By Chris Onuoha & Kennedy Mbele
In the aftermath of the alleged attack on the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, when he visited Benin-City, Edo State capital, last weekend, by suspected loyalists of Governor Godwin Obaseki, Comrade Peter Esele, a former Trade Union Congress (TUC) President and former governorship aspirant in the state, speaks on how the raging feud can be resolved between Obaseki and Oshiomhole.
What do you make of the penultimate Saturday incident in Benin-City?
I think one of the major challenges facing the party is non-adherence to its rules and protocols. For example, in Benin, what happened is very unfortunate and it is not right to have a former governor and Chairman of a party to be attacked or embarrassed.
What should happen to the National Chairman is that people should have come to the open to show solidarity but what is happening right now is that we have two factions. And when that happens, you are going to have what I call fifth columnists that will take advantage of the situation.
That is worrisome. With all the challenges the party is facing in Edo and at the national level, what I would have expected is that the National Chairman who wants peace should have gone ahead, inform the governor that he was coming, and also invite the governor to come and pick him up at the airport.
By doing that, he will be sending a message to the rank and file that they are together. Right now we have pro and anti-Oshiomhole factions. The result of this is that the protocols and processes of the party have been undermined.
With what we are seeing today if you are blaming the Oshiomhole for not informing the governor, are you saying that henceforth he must do so anytime he wants to visit? And is that a legal matter or a matter of just protocol?
This is one of the things that will flare up issues. Now, we are not in a normal situation. Former Governors Osunbor, Oyegun and others will come into town and they don’t have to tell Obaseki. But we are not in a normal situation. Where we found ourselves now is a situation where properties and lives are lost, and we are having pro-this, anti-that.
How do we solve the problem? In negotiation, we have what we call (Batna) ‘best alternative available’. In this situation, what will you do to calm nerves, is it not to see Obaseki and Oshiomhole come together? What we are looking for is peace. If we need peace and we see Obaseki and Oshiomhole hand in gloves, what message are we now sending out? It is not a matter of whether it is legal or not to come to Edo.
Whether you like it or not, Oshiomhole played a role in Obaseki becoming a governor, and that is a fact. So, if there is a disagreement between both parties, we expect that they should resolve it. But I will tell you that the followership of both parties is not coming to the middle.
Who are those that want the APC National Chairman out and why would they want him out when he has not finished his term?
First, I felt that the comment he made after the Bayelsa election judgement by the Supreme Court, that was unbecoming of the National Chairman of a party; that no governor must be sworn-in in Bayelsa. We must respect institutions no matter our grievances against such institutions.
Now we have two factions in Edo. And if we could continue with the way we are going, without meeting our processes and protocol, we are also going to have the court to tell us on how to behave properly. Now, the National Chairman also gave me a call and explained some misgiving about it, and also raised some issues about the governor.
I took what the National Chairman said and called the governor, we had a conversation. If we are looking for a solution, we must adopt the best-negotiated agreement which is ‘batna.’ What are we trying to achieve? If the National Chairman is coming to Edo, it is not in law that he should inform the governor. But in terms of processes and because of the seeming tensions we have in the state right now, we need to see the governor and the APC National Chairman on the same page.
The issue is not for them alone, it concerns us. I am not in support that the former governor is not allowed in his state. I believe that he should have unlimited access to his private residence and it is also right for him to reach out to the governor, for them to have a way out of this situation. It is so embarrassing that a party that has the National Chairman and a governor from the same state is having this kind of problem.
Are you blaming the crisis including others that happened in other states on Oshiomhole?
If you go by my release, that is what I said. In terms of Bayelsa, the National Chairman explained what happened but what I emphasis is that we have a system and process. If that is not working, why is it not working? How do we avoid repetition in the future? If you have a company that is not doing well, you don’t sack the cleaner; just go for the chief executive. The Chairman has to explain to us why he made such a comment about the Supreme Court judgment.
I will not support having a protest in the residence of Oshiomhole just the same way I will not support a protest in the residence of Justice Mary Odili. The protest should be in his office and not in his residence to deny him his privacy.
When you see the likes of Ize Iyamu leaving the APC for the PDP, and there is permutation underground that Obaseki may be heading to the PDP coupled, with former President Jonathan of the PDP visiting Benin, is there a possibility of Obaseki going to the PDP?
I don’t follow individuals, rather I follow principles. The principles that took me to APC are why I am still in APC. Anybody can follow his mind. I will remain in APC. As a chieftain, I will do my best to make sure that those who are in APC follow the rules. I cannot speak for the governor.
Apart from Obaseki, do you see the hand of some governors against Oshiomhole? Do the governors want him out?
Nobody can get you off your track if you don’t give room to it. It is left for the Chairman to look inward and see what he is not doing right. If somebody is fighting me, I would ask “what has made people that trusted me to go all out to lose interest in me.” I don’t like to shift responsibility. I take responsibility first for myself and see what has gone wrong. One thing I always say is that to hold an organisation together, the best thing is to ensure that people follow the rules and processes that put the party together irrespective of whose ox is gored. But the moment you shift blames, people will start to lose credibility.
Are you suggesting that Oshiomhole should step aside?
I think with all the pressures and everything that is happening in the party, I think it is incumbent for him to step aside.
Is Obaseki afraid of contesting for the APC ticket?
I don’t think the governor is afraid of a primary election but I insist everything must be with processes and protocols. If we are going to do the primary, let us do an indirect primary. But in the end, let us see that our party is strengthened. Oshiomhole and Obaseki should sit down and come out with a solution.
- Interview first aired on Channels Television