By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin city
Charles Idahosa is one of those who formed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, but, Charles T, as he is fondly called, has switched political camp. He is now the Political Adviser to the Action Congress of Nigeria (A C N) governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview, Idahosa exonerates his principal from the Monday hanging of four prisoners on death row. He describes the execution as an entire legal matter, saying due process was followed. He also shares his perspective on how Oshiomhole’s successor should emerge in 2016, just as he gives reasons for the formation of Edo Solidarity Movement (ESM), a group that is geared towards building a political structure that will lead to the emergence of the governor’s successor.
Amnesty International, among others, has criticized your governor for signing the execution warrant of four prisoners who were executed on Monday. Many people say it is a dent on the state government?
There is nothing like dent because the governor must execute his duties.The execution of the prisoners has nothing to do with Comrade Adams Oshiomhole or the state government. This is a constitutional matter. Oshiomhole has the constitutional duty to sign death warrant. And this is subject to advice from relevant bodies and it must be made clear before the governor signs such warrant that all legal processes have been exhausted. For example, the person must have been tried in proper courts, that is, the High Court, Appeal Court and Supreme Court must have confirmed that he actually committed the offence. So nobody should bring any sentiment here. The question you should ask is were these people innocent or guilty as charged? This has nothing to do with politics. In the 70s, there was public execution of armed robbers in the then Bendel State compassing of the present Edo State but what we don’t know is whether capital punishment has reduced robbery or not. But if you observe, there are states now where they passed a law saying kidnappers will either face life imprisonment or death sentence, so it all depends on the law.
Being somebody who knows Governor Oshiomhole very well, do you think ordinarily he would have signed the execution warrant were it not that the law compelled him to do so?
The fact that Governor Oshiomhole is a masses man does not remove the fact that he is a man too that believes in fairness and justice. I remember the last time he had this kind of challenge with international bodies on the issue of the death warrant, he asked them, did these people kill? If a man leaves his house with a gun with the intention of killing another person and the governor is the chief security officer of the state, or when people are sleeping, a man comes with a gun, robs a couple, rapes the wife, rapes the daughter in the man’s presence and even kills, like what happened to a top government official who was working with ADP, and that persons is caught and he is tried in a competent court and found guilty, and you say because Oshiomhole is a masses man he should leave the person, that is not done. Oshiomhole, as Governor, must be seen to give justice and fairness to both parties. If Amnesty International is saying don’t kill this man,’ what about the family of the people the man killed? So I don’t see why people are condemning the execution; as governor, he has to look at both sides and make a decision. This has nothing to do with Oshiomhole, these are people who committed crime against God and humanity, they killed, they raped, and, if you commit a crime, you pay for it. As far as I am concerned, if you take another person’s life, you have no right over your own any more. Nobody has the right over another person’s life and expect to live.
You just launched a political group, Edo Solidarity Movement. We learnt it is geared towards finding Oshiomhole’s successor?
Yes, this is a group of people of like-minds. We used it in 1996 during the military regime because there was no political party then, and we needed a forum where we could sit together and discuss . So I contested under the ESM banner then to become the chairman of Uhumwonde on non-party basis. I remember that, at the said time, we won about 18 out of the 18 local governments. We are now in ACN and I just said to myself, by time ACN loses its identity with the registration of APC, we need a forum where we can articulate our views within the new party and push people of like-minds, people we know can deliver, not people with big pockets, not people who just came from the US with bags of dollars and pick tickets. I just felt there was need for me to call people of the progressive hue and the Edo Solidarity Movement cuts across the three senatorial districts. We are not interested in who becomes governor, we are not interested on who becomes senator, all we are interested in is to identify amongst ourselves and make sure that we support them. ESM is about creating a conducive atmosphere within a political group, within the political party to enable the governor concentrate on governance. We are approaching 2016 and Oshiomhole is not entitled to third term, you will agree with me the level he has taken Edo State to. We, as members of the ESM, will move as a bloc into the APC by the grace of God. If we allow a few people to hijack the party they will do whatever they want. We want people that say the truth because we want the people to lead and not a party of cabal. This group is not put together for any individual who will become a successor to Oshiomhole. This movement is about participatory democracy, this movement is about having a say in who takes over. It is not put together for a particular person. This movement is also for us to have a say on how our party is run, so that when the time comes, the party will be able to have transparent primaries on who succeeds Oshiomhole. Only a fool will think that Adams Oshiomhole will rule for eight years and will not be interested in who succeeds him. We want to be part of it, we are interested in who takes over from Oshiomhole.
There is this feeling that the battle for succession might tear the Edo ACN apart.
You remember what happened when some party members had different views on who should be Governor Oshiomhole’s running mate ahead of the election last year. At that time many of you said the party will be torn apart but what the governor did then was to consult with the leaders and, at the end of the day, we all agreed that he should continue with the present deputy. So when it comes to who will be, Comrade Oshiomhole will sit down with the leaders and decide who succeeds him. We are going to discuss because we don’t want the tempo of work started by Oshiomhole to slow down. But talking about crisis, there won’t be any crisis in the party. We will argue and agree on somebody at the right time. The truth is that 2016 is still far away; so it is not our immediate goal. Our immediate goal is to restructure the party for greatness.
You just have to understand that the PDP in Edo must talk so that Abuja will hear them and know they still exist. That is the only way they can drop one board appointment for the person that criticized Oshiomhole most. The PDP was in Edo for years and we did not see light, they were not even able to collect taxes. Most of the money Oshiomhole is using to develop Edo is generated here. From N300million IGR, we are now collecting over N1.2billion and we are seeing what Oshiomhole is using the money for. So I don’t like joining issues with them because they have nothing to offer the people, they are down and out. So it is funny each time I read them saying they will capture Edo in 2016. But you don’t expect them to say they will lose the next election, they have been boasting since Oshiomhole came on board. We have never lost any election, it started with the Akoko Edo election, we defeated them. Godwin Abbe was the Minister of Defence then and he withdrew soldiers attached to the joint patrol; yet they lost. From there we moved to Afuze, they also lost. After that they now said, they are waiting for the general election where Oshiomhole and others will be in their villages, the general elections came, yet they lost and started complaining again. We cleared the entire state at the general elections. We got two out of the three senatorial seats, seven House of Reps out of nine. They are being depleted every day. So what has changed now that they feel will make them win? By 2015 Oshiomhole will still be governor, his election will be 2016. You will see the pounding in 2015, then 2016 will just be a formality. I saw a PDP stalwart saying that once they win the presidency they will win the governorship in Edo state. But I told him that by the time ACN or APC defeats PDP in 2015, 2016 will just be a formality. The man said their leader said they will go back and do what they know best how to do, that is rigging the election.
You ran for governorship in 2007. Do you still nurse that ambition?
Yes I ran for governorship that time, but I believe that only God gives power. You cannot say this is what I want to be, only God has the final say. I don’t have any ambition to run for any elective office for now but only the people of Edo will decide who the governor of the state will be. I don’t nurse any governorship ambition now.