By SIMON EBEGBULEM
The Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr Pius Odubu, marked his 57th birthday recently in Benin-City, but it was low keyed. Odubu said he decided to mark it that way due to the kidnapped Chibok girls. In this interview, he speaks about his life, the crisis in Edo Assembly, his loyalty to Governor Adams Oshiomhole among other issues.
How are you feeling at 57
As always, we have reasons to thank God almighty for the gift of life, for the gift of good health, for the gift of a happy family. Let me inform you that this birthday marks a substantial milestone in my life. Friday last week, I became the father of a graduate.
My first son graduated from the university last Friday at the age of 22 and I give God the glory. And one is gradually aging and assuming more responsibilities. God has been kind; last year, we celebrated big time because it coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary. This time we just decided to mark it quietly because I don’t think I need to celebrate when our children are still in the forest somewhere in Borno state. It is sad.
Lessons of life
Life has taught me to be me. Life has taught me, most importantly to believe in God. Life has taught me that one with God is a majority. I am from a traditional Benin home setting. I grew up in the Urhomemehe village in Orhionmwon local government area. My both parents are still alive. In fact my father is the traditional head of that community.
Let me say that, against popular belief here in our usual joking manner in Government House, I was introduced to Christianity very early in life. I attended St. Pius Catholic Primary School in my village as it was then. I was baptized and was confirmed in 1966 and 1967 respectively. So I got introduced to Christianity and to be specific Catholicism very early in life and I have always remained a strong Catholic.
But my advent into politics brought the other side of me, that is, I am a proud Benin man, versed in Benin language and tradition and also grew up in a family of politicians both from my father’s side and mother’s side. I met my father as a topmost politician and we admired politicians and all those who came to visit him then. And politics in traditional Edo setting is all about communicating your message directly and sometimes through songs and dancing and I copied this from my father and those who campaigned with him then.
But while doing so, a lot of persons misconstrued that to mean this man must is very traditional and to read other meaning to it jokingly to say he is a native doctor. But people tend to forget my background of a devoted Catholic and a devoted Christian. In fact all the institutions I attended from primary to university are religious institutions. I have never veered off from Christendom.
But of course there were challenges and I must thank Fr. Obiyan and others for resolving them for me. You know they say love conquers it all, I am a devoted Catholic, but my wife is a Winner and you must be married in the Catholic Church to continue to be a communicant. That became a challenge. That was what people noticed when I was not taking the holy communion each time I went to church. They said may be I am not a genuine Catholic. But Fr. Obiyan resolved that and I was now given a waiver by the Pope and that is why you now saw me back now becoming a communicant.
As a Catholic, and your wife is a Deaconess in Winners Chapel, any attempt to convert her?
No. That is not an issue at all. Firstly, I am free spirited person; I believe in the freedom of worship, secondly, I have American orientation. I went to school in America. I met my wife as a Pentecostal and there was no attempt to deceive me or try changing her faith and no pressure was put on me to change mine either.
And I watching my children carefully, they all seem to have taken after her. They go with her to church; I am not interested in forcing anybody to change. But I noticed one of them, every now and then comes home with a chaplet and I am like I don’t want to force him and I am thinking that very soon some of them will take to Catholicism. But it is all about one God.
Being versed in Benin culture and tradition
It was a matter of interest. I love mastering my environment. Even now I believe I am still not where I want to be by way of mastering the Bini language and indeed the Benin tradition..Yes a lot of people have asked me, how, given that you have never really stayed in the village and you went overseas for your education, how did you master the Benin tradition? Even when I was in America I used to ask my parents to send me Bini records and music. In our time, music was didactic, it was entertaining and also taught lessons. I listened to those music that tell stories, folklore about Benin.
But is it true that before you become a successful politician in Benin Kingdom, you must be a cult member?
I can tell you equivocally that, that is not true. I have been politically relevant since 1980 and I can put my hand on the Bible today and swear that I don’t belong to any secret cult. When people say that maybe it was like that in the days of the old, but now, nobody really cares. I am a friend to all. I mingle with everybody but I don’t belong to any one of those societies.
Don’t you think the defection from your party, the APC, will affect the fortunes of the party in 2015?
I am saddened by what has played out after the registration and the subsequent congresses. It pained me because in it all I have lost some very good friends. It is sad that they left, because we are going to lose the vote of one or two of them, but it does not mean that it will affect our chances.
APC is solidly on ground in Edo due to the developmental strides of the Comrade Governor. In so many areas now, people see it as a taboo to mention PDP, so they stand no chance. Yes we lost quite a few of them, the good ones, some the bad ones to the extent that they are leaving with their supporters and they will not vote for us. Yes, we will be affected, but not to the extent that it will affect our victory train in Edo. By the special grace of God, what the governor has done and what he is still doing and what he will do for the good people of Edo, APC here is on a very sound footing.
Some people in the APC accused you of being too loyal to the governor
I am very loyal and I have no apologies for that. I am a very loyal person, not just now, in everything that I do. If we subscribe to a cause, I go all the way to ensure that we succeed. Also it is my style. I am not the type that is very loud and I don’t go running, seeking for publicity. Let me ask this, do you fight for fighting sake? I don’t believe you fight for the purpose of fighting. In a situation where you have a man or a woman doing all that you expect him to do or perhaps more, do you just fight because you want to assert yourself?
I have been fortunate to work with a governor that believes in collective responsibility. For whatever policy decisions that were made, for whatever policy that we are implementing, it is the collective effort of key stakeholders of this government. The governor often will sit down with everybody, discuss the idea, and analyze it to the extent that sometimes we are caught on the paralysis of analysis.
Then come away with consensus here and there and agree on a position and it is that position that Mr. Governor goes out to implement and execute. So why will I now go to criticize a decision I partook from the formative stage to the execution stage? So I don’t just believe in fighting for fighting sake and it is also not my nature. Loyalty, yes, is my middle name. I believe in being loyal to my superiors, and also particularly when that person is performing beyond your wildest imagination.
So I have no regret being loyal to the governor and I will continue to be loyal to him. I wanted to make life better for my people and here am I now in a government that is doing exactly that. I can say today that I am a fulfilled man thanks to the developmental initiatives of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. I have no reason to fight him and I will not fight him.
But why do you think people call him a dictator?
Whatever decision we take is a collective effort of everybody and perhaps people, when they don’t get what they want, give the dog a bad name in order to conveniently hang it. I don’t see Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as a dictator; in fact everyone accuses him of over-consulting. Before he comes away with a decision, he consults, even those he ought not to consult. So anybody calling Mr. Governor a dictator is standing the truth on the head.
Edo Assembly crisis
My candid advice to my colleagues at the Edo Assembly is to let the rule of law prevail. But now I will not want to dabble into the internal affairs of the Assembly because they are a different arm of government. What is happening is in the public domain, we watch on television and we read on the pages of newspapers that some members, due to what the other members alleged as unbecoming behavior, were suspended and those members, before their suspension, had gone to the Federal High Court to restrain the House from declaring their seats vacant.
They attempted to also restrain the House from suspending them, the judge refused and said that was the internal working of the House into which the judiciary couldn’t dabble into.
Haven gone through the House rules, those four members were suspended and the Speaker and the House of Assembly also went to court restraining those members from coming to the House or doing anything that will interfere with the sitting of the House of Assembly.
From what we see constitutionally, those members have refused to obey court order. To me as a former legislator, the way out of this is two ways. One, if a legislator is suspended, the legislator stops attending the sitting of the House, the House proceeds to set up a committee or refer the case to the appropriate committee of the House to hear or investigate the matter and come away with findings which will now be reported to the plenary and discussed.
During the process of that investigation, issues are sorted out and even they are found guilty, the House can decide to pardon them and lift the suspension. But these four legislators have refused to avail themselves of that opportunity; neither have they also obeyed court orders to stay away and then contest the court order with a view to reversing that. My candid advice to them is to avail themselves of any one of these option and let sanity prevail.
One of the suspended lawmakers is from your area and it was learnt that you sponsored him, where did you part ways?
We are not God. Nobody can predict what another human being will do tomorrow. We did what we did; if we made mistake, we apologize to the good people of Orhionmwon to forgive us. We will continue to try to improve on our interrogatory and observatory capacities such that when we come to look at people next time, it will be an accurate and correct impression. So I don’t think that has to do with what is happening. We can’t really predict what human beings can do.
How optimistic are you ahead of 2015 for APC
I am very optimistic, but you see, I am one of those who believe that no matter how mad the situation is, you must draw some lessons from it. I believe my party at the national level is investigating what happened in Ekiti with a view to analysing it and coming out with what to do in order to avoid similar situation in future. Quite frankly, I am still at sea as to what happened in Ekiti, everybody knows that Governor Fayemi performed, he did well. For him to be so roundly defeated even in his ward and local government calls for serious concern.
I know the leadership of my party will investigate thoroughly what happened and I want to believe that something happened that we are yet to put our fingers on. But we have learnt our lessons and I think we will take steps to correct observable lapses so we can unravel the mystery. I am not the least troubled but I am sad that we lost.