National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, has accused his successor in Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, of running a one-man show in the state. In this interview with newsmen in his Abuja office, he pointed fingers at the governor for instigating the crisis in the state parliament among others.
Have you resolved your differences with Governor Godwin Obaseki?
This has been an issue I tried to avoid when I watched you talking about Oshiomhole’s faction and Godwin’s faction. The truth is that I don’t have any faction. Everybody in Edo State particularly those of APC stock, they are my people. We founded the party from Action Congress of Nigeria, to All Progressives Congress. It hurts when people can’t make a distinction between policy positions and unhealthy debate about options in dealing with specific issues. Let me start with the issue of the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly. I was governor when Peoples Democratic Party had 16 members and ACN then, we had eight members. But we had to learn how to live with the reality that the parliament is in the hands of opposition, so all we needed to do is to cultivate ways and means of playing up what unites us as a people and getting the opposition to recognize that we were all elected even from different political parties, but for a purpose, namely the sustainable development of Edo state and we managed that until the people favored us with majority. Right now in Edo we are obviously far more fortunate that 24 members of the House are all APC. So no matter if there are differences about preferred Speaker, I did not think this was enough for us to breach all the rules, regulations, customs and traditions that are well entrenched as regards to the simple straight forward matter of proclaiming a House of Assembly. When I see Nigerians taking side on it, I juts pity people who can’t make a difference between your personal affection or love for someone and dealing with issues of principles and law. Now, I remain convinced that it is not in the interest of our democracy for nine members at 9:30pm, which I understand the Supreme Court in another judgment has described as nocturnal hours, for an elected parliament to seek to secretly inaugurate a House so that a particular person can emerge as a Speaker and in the process you exclude 15 members of the House. Nine persons cannot elect the Speaker or Deputy Speaker on behalf of 24 members. Number two, it is also the tradition and the law that when you are elected by your various constituencies, the day of your inauguration, the proclamation is not a state secret to be shared by those who are favoured. The proclamation must be published stating time and date. So that is not between me and the governor, anybody suggesting that it is between me and the governor is just being mischievous. It is about what is right and what is wrong.
Sir, the Speaker, Okiye accused you of planning to impeach the governor with your loyalists and Governor Obaseki also accused you of orchestrating the crisis from Abuja?
First of all, Okiye is not the Speaker, he is member-elect. I watched the governor say those things but the truth of the matter is that he knows better than that. The question I will put to you is, is it within the discretion of state governor to decide who becomes the Speaker? The only option for him is to lobby and if he lobbies and in end he is unable to get everybody to toe his line, he has to concede that these are not his commissioners or special assistants for which he has absolute monopoly to appoint. But even at that, if they are commissioners, they must be screened by the House of Assembly, that is the law. So if he chooses to put it in the manner that he has unfortunately put it, giving the impression that as the governor he can do everything, is there anything in the constitution that you know, that empowers a governor to decide who becomes a Speaker? But like every other person in a democracy, you get what you are able to negotiate, the operative word is negotiation, persuasion, that is what we did in Abuja. But in spite of all the efforts we invested at the Federal level, incidentally as the chairman I was active on that, we conceded in the end when Senator Ndume said he will not go the way the party wanted. We could not deny him that right to contest and he went and contested and he got 24 votes. So that is the way to go, it was not within the power of the President and Commander in Chief to use his state instrument to prevent Ndume from contesting because it is his right so to do. All the President could do which he did was to deploy his influence both through the party and other channels to persuade people to ensure that this time around APC has a national leadership that we believe can work in harmony with the President. When I was governor, I went through the same process, we persuaded the members, we called all of them, first explained to them the need to ensure geo-political balance. Sometimes we suggest who we think is better equipped to handle legislative matters. That is how far we can go. Sometimes we succeeded some other times we did not. But the bottom line is that it is the responsibility and absolute prerogative of members of the House to do it. But what hurts me is when journalists take a word from me or the governor even when the journalist knows what the constitution says. So I ask you, which section of the constitution says when the governor had decided on who should be the Speaker, so be it. Number two, Okiye being the beneficiary of the purported inauguration, and he says the agenda is to impeach Obaseki, did he tell you what offence Obaseki has committed, is he known to have committed any impeachable offence. Is he true that somebody who has just been elected, he has not even been inaugurated his first agenda is to disturb the system by seeking to impeach a governor who is not known to have committed any offence. Is impeachment a tea party? It does not make sense. By the way who is Okiye, does he know what was invested in the making of the governor? Can he possibly lay claim to loving the governor more than those of us who went round the state and stake our reputation and invest our energy and persuasive skill to market the governor to the people. If there is one man that wants governor Obaseki to succeed so that everything I said on his behalf comes to pass, I think it will be me. I have absolutely nothing to gain if someone I told the people will do well end up not doing well or I make statement that contradicts my earlier position.
But has the governor come on common ground with you now?
Now that is the issue. The last time we had a meeting with Governor Bagudu, Fayemi and El-Rufai and Niyi Adebayo, we all agreed that the way to go, given the division in Edo APC now, the way to go is to have an all-inclusive meeting. We need to meet in a room and resolve our differences and come out for people to know that APC is one, you cannot solve problem without talking. The governors encouraged him to meet with me so we can arrange the meeting, in fact, the governor offered to accompany us to Edo state to hold meeting with all the groups so that we iron out our differences. Unfortunately, as we speak, the governor has refused to convey that meeting. We have to work now on how to get such a meeting on because there is no way to solve such a problem without reaching out to the aggrieved parties. Let me assure you that this governor is not under threat, it is those who are making money from the crisis, those I call merchants of confusion, they are only relevant when there is a fight. They are the ones that will tell the governor they want to impeach you. But the governor should ask himself what he has done to deserve impeachment.
But will you support him for a second term?
Have we gotten there? Let us get there first. As it stands right now, has he told you he is contesting? And has he told you I am opposed to him?
He is being told he is going to be given the Ambode treatment?
Who told him that? What will I gain if Godwin does not run a second term, is Oshiomhole going to run a second term? If I did what I did, whether he acknowledged it or not, but people know what I did to support him to be, what comfort will I have if he is terminated half way. What is Ambode treatment? But let me tell you, Ambode treatment is not the worst treatment we have seen in the APC. What about Mohammed Abubakar’s treatment in Bauchi? He won his primaries, as a sitting governor he lost the election. What about Adamawa State because of internal fighting the sitting governor lost. Though we are hopeful in both cases that the court will give us victory because we think we won the elections. So the point to me is that tickets are not the issues in politics. I think the real issues in Edo state is that any one that loves the governor (Obaseki) should do what we tried to do, what those governors tried to do by reminding him that a divided house cannot stand. And the House remains divided if we do not make conscious efforts to bring everybody together. So what I am doing is to encourage him and all our leaders to have an all-inclusive meeting of all APC leaders. Lock the door, speak truth to ourselves. What is simply happening is that there are people who think that their access to bread and butter will end if there is peace and so they encourage the governor wrongly. I have had meetings before where I urged the governor to carry people along. Whether you like it or not if there is one business where one tree cannot make a forest, it is politics.
But do you think you will support him again as you did the first time?
If we have this meeting of all the various tendencies within the APC and remind ourselves of what unites us, rather than what divide us working together wholeheartedly, everybody being given a sense of belonging, there is no reason why we cannot continue to defeat PDP and there is no reason why Obaseki cannot win election. But let me say, even if Obaseki thinks of himself as an angel, and he is a candidate of a party that is fragmented, he will need miracles. And that is why I still say to him, lets embrace peace. But let me say this, it is absolutely incorrect for the governor to say anybody asked him to share money. If he insists let him mention the name. But what I have advised him is that reconstitute the boards, let people become board members. The only way we can win elections is to show presence across the 192 wards in Edo state. I believe there is still enough time for the governor to make up by encouraging in good faith the peace effort that many of our mutual friends have offered so that we can give everybody a sense of ownership of the government. The beauty of democracy is that when you have elected a government you will say that is my government.
Sir how would you describe the victory of your party in the presidential election petition tribunal?
It is victory for us as a nation. Victory for our democracy. But we heard the PDP still want to go to the supreme court. We as a party we are confident that if it is within the Nigerian law for PDP to go even to the world court, we will meet them there. The Supreme Court of Nigeria is not that of PDP or the APC, the Supreme Court is governed by law and is to interpret the evidence before the Court of Appeal. They are not at liberty to introduce new issues neither can they bring in new witnesses. So, if it is what I heard at the tribunal which I believe you also heard, thanks to the media, most Nigerians were detained for eight hours listening to arguments of the judges one after the other. Even though we thought it was getting longer and longer but we realised that they tried to deal with the issues raised, even the ones you and I as a layman will consider inconsequential, they dealt with each of them, trashed them and arrived at a conclusion.