As the frosty relationship between the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Adams Oshiomhole worsens over who flies the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag for the September 19 Edo State governorship election, the former Minister of Information, Prince Tony Momoh, has warned that the state may experience bloodbath.
In this interview with VINCENT KALU, the APC henchman who is a close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari emphasised that if the two gladiators don’t resolve their differences, they would have set the stage for the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the state.
What does this political feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole portend for the APC in the September 19, 2020 Edo State governorship election?
Danger, danger, because if two elephants fight the grass suffers. And at the end of the day, what they are fighting for may elude them. We have precedence in Nigeria; APC lost Zamfara, it lost Adamawa State, it also lost Rivers, it lost Benue State, it lost Bauchi and it also lost Bayelsa State, all these because of avoidable errors. We won all the seats in the House of Assembly, all the seats in the National Assembly and the governorship in Zamfara, but we lost the state because of failure to resolve internal misunderstanding.
If we do not resolve the internal misunderstanding in APC in Edo State, we may end up losing the state, because the party is divided into two in Edo. The group that operates under the Edo People Movement (EPM) and the other group that operates under the governor, Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM); unfortunately, the party has been divided into two. While you have elected chairman in OSM, supporting Obaseki, there is a group in EPM, purported to have suspended him, the chairman, and they are operating as such and seems to have been accommodated at the national level. So, see how polarized the situation is?
Oshiomhole brought Obaseki, nobody can deny that; he marketed Obaseki and then Obaseki is there, but unfortunately, they disagreed on issues, which were resolved, at least, I know the role I played in resolving them.
I always say that Obaseki and Oshiomhole have nothing personal by way of disagreement. Obaseki is not wanting to be the national chairman of APC, and Oshiomhole, as the national chairman of APC is not wanting to be the governor of Edo State because he has been, a lot of people are taking the opportunity or advantage of the disagreement to operate under a forum they call, EPM and another forum they call, OSM.
What happened, the most recent is that all those who are in EPM wanting to contest met and apparently pulled their wing in order by opting for Pastor Ize-Iyamu to be their candidate, and of course, OSM has the governor as their candidate.
Naturally, the governor is asking for the opportunity to choose whether he is coming back or not, in which case, there won’t be any competition from the party, but others are saying, no, the party constitution provides that there will be primaries. There are three modes in the constitution of the APC- direct primaries, indirect primaries and consensus. EPM and OSM say there is no consensus, but the thing, is the primary going to be direct or indirect, that is the bone of contention now, and if it is not resolved before the primary, I’m afraid we may experience bloodbath in Edo State, which is part of the Niger Delta and they don’t run away from violence. If we don’t tackle it fast, we may end up having a very violent primary, and people may go to court maybe, we didn’t follow the due process of the party’s provision and constitutional ways of looking at primaries, and one party losing in the court, then we may lose the state to the opposition just as it happened in Bayelsa.
So, I see the future is not bright for peaceful coexistence in Edo State and as a national leader and a leader from the area, I’m worried.
Does it mean that APC hasn’t learnt its lessons, having lost some of the states you listed following internal wranglings?
Experience is the best teacher, but don’t forget that experience is historical, and people want to experience history, in other words, there is no precedence for a politician; the politician is interested in now, what do I get now, not tomorrow , and they don’t look at the past, it is now. The vested interest of a politician is now, my gain now, he is not interested in investment in future.
If for instance, we really want politics in Nigeria to pay the people, then we must decongest the political space, and make politics not pay very few individuals. As long as you allow politics to pay individuals, it is going to be ruthless like any other business Nigerians are involved in. For Nigerians, all is fair in war when it comes to business; they can even kill their partners, to them, it is I before others.
To decongest the political space is very easy. In the First Republic, we had part time legislators. You do your full time job, and then you come to National Assembly, the House of Representatives, opposite Presidential Hotel in Victoria Island, they called them, Legco Flats, that is legislative flats, that is where members of the House of Representatives come to do the budget. The only full time people were Tawafa Balewa and the ministers. The legislators were earning sitting allowances. But now, we have full time payments of all political actors; we run our businesses full time and go to legislative houses to make contacts to grow our businesses, and who loses? The country loses, the people lose, and as other businesses pay, so politics pays in Nigeria, and we kill, maim, undermine the state to achieve our political end.
We must decongest the political space if we are going to be serious. If we make law making part time, and the lawmakers earn sitting allowance, as they were doing before, you will be surprised how many people are going to look for something else to do rather than going into politics.
During the last governorship election in Edo State, where Pastor Ize-Iyamu was contesting on the platform of PDP, Oshiomhole said he was a thief and called him all sorts of unprintable names, how is he going to market him this time around?
All is fair in war; use the weapons that you have to win. He called him thief, he called him all sorts of names, and if you watch the video that they are sending all over the place, you will see what he was saying, but one thing with politicians is that they fight today, they meet at night and tomorrow they embrace, even when the bones of their followers were broken the previous night. That is business; those who quarrel over business come to agreement and start smiling to the bank as long as they win.
So, there is nothing unusual in what Oshiomhole said about Ize-Iyamu and what he must have said about Oshiomhole, but the fact is that now they are friends, they won’t say that again to each other.
Given the unpalatable scenario you have painted; how this imbroglio between the two men may lead to bloodshed, how can it be resolved before it gets there?
Chief Bisi Akande committee was put up to resolve issues but, you cannot have one candidate, because anybody who aspires should be given an opportunity to contest if he is qualified. What must happen now is that there has to be primary and whoever emerges will carry the flag of the APC. My own fear is that we may find ourselves dragging into primaries that the two parties may not agree on. The governor’s group says they want indirect primary, while the other group, EPM says they want direct primary. Since it is the state that initiates the type of primaries, then the party in the state, which is registered, the chairman, they met and said they want indirect primaries and communicated it to the National Working Committee. The group that suspended the chairman and seemed to have been accommodated at the centre, also says they want direct primary.
So it is the party that decides at the centre what to do, but my fear is that the governor’s group doesn’t trust the national body enough to agreeing that whatever primary they organized will be fair, free and transparent. What we must go for is to assure all the parties concerned that if it is going to be direct primary, it will be carried out so that everybody will be trusting of whoever that supervises that primary. That is how we can resolve the fear because it is certain that we are not going to have unopposed candidate. Ize-Iyamu is a candidate, as all the others in EPM group stepped down for him, though there are reports again they have backtracked. So it is likely between Ize-Iyamu and the governor. If you look at 2016, although he was in PDP, he was not a walk over. That is the problem we might face.