Prof Julius Ihonvbere is the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education. In this interview with SundayVanguard, the lawmaker representing Owan Federal Constituency of Edo State provides insight into the plot by some governors of All Progressives Congress, APC, to oust the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
BY CHARLES KUMOLU, Deputy Editor
Why do you think some APC governors want to oust Oshiomhole from his position?
Comrade Oshiomhole has tried to reposition, refocus andredirect the APC. We all know where the APC was before he became the National Chairman. If he had not become the National Chairman, we would have had problems during the 2019 presidential election. While repositioning the party, many people who were benefiting from the old order, must complain, disparageyour achievement and deliberately refuse to acknowledge your achievements evenwhen they are glaring. Those attacks on Oshiomhole by the governors have nothing to do with the leadership of the party. It has more to do with their so-called strategic positioning for 2023. First, those who want to come back for a second term are looking for somebody who will be a rubber stamp. Those governors who are in their second term and want to run for the presidency are among. There are those who for ideological reasons do not want to understand the essential ingredients of democratic struggles because that is not the way we have always operated. Many of them are doing the party more harm than good by going many miles to fight the National Chairman. Some of them said they will not give money to their constituents but they are now using it to move from one place to the other, holding nocturnal meetings all in the bid of getting rid of Oshiomhole. The good thing is that majority of the governors are with him, the state chairmen are with him and majority of the party members appreciate the hard work he has put into rebuilding APC.
The fight is all about personal interest, personal ambition, and strategic positioning for 2023 presidency even when we are in 2019. Only God knows who will be alive to run for the presidency in 2023 or whatever position. There is a governor who has bragged that Oshiomhole will notbe there for his primaries. I am sure God will not answer that kind of prayer. All these are not about Oshiomhole as a chairman. They have to do with the ambitions, expectations, anticipation of those who have political interest for 2023.
Who are the governors involved?
We know the ring leader who has concocted all kinds of stories, lies, all kinds of imaginations to convince other people that the National Chairman is bad. In that case, it is not driven by political understanding, it is not driven by ideology, it is not driven by any philosophy, it is not driven by any track record of his involvement in any democratic struggle, it is not driven by any desire to reposition the party for greatness,it is driven by what I will call a concocted importance in the political terrain and his ambition which he has denigrated. I am not surprised he is involved in all these. When you dance into the enclave of the devil you have to look for all kinds of strategies to deceive the devil not to regard you as a willing member. So It is political desperation. He is fond of saying “we have our chairman who should be supporting us.’’ Now we have a governor of the party who should be supportive but he is a ring leader and a core member of those opposed to the National Chairman.
The governors accused the chairman of trying to play godfatherism. Do you agree with that?
Let me say categorically, as a stakeholder in Edo politics, I have been there for a very long time, much longer than those whoare talking about godfatherism in Edo. When Obaseki was elected through thesacrifices, energy, and campaign mastery of Oshiomhole, there was peace in Edo. I worked with him to help set up structures when he became governor. I knowthat Oshiomhole is not putting pressure on Obaseki in any way. We don’t even see him in Government House. I know that Oshiomhole nominated only one Commissioner contrary to the lies that he nominated all the Commissioners. Iknow that the strategic direction of the government was not influenced at all by Oshiomhole because I organised over 35 workshops and seminars for each ministry and agency. I brought experts to reposition the ministries. I was Chairman of Strategic Planning Committee. We drew up the programmes for all the Commissioners. In all of these, I never had one conversation with Oshiomhole onwhat we should do. The whole idea that he is playing godfatherism is arrant nonsense and lies from the pit of hell. They are only doing that to rubbish the name of the man that made him governor.
This crisis started with the primary election that was conducted in 2019. The constitution stated very clearly that it is not the governor that conducts the election, it is the NWC. And when Obaseki proceeded to organise primaries without the approval of the NWC, it was only normal for Oshiomhole to cancel it to show that he was not favouring his state. They have sacked everybody in the system they believe is loyal to Oshiomhole or loyal to anybody who is close to Oshiomhole. Innocent people are being penalised. People’s houses have been marked for demolition. Those who want to show loyalty to thegovernor are busy visiting untold violence on people as they did in Owan East.
There is this fear by the governors supporting Obasekithat the state might lose if he is not given a second term ticket. It has also been rumoured that the governor might dump the party…
Only Edo people will decide who leads them. But thosegovernors supporting him and threatening Oshiomhole at the same time shouldfind out what Governor Obaseki scored in his ward, Local Government Area , LGA,and Senatorial District during the presidential election. He lost in his ward,LGA and Senatorial District. Ogbeide Ihama, the Peoples Democratic Party,PDP,person in the House of Representatives defeated him in his LGA. Anybodyascribing political strength to him is making a mistake. We know Obaseki in EdoState. He is a governor that was elected by the people, many of those whoelected him are regretting today because he does understand the politicalterrain. How can you say you want to retire all the leaders, the very peoplewho brought you into office? He claimed he does not want to share Edo money butwhat is happening today? He said people were asking him for money and we havetold him to name those asking him for money. In any case, it is not even acrime for people to ask the governor they elected for money. It is left for thegovernor to manage the expectations of the people in a way to meet the demandsand needs of the people.
On the rumour that he is planning to defect, there is noproblem because if you feel you cannot achieve your ambition in any party, youare free to defect. I was once in PDP and when I felt the PDP had no future in Edo I joined the APC. I don’t think the question of him leaving the APC will make any big difference. But the second term ticket is not automatic for anybody. It has to be earned. And it is the way you treat your party members that matters. You must show respect, appreciation, and social justice. If you respect the structure you met on the ground you will have no problem. It is the leaders who will beg you to continue. Nobody will come out to say they want to contest with you. But when you have not been doing this many people will comeout to challenge you.
The other part is that majority of the people in Edounderstand the political situation well. Today, people vote for Oshiomhole’s party because he is a household name let nobody be deceived. The people of Edo have seen APC perform under Oshiomhole and they will continue to vote for APC. Even the remnants of PDP joined us two days ago because of the leadership provided by Oshiomhole. If for example, Obaseki decides to join PDP, the people he will take to PDP will not be more than the PDP leaders joining us now. We don’t have any problem at all. We are home and dry. Even those who are with him today, are there because they need a meal ticket. There is nothing one governor can do to remove the National Chairman.