By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Dr Ilenre Austin Emuan is a chartered architect, development expert, environmentalist, an advocate for moral economy and bi-culturalism and former governorship aspirant of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State.
He was the National Chairman of the National Support for Buhari-Osinbajo Presidency Campaign outfit and, at present, the Chairman of APC Unity League – a unifying intellectual advocacy think-tank group.
In this interview, Emuan speaks on the crisis in Edo APC between Governor Godwin Obaseki and National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole ahead of the June 22 primary election to pick the party’s candidate for governorship election in the state.
What’s your assessment of the crisis in Edo APC?
What you see is outplay is a naked dance to the dangerous rhythms of disunity. Our party in Edo has never been this divided even when we had no opposition to slow you down. You know we won all the 24 seats in the present state House of Assembly. For some disturbing reasons, we couldn’t manage our successes. And subsequent events have been further too divisive; to thresholds of worry. It’s so unfortunate!
What would you say is the problem?
It is a sort of progressive chain reactions. To be thorough in its assessment, we must go back a while. From our governorship primary elections of 2016 to the last congress and the last general elections, there had never been true reconciliation among aggrieved APC members, who had strong reservations on the process that led to the emergence of candidates in the said elections. We carried on like all was well. The product is nothing but perceived exclusion and induced misanthropy amongst members of our party.
And rather than pause to introspect, re-assess and possibly deconstruct to rebuild broken trusts and stir-up hope, we engaged in self-righteousness. Praise singers, who deserved to be sanctioned for their actions that led to our poor performance in the last presidential and National Assembly elections, concocted votes of confidence and misplaced endorsements on aspirants and erring leaders. Accusations and counter-accusations followed the poorly managed setbacks.
Lastly is the unnoticeable subterranean and amorphous complexities unleashed by the manoeuvring of inordinate ambitions of some APC members. These have become the albatross of our party.
With these drawbacks, is the Edo of your dream still realisable?
Yes. But a lot will depend on the type of actors and actresses that we have on the stage of our polity. As long as we have more students of power than students of politics as we do now, it will remain an illusion. Otherwise, prosperous Edo beckons and I can see it clearly on the horizon. Again, the electorate have to be more decisive on what they want: a bright future or a broken and hopeless future. Either way, the choice we all make today will define the path we have chosen. I advise we take deliberate actions that are compost of painful adjustments and daring sacrifices for the tomorrow of our dreams.
That sounds like a revolution. Is this possible?
We need evolution, not a revolution!
Could you explain?
Evolution of the mind! Therein lies all the answers that we seek. We need to re-programme our minds from their present selfish and mono-dimensional dispositions into a default mode of love, tolerance and multi-dimensional orientation. Then we can become more cohesive rather than coercive, inclusive rather than extractive, embrace fair-play rather than unbridled inequality. Such levels of cultural consciousness will help us manage our prejudices & differences that will turn the ugly tides of all political odds around into a critical mass for service to the dear people of Edo.
These are good ideas. But how come you did not oblige your party with them in this crisis?
I did and fervently so. All expressed in the manner of the wisdom my father impacted in me during my formative age that: “Neither let compliments get into your head, nor let criticisms get into your heart.” My team and I also reached out to elders of the party, at the state and national levels, to mediate. They did! Unfortunately, when the sun is racing for sunset, it no longer heeds the prayers of the farmer. Now, many bridges have been destroyed and the fragile brick of trust left in the system is now in ruins and rubbles.
What is your advice for those at the fore front of the Edo APC crisis?
Simple and vividly obvious: The price of war caused by destructive arrogance is far costlier than the enduring peace procured with humility. We shall pay more in so many ways and on many fronts if we fail to embrace peace. Secondly, the time has come for us to come to terms with the fact that most of us have made wrong choices and there is need to take out the obstacles we have erected if we desire peace.
What are these obstacles? Obaseki/Shaibu Movement (OSM) and the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM)?
Yes! They are divisive and a major part of the obstacles destroying cohesion in the party. Take them down and we would have earned some miles in the pursuit of peace. While I am aware that EPM no longer exists, it is unfortunate that anyone that is not a member of OSM is automatically labelled as EPM. This is wrong and divisive and we should please stop! Again, many well-meaning APC members frown at peace as an option.
To them, they are tired of betrayals and are not ready to suffer the tragedy of broken trusts. War is now their last resort as a way forward. To some, peace means giving up something very dear and as such not contemplated. Don’t forget that many benefit in war. And these are the ones benefiting from the present crisis. All of these must be pulled down and sacrificed on the altar of humility for peace to reign. We must not forget that our opponents are happy and watching from a distance.
Do you think the most formidable opponent of your party will benefit from the crisis?
Absolutely! They are the greatest beneficiary. They aim to see that we’re sustainably disunited. Unfortunately, the dangerous paradox is that Edo APC members have been helping them achieve it.
That is pretty obvious. Everyone knows Edo APC is in crisis. On all media platforms, electronic, print and social media, we are back and forth abusing each other and washing our dirty garments in the open without shame. Edo is now synonymous with political conflict. Who is this truly helping? Who is it empowering? Certainly not Edo APC.
Our supporters are in penury. If 10% of the money spent in prosecuting this political war was invested to create cottage industries, we would have delivered, to a large extent, the jobs we promised in our campaigns. Once you allow the crisis to persist, then your powerful opponents join forces against you and such collaboration is deadly and suicidal.
Now that elections are close, do you think there is enough time to settle all differences?
It’s never too late to make peace. It’s a deliberate choice that we have to make. Otherwise, we would have declared Edo APC an endangered species. Unfortunately, that’s what some people want. It is left to some of us that have the party at heart and know the consequences of war; to persist and stir the party right.
What do you think is the cause of the House of Assembly logjam and how best can it be resolved?
Those are two questions in one. Well, the problem is an effect rather a root cause. It is one of the effects of the Edo APC self-induced problems and I am sure I have dealt with this already. This was only amplified by deepened mistrust and lack of communication. There are only two possible solutions: Legal or political. One is better than the other. Political solution is better because it will isolate and flush out all the undercurrent sentiments. After all, mutual understanding and respect will be involved. This is unlike legal solution that has limitation to only declaring who is right and wrong; leading to an endless legal battle that are distractions from service to the people.
Your party’s primary scheduled for June is around the corner and there are insinuations and postulations on the battle ahead. What’s your take?
Insinuations are virtual and destructive. They are ill-winds that blow from the windmills of gossip and warped minds. I wish you could be more specific on these insinuations. As for postulations; yes that is normal in the political arena. They are projections based on past and prevalent circumstances. It helps politicians to firm up their positions. It is welcome and normal.
Insinuations that we mean are on the processes that will determine who becomes the APC candidate. One would have expected your party to adopt the incumbent. But some even say the incumbent may be denied the ticket. What do you think?
Now you can see why I said insinuations are destructive. I am not aware that anyone is planning to deny any of the aspirants the party’s ticket. It is the same insinuation that fuelled the state House of Assembly logjam and others. The only thing I know is that some aspirants believe that when they come together and pick one person amongst them, it’s easier to defeat the incumbent. You see, APC is a party that has ‘change’ as her mantra of dispatch. We want to move away from the days of PDP where a sitting elected person is automatically adopted; whether or not he has served well. After a tenure which is four years, anyone who feels that the incumbent has not done well and is qualified to take over, let him be. It’s a democracy. This inspires and promotes excellence in governance.
What kind of person would you like to see emerge as the APC candidate?
Based on the ideology of APC and our prevalent realities, I advice APC members to nominate and vote wisely for a unifier, visionary and servant leader who is a student of politics not a student of power! If we do this God’s willing, Edo APC will survive and remain in power for, at least, another decade.