•Alleges plot to unleash violence
By Simon Ebegbulem
Mr Godwin Obaseki is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Saturday’s election in Edo State. In this interview, Obaseki is optimistic of victory, just as he raises the alarm on alleged plot by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to unleash mayhem on the day of election to truncate the exercise. Excerpts:
How optimistic are you of victory having campaigned very vigorously so far?
We have campaigned extensively. If you recall, this is the second time I am embarking on this kind of campaign. Ahead of the primary election, I went through the 192 wards across the state. The campaign for the main election has been more detailed.
I went to communities I did not have the opportunity of visiting before the primary and it has been quite revealing. Firstly, it would be a miracle for the PDP to win the election because, as we go round the communities, we don’t see their presence, we don’t hear their message probably because they don’t have any message. In every community we have gone to, we can point to a project that the APC government has undertaken and that explains the popularity of the party.
The issue in most communities is that they want more and it is easy to argue that, given our track record of performance, they should allow us to continue to provide for them unlike the PDP which track record is so bad that, in their ten years of being government, there is nothing to show the people of the state. So that being the fact on ground, it has been easy going round to appeal to the electorate to vote for me as the APC candidate and my running mate Philip Shuaibu. The second issue is that we have been able to counter their lies because, without any message to send, they have been going round to tell lies to the people, to create tension and prepare the stage for violence. To them, the only way to win the election is to unleash violence and steal ballot boxes, produce fake results.
There is evidence they are working on that strategy and we have reported to security agencies. They are importing thugs from neighbouring communities to cause mayhem so that we can have inconclusive election. We also have evidence of the people they brought in from neighbouring states to register during the voters registration. You could see from the incident at llushi, where they attacked my campaign train. For the fear that they are going to lose the election, some of their supporters are acting the violent script even before the D-Day. They unleashed mayhem on our supporters. They destroyed our vehicles and people were beaten up.
They are masters of propaganda. While we are campaigning, the PDP leadership is engaged in propaganda. Their propaganda machine is well oiled to misinform the people and give the impression that they are winning. They have no concrete message for the people.
They are selling a message about the future when they destroyed the past. They really don’t have a message. They go to the markets, trying to create fear, using the current economic crisis to campaign. But we have gone to explain to the people that these are the same people who caused the economic recession, destroyed our economy. The only other plan they are confident about is violence which they are masters in. We know that the PDP was working with the thugs who wreaked havoc in Rivers State. We know they have recruited many of the thugs. You know we are campaigning in riverine areas and those are the areas they are targeting: llusin, Gegelege, Agenebode. Our border communities are the areas they intend to perpetuate violence and there is evidence they have brought in people into Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba Okhai. They planted at least two militants in each of the units in these areas so that they can cause mayhem that may lead to inconclusive election.
But is the nation’s economic recession not affecting your party in the campaign for the election?
In the case of Edo, we know that the people are enlightened. We have been explaining to them that the recession is global but what is more important is what we have been doing to solve the problem. Campaigning round the state, I found out that in the rural areas, people are beginning to make a lot of money due to the rise in the prices of farm produce. Where roads are tarred, we see people drying rice, people going to their farms to harvest yam and lorry loads of food stuff coming out. The other advantage is that the PDP was in before and the electorate doesn’t see them as an option. When we ask, some people say they don’t even know whether the PDP candidate is Ize-Iyamu or Iduoriyekemwen. Their (PDP) members are even confused while many of them feel APC is the only hope. The real opponents include the candidate of APGA, Osaro Onaiwu, the PDP is out of reckoning. There are two PDP candidates in the race: one controlled by the god fathers, the other by some progressive leaders and that faction has moved to the APC. I laugh when they resort to making comments in newspapers, they only exist on the pages of newspapers.
Any fear of anti-party activities?
Nobody in APC will do anti-party activity. That was Ize-Iyamu’s prayer because he called several APC members to come and play the trick he knows well to work against their own party but they refused. The reconciliation we have done has been very successful. You would have noticed that some of our colleagues who were aggrieved after the primary election have been working very closely with the party in their various wards and local governments. We are all back together. I was touched seeing our members contributing money to promote the campaign in their various wards. It was quite touching and I am grateful to them. What is also interesting and has helped us is the wave of decamping from PDP to APC, so those angry with us, seeing the PDP members coming, reconsidered their position. Many PDP members decamping to APC shows that we are one and that people are working in unison, especially in Orhiomwon, Uhumwonde where we had concerns before.
Some people see you as a stooge of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. What do you say?
If I was a stooge for the past eight years and that led to the level of development that we have, and if being a stooge will lead to the progress of my people, I will rather be a stooge to my people than being a non-stooge that will steal the commonwealth. It does not make sense. What are the issues? One is about development, about utilising our wealth for our common good. So if being a stooge means utilising public fund for the betterment of the people of Edo, if being a stooge means I am not going to meet with any god father to decide on how my budget will be implemented, then I will rather be a stooge. One of the PDP candidates, Ize-Iyamu, has all his life been a stooge to the Igbinedions, the father and son. He started as PA to Lucky Igbinedion, then Chief of Staff to the Igbinedion government and later the most powerful SSG. Who approved the sacking of over seven thousand workers who are crying for pension which the Oshiomhole’s administration is paying today? We need to change the paradigm. Someone should tell me in specific terms what the Oshiomhole administration has not done in the last seven and a half years. So what is wrong about propagating and continuing with those strides? We must redefine our politics from these brain dead hawks in our politics who think they can continue to destroy and distract our people. Another issue is, what did they do with political authority? Being in the back room of this administration in the last seven and a half years, I played my part to direct the policies. I pointed to the Comrade Governor the direction we should go. Did that make him a stooge? People should try and understand the logic. Poor education which has not allowed them do other things in their lives led them to this claim to being a stooge. But let me tell them, if with all we have achieved under Oshiomhole, I am a stooge, I accept. Then let Ize-Iyamu also accept that he is a stooge to Lucky Igbinedion and let him take the blame for the failure of the PDP in the ten years.
Message to Edo people
I want to thank the people because, across Edo. I found out during our campaign that we have groups and communities that, on their own, endorsed me, assuring me that they will vote for me. My appeal is to security agencies to ensure that they monitor the process to ensure we have no violence. If we have an election, free, fair, credible, devoid of violence, I am certain we will trounce the PDP, no matter who they decide to field. I can assure you of winning 80 per cent of the votes come September 10.