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Decamping to PDP will not guarantee Oshiomhole second term ticket — Senator Ugbesia

By EMMANUEL AZIKEN
Senator Odion Ugbesia erstwhile Minister of Solid Minerals and political scion of the Anenih political clan has
maintained a dignified silence since his gubernatorial aspiration to the Edo Government House was derailed in
2007. By nearly all accounts erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo was largely responsible. Now settled in the
Senate, Ugbesia in his first major interview speaks on the frosty relationship he had with former Governor
Oserheimen Osunbor, the Senate’s plans for the review of the constitution and the state of affairs in the Edo
State chapter of the PDP. Excerpts:

What is your assessment of the procedure being adopted to review the constitution by the Senate?

Left for me I would have approached it differently. The way it (amendment bill) is presented has the good the bad
and the ugly. By that I mean there are some components of the bill as presented that are very attractive, there
are some that are not. If you put them together, my fear is that the bill might suffer the same fate as the
infamous third term bill, when we had to throw the bath tub, the water and baby away.

In this case, I think that there are some components of the bill that are very attractive. Take for instance the
part of it that provides for independent candidates. This is what Nigerians have been asking for, to check the
excesses and the tyranny of the cabal that are heading the political parties. The independent candidate thing
gives hope to the ordinary man.

Put that against some other provisions that are certainly contradictory.

Ogbulafor: PDP National Chairman
Ogbulafor: PDP National Chairman

Take the component that tries to prohibit cross-carpeting. It represents a contradiction, it represents an
ambiguity. By that I mean, if you are elected that does not mean you should surrender your rights as enshrined in
the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You have the right of choice and that is the hope of
democracy.

The right to associate, the right to movement and the right to do many things. But what that part of the bill is
saying is that once you are elected, you are denied that right. I do not think it is right.

Then we are talking also of who appoints the chairman of INEC. I think the president should continue to appoint
the chairman. The problem is not who appoints. If we are blaming the problem of INEC on who appoints, then we
should also blame ourselves (Senate) because we do the screening.

We should look inward, strengthen our internal mechanism of screening candidate so that we do not screen bad
people to go into INEC.

These are the things we should look at. I think what we should have done is to take the constitution, take it
item by item.

First amendment, you take one, if it is who appoints or who doesn’t appoint this, we deal with that one. Then
second amendment. But we seem to be in a hurry and I do not think we should be.

Five, ten, fifteen, twenty years in the life of nation is nothing as far as I am concerned. So if it takes us 50
years to have a near perfect constitution, so be it. But to lump it all together trying to do it all at once, I
do not think is good.

What are the implications of the National Assembly or the Senate adopting this procedure in amending the
constitution?

It is not so much of the National Assembly, it is what is presented to us. But speaking as Odion Ugbesia, my fear
is that if at the different stages that the thing will have to go through at the Senate and we are not able to
separate it, the beauty of some of it (the amendments) might be lost in the course of navigating through many
items in the bill at a time.

We should have gone gradually. Take it, maybe one or two together.

As a senator representing Edo Central, what agenda would you have preferred?

Well, I would still have preferred the independent candidate thing. One, because I know what I suffered in the
past. The tyranny of leadership in the party. Be that as it may, that is history now. If I am to prioritise items
to be dealt with by the constitution review committee, I will still put it in that way. The issue of who appoints
chairman of INEC should not really have been part of the review, the intention of amending the constitution to
reflect a change in who appoints…

But that is not in the bill?

Yes, but we went through it. (Some Senators canvassed the point)

When you talk of your experience in the hands of the party are you referring to your gubernatorial aspiration in
2007?

Yes I am.

Was it the party that stopped you?

Yes, the leaders. If they were not in the party, they would not have been able to stop me. The outside
influences, because they have influence in the party and the government.

Who are you referring to sir?

I am not referring to anybody.

When you talk about cross carpeting, your colleagues are raising the issue of the morality of somebody abandoning
the platform which he came into public office?

No, the question is your right as a citizen of this country. The constitution guarantees you the freedom of
association, movement, belief and things like that. We should not say because you have been elected, you should
abandon these rights. Whose moral burden are we talking about?

What of the platform? How do you dislocate the interest of the voters who invested the elected officer with their
trust?

A good politician will not jump the ship without consulting with his electorate. If I am going to change from PDP
to another political party, for God sake, I will take care of all those things, I will consult with my
supporters. My followers must be consulted. I cant go alone, that means bringing everything to the table. If I
take my supporters with me that means my bargaining powers will be enhanced.

What is the state of your party in Edo State?

Well, it was waxing stronger until the state chairman died.

Have you been able to reconcile the various tendencies in your party?

To a large extent yes, we just have one or two persons that have not come along. With time I think they will come
on board.

We have since passed the stages of faction.

But the party is still not united?

In Edo State the party is very united. You have to be on ground to know that.

What is your relationship with the former governor?

Who?

Governor Osunbor. Is he with you?

He is back to the party fold.
Back in the mainstream with you?

Yes, not with me, but in the mainstream of the party.

There continued to be rumours about your political aspirations, people say that one of the problems Osunbor had
was about your agenda for 2011?

Maybe I should say this for the first time publicly. When I heard about this rumour, I Odion Ugbesia, I went to
Osunbor and I said that I am hearing about Ugbesia 2011, I have no hand in it. If you hear anything call me. I
will do anything to support your government. As long as you perform there will be no challenge and I will be a
stupid man to challenge a governor that is performing.

He did not invite me, I invited myself to see him. But he did not believe me or his supporters did not believe.
Somebody did not believe me.

Currently, AC is in control of Edo state, what are your options concerning 2011?

We will get there. We have three senators that are PDP. We have nine members of House of Rep that are PDP. We
have 15 members of the House of Assembly that are PDP out of 24. We have 18 local government chairmen that are
PDP out of 24. I am just trying to give you a picture of PDP in Edo State. Well we will wait till election time
to prove again that the PDP owns Edo state. There are no two ways about that.

How do you assess the present government in Edo State?

I am not there, I am not in their party.
Will the PDP welcome Oshiomhole, there are speculations about him coming to the party?

Of course, PDP operates an open door policy. We will accept anybody that wants to come.

Will that guarantee 2011 for him?

I do not know what 2011 holds for him. I do not even know what it holds for me. I do not know what it holds for
anybody. 2011 is still far. All the point I have been making, 2011 is still far for anybody to begin to think
about now. Who says who will live till then?


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