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Prince Kassim Afegbua in this interview with NAIJA CENTER NEWS talked about the state governor, Godwin Obaseki.
Afegbua accused Obaseki of being a betrayal to Oshiomhole who brought him to power. He said the governor was breeding militia in Okada, Edo State ahead of the governorship election scheduled to hold in September 2020.
You have stayed away from reacting to this fracas for a long time, why now?
I did make a personal effort to intervene on the issue when it hadn’t blown to this unmanageable proportion, but the Governor was not willing to sit down with Comrade Oshiomhole to explore the issues. He told me the issues involved, which to me were very flimsy and I was not expecting those issues to metamorphose into this political squabbles that have put Edo in the news for the wrong reason. In fairness, Comrade was willing to sit down to talk things over, but Governor Obaseki was not. I am aware that Aliko Dangote, Governor Fayemi, Governor ElRufai and Governor Bagudu also made a frantic effort but as much as they tried, the issues kept spreading like fire during harmattan.
I kept my silence to see if those platforms of engagement would yield result and nip it in the bud, but it does appear at some point that Governor Obaseki decided to just ignore all entreaties to a severe relationship with Comrade Oshiomhole.
Now, my position is taken from the point of view of my rich knowledge of the factors that returned Obaseki as Governor in 2016 and the rigours of the campaign and the unquantifiable effort of Comrade Oshiomhole to make that happen.
There are things I would not want to put on the pages of the media, but suffice it to say that one good turn deserves another. Gratitude should follow gratitude. Good should follow well. Thank you should follow gratitude. Gratefulness should follow anyone who assisted you to reach your political height, no matter how. I just felt, wait a minute, what’s all this bunkum? Why would Governor Obaseki suddenly become like a conqueror by intimidating everybody? His actions have succeeded in breaking bonds of friendship and the attributes of a good relationship, bearing in mind that the two of them lived happily together for eight years, without any problem.
To the best of my knowledge, Oshiomhole accorded Governor Obaseki the highest respect when the latter was chairman of the economic team. I was expecting reciprocity from Governor Obaseki bearing in mind the effort that Oshiomhole deployed in ensuring his victory, against all odds. But as the saying goes, you cannot truly know a man’s behaviour until you give him power and money. Governor Obaseki has just confirmed that saying.
You said in your article on Naija Center News that “a governor should let the best man succeed him no matter the temptation ” are you saying Oshiomhole took the law into his own hands and against all his comrades and install Obaseki? Don’t both governors have problem with listening in this regards?
They said experience is the best teacher. Having experimented with the Obaseki scenario, thrusting power on him without much ado, in future elections and experiences, caution, circumspection and tact will be deployed in taking such decision.
The Obaseki experience was like Oshiomhole versus the rest of us. A lot of people criticised the choice and raised their concerns, but Oshiomhole insisted. This needless fight is certainly distracting the Governor from governance. The ample time to dispense on governance is being wasted on trips today, trips tomorrow to seek political anchor. It is quite unfortunate.
Outgoing governors should just allow the best man to succeed them because this talk about loyalty defeats the very essence of money and power as the determinant of knowing the true behavioural tendencies of man.
But Oshiomhole said Obaseki was the most qualified, are you saying he lied to the people?
Qualification is seen from an individual perspective. Obaseki, to me, was not conversant with Edo political demographics. He was an outsider who was little known. His cousin, Don Pedro Obaseki yes, was more known and connect with the people.
Marketing him was a big deal. Even to speak on the podium was difficult for him, because he was not familiar with political rhetorics and persuasive delivery.
Oshiomhole literarily did the campaign. So, he might be qualified in terms of meeting the requirement of the constitution, but in terms of understanding the dynamics of the political landscape, he was far-flung from that. And such background has affected his reading of the political temperature in the state, reason why this political fight has festered so uncontrollably.
In your article you said the governor is hoarding militia in Okada ahead of the election, can you prove this?
It is an allegation which from every utterance of the Governor is not far from being true. The Governor has threatened on public television about dealing with Oshiomhole. He has also publicly said Oshiomhole ought to obtain permission from him before he visits Edo, such laughable expectation, but that is what we now have on our hands.
When you witness the demonstration at the airport ostensibly to prevent Oshiomhole from entering the state, coupled with the barricade to prevent people from going to Oshiomhole’s house, you do not require any sixth sense to tell you the Governor is only testing grounds for what to come, and training some able-bodied young men as Public Works Volunteers is a decoy to realise this threat.
In 2018, Senator Urhogide was heckled at the airport, Blessing Agbomhere was also attacked, improvised bombs have been exploding in anti-Obaseki chieftains home, rally venues have been ransacked, lawmakers elect were beaten up at Golden Tulip hotel, yet no arrest. So training people is just a formal way to radicalise an already polarised system. Quite unfortunate.
You don’t think the issue of the permission was misconstrued? Goodluck Jonathan first said protocol demands it which the governor emphasized on. Do you think this was overstretched?
There is nothing like misconstrued in that statement of deliberate arrogance. There is nothing like protocol. A former Governor who is a native visiting his home state is different from a former President who is from another state visiting a state for a function.
The choice to notify the chief executive of a state is his, but he has to notify the security command, the Police and State Department to accord him the usual protocol. This is different from a state governor who is an indigene of a state visiting. It is a usual routine. He does not have to inform or seek permission from the state governor.
If he is on a courtesy visit to the Governor, he will duly inform the Governor that he was coming for a courtesy visit. So the statement credited to the Governor is tantamount to power drunkenness. Too much of arrogance of power may create a world of fantasy for the man who wields power. Governor Obaseki has to be reminded very clearly that this is a democracy that guarantees freedom of movement, of association, and assembly.
How will you describe Obaseki administration in terms of providing employment to the youth? My question is in relation to your opinion that “jobless youth are radicalised by Obaseki administration “
Actually, the business of government the world over is not to create employment, but to create the conducive environment that will drive business and thus create the necessary employment for the teeming youths.
Government has no business in business. Government is run to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, by building the necessary infrastructure like roads, power, human capital development, water and educational facilities, including health and security.
Once these infrastructures are on the ground, the government will use its platform to attract investment that will provide the buffer for employment. Nothing significantly is taking place in Edo state as at now.
I once participated in Alaghodaro Summit where the policy agenda of the government was unveiled. Three years down the line, the government is still running in circles. The Okpella industrial hub has not taken off, the promised dualised road from Gelegele to Okpella has not seen the light of the day, Benin Industrial park is still a snail speed, and the critical investment in agriculture is more on paper than on the ground.
The government needs to move away from rhetorics to real action. It is not the function of government to assemble able-bodied men and women as Public Works Volunteers. You can outsource that out to guarantee proper supervision and monitoring. Once the government undertakes this, the usual red-tape and nonchalant attitude will creep in.
So what government is doing is the radicalisation of youths being gradually groomed to become street political thugs that would be deployed during elections to cause mayhem. Do you remember the madness in Kogi state election,? that is what you are likely to get.
You said the governor told you what the actual problem was at the initial stage, what was it? What started the division between Obaseki and Oshiomhole?
The issues were very flimsy. It was all about the primary election of the party prior to the 2019 elections. Oshiomhole believed that there was a need to work together harmoniously to deliver the state while the Governor felt the National Chairman had no business prying into the business of politics of the state.
But of course, the former Governor is the chairman of the ruling party. In the process, the governor organised his own primary election which the national office cancelled and set up a panel to organise a fresh one.
By this time, tempers were already high and the aftermath effect was the dismal performance of the APC at the presidential election. Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also wanted the Governor to accommodate those who worked assiduously for the election of Governor Obaseki.
People like Henry Idahagbon, Patrick Obahiagbon, chief Francis Inegbeneki, Rasaq Bello-Osagie, and a host of others. The Governor had a different agenda, he wanted to retire those categories of politicians and generate a new amalgam that would be answerable to his style of politics.
At that time also, he was having issues with his deputy governor and it took the intervention of comrade Oshiomhole to fix the problem. All of these issues didn’t go down well with the party chieftains and because they felt Oshiomhole was dilly-dallying, they decided to form the Edo Progressives Movement (EPM), which became a platform to champion their grievances. That was how it all started, but now, in a show of raw power, the governor is trying to deploy his powers in a very brazen manner to drive home the point that he is in charge.
Are you saying the fight is about not giving appointment/contract to those who brought him to power? If not, how else will he accommodate them?
I get sick when I hear the refusal to give the contract. Are there contracts being given, if yes, who are the beneficiaries? Were the persons who worked for the party or outsiders who just feast on the state.
Accommodating people is more than giving contracts, please. When you (people) speak in this manner you are trying to blackmail others. Accommodating people means creating access for those who worked for you to be part of your policy agenda.
Obaseki has restored the football clubs, yearly Alaghodaro and more to position the state and attract investors into the state, how do you justify your assertion that the governor is radicalizing the youths?
Let us start seeing the rewards and gains of your so-called investment before one can really talk about them. I haven’t seen such investments. We hear them every now and then, beautiful on paper, empty on the ground.
So, the airport protest, Oshiomhole is having issues as the chairman and before arriving at Benin airport he had witnessed several protests in Abuja. Don’t you think the protest is universal as at now?
Now, I don’t know what you mean by universal. What I know is that those protests are orchestrated to convey the impression that all is not well in Comrade’s homestead.
Of course, everyone knows the Edo Governor is behind all those protests because youths cannot take laws into their hands at Benin Airport without any arrest. You cannot barricade the chairman’s access to his house without arrest. You cannot threaten you will deal ruthlessly with a former Governor without being invited by the police.
So it’s just an orchestration to achieve a certain political end. And he has a good accomplice in Kebbi Governor, Mr Bagudu, who reportedly helped Abacha to loot funds overseas. The records are showing by the day and those with 2023 presidential ambition are also finding convenient accommodation with Obaseki to continue this fight.
Do you mean including the protest in Abuja that was orchestrated by people of Zamfara?
It is all orchestrated. Protesters have owners and we understand how the game is played. I have 24years experience in politics and when we see things happening, we know the direction it’s coming from.
Oshiomhole has been temporarily suspended, what do you think this means?
It means nothing. It does not help Obaseki either. It further helps to deepen the fight the more. But the Judiciary should stop being used as an agent of disruption. Executives of a party at the ward level cannot move for the suspension of a chairman that was elected by over 8,000 wards across the country. We know what is happening. We know those pulling the strings. But it won’t last. I laugh at their follies.
Let’s talk about godfatherism as it has been used on numerous occasions. Do you agree that Oshipmhole has attributes of a godfather?