By Simon Adewale
Two-time governor of defunct Bendel State and now a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leader in Edo State, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia, speaks on the factional crisis in the state PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential aspiration. Excerpts:
Sometime ago, you called a meeting of PDP leaders in Edo South. Thereafter, a faction of the PDP in th state loyal to you attempted to open a parallel state secretariat in Benin but were stopped by the police, allegedly instigated by the other faction. Why is it impossible to resolve the factional crisis in Edo PDP?
I have always said that peace is the child of justice. When you take what does not belong to you, both of you, that is the owner and the thief, would not be at peace. After a long time, I decided that we must sheathe our swords and come together.
I pleaded with those who felt cheated, that is, those who won at the congresses but were denied their offices. I called a meeting of all the factions, all tendencies, all leaders of the PDP in Edo South senatorial district and pleaded with everyone to come together.
I even requested those holding on to certain party offices to be ready to give same up, for proper representation so that everybody would be carried along. They all applauded me.
But after we left, some persons went back to their places jubilating that we have surrendered and should therefore be treated like prisoners of war. They also decided to entrench themselves as leaders.
That what I said did meant that I had given up. Some of them also put up an advert saying that on the grounds of age and poor health, I have relinquished the leadership of our people or active party politics, so to say.
So what is the position now?
I found out that since they would not reconcile and harmonize, those who felt cheated decided to relocate their own secretariat for better productivity especially with elections knocking at the door. I understand that they have all returned to court. It is a pity, but I believe something can still be done.
And I am personally trying to do something about it. The PDP stands for the rule of law, for internal democracy and for strict obedience to decisions of courts.
But the other faction is insisting that your group is causing trouble, refusing all entreaties for peace and reconciliation?
You know that they did not participate in the legal and genuine congress. Did you ask them whether they have certificate of return from the party after they submitted their results?
How fair is it to take someone’s house and turn round to offer him a room in it, and warn him not to complain. But as I said, we can’t continue quarreling. The house is roomy enough to accommodate everyone. Everyone should be ready to make sacrifices for peace.
The “A” and “O” groups, that is the Anenih and Ogbemudia groups, point to you and Chief Anenih, saying that if both of you reconcile, they would comply. What is your reaction to this?
Anenih and Ogbemudia is a later day trick to mislead the public. I was not a factional person. At my age, experience and position, I should be father to all. And I am. The “A” and “O” groups you referred to were always known as the Anenih and Osunbor groups.
That is former governor, Prof. Osarhiemen Osunbor. I saw the fairness in what Osunbor stood for at that time and I supported him. But after he lost his office, he capitulated, without solving the problems, and those he led called on me for help. These are all Edo people. I couldn’t turn my back on them to continue to wallow in injustice.
So I have been trying to unify all. As for Chief Anenih, the Iyase of Esan land, I have no personal problems with him. We do have different political perceptions and approaches, but nothing personal. We are in touch and he knows my position. Nobody should use our names to perpetuate crises.
What about your relationship with Admiral Mike Akhigbe?
Excellent. Admiral Akhigbe is a highly principled man who has love for his people.
Do you see him as a PDP leader of Edo North senatorial district in the same way you are the leader of Edo South and Chief Anenih, leader of Edo Central?
Before he retired from the Navy, Alhaji Inu Umoru of blessed memory led the North senatorial district. Now I see him as an asset to the PDP not only in Edo North but in Edo State generally. I respect him and hold regular meetings with him.
But we understand that Chief Mike Oghiadome is being taken as the leader in Edo North.
I saw His Excellency, Chief Mike Oghiadome recently, and he acknowledged Adm. Akhigbe as his leader. They are close. No one should try to come between them.
Can you comment on the allegation that you are supporting Gov. Adams Oshiomhole for a second term in office?
Adams has just done half of his term of four years yet. I don’t think he is already thinking of, or campaigning for second term. So that issue does not arise. But I accept that I admire him and I am praying for him to succeed in office, so that Edo State will move forward.
The state is greater than Adams and I, and also greater than political parties. No governor in the last 25 – 30 years has showed his type of authority and commitment to development. Edo people are beginning to see him as a messiah.
You recently placed an advert in the papers, urging support for President Jonathan. How would you rate his government and his chances at the polls?
The main purpose of that advertisement was to appeal to everybody, particularly our brothers and sisters in the North, to give President Jonathan four more years. The National Executive Committee (NEC) of our party, the PDP, admitted that there is zoning but cleared President Jonathan to run.
Zoning would mean that it is the turn of the North, that is why I appealed to them, so that all of us will jointly present Dr. Jonathan to Nigerians for election. With regards to his performance in office, I don’t think he has done one year yet. I think it is a bit early to pass judgment on him.
Instead, you should look at his person, to see if he is okay. I see him as a humble, humane, civil, loyal, trustworthy and dedicated person, who has a lot of goodluck! Give him a chance and you will be grateful to God that you did. I admire and respect IBB. He is a superstar.
Join me to appeal to him to support Jonathan. I have known him for 47 years. I met him the day he and his squadron of armoured cars were attached to “A” company I commanded in 1963, under the United Nations. He led my attack on the secessionist Katangese’s forces in the north of Katanga in the present Democratic Republic of Congo – Zaire.
I admire the way he maneuvered his way through volumes of enemy fire. As military president, his achievements are not yet equaled. His experience and capacity are second to none.