor to properly send a letter of proclamation to the clerk of the assembly, inform all members-elect and let’s inaugurate the house properly.
As it is, the governor is creating crisis in the state, putting the state in a very embarrassing situation because of selfish reasons. If he claimed to be popular in the state like he goes around boasting that he is more popular than the party how come that out of 24 members-elect he only has six that are loyal to him? It just showed that he is parading himself wrongly and these are the things that we want the Edo people to understand.
There is this believe that the leadership of the state house of assembly especially the position of the speaker was micro zoned to Esan North-East local government and that it was as a result of the zoning that produced Frank Okiye as the speaker of the house. Sir, was the speakership position actually micro zoned and where you at the meeting when the zoning was done?
The question you will ask is who were the leaders that were called and attended that meeting? Because I was not aware of such meeting not to talk of micro zoning. You know what the governor has decided to be doing over the past few months is to select a few people who are his yes men, people who will always do his bidding and try to cajole them to do whatever he wants. So the meeting you are talking about if there was any was to call few people. In a local government where I am from, Esan West local government I was not called. They might have called some few people who they believed are going to do their bidding and tell them to micro zone the position of the speakership . But, ideally, because of the way Edo state has always managed the political leadership tripod among the three senatorial districts. We have three senatorial districts and if a governor comes from one senatorial district, the next senatorial district will produce the deputy governor while the third senatorial district produce the speaker of the state house of assembly. So, naturally speaking considering that tripod arrangement Edo central senatorial district is to produce the speaker for the house. So, there is no issue about zoning to a particular local government. Like I told you the tripod was not based on local government but on senatorial district. So, it is just pure mischief on the part of the governor and those who are working with him in this whole kangaroo arrangement to say that the speakership position was zoned to a particular local government. The position has never been zoned to a particular local government. Go are check your records and history books. It is because they have looked at the six memmbers-elect that are loyal to the governor, they therefore decided to pick one from among the six members-elect and the one they picked happened to come from Esan North-East local government as speaker of the house because he has 19 members-elect that are against him.
So, it is a straight forward thing that he (the governor ) has been rejected by the people and he is trying to use what I will call cyber rants to create impression that people are working for him on the Internet. The work of a governor is not done on the Internet, Facebook or any other social media platform. He should properly inaugurate the house. This is the first time, in the history of Edo state where a house of assembly is purportedly inaugurated by 9:30 pm, and where they forced members-elect to swear on oath or inaugurated under duress. If you see pictures that came out from the inauguration there was one of them wearing a short. What is that lawmaker going to tell his Children? He will tell them that a day that is as important to him as to be sworn-in as member into the respectable and the hallowed chamber of the state house of assembly, that he couldn’t see any other dress but to wear a short? This just shows you that he does not enjoy the support of the people . He does not enjoy the support of the members-elect and because of that he needs to just Honourably come out and tell us that he is not going to contest for second term or just Honourably resign at this point in time.
Sir, the believe of the people is that yes the party has the aright to produce its candidate in an election but for the average electorate in the state they believe that the governor is doing well in terms of governance and that there is no need to change a winning team. So, if the governor is working why is the need to replace him in the next governorship election?
There are two ways to look at the question. First of all, since the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over the political leadership and governance of the state by occupying the Osadebay avenue we have performed creditably well compared to the precious political party that had governed the state. The national chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor of the state constructed several thousands kilometers of roads, schools and improved the lives of the Edo state citizens generally and by the time the present governor, Godwin Obasski was being brought to the fore for people to campaign and voted for, he was unknown personality in the state but today the people are saying he is working. The question I will like to ask those people saying he is working is that are they saying that the Edo state chapter of the party no longer has anybody that can do more than what the governor is currently doing ? The answer is no.
When governor, Godwin Obaseki was being voted into office as governor of the state he has two major responsibilities. One was governance and the second was to strengthen the party to continue to win elections. Because for somebody who was relatively unknown as himself, if there was no strong party structures we won’t have won that election. So, all we are asking is that he shouldn’t be selfish by coming to take over the helms of affairs and only consider working, building the roads and not strengthening the party structures because at that level you don’t just say you are working. I don’t want to say he is not working even though most of the jobs credited to him are NDDC, and World Bank-SEEFOR projects. But it is ok. Let’s say when he was there as governor that is when those activities or projects took place or constructed. He is doing them on behalf of the party and I give kudos to the party. But that is not all. We need him to strengthen the party. We don’t want him to alienate the party’s structures. The people who run the party should not be put aside.
The truth is that what we are assuring the people of the state and the entire Nigerians is that we have a wealth of experience within our party and have lots and lots of people that can do a lot more than what governor, Godwin Obasski is doing and we are assuring them that we are going to replace him with somebody that is better than him.
Sir, you have been emphasizing on strengthening of party structures. What are those party structures that the Edo People Movement and leaders want the governor to strengthen?
Party structures is about human beings that made up the political party. It Is about party executives, leaders and members in the local government. What is he doing to encourage their commitment to the party and also encourage people going out to try and win more members to the party? The party does not runs itself. It is runs by human beings. So, when we talk about party structures we means those who owned the party in terms of leadership, executive positions and in terms of being ordinary members of the party. But what you see today is a situation where he calls everybody thief except him, and he had been saying that in all every public forals. For me that is cheap blackmail that people have been telling him to come and share government money. But the question, I will like to ask him is that is it difficult to name and shame these people? He has not mentioned one name and as far I am concern that is just escapee methodology. He want to cage himself within government house. He feels he knows it all and by the time he is leaving, the party will no longer exist to win more elections, and that is why we are saying no that the party existed before he was made a governor and when he finish his first tenure the party will still continue to exist. So for those of us who are making sure that the party exist and have the interest of the party at heart are saying that he must not come back otherwise if he comes back within the next four years he will completely destroy the party and hand it over to the opposition party.
Let even, look at somebody who is saying that they said he should share government money. We are aware that only budget that is performing 100 percent monthly in the state today is the security votes budget. Security votes for the governor today is N500 million monthly. What does he do with N500 million monthly if it is not for fraudulent purposes. So, if he say he is Mr. Integrity let him come out and tell us that for the month of June this is the A, B and C he done with his security votes, and then they will know that he is actually Mr. Integrity. But if you keep this money and use it in your firm, AFRINVEST in Lagos state and come up with this holier than thou attitude, then I get piss up.
Let me just give a preamble on why the governor is no longer qualified to be the party’s candidate in the next governorship election. When he was voted into office in 2016, he came up with what they called party guidelines. In that guidelines, he said for you to go for any elective position or be appointed into any political office you need to have won your unit and your ward as a minimum requirements. He applied this guidelines during the local government council elections, appointment of commissioners, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants. Special Assistants among others. But as fate will have it, in the last presidential and national legislative elections, the Governor lost his ward, local government, federal constituency, senatorial district and the state. So with this, what moral justification does somebody who by his own guidelines is not qualified to say he still wants to contest for the exalted position of the governor? As far I am concerns, if he breaks the guidelines that means he needs moral re-armament. Which morality standard, he is going to use to say he want to contest for the position of a governor when you didn’t allow people to contest for the position of councilor based on your own guidelines. These guidelines did not exist before he became a governor. It was his own creation. The reason for the guidelines according to him was that he does want to reward failure and we applauded and clapped for him. We agreed that the guidelines will encourage members for winning elections in a decent, free and fair ways. Now we are saying we should go back to the winning wills because it is going to encourage people for winning, but he couldn’t meet the criteria that he set. So by all standard and your guidelines you are not qualify to re-contest the position. This is our takes and we will ensure that he doesn’t come back for second term
If by peradventure, he now decides as from today on to begin to strengthen the party structures, will he be pardoned and reconsider to re-contest for a second term?
In honesty, he has actually cross the rubicon. When you cross the rubicon there is no going back even if he tries to do that now because we have found out who is his, we will know that he is only trying to deceive us and we will know that by the time he gets there again he is going to be worst than what he is now. Let’s take a very topical example, for somebody who tries to presents this face of a just man, somebody who has integrity between you and I the shameful act today that is happening in the state house of assembly does that tell well of the man who is presenting himself as an upright man? The answer is 100 percent no. Because if you are upright man you will do the right thing. He doesn’t care. It just show that he is selfish. It is not concerned now that in the whole country we are just one of two states who have become an embarrassment to the nation. For somebody who has the interest of Edo state at heart, in a society where things works, in a society where morals are held in high esteem, the governor should be resigning at this point in time because as we speak the issue has been raised at the national level of the party and they are looking at the issue. They have said that the situation must be reversed. If you listen to the interview granted to TVC television by the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, he said he had already briefed president Muhammadu Buhari. The president is the number citizen in the country and he has actually given the go ahead to re-inaugurate the Edo state house of assembly . So as far as I am concerned what has happened in Edo state house of assembly is a misnomer, an embarrassment and we just hope that the state governor, Godwin Obaseki will do the Honourable thing and resign at this point in time.
Sir, what is your message to members of the party in the state as they go about resolving the crisis as well as the members-elect that are yet to be sworn-in?
Our advice to our party members is that they should remain steadfast. They should not feel too bad about this embarrassing situation and we will do everything possible to ensure that the right thing is done and that going forward the party remain strong, remain the party to beat in the state.
We urge them to support the efforts of the Edo People Movement to ensure that governor Godwin Obaseki does not come back for second term.
But for the members-elect that are yet to be sworn-in we want them to be confident and patient and assure that the right thing will be done at the appropriate time.