• ‘Only a fool will say Obaseki has not done well in Edo’
BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Chief Charles Idahosa is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State and was Political Adviser to the immediate past Governor Adams Oshiomhole for eight years. In this interview, the veteran politician reviews the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki in one year. He also speaks on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s resignation from the APC and the crisis between the Benins and Ijaws over the ownership of Gelegele community. Excerpts:
How do you review the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki?
There is no doubt that Obaseki has done well. We are very happy with him; he has not let us down. He has brought sanity to the system. The way they now collect tax is more civil, nobody is being harassed anymore. The school system is being reformed. The only area we, as party leaders, are not too happy is that he should carry us along in the sense that the infrastructure he is developing across the state, he should also develop our stomach. He is a strong governor and honestly there is nothing he is doing today that he did not say he was going to do during his campaign. But my advice is that the developmental efforts should be gradual because most of the things he is doing now are for the future. He has an idea of where he wants to take Edo to and he has said he does not want to be distracted and that is why he decided to steer clear of party leaders. But I think that after one year now, he has been able to lay a solid foundation that will take the state to the next level. Like the Alaghodaro Economic Summit that he organized, only few people in the urban areas understand the idea behind the project and it is we leaders that will always pass the message or the idea to our supporters in the rural areas. He is thinking of the Edo of the future. But the truth is that Oshiomhole over-pampered us as politicians and that is why it seems we are feeling left out by Obaseki. But we now understand his style; it is not as if he does not want to see politicians, he only does not want to be distracted which is good.
But the PDP said he has done nothing in the last one year?
What do you expect from people who get drunk every day out of frustration? What they don’t understand is constructive opposition; when the governor has done well, say he has done well and where he has failed, say it. But you just don’t say he has failed. Only a fool will say Obaseki has not done well in Edo. Do you know that sometimes when I am driving out, I don’t even know if this is Benin. He continued from where Oshiomhole stopped; today, we no longer experience traffic at Ring Road where you saw people fighting every day. Today, you see men of the EDSTMA doing their work diligently and without harassing anybody. The PDP will not change, they must talk to survive. I am the oldest member of the legacy party that formed the APC; we started with the ACD. The two senior ones are my leader, Senator Rowland Owie, who is now in ADP, and Chief Tom Ikimi, who is now in PDP. After them, I am number three but now I am number one. I know the PDP better than they know themselves. Most of us came from there. I don’t expect the PDP to clap for us but I know that every promise Obaseki made during his campaign is what he is doing. The ordinary people are happy with Obaseki and I believe that he will get better with time. All we are trying to do is to ensure that the party leaders are carried along because, without the party and the leaders who lead the people to the field on election day and the youths who protect the votes, election will be difficult.
As a chieftain of the APC, are you worried about the resignation of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the party?
It is very troubling. My worry is that I don’t want our party to go through what the PDP went through. It is wrong for any APC supporter to say Atiku is not important, that he can go. Meanwhile I know his exit will not affect the party in the 2019 presidential election because I believe that if he joins the PDP he is going to create another problem for them as some persons in PDP have been waiting for the presidential ticket too over the years. Secondly, a lot of people came to the APC when Atiku joined us and you don’t know what will happen now. So we really need to be on our guard so that we are not caught unawares. Some politicians who are his supporters might be pretending to be inside but at the last minute betray APC. But we have a lot of experienced politicians in the APC to cover our tracks as much as possible by making up for the aggrieved people when election comes. But I don’t think we should just sweep it away. The PDP should also expect that problem because some people are going to resist Atiku as their presidential flag bearer.
The Makarfi, Fayose games
I understand the game Ahmed Makarfi (PDP Caretaker Chairman)is playing and only a fool will underrate (Ekiti State governor) Fayose. He (Fayose) understands the game he is playing by saying he wants to go for the presidency but I know that he is working for somebody and, at the end of the day, if they zone the vice presidential ticket to the South-West, he will take it. And I am happy that President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are getting on well now because nobody can push Tinubu aside; he made the success of the APC administration at the national level possible. However, I believe that with proper planning and unity of purpose, the APC will not have problem. But we must guard against our members defecting to the PDP. I know also that Atiku is not a small fish. Don’t forget that when he came from the PDP, five governors and senators came with him. You remember that Governor Aminu Tambuwal moved at the last minute to APC from the PDP. That is why I am warning our leaders to watch their back, anything can happen. I read the governor of Adamawa State saying he will remain and die in APC but that is bullshit. Those who defect at last minute give ruling parties the biggest problem. So we must watch out because that was how the PDP collapsed. I know Atiku will not leave APC alone and that is my worry but the strategy they are using is what the APC leadership should look into. They should monitor what they are doing. They may not do it the way the PDP members who joined APC then did it, this time they may decide to stay in APC and wreck the party at the last minute.
How do you react to the on-going crisis between the Benin and Ijaw people in Gelegele?
I am really surprised with what the Ijaw are doing in the Niger Delta since oil came. I have Ijaw friends when I was growing up and they are very good people. But I think oil wealth spoilt them. The issue of Ijaw owning any place in Edo does not arise, so I don’t know where they got this idea from. Let us not go too far, check one hundred years ago, 1897, the Ijaw were tenants in Benin land and they are so insignificant in the whole arrangement. Prof. Igbafe is an authority in Edo history. Prof. Ade Ajaiyi is an authority too. I have been to the British museum in England, I learnt more about the Benin massacre more in England as a young student. When they talk about the invasion of Benin, have you seen anywhere they mentioned the Pere of Gelegele when the British came or the Ijaw man they met at Gelegele when the British came? The British came through Gelegele to come and carry Oba Ovonronwe. My great grandfather Gen.Ologbosere was the one that accosted the British people at Gelegele and told them ‘you cannot come into Benin now, we have a festival’. And, luckily for me, as a journalist at NTA, I did a documentary on the execution of the seven British people at Igbine. The people that came with the British through Gelegele were Itsekiri, their names were documented. I did not see any Pere or any Ijaw name there. If the Ijaws say they own Gelegele, they should tell us how many Ijaw were killed when the British came. So the issue of who owns that area does not arise because it belongs to the Oba.