By Simon Ebegbulem
Reverend Peter Obadan is the former Deputy Governor of Edo state, during the administration of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. He was blunt as ever in this interview with Saturday Vanguard, particularly as regards the lingering crisis in the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While commending Acting President Goodluck Jonathan for his decisions so far, he regretted that the national leadership of the PDP has failed to look into the crisis in the state party which he attributed to the alleged dictatorial tendencies of a top wig of the party.
He gave an insight into how the top party chieftain fought all the elected Governors in the state who failed to dance to his tune, saying that it was one of the basic reasons why Chief Lucky Igbinedion failed as a Governor in the state. Excerpts:
The Federal Executive Council has been reconstituted by the Acting President, Goodluck Jonathan, do you think his decision was in the right direction?
Shortly after he was accepted by the senate as the Acting President, I gave an interview where I stated the need to re-constitute the Federal Executive Council. It was obvious from the development preceding his acceptance by senate that these members of the FEC will not be loyal to him. And these were fellows that deserve to leave the system for fresh hands to be injected into the system.
Acting President Jonathan is not running with the vision of Yarâ€™Adua, every President has its own vision. If you run with another manâ€™s vision, you are bound to fail. I want to believe that he will go after experienced technocrats that have political base. I expect him to go for people that are well known to him. You work better where you have people who you can relate with one -on- one. So I expect him to pick men of integrity who will keep Nigeria one.
He is being told not to run for the Presidency in 2011, do you think this PDP zoning arrangement should be sustained?
Well, not to run for second tenure is a decision of the party which no one will not want to query. But my personal opinion is that if he does very well and he is able to keep Nigeria together, even those who are calling for his replacement may be the ones to plead with him to continue. It is not about where the man comes from, it is about what the man did in office. I believe that for now, whether to run or not to run is not an issue that will agitate the mind of the acting President. He should remain focused and execute the assignment which he has been given and every other thing will follow.
Coming to Edo state , there has been this lingering crisis in the PDP, particularly between Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and Chief Tony Anenih. Why has it been difficult for you leaders of the PDP to settle the problem?
I do not think Chief Anenih and Dr Ogbemudia are fighting. This is a case of principle. Dr Ogbemudia is a highly principled man. The problem began after the February 28, 2008 congress, monitored by national secretariat, INEC and others,.. That is the genesis of the crisis.
And the truth must be told, no one man is a Robin Cruso Island . But this man believes that he is the only iroko in the forest and as such, every other person must bow to him. Consequently, his actions have destroyed the party in the state. Even when attempts where made to reconcile the party, he was dictating who Ogbemudia should choose from his own senatorial district because the name suggested by Chief Ogbemudia was rejected by Anenih.
For Christ sake, our lives cannot be ruled in that manner. And it became unfortunate when the centre was not holding, Those at the national secretariat believe so much in him that whatever he told them is the truth. As at today, nobody has visited Edo state to tell both parties, let us sit and discuss.
If you want to preach the gospel of salvation, you have to go where the sinners are and preach to them, not you waiting for them to meet you. I want to say that the problem has not been personal, but on political issues, we have not reached a reconcilable point because of the attitude of one man who unfortunately has people around him who does not tell him the truth.
He is an elder and we all respect elders but an elder should do what an elder should do, not a situation where you discriminate among your children. You hear one side of the story, you do not want to hear the other side of it. A situation where the people will advocate to you and say, this is what we want and you say no, I have already taken my decision. You are not from that area and you are deciding their lives and future. Those things must pass away for PDP to have any chance in Edo state.
You were the Deputy Governor during the tenure of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, it was learnt that shortly after you people were sworn in, your administration had problem with Chief Anenih. What actually happened?
I will tell you that Chief Anenih is a hard working politician, but I always ask the question why is he always having problem with every elected Governor in this state? He had problems with General Ogbemudia while he was Governor. Then you come to Oyegun, who was a fine gentleman, a retired Permanent Secretary who I think was even Permanent secretary at 36, but this same man, Anenih fought him less than one year into office.
Ogbemudia was not in office for one year when he had problem with Anenih. Then came Lucky Igbinedion. I think the fatherâ€™s presence, the Esama of Benin stabilized Lucky in the first four years but later, every thing blew open. Today when people point fingers at Lucky that he failed, I always said no. Those who caused Luckyâ€™s failure are these people because someone else directed the affairs while he was in government.
He would tell you who to appoint and who not to appoint. Osunbor came into office, one you should regard ordinarily as his son, , and Osunbor to the best of my knowledge did every thing to please him. He virtually gave him all the Commissioners, Special Advisers to appoint. He was the one who heralded Oshiomhole into office. Ugbesia and Yisa Braimoh pumped champagne when Oshiomhole came into office.
He gave him three commissioners but we, the other leaders of the PDP were never involved.. But thank God for Oshiomhole, whose years in Labour led him to identify the Jonah in his boat and so, he threw off the Jonah. So when you look at the history , you will know that they all cannot be wrong. But he is a man who is quick to speak to those in Abuja . Look at the SDP days, go and find out the Abiola history.
All the fight happening today, I saw them years ago. And I made a declaration in the paper and I did not hide it. I told Chief Anenih to resign from Edo state politics. Because, when you weigh his performance at the national level, you will want to say he has done very well, but why must he destroy those acts with his state activities? A man must learn to give in when it becomes necessary. I am not a second class citizen to any body. . We love him. We want to reverence him, we want to treat him as a statesman, not as a political contender.
What is the way forward for the PDP because several of your members are decamping to the Action Congress (AC) every day?
Their decamping to the AC is not because the AC is better. It is just that Adams Oshiomhole is performing. I would not say that they are decamping to AC but they are decamping to Oshiomhole. And that is why I think it is ridiculous when I see my party criticizing what is good. When something is good, we should praise it. Oshiomhole is doing well, praise him. I think that those who are decamping are like people who have seen the light and they went after the light.
People are decamping due to frustration . They prefer to go to the AC where they will have their peace of mind, where there is internal democracy, rule of law and where only the best will be assigned with responsibilities. Edo state is not short of human resources, but we cannot be sitting down and somebody will be imposing nonentities into political offices to the detriment of our people.
There is this rumour that some of you leaders may soon dump the party for the AC due to differences with Anenih. Is that information true?
I think that the rumour is not founded. Like I said, AC is not different from PDP. Those who have decamped are moving to AC because of Oshiomhole. But we leaders, like Dr Ogbemudia, are not decamping. I can speak for Admiral Akhigbe also, he is not decamping. But like I said, you cannot fault those who are decamping.
When a pussy cat is pursuing a rat and he finds a way of escape, he now asks the rat not to move or else it would be eaten up. Unless the national leadership of the PDP appreciate the problem of Edo state and react in like manner , it will be difficult for PDP especially with the way Oshiomhole is working. Oshiomhole is meeting the needs of the people.
One thing I want us to bear in mind is that as a political party, you donâ€™t necessarily have to field a candidate if you have the opposing candidate doing very well. Unless you have a better candidate, then that can be done. The pace at which he is going, it will be extremely difficult for the PDP in Edo state.
The truth is that certainly for the average politician in Edo state, Oshiomhole has given hope to the fact that internal democracy is still possible. Two, that the rule of law is also feasible.