•Says Gov Obaseki must apologise for peace to reign
A former Attorney General of Edo State, Mr Henry Idahagbon, in this interview, says Governor Godwin Obaseki created the conflict in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress.
You were one of the persons who supported Governor Obaseki from the beginning until he became governor. What has changed now?
I had the privilege of being one of the first politicians Oshiomhole confided in. The day the governorship primary election held in Yenagoa, where Timipriye Silva and Timi Alaibe contested, I went with him to conduct the primaries when we returned to Benin, he asked me to stay back in his house.
At about 1.00 am, he took me to the third living room in the Governor’s Lodge and he asked me to analyse all those interested in the gubernatorial election. We reviewed the pros and cons of all of them and at the end, we agreed that the best person among the lot to succeed him was Godwin Obaseki. This was at about 2.30 am and after that, I sought the permission of Oshiomhole to call Obaseki, which he granted.
I called him, he was already asleep, but he eventually picked my call. He called me bros and I said I am sorry for waking you up, I told him I just had a meeting with the Comrade Governor and he told me that he would be the next governor of the state. I need to be with you tomorrow so that I can lay before you a template of what we need to do between now and the elections.
I took him around the 18 local government areas of the state. I took him to the former Deputy Governor of the state, Mr Lucky Imasuen for the first time. I also took him to Victor Ekhator Blakky and the market women leaders’ houses for the first time. I took him around everywhere because by that time he was not popular. Anywhere we went to, they received us with disdain for they did not believe the deal could scale through, but to the glory of God, we were able to package him.
Immediately he became the governor, we saw another Obaseki. After the election before his swearing in, we started seeing a different person that we did not know and that is why some weeks ago, I said that we voted for a man we did not know. Within the first week of being governor, he said he was going to retire all old politicians.
In the first two years of his governance, they invited me to party meetings only two or three times. In fact, he invented a new leadership for the party, where people who are not politicians attend meetings. Truly, Godwin Obseki constitutes an existential threat to all the politicians in Edo State.
Hon Charles Idahosa, who used to be our leader, said that he is behaving the way he (Obaseki) is behaving because of what politicians did to him. I disagree because there was nothing politicians did to him that I did not know. This man promised each delegate N300, 000 because of the stiff competition he faced with Engr. Chris Ogiemwonyi and Rt Hon Pius Odubu. I coordinated 80 per cent of the delegates in Egor and instead of giving them the N300, 000 promised, he gave them N150, 000.
They told them that after the primaries, they will get their balance of N150, 000 but after the voting, Obaseki said no, he was no longer paying and that the process was too expensive. That was the first time I confronted him. On that day, after he left the meeting, I told the people around that we have entered a one-chance bus. I even told him that the delegates were the people who will campaign for him. We eventually had to force him to pay additional N50,000 instead of the N300,000 he promised delegates. Tell me, where did the politicians collect money from him?
I am not aware of any politician that they gave N5 million to N10 million during the campaign because it was the popularity of Oshiomhole that he rode on. Obaseki got his first party membership card a year before his election.
Obaseki’s transformation from the nice and calm person before the election to what he is now is baffling and unexplainable. I think what has gone wrong is that he has been influenced by two principal officers, who are part of his government; I think he has been influenced by his deputy governor and his Secretary to State Government, SSG.
He promised 200,000 jobs but I do not think he has created up to 5,000 jobs. I raised this issue at one of our steering meetings where I said even the federal government would find it difficult to create 200,000 jobs, he said no, that I should not worry, that he is creative.
When the President came to campaign in Edo, he promised the President one million votes even when he knew that the total number of votes in Edo was not up to one million. When the results of the election came, the governor lost his unit, he lost his ward, lost his local government, lost his senatorial district and lost the three metropolitan councils in Benin; Oredo, Egor and Ikpobha-Okha.
People came out against APC because of the governor; he has alienated the entire political class in the APC. We defeated Pastor Osagie-Ize Iyamu in the governorship election with over 58,000 votes and APC members, who are angry today, are five times that number.
What about the House of Assembly crisis, why is EPM against him?
Oshiomhole is the most grossly misunderstood person in the crisis. I feel like weeping for the man because, after the election, we went to him stating what we wanted to be done. However, the man simply said no. I quote him, ‘I am no longer the governor, please allow Godwin to do his work, we must allow him to govern and I do not want to interfere.’ Now, the same Oshiomhole is the one people think was calling and disturbing him.
On the House of Assembly matter, Oshiomhole was not interested because he asked, ‘What do I want, do I want to be governor again, what will a Speaker in Edo State do for me now?
However, the truth be told as we are today, we do not have a House of Assembly neither do we have a Speaker. The applicable section is not the section some of them are ignorantly bandying about. It is section 91 and it states that there shall be a House of Assembly whose membership shall be six times the number of the House of Representatives in each state, then there is a proviso the number shall not be lower than 24 and higher than 40. Therefore, when you have a House of Assembly that is less than 24, it means we do not have a House of Assembly in Edo State today.
If we are going to sheath our sword, Obaseki must descend from his high horse, he must descend from his Olympian height and wave the olive branch. He has told his kitchen cabinet that he is not prepared to do that, that Ambode lost in Lagos because he did not deploy his powers as governor, adding that here, he would fight, and use his powers.
He has earmarked my private building for demolition, we are receiving death threats every day, but we have told him that he is free to come and demolish. If he wants to kill us, let him go ahead. They can come and kill us but we remain committed to the two ideas of EPM, which are to resuscitate the party in the state and restore it to its winning ways. Our mandate is to shop for a credible alternative to Godwin Obaseki for the 2020 election because the party will lose if we field Obaseki.