SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Hon. Charles Idahosa was Special Adviser to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. He is one man who has seen it all in the politics of the state and currently that of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Political Bulldozer, as he is fondly called, clocked 64 last Thursday. To mark the occasion, he spoke with Sunday Vanguard on some issues of national importance.
How do you feel at 64
It has been great. I thank God for His mercies. For one to clock 64 in a third world country like this is a big achievement when you consider our life expectancy. God has been very nice to me. It has been a very long political journey and I am grateful to God to have been able to mark 64 and I am looking forward to 65 and God willing 70.
What do you make of the IPOB threat?
The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is like a theatre of the absurd. I said a few months ago that corruption will fight back. And what are you are seeing today? Is corruption not fighting back? All the agitations here and there, they are being stage managed to distract the APC federal government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, from getting to where it wants Nigeria to be. The campaign programme of the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari was to clear the mess left behind by the former administration. And, of course, the money stolen during the PDP administration and now in the hands of individuals is so much that you do not expect government to just fold its arms. And the corruption that is fighting back is coming in different forms and all kinds of devices. All those campaigning for secession in the name of IPoB, where were they since? These are political gimmicks designed to derail the APC led government ahead of the 2019 presidential election. Unfortunately, we live in a country of very many unserious people. This thing could have been tackled in a way that nobody would have known that such a thing happened. We made Nnamdi Kanu important. A 36-year-old who never saw the civil war. I witnessed the civil war and I know what war is. In war, a mother will deny her child; a father will run in a direction while the children run in another. So, when Kanu and his cohorts started talking because people were sponsoring them, it made me feel sad.
How do you see the calls for restructuring?
What is restructuring? What is devolution of power and what is confederation? What led to the civil war? What is ‘on Aburi we stand?’ Is that not what we are still fighting today? When Nigeria was at the peak of the crisis in 1966 and Nigeria was going to disintegrate, they went to Aburi, Ghana. General Gowon presided and they did not allow any civilian to be there. Gowon, Ojukwu and a few other people attended the meeting. I think the only civilian that was there was then Prince Akenzua who later became the Oba of Benin, the father of the present Oba as federal Permanent Secretary. Ojukwu said Igbo wanted confederation, a weak centre and powerful regions. And by the time the meeting ended, Gowon signed. That was the Aburi Accord which provided that Nigeria will now go back to confederation because Aguiyi Ironsi, at the inception of military rule had concentrated political power at the centre, and northerners, who were far behind in development, kicked against it (Aburi Accord).
All the positions that the Igbo are crying of being denied today, head of the army, Governor of the Central Bank, Senate President, were occupied by them. And after they toppled Aguiyi Ironsi, things changed. Let’s go back before then, there was regionalism. Each region was developing at its own pace.
Back to your question, what is restructuring? Politics is a game of numbers; politics means the sharing of the dividends of democracy. The constitution has taken care of restructuring because every state has a minister in the federal cabinet. Each local government must have a commissioner at the state level; so, there is proper representation at all levels. If you people need restructuring, because I heard people complain about how appointments are shared, how do you expect the APC to give equal Boards appointments to the South-East that voted 90 per cent for the PDP (at the last presidential election)? Do you expect the President to compensate those who did not vote for him? Is that one done anywhere in a democracy?
My late friend Gaddafi (Samson Ekhabafe), who was then Attorney General in Edo State, once explained something like this to us in 2003 in an exco meeting. Governor Lucky Igbinedion was presiding when information came to us that there was a protest at the Government House gates. So, Igbinedion asked the deputy governor, Ogiadomhe, to go and find out what was amiss and when he (Oghiadohme) came back, he said some people from Akoko-Edo were protesting because their king had been deposed and detained for the past one month. And Lucky (Igbinedion) did not even know.
So, he turned to Gaddafi, who was from that area, and asked him what happened. And Gaddafi said he personally dethroned the traditional ruler because he worked against the PDP in an election then. Lucky was angry and asked why he (Ekhabafe) did not inform him before doing a thing like that. But, surprisingly, Gaddafi said he did not know he was supposed to tell the governor. Lucky said he could not do that and ordered that the man should be re-instated. I will never forget that statement from Gaddafi.
In a nutshell, I think people are not following what the constitution says. The South-East did not vote for the APC; so, you don’t expect them to get what others who voted for the APC are getting. And the calls for restructuring of the nation are from the opposition PDP that lost the 2015 presidential election. What I think we should be talking about is devolution of power. Let the states have more power and we can have a weak centre. Let the centre be in charge of the economy, external affairs and defence. Electricity, water, transportation should be left to the states which should then explore the minerals available in their areas of jurisdiction and pay tax to the centre.
That was what we were doing when we had the cocoa and rubber boom and the West was able to build the first high rise building, the first stadium, the first television station in Africa and started free education before the East and the North followed. The English of restructuring, I am not into it. Buhari will pursue the anti – corruption war because that is part of what he said he was coming to do. So, if they are distracting him so that people will not notice the good works the APC government is doing and you allow them to succeed, then this country is finished. We have less than 16 months to go for the next presidential election.
How do you assess the Obaseki administration of Edo State?
I think the governor is okay; the people are happy but the party leaders might not be happy with him. That is my assessment of the situation. I have served under many governors. I was a council Chairman under two military governors. I served under former Governor Ambrose Alli and the rest of them. People come with different styles. You will be deceiving yourself if you think when Obaseki was coming that he did not have his own agenda. So, I am sure that is the area he is concentrating on.
As far as I am concerned, I see the people, I interact a lot, the people are very happy especially in the area of the administration cracking down on thugs. You can now pass through Ring Road and Oba Market without any body harassing you. But we politicians in the state are not so happy because what we are used to has changed so drastically. We wanted a situation that the transformation will be gradual which was exactly what I told Obaseki but that does not mean he is not doing what is right.
I had opportunity to tell him that all these things ‘you are doing, you have to take it bit by bit’. So he is doing well. I have no problem with him as is being rumoured everywhere. Obaseki is trying to open the state up for investors but, above all, there is sanity which we all are happy about but we too want sanity in our stomachs.
On alleged bickering in Edo APC
One thing people do not understand about politicians is that even though some of us are not happy, that does not mean that when election comes, we will vote PDP. When election comes, we will first of all win before we begin our quarrel again. Whatever disagreement we have with the governor does not affect our relationship with the party during elections. It is normal.
If you ask our people (politicians) why they are not happy, they will tell you we cannot go to the Government House any longer despite the fact that the governor is from our party. This is what our leaders were used to but, now, we cannot go there anymore.