- says his defection is a relief for the party
- Obaseki was the fifth colony in the party
- says action in line with Obaseki’s character
In this interview with The London Post, the factional Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State Chris Azebamwan explained why Obaseki couldn’t get the governorship ticket.
He also said the governor didn’t need to defect to PDP after rising to the office on the platform of the APC.
Now that Obaseki has Joined PDP, where does this place APC in Edo State?
As a political family, the APC is actually relieved that Obaseki has finally jumped ship. It is something we have expected for a very long time. The records are there, the records are irrefutable that Obaseki worked for the opposition for the Presidential, National Assembly and State House elections.
In these elections, he lost his wards, local government and senatorial district deliberately. In the governorship election of our neighbouring state, he provided financial support for the opposition.
He has been a fifth columnist in our midst. He has been deliberately trying to weaken the structure of our party. Now that he has gone, he provides us with the opportunity to refocus and reposition our party especially in the face of the forthcoming election.
Are you aware that his defection places Edo State in the hands of the PDP?
I need to state this emphatically, Edo State does not belong to the PDP, it is the government house that belongs to the PDP. What Obaseki has done is in line with his character. It is a betrayal of our mandate because we worked assiduously for Obaseki to become the governor on the platform of the APC and he has taken the mandate we all collectively laboured for to the opposition.
It is an advantage to us, now that he has left, it positions us more strongly. Haven’t said that, let me quickly add that Obaseki was determined to undermine our political fortune, you remember that we got 24 seats in the state House of Assembly, but against the directive of the party leadership, the regulation of the National Assembly and against the public opinion, he locked out 14 members of the Assembly from their inauguration.
Haven’t said that, we are watching with keen interest. In 2016, Obaseki did not have academic credentials for screening and verification, he mainly swore to an affidavit. In 2020, he brought them saying he discovered it in America late last year.
He did a three-year degree program at the University of Ibadan with three (3) O-Level credits. There is no University in Nigeria that will admit a student to 2-3years direct entry program with 3 credits. So, we are watching with a keen interest in how he intends to sanitize those dodgy credentials.
During the 2016 campaign, PDP raised the issue of Obaseki credentials but the APC defended this same credentials, why now?
In 2016, Obaseki had no credentials. he said in the course of moving from office to office in Lagos that he lost the originals of his credentials so he presented the APC with a sworn affidavit enumerating his academic qualifications which were: O’Level obtained from Eghosa Grammar School in Benin, First Degree obtained in the University of Ibadan and his Master degree obtained in the US. There was no mention in that affidavit of A’level qualifications.
By providence, late in 2019, Obaseki now said that his credentials that were supposedly lost in Lagos were found in the United States by his cousin. That is not in contention, and that the University of Ibadan came out and said that he attended the University is also not in contention.
The entry qualifications in 1973 and in 2020 cannot be compared. Could it be that in 1973, the entry qualifications were not as it is today?
It is wrong to say the entry qualification for University admission in 1973 is different from today. I belong to the same generation as Obaseki, I attended the University of Benin. The entry qualification for University admission from then till now is 5 credits at a single sitting or 6 credits at two sitting for you to do a 4-year degree program. And it is 5 credits at a single sitting or 6 credits at two sitting plus 2 A level passes for you to do a 3-year direct-entry program.
So, in 2016 affidavit Obaseki submitted, he did not say he has A’level qualification. Suddenly, in 2020 when he was now presenting his credentials, he now said he went to the institute of continuous education in Benin and did a 2-year A’leve program. In any case, he only presented a testimonial of appendance, he did not present a certificate from the exam body which is the West Africa Examination Council.
Another interesting point of note is that anybody of our generation knows that when you do A’level, you do 3 principal papers and a general paper. It is usually 4 subjects but in Obaseki’s testimonial, he said he registered for 5 papers which is unheard of.
Did the APC reach out to the example body to clear out the confusion?
NO, in 2016, Obaseki qualification was not in dispute, so there was no need for us to start doing independent verification. We took him at face value.
No, I mean now.
It is not the responsibility of the APC to go to the examing body to verify because Mr Obaseki has been accused of having dodgy and defective academic credentials. The onus is on him to dispute it that we are wrong. It is not for the APC to prove his innocence, it doesn’t work that way.
Now that Obaseki is in the PDP, he might argue that he didn’t have a choice, not that he wanted to betray the APC. What is your take?
All we said was that learning from the bitter experience of Bayelsa where we worked very hard and won the election fair and square but because the issue arose about the academic qualification of the deputy governor-elect, a day to their inauguration into office, we lost the state to the opposition. Once beaten, twice shy, there was no way we were going to take the risk again of putting Obaseki with dodgy credentials.
Even if we failed him at screening because of his credentials, did he have to leave the party, is it compulsory that he must be governor as a member of APC? He has done 4 years, he ought to have been grateful that he had the opportunity ostensively to have served the party and the people. He didn’t have to defect, he didn’t have to betray his mandate.
What would you have done if you were in Obaseki’s position?
Democracy promotes government of the people for the people and by the people. The party administration represents the general will of the members of the political party. Through the party primary, we decide who will fly the party. Under 1999 of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) there is no independent candidate in Nigeria political space. Candidates are sponsored on the platform of political parties.
Therefore, If we say ‘Mr Obaseki, thank you for the past 4 years, you have served our interest but we do not want you to continue in office, you cannot fly our flag’ did he have to jump ship? It happened in Lagos, Ambode did four years as governor and he was not able to win at the primary, he did not defect, he did not go away, he didn’t leave the party. The primary aim of joining a party is not to run as a governor but to promote the party.
A similar incident happened in Imo State under Rochas Okorocha. However, my question is not answered. What would you have done, in this situation if you were disqualified from running for a second term?
The question is mere rhetorics. I am not Obaseki and I didn’t run for office. Whatever my personal opinion is, it should not be a yardstick for measuring Obaseki’s decision. It cannot be, I do not wheel that level of influence or control over him. We are two different individuals and our values our differences, and there is no way the two of us will react the same way.©Standard Gazette, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s publisher is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Standard Gazette with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.