By Gabriel Enogholase
Journalist, publisher, frontline All Progressives Congress, APC stalwart and former commissioner in the Adams Oshiomhole government in Edo State, Hon. Orobosa Omo- Ojo in this interview speaks on contemporary issues in Edo politics. Excerpts:
Your party, the APC is yet to come out with its decision of which of the three senatorial districts in the state will have the governorship ticket. What is your take on this?
Let me say from the onset that my party, our party, the All Progressive Congress (APC) does not have a zoning formula. We have precedence that has been tested before now from the last presidential primaries, where we had aspirants from the South-West, North-East, and North-West. The PDP may have a reason why they zoned the governorship ticket to Edo South, but in APC, we don’t have such arrangement in place.
Will this not lead to acrimony and defections especially if the primary is seen not to be free and fair?
Dumping the party will become a viable and attractive alternative if the process leading to the election of the governorship candidate is not seen to be free and fair. For me, that can be the only decent and patriotic reason why anybody would want to leave the party. We must ensure that we tell ourselves the home truth that right now, the only viable way, the only serious means that our party the APC can guarantee our sustenance, our continuity in Denis Osadebey way is through a free and fair credible primaries because whether we like it or not.
We must tell ourselves the home truth; the popularity of our party two or three years ago is not there again. Let me say it loud and clear that I am personally taking my time even after leaving office to speak to Mr. Governor on the need for us to begin to take better steps in such a way that we keep to our promises we made in 2007 and 2012, in such a way that the election next year will be easier for us to win.
What is your reaction to claims that the governor is supportive of one of his aides to succeed him?
Well, I want to pretend that I have not heard that the governor has a preferred candidate to succeed him. The name that I have heard and being bandied about, I just obviously feel and believe that what I have heard amounts to mere rumours and so, I want it to remain so. If not, the consequences will be very great for our party because where we are now at the same spot we were in 2007 when few of us, patriots, came together to come against all odds to come and rescue the state, to put back the ship of state on sail.
There is so much division politically and socially in the state. So, it will only take a man that has a stone heart and goodwill across the three senatorial zones, a man that has populist followership, a man that is a friend to the students, market women, civil society, who we see as a stranger as Oshiomhole was in 2007 to the state politics.. The structure that was in place then, is no longer in place, the structure as it is that brought us into power in 2007 are antagonistic to us today, they are on the other side and by next year, we are confronting them.
So, let the governor not pretend, the party leaders not pretend and I am saying it loud and clear that the governor today does not have a political structure in the state; a lot of people will pretend, some people because of fear, because of what they will eat the next day may not want to tell him. I have consistently said so even as I as a member of the State Executive Council. I have told my colleagues who care to hear, I have consistently told the governor over four years ago of the need to build a political structure. Well, he has not done that, so, in less than seven months into the next governorship election, July next year, the only way we can salvage the state, and I hope our national leaders are listening is to give the ticket to a man who has already built a structure on his own.
How can the party harmonise the aspirations of the candidates from Edo South and Edo Central?
I am equally happy that the APC has said there is no zoning. So, let all the aspirants come on board and tell us their programmes, let them go out to the 192 wards we have in the state and sell their qualifications, their manifestoes and programmes to our members. Sadly, most of the names that are coming apart from maybe Ken Imansuangbon, and one or two others I have seen, others are waiting for the proverbial support of the governor.
The party needs a man that will come and heal structure, so that we can all come together, work and win the next election. So, whether, we have four or five aspirants from Edo South, two or three from Edo central, off-course, it is a straight contest between Zones, it does not worry me at all as long as we have quality aspirants vying for the position.
It is alleged that leaders of Edo Central are appealing to colleagues from Edo South to concede the governorship to them given their previous support for Edo South candidates like Chief Lucky Igbinedion and John Odigie Oyegun. What is your reaction?
I am one of those Edo South leaders that have been approached and I have listened to them, I have equally responded to say yes. Politics is not about emotion, it is not an emotional business, it is all about negotiation; it is all about marketing, if you have a beautiful product, if you come out and show case it and sell it. And I have advised the leaders from Edo Central to say, don’t work on the premises that it is my turn I believe that the issue of zoning has reduced this country to the mediocre level that we are today.
And when Adams Oshiomhole came in 2007 not because we was from Edo South, because we looked at all the major aspirants then, but they were all from Edo South, but when he came in at the last minute we decided to give him our platform because with the experience he had gathered at the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), that will put him in a good stead to be able to deliver the populist agenda in the state.
So, Edo State people have never, never bothered ourselves about tribes or religion before we decided. In the same 2007, when Adams Oshiomhole was contesting, we had Hon. Arigbe – Osula, a populist young man who won the House of Representatives seat for Oredo Federal Constituency on the platform of the ANPP at a time when the PDP was like an octopus in the state.
So, I have told my Edo Central leaders and friends that as they move around canvassing for votes, don’t say, is it our turn, say, we have the best candidate from Edo Central. And that is how I gave them my support. And I equally said, that my support for Ken Imansuangbon is not a support for Edo Central candidacy, it is not. Any other candidate from Edo Central may not have my support because I am a product of a transparent system.
It is because some of the aspirants believe that it is the turn of the Binis, that is why a man that cannot afford to remove debris from drainages, a man that cannot use broken blocks to fill pot holes as a commissioner and you want to be given the 18 local governments councils to govern, it then means we are going to go from bad to worse. That is my own position. I will not say because I am going to support Edo Central that you will go and bring one weakling from Edo Central. Ken Imansuangbon to me represents the hope and aspiration of the teeming people of Edo State. He is a wealth creator; he is very articulate and can deliver the goods.
Are you worried with the faceoff between Governor Adams Oshionhole and the Igbinedion family?
I am for probe but you don’t probe people on the pages of newspapers. You don’t probe your predecessor while addressing the youths. You don’t probe your former commissioner while you are speaking to cameras; rather, I will say that in recent times I have been worried by the uncontrolled manner in which Mr. Governor has been addressing some very, very salient issues. All through my stay in government because I know people will always say, what did you do when you were in government; I have spoken out against reckless accusations, I have always advised the governor against making imaginary enemies for himself.
My last meeting with him before my exit from government, the Commissioner of Finance was there, when the issue of the Esama of Benin came up; where he accused me that he was told that I made phone calls to the Esama, that I was seen in Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s church. And I did tell him in the presence of the Commissioner of Finance that the Esama of Benin Kingdom is a cultural icon, not just a political icon that he has grown above a political icon. And that I don’t see anything wrong in making phone calls to him, that I made phone calls to him before he became governor, and not just phone calls, I visit him at home.
And he asked me, ‘what you discussed about me with him?’ And I said, Esama is too big to discuss about you; he said, ‘don’t you know he is my political enemy?’ I said, sir, it is wrong for you to have political enemies. Why did I say that? I know of the role the Esama played in our emergence in 2007, up to the election in April 14, 2007, up to the Appeal Court judgment on November 11, 2008. So, I can’t see such a man and agree with Mr. Governor’s view that he is our political enemy. Ditto Pastor Ize-Iyamu. He accused me of worshipping in his church, and I told him I am a Redeemer.
He asked me, is Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s church the only Redeemed Church in Benin? I told him it is a church. So, for me the problem is that Mr. Governor is listening to so many sycophants who just go in there, to tell him and to create fear that does not even exist. That is how we got to where we are now. I would not support any of those unbridled statements that have been made about elders because I was brought up in Benin City. I believe and honestly believe for the fear of God that Mr. Governor has over stepped his boundary as the governor of the state. But whether he has said it or not, probe is not just meant for one person, don’t forget in the next eleven or twelve months, Adams Oshiomhole will be leaving office. His office will be opened up for probe!