As the supporters of Governor Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are basking in the euphoria of his reelection at the last Saturday Edo State governorship election, former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh has revealed the real reasons for his victory and why Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain and close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari said the election has polarized the state badly.
Edo people proved political pundits wrong; many people including you expressed worry over the impending bloodbath because of the desperation of the political actors, but at the end, the election was one of the most peaceful in the state in recent time. How did that happen?
If you watch all I said during the preparation for the elections and then you will see that everything I said came to pass. Before the campaign started, I said that APC would overrun Edo State. Then Ize-Iyamu left PDP and joined us and I said the conquest for Edo State is total as Ize-Iyamu who is a grassroots politician was leaving the PDP for APC and the PDP was not organised to win any election in Edo State. I even predicted trouble when he was preparing for the primaries. At the national level, they were asking for direct primaries, the governor, Obaseki who was in APC was asking for indirect primaries, and I knew that there were going to be troubles. So I predicted some form of bloodbath.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the governor didn’t participate in the primary election and I said there would be peaceful primaries because the governor was no longer going to be in the contest. Anybody who is clever enough knows that PDP has not been a write off in Edo State. The last presidential election, PDP had about 54 per cent of the votes and APC had 46 per cent. PDP has two senators, while APC may have an edge for the House of Representatives. I said it was not going to be a tea party anymore for the APC in the state, since the governor was leaving and he would leave with the purse of Edo State and would also leave with some structures. People were criticising me. They said the governor would leave the purse and go alone. He left and went to PDP and energized the party. In other words, the only state APC has in the South-South, which is Edo, was lost. I did say that time when two elephants fight, the grass suffers and the two elephants may lose the laurels they were fighting for. The grass in Edo State suffered; APC in the state was divided into two. Irreconcilable groups, OSM- Obaseki Shaibu Movement and EPM- Edo Peoples Movement, emerged. EMP operated under the umbrella of Oshiomhole, while OSM operated under the umbrella of the governor. The grass suffered in Edo, as the party split into two in the state and until now, they are have not reconciled. Then we lost the laurel because the governor left, but what I didn’t foresee at that time was the crippling of the elephants. Oshiomhole lost the national leadership of the party, therefore one elephant was crippled and Obaseki lost APC leadership of Edo, therefore the other elephant was crippled. So two elephants lost and the laurel was also lost and the grass suffered. That was my position.
After the governor left, I said the primaries would be peaceful and they were peaceful, and I said there may be violence in Edo, but with the deployment of security, anybody who raises his head would be struck down; so the presence of heavy security tamed the violence that would have occurred in the state. All my predictions were right. Two days to the election, I gave an interview and said that I would not be surprised if Obaseki wins the election, heavens and hell were let loose and they were criticising me that as the national leader of the party why should I say so. I told them that I’m a trained professional monitor of governance and I have been doing it effectively since 1999 to 2011 every week and I have never misfired. I said look, there is threat from Obaseki and the PDP and nobody believed me. I wanted Ize-Iyamu to win because he is in my party. In my town, Auchi, every polling unit was won by him. So, it was not as if I sold out. We delivered our place; the whole of Edo North was delivered to APC. The whole of Edo South was delivered to PDP.
You have mentioned it at the state level, but also at the national level, APC went to the election with divided house. Many members of the campaign council were not interested or involved. Could it be said that the party is on political self-immolation?
No way. Don’t forget that the quarrel at the national level was a personalised quarrel. Some governors were against Oshiomhole as a national leader because he tried to bring discipline and tried to show that in the party he is in charge of affairs. The organ of the party, the National Working Committee is in charge of the management of the party. The governors are like a trade union in the party; a force to reckon with in the party, they are not an organ of the party, they are in charge of their states and fund the operations of the party in the state, but they were trying to make a point of dominance at the party, which Oshiomhole rightly opposed and so there was division in the house.
Some governors in the Governors Forum were opposed to Oshiomhole and that one is part and parcel of the outcome of Oshiomhole’s fall at the national level. It is not that the party is quarreling; they are not.
You said the party isn’t quarreling, but in Rivers and Zamfara states, PDP didn’t sweat to grab those states; this is what happened in Edo. Does it show that the party is healthy?
The party is made up of individuals that have vested interests and express them at levels within the party. So when you flex your muscles, it is the one with more tucks that wins; that emerges. Look at Zamfara, a senator and sitting governor were interested in what happened in the state and because of that we lost all the seats we won. In Rivers State, a minister and a senator were expressing their vested interests in the state and that one affected us. All over, you will see that there are certain disagreements; someone wanting to show that he is in control and another person resisting that control and these are legitimate struggles. Like I always say, when two elephants fight the grass suffers. It is disagreement within the party. In PDP, there was no convention where there would not be breakaway, at least four of them during their hegemony. I can assure you that there is no problem in APC that cannot be resolved.
It has been predicted that by 2023, APC may turn to a nest of scorpions stinging themselves to death because by then, the owners of ‘A’ will take it back, the owners of ‘P’ will do the same, likewise the owners of ‘C’. What is your take on this prediction?
It is misjudgment because those who are judging don’t know that APC is not an alliance of political parties. It is a merger of political associations. I was the national chairman of CPC and Ogbonnaya Onu was the national chairman of ANPP, while Bisi Akande was the national chairman of ACN, and we presided over the dissolution of our political parties, and INEC collected our certificates of incorporation and we applied as a political association and INEC handed us APC certificate of incorporation. Individually, I had to go to Auchi, my own polling unit to register. Akande, Onu, Bola Tinubu, Muhammadu Buhari, all the leaders had to go to their own polling units to register. We initiated polling unit as an organ of a political party for the first time in Nigeria and every member of the party running into 17 million now is a member of a polling unit and carries the card of a polling unit. There is nothing like ACN, CPC or ANPP.
I’m not denying that there is a possibility of looking back to where you are coming from but if you want to go back to the way you are coming from, you will be stuck because there is nothing like CPC for me to return to. If I want to go back to CPC, I will have to initiate a process of registering a political party called, CPC; just like Fasehun came out to register a political party called UPN, which was the party of Awolowo, and he started from the scratch. So if you want to revive the CPC you have to go back to the scratch to establish the organs. Over 12 million people were involved in populating the organs of the APC when we formed it.
The APC is not a party you can just decide to throw away and then you go back to where you came from; it’s not possible. We had 12 million votes for CPC in 2011 and after the merger we had 15 million votes. There is no way for anybody saying he is going back, or Tinubu saying he is going back to ACN or Buhari saying he is going back to CPC. Buhari is not going to leave APC because he is no longer the president, so the question of taking away the 12 million votes that he brought doesn’t arise. These are legitimate ways of looking at issues, but I can assure you that predictions are just shortsighted ways of looking at issues. Time will tell. APC will not break up.
During the Edo governorship electioneering campaign, the issue of godfatherism was played up, do you see the outcome of the election as the end of godfatherism in Nigerian politics?
Ize-Iyamu is not anybody’s godson. He came into politics in 1999. He was part and parcel of Great Hope in 2005, and some people through this came into politics. He was DG of Oshiomhole campaign and was also secretary to government of Igbinedion and there was no question of him being anybody’s godson. So there was nothing like godfather in this election in Edo State. There were other reasons why he lost the election.
What were the reasons APC / Ize-Iyamu lost the election with such a huge margin of about 83,000 votes. Analysts were of the opinion it was going to be a narrow margin for whoever would win, like we saw in Sokoto State, where Tambuwal defeated his opponents with about 1000 votes?
The campaign slogan was successful. The campaign slogan is Edo State, but behind the scene was not APC or PDP. It was what I call, segmented loyalty. It was an evidence of segmented loyalty at work. Segmented loyalty is this: I come from Edo State; I am Edo State person, supporting Edo in competition between her and Delta or Oyo etc. If it is Nigeria versus Ghana or Japan etc, I will support Nigeria. That is segmented loyalty at the level of country. At the level of the country itself, I’m a Southerner and the person from the North says he is Northerner and he will work for the North and I work for the South, which is segmented loyalty. With Edo State, there are three senatorial zones- Edo North, Edo Central and Edo South. If there is any competition among these three zones, I will support Edo North, that is segmented loyalty, loyalty at the level of senatorial district. Within Edo North, there are three groups, Owan, Akoko Edo, Etsako. I’m from Etsako and I will support her against Owan and Akoko Edo. In Esako, there are about 13 clans and I’m from Auchi clan and I will support Auchi clan against any other clan. Within Auchi, there are 75 villages, I come from Isogbo and I will support my village against any other village and within the village you have families and I will support my family. This is segmented loyalty.
Now, the Edo governorship election was fought on segmented loyalty, Edo North versus Edo South, not that there were no parties, but that was not sold. People believed that Oshiomhole who led the campaign was more of the person in the election than Ize-Iyamu; that he overshadowed Ize-Iyamu. His campaign in Edo South was that Oshiomhole was the one wanting election and not the candidate and so that message was sold locally and Edo South has 52 per cent of the votes in the state and all the seven local governments in Edo South voted for Obaseki because they successfully sold the message that it was Oshiomhole and not Ize-Iyamu that was looking for election. Oshiomhole in making sure that APC wins dominated the campaign. So, Edo South was so organised in fulfillment of segmented loyalty to Edo South that all the seven local governments including that of Ize-Iyamu went to Obaseki because they didn’t believe that he was contesting election, but Oshiomhole. All the local governments in Edo North massively went to APC because of Oshiomhole; one went to Obaseki in Owan. I was told his mother has relationship with that area. You can see now that segmented loyalty played out in the outcome of the result, no PDP or APC.
This issue of segmented loyalty you have highlighted; couldn’t it be the justification for the clamour of rotational presidency and even governorship. As you said, Edo South has 52 percent voting population, and if you extrapolate it at the level of the country, the North has more voting population and based on segmented loyalty, the region could hold on to power beyond 2023?
It has been happening, why is it that the North is dominating most of the positions? Why is it that during the parliamentary system, the North produced the prime minister? The fact is that segmented loyalty may lose when you have overriding vested interest. Abiola was not a Northerner but he defeated Tofa even in Kano. So, there must be vested interest as to organise and swallow up segmented loyalty. Abiola had supports all over the country; he built mosques all over the country and was patronized by emirs all over the country. So if your base is all round, you swallow segmented loyalty. For instance, before the merger, we had most of our support from the North, but when we wanted to merge, we said, if the Northwest and the Southwest come together that is ACN and CPC, if they come together they can win. So the spread that Buhari needed came from the Southwest mainly because of the merger, as ACN was in control of Southwest. So, people who want to be president from the South must do a good work and have relationship with the North.
What is your position on rotation of political power?
Because of the system we have now, when you talk of presidency, rotation is necessary, but in the parliamentary system, you don’t need rotation. Tawafa Balewa contested in Bauchi and because his party had the majority, he became prime minister and we were not talking of region. But if you talk of election of one man with Nigeria being one constituency, then interests that come together to elect president will be talking of distribution of office. So, if we restructure Nigeria today and say we are going to parliamentary system, we don’t need to talk of rotation. It is the party that produces the majority that will get the prime minister. If you want to do away with rotation, then restructure the country and choose the parliamentary system. If we continue with the presidential system, we have no choice than to rotate.
What lesson should APC learn from the Edo poll?
The fact is that APC must learn from the mistakes just made in Edo State, never to make politics for people to misinterpret whether you are voting the individuals or the party because the Edo example really divided the state between Edo North and Edo South. They should fight on ideology, principles, issues rather than some other interests that may give the impression that two nationality groups are fighting.