Prof. Julius Ihonvbere is the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education. He also served as the Secretary to the Edo State Government for eight years under former Governor Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview with TONY AKOWE, the lawmaker representing Owan Constituency gave an insight into the move by some All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to oust its national chairman.
Why are some APC governors scheming to oust National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole?
For me, the very point to make is that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has tried to reposition the APC. We all know where the party 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. In repositioning the party, many people who were benefiting from the old order must complain, must disparage your achievement and refuse deliberately to acknowledge your achievements even when they are glaring.
So, for me, those governors’ attack on Oshiomhole has absolutely 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. Secondly, those governors who are on their second term and want to gun for the presidency 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.
People just operate on the basis of politics, raw power, use it to govern and it to accumulate. Many of them are doing the party more harm than good.
They are wasting money to fight the national chairman. Some of them, who said they will not give money to their constituents, are now using it to move people from one place to the other, holding nocturnal meetings all in the bid of get rid of Oshiomhole.
The good thing is that majority of the governors are with him, the state chairmen are with him and a majority of the party members appreciate the hard work he has put into rebuilding the APC.
The fight is all about personal interest, personal ambition, strategic positioning, especially those who are looking at the 2023 presidency even when we are just in 2019 and President Buhari just got his 2020 budget approved by the National Assembly.
Only God knows who will be alive to run for presidency or whatever position in 2023. There is a governor who has bragged that Oshiomhole will not be there for his primary.
I am sure God will not answer that kind of prayer. All these are not about Oshiomhole as a chairman. It has to do with the ambitions, expectations, anticipation of those who have political interest for 2023.
We heard that Governor Godwin Obaseki is behind the plot to oust Oshiomhole. How true is that?
In fact, he is the ring leader who has concocted all kinds of lies, to try and convince 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 own personal ambition which he has used his own hand to denigrate and derogate.
So, 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 try and deceive the devil not to regard you as a willing member. So, it is political desperation.
He is fond of saying; oh we have our own 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. But Nigerians can see the truth and they know the truth.
The governor accused the national chairman of trying to play godfatherism, saying it is the root of the problem. Do you agree with that?
Let me say categorically, as a core stakeholder in Edo politics, I have been there for a very long time, much longer than those who are singing the story about godfatherism in Edo.
I know for sure that when Obaseki was elected, through the sacrifices, energy, campaign mastery of Oshiomhole, there was peace in Edo. Even someone like myself I worked with him to help set up structures when he became governor.
I know at that time that Oshiomhole has nothing to do in terms of trying to pressure Obaseki in any way. We don’t even see him in Government House.
I know for sure that Oshiomhole recommended only one commissioner, contrary to the lies that he nominated all the commissioners.
I know for sure that the strategic direction of the government was not influenced at all by Oshiomhole because I organised over 35 workshops, seminars on each ministry, each agency, brought in experts to reposition the ministries.
I was chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee and we drew up the programmes for all the commissioners and in all of these, I never had one conversation with Oshiomhole on what we should do.
So, the whole idea that he is playing godfather is arrant nonsense and lies from the pit of hell. They are only doing that wickedly to rubbish the name of the man that made him governor.
So, how did we get to this level?
This crisis started with the series of primaries that were conducted in 2019. The constitution showed very clearly that it is not the governor that conducts primaries; it is the NWC. And when Obaseki proceeded to organise primaries without the approval of the NWC, it is only normal that Oshiomhole will cancel it in order to show that he was not favouring Edo State.
And it was redone. Now, for me, the fear that House of Assembly members will impeach him, because they are not loyal to him, stems from the fact that he did not play any role in their campaign.
It is guilty conscience that is troubling him. He did not support them and having won, he feared they will impeach him. That was never on the table.
For instance, I am in the House of Reps today, he never supported me. But, even as at today, nobody is talking about impeaching Obaseki.
That story was sold to him by his own internal enemies who said they want to make money from him since he said he is not going to spend money and he proceeded to violate the Nigerian constitution by organizing an inauguration at about 9:30 pm with only five members and two others who were abducted and brought to the venue.
The proclamation was not properly disseminated to all members who were elected. Now they proceeded to set up a House.
You cannot build something on nothing, you cannot build justice on injustice and what he did abinitio was wrong.
The constitution is very clear, the minimum for a House of Assembly to seat is 24; they don’t have 24 there, and I believe that the only way to resolve the matter is for Obaseki to do the right thing. Now they proceeded to move from one error to another.
They sacked everybody in the system that they believe were loyal to Oshiomhole or loyal to anybody who is close to Oshiomhole. Innocent people were penalized.
People’s houses marked for demolitions, people who have businesses and are opposed to them have their hotels or offices shut down.
Now the other part of it now in Edo State is that those who want to prove loyalty to the governor are busy visiting untold violence on people as they did in Owan East where they used axes on people who were merely holding APC meeting.
Members of the party are being punished because they want to demonstrate to the custodians of a third power in Edo that oh we are with you.
But, do you think Oshiomhole is not at fault in all these?
The national chairman never asked the House of Assembly members to leave Edo. They ran to Abuja after they were attacked in a hotel where they were holding a meeting by thugs led by the governor’s CSO.
So, they moved to Abuja for the sake of their lives. These guys are not kids, they are all politicians, and some were former commissioners and businessmen.
So, they know the political terrain and are capable of dealing with the situation independently. Unfortunately, they carried this crisis to the national level, wasting public funds to try to upstage the National Chairman, fabricating all kinds of stories which they spread with careless abandon.
There is this fear by the governors supporting Obaseki that the APC may lose the state, if he is not given a second term ticket. How true is the rumour that the governor may contest on another platform?
Only Edo people will decide who leads them. But, those governors supporting him and are threatening Oshiomhole, should go and find out what Governor Obaseki scored in his ward, local government area and senatorial district during the re-election of President Buhari.
He lost his ward, local government and senatorial district. Ogbeide Ihama, the PDP guy in the House of Reps today defeated him in his Oredo Local Government.
So, anybody ascribing that political strength to him is making a mistake. We know Obaseki in Edo State. So, the so-called superstar status, I don’t know where it is coming from.
He is a governor that was elected by the people and many of those who elected him are regretting today because he does understand the political terrain.
How can you go to the pages of the newspapers to say you want to retire all the leaders, the very people who brought you into office? He claimed he does not want to share Edo money but he is sharing it today for thugs, for social media men and women, spending it to remove the national chairman.
He said people were asking him for money and we have told him to name those asking him for money. In any case, it is not even a crime for people to ask the governor they elected for money.
But it is left for the governor to manage the expectations of the people in a way to meet the demands and needs of the people. He is not the only governor in Nigeria.
On the rumour that he is planning to defect, there is no problem because if you feel you cannot meet your ambition at any party, you are free to defect. I was once in PDP and when I felt the PDP has no future in Edo, I came to join the APC.
So, I don’t think the question of him leaving the APC will make any big difference. If he stays at the party, he is welcomed to remain.
But the second term ticket is not automatic for anybody, it has to be earned. It is the way you treat your party members that matters.
You must show respect, appreciation, social justice and if you show respect to 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 come out to challenge you. The other part is that the majority of the people in Edo know very well the political situation.
Today, people vote Oshiomhole’s party because he is a household name. So, let nobody be deceived.
The people of Edo have seen APC perform under Oshiomhole and they will continue to vote APC. Today, even the remnants of PDP are all joining us because of the leadership provided by Oshiomhole.
So, if for example, Obaseki decides to join the PDP, the people he will take to PDP will not be more than the PDP leaders joining us now.
So, we are home and dry. 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.
When they come comes to become, we shall know who is who, with apologies to K.O. Mbadiwe. I know that, so far, the confidence level in the national chairman remains very high and solid; there is nothing that one governor can do to remove him.
Secondly, it makes absolutely no sense that one ward, one local government or one state can arrogate to itself the power of removing the national chairman. It is the greatest joke of the century.
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