A member of the All Progressives Congress and former member of the House of Representatives from Edo State, Mr Samson Osagie, shares his views with TUNDE AJAJA on the crisis rocking the ruling party in the state
What do you make of the crisis between Governor Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the party, Mr Adams Oshiomhole?
First of all, let me clear one point, which is the fact that it is a misconception to situate the crisis in the party as one between the governor and the national chairman of the party. It is far from being a problem of any irreconcilable differences between the two of them. As a matter of fact, no problem started between them. The problem started when a vast majority of party leaders across the state took an exception to the modus operandi of the governor when it comes to party affairs. The governor had at the beginning of his tenure began to alienate party leaders and members across the state so as to create new layers of party leadership to supplant the existing party structure that brought him to power. He came in with the Machiavellian principle that ‘destroy the kingmaker so that he doesn’t make any other king when the time comes’. And that is why the people said they cannot allow it. Those who provided the platform for you to become what you are will not just fold their arms and allow you to sweep them away. And it is within their right to resist being supplanted.
At what point did Oshiomhole come in?
At the beginning, the incumbent national chairman was a mediator. He settled a number of issues between the governor and some of these leaders who dare to complain loudly about the ill-treatment they were getting. A certain leader from Edo South wrote a letter that he was stepping aside from the party because of the way the governor was treating him. The governor had brought in a commissioner to remove this man as the leader of the party. The commissioner had gone ahead to start operating as if he was the leader of the party in the local government and he had got the full backing of the governor to do everything. So, the man said he was stepping aside. But the National Chairman had to step into that matter and settled the two sides and then they came back. That is one of those people now abusing the National Chairman. So, the problem is not between the governor and the party chairman, and it’s unfortunate that the governor, rather than concentrate on governance and employ the tool of emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationship skills to relate with everybody, has chosen this path. You cannot say you want to retire from politics a particular class of politicians that you met. Did he employ them as politicians in the first place? That is the challenge.
Would you say that was all that caused the crisis?
Also, the political class didn’t find funny his method of importing people from outside the state and dispensing patronage to them. It was one of the things that made them to say they would find a platform to resist the governor. So, the national chairman was at best a mediator settling issues and giving assurance to party leaders and members until the matter went out of hands. Immediately the party leaders decided to go public to resist the governor, the governor then said it was the national chairman. So, he (Obaseki) was the one dragging him (Oshiomhole) into the fray, without respect for the office of the National Chairman. The comrade has even suggested a number of ways to resolve this crisis but they fell on deaf ears, because the governor’s agenda is to retire everybody, including the national chairman, from the party and drive them away. You saw when he said he no longer recognises him as the chairman of the party. The national chairman of your party! So, he wants to drive everybody away and bring in other people. But, as you can see, he’s not also bringing anybody in. Since he became governor, he has not held rally to receive members of opposition party or any other party and he does not want anybody to come. How do you win an election when you are driving away people? And this is our party; we cannot say we should allow this man to go this way because it will affect the fortune of the party. If there is any problem with APC in Edo State today, it is the governor himself. He has this fake impression that he is so popular among the masses. He doesn’t know that it is the political class that markets his candidacy and it is the party that contests the election.
Perhaps, he believes that it is the people that would vote and that once he’s on their good books he would be fine. Do you think he is making a mistake?
Yes, he is. The party would need to give him the platform via the ticket before he can face the voters. He can’t be an independent candidate. If he feels so seriously now that he has that political capital, he should go to an unknown party and forget about APC. If he’s already a household name, let him try it out.
There are insinuations that given the number of people the governor has offended in the party, he may not get the party’s ticket even if he wins?
It is not for me to say; it will be a democratic process. He’s the one that is not a democrat. Other people will contest with him and that is what he doesn’t want. If Oshiomhole has told him that nobody would contest against him, Oshiomhole would not be a godfather today. The problem now is that he doesn’t see Oshiomhole openly campaigning for him the way he did in 2016, and that is the problem. Nothing else, and I’m telling you the truth. Do you think if Oshiomhole were to come out today to endorse Obaseki he would be fighting him? He’s no longer getting that free lunch, which Oshiomhole served him in 2016. That is why he wants to blackmail everybody into doing it. I’m opposed to his governance style and I didn’t even support him. But, like I said, if he wins the primaries through a democratic process; the primary that the National Working Committee would conduct, he will get the ticket. Other people would have to contest and he cannot close the political space against other people from contesting, which is what he’s doing. And that is not democracy. You heard when he said he should be the consensus. Is that democracy? He doesn’t want any other person to contest or hold rally. Is that how to operate a democracy?
There are people who feel he’s trying to fight back having lost the support of some party elders.
How you fight matters is important. In politics and for a man in his position, he needs to bring people close rather than drive people away. How many of these elders has he spoken to or made overtures to? He doesn’t. He’s arrogant. With that disposition, how do you want them to work with him, or should they go and beg him to work with him? That is the problem. You can’t force anybody to support a certain person.
There is a belief that the issue escalated because the chairman of the party was trying to exercise some overbearing influence on him, especially as the governor said few weeks ago that the chairman wrote the names of his commissioners in his sitting room in 2016?
There is nothing like that; it’s all blackmail. It’s like calling a dog a bad name to hang it. The chairman is not looking to become the governor again; he’s only trying to help him to succeed but he wasn’t ready. The governor thought he had become a new Sheriff in town. His own is autocratic leadership where nobody else talks except him. He wants to be the only one to remain in the political firmament and no other person matters again. That is not democracy and that is not leadership.
Before these issues got to this level, did the aggrieved party leaders approach him to resolve the issues?
I personally made overtures to him, not that I had a quarrel with him, but to work with him. But he told me he didn’t want me in the politics of my local government and of the state. He told me that pointedly. We were not quarrelling. I only went to see him to tell him that I had got an appointment at the federal level and that I felt I could also use that to contribute to the Information and Communications Technology development in the state. He listened to me, after which he told me he didn’t want to see me in the politics of my local government.
He said that?
Yes, he told me that. Let him deny it. That was on September 27, 2017. You must have read about how he (allegedly) sent text messages to people to resign their positions as ward chairmen and women leaders. So, under that circumstance, how do you work with him; do you beg him to work with him? Is he god?
With the cracks in the Edo APC, do you think your party could still win the governorship election?
Yes and it will be very easy. The only problem we would have is Obaseki. If he’s out of the way, the party would win with a landslide. However, the party is still strong enough to win and if he submits himself to the democratic process in the party, if he wins the ticket, the party will win and if another person wins the ticket the party would win.
What about the House of Assembly crisis?
What has happened in that House of Assembly is part of the shenanigans to perpetrate illegality, because the governor exhibited political naivety and then he was wrongly advised that if he didn’t do that the Assembly members would impeach him. What has he done that would warrant impeachment? A sitting governor who understands the power game can relate easily with the Assembly members and they would work with him. They are just 24. But he erroneously believed that they would impeach him. The question is that did he do anything as of that time to warrant impeachment? So, he decided to fall for the wrong advice that the best thing was to use the minority to inaugurate the House, regardless of how it happened. Let me tell you the implication of that; Obaseki is running an unconstitutional government.
Some people still believe it’s the Assembly members that didn’t present themselves for inauguration that should be blamed; do you think it’s the governor’s fault?
Yes. You see, Lord Denning in MacFoy vs UAC decided in appeal cases in the 1950’s that you can’t put something on nothing and expect it to stand. The way and manner that House of Assembly was inaugurated fell short of acceptable standard, norms and legality. He secretly issued the proclamation and at 9:30pm, nine members were conscripted for inauguration and you shut out the others. That is not the procedure for inaugurating the House. And when the others kicked, thugs were sent after them thinking they would meet in a hotel and elect a speaker. He didn’t want a parallel House of Assembly. They created fear in them and were sent out of Benin.
Could you expatiate on why you said the governor is running an unconstitutional government?
If you look at Section 91 of the constitution, the House of Assembly must be made of not less than 24 members. This is not a House that was already fully inaugurated and then some members decided to excuse themselves. This one, from the very beginning, didn’t have the correct number. So, he’s running an unconstitutional government in that he does not have a House of Assembly that is constitutionally recognised. Edo State is not a local government, so 10 people cannot make a complete House. The other members are challenging the constitutionality and legality of that process in court and that is why they cannot submit themselves to the illegality they are challenging in court. Even if they had decided to submit themselves, the grand plot was to frustrate them and after some time they would still suspend all of them. They would have altered the status quo and they can no longer complain.
The traditional rulers have declared fasting and prayers for peace in Edo State, what is the solution to these crises?
The ball is largely in the court of the governor. The chairman has said he has no enemies; it is the governor that has declared enemies around his friends. Let him convert his enemies to his friends and there would be peace. It is his shadow that is pursuing him. He’s the one that has created the situation on ground. He’s the governor and he has everything it takes to get people to work with him. Leadership is getting others to follow you and it takes a lot of skills and ability to do it. It’s not about sharing money. How much can you share to people? And what he’s doing all over the place, is it not costing him more to fight crisis rather than maintain peace. His government has come to divide us against ideological lines and we actually need a leader that would unite us again and I don’t think he has the qualities.
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