Honourable Charles Idahosa, the former Special Adviser on Political Matters to the former governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, in this interview with ISAAC OLAMIKAN spoke extensively on issues of diverse interest. Excerpts:
LOOKING AT THE PRESENT POLITICAL CRISIS IN NIGERIA DO YOU THINK YOUR PARTY, THE ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC) WILL REGAIN POWER AT THE CENTRE IN 2019?
Let me just tell you straight away that the APC will remain in power after the poll in 2019.
WHY DO YOU FEEL SO, SIR?
All the so called crisis you are talking about are being orchestrated by some wicked Nigerians. In an earlier interview that I granted some time ago I said that President Muhammadu Buhari is doing well. But what I can see is that the cabal in the Presidency is hampering the good deeds of Mr. President making it seems that he has not been doing enough and making it possible for corruption to fight back. What you are seeing now is corruption fighting back. It’s pathetic and I feel so sorry for Nigerians. We cannot even see clearly what is going on in Nigeria. There has been a cacophony of voices that Buhari should not run for a second term and that he is not fit for 2019. What is the best alternative? In all these orchestrations that is being coordinated by stolen money the money in the hands of past presidents; the money in the hands of past political leaders in the PDP; the money in the hands of corrupt businessmen; the money in the hands of political jobbers etc is just too much. More will still be unearthed thus corruption is fighting back. That was what I said in my previous interview.
OBJ, IBB CANNOT PLAY GOD
Look at Obasanjo, he ruled Nigeria for twelve years – four years as a military head of state and eight years as a civilian. What did he do? What positive thing can we point to that happened during his time in office? Is it power? Is it security? Is it electricity? A lot of mysterious death occurred during his tenure. What happened to (Harry) Marshall? What happened to (Aminasori) Dikibo? A serving minister of Justice(Chief Bola Ige) under Obasanjo died in his bedroom. Have journalists investigated how it happened? In all these cases nobody has been investigated by police and brought to book. These same people who are completely dead and have contributed nothing tangible to this country’s development other than to always drag us back will now come out and want to play the role of an apostle because we are a country of illiterates and we don’t know what we are doing. Yet here is a man who in a democratic set up cannot win his ward. Obasanjo lost his ward, unit, local government and state during the 1999 presidential election. Which other way do you measure the popularity or democratic approval of a person if he cannot win his state? Obasanjo in the full glare of the world was addressing a Presidential campaign rally and asking Umar Yaradua who was out of the country for medical check up if he was dead as some people alleged. He was dancing around and making mockery of himself like a comedian. He knew that the man was dying but he imposed him on us. Today Nigerians will see that young man, who has missed his way finally called Donald Duke(the former governor of Cross River State) sit next to Obasanjo and say they want to form a group that will take over power. Duke wanted to be the Vice president when Obasanjo replaced him with (Dr. Goodluck) Jonathan. This was a a young and brilliant Donald Duke that performed exceptionally as governor of Cross River State. Obasanjo knew that Jonathan had nothing to offer. Duke wanted to be Vice President so also (Dr. Peter) Odili(the former governor of Rivers State) but Obasanjo worked against their ambition. He manipulated the process. Look at the man talking of corruption. He gave N50 million to each senator during his subtle campaign to extend his tenure beyond two terms. He brought in Jonathan whose wife, Patience, will sit down and be saying funny things like ‘na only you waka come?’ I knew Jonathan when he was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State while I was a Commissioner in Edo State. Obasanjo brought him knowing that he will be so weak so that he(Obasanjo) can control the levers of power. He didn’t know that the Ijaw were waiting by the sideline and immediately Jonathan emerged as president people like Chief E. K. Clark surrounded him and Obasanjo could not accomplish his objectives. He wrote a letter then which he has also done now but he has failed. This is Obasanjo who in our presence at the Rivers State liaison office in Asokoro(FCT) knelt down before the then Vice President Abubakar Atiku begging that we should let him go for a second term in office. A sitting President kneeling down for his vice. So, we are just a confused people in this country. Who now made Obasanjo the messiah to determine who becomes President of the country? There is a Benin adage that says that the fight started too early and thus I could not get access to the house to pick my weapon. Is it a crime to be sick? Do you blame somebody for been sick? They should set up a panel to investigate what happened inside Aso Rock before Buhari became sick. Buhari, a retired Army general, openly confessed: ‘I have never been this sick in my life.’ When the president could not resume in his office, Lai(Mohammed), my friend, had a tough time explaining what happened. They could not explain what happened in the President’s office. The President left the country for about seven months to seek for treatment overseas. Corrupt people who know Buhari’s no nonsense stance are the ones fighting him. They knew that if he gets back all of them, regardless of party affiliation, will go to jail. He is a genuine anti-corruption man. He is the only man that can take us to the Promised Land. For our sake and those of our unborn children he came back to the country alive. Nigerians know that he can turn things around in our favour. Nigerians have forgotten that this man can come and make one dollar to be equivalent to one naira. But we’ll pay for it for the next one hundred years. They tried it in Ghana one cede to a dollar. The country collapsed. So, what’s happening to Nigerians is the best that could happen. Buhari is a great man. If you look at all the arguments about him nobody is offering a suitable alternative to him. Look at IBB, he created corruption; he instutionalised corruption in this country during his tenure as Military President. He started bribing young military officers with cars so that they would not plot a coup against him. A man whose tenure witnessed the crash of a C-130 plane with a crop of young military officers on board. Till tomorrow nobody know the reason for the crash. These are the people who will come out to be telling us what to do and what not to do. Every adult Nigerian who witnessed the Buhari/Idiagbon combination know that Nigeria was on course within that short period they were in office. Who aborted that government? Was it not IBB?! He is now the one to determine who will be president and who will not be. You are talking of disunity in this country it did not start during Buhari period. It started after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election. The 1993 election was the best Nigeria ever had. The Abiola/Kingibe muslim/muslim presidential ticket was well endorsed by the generality of Nigerians and the duo won the election clearly. The man who aborted that election result was IBB. That action brought disunity into this country when a Yoruba man was stopped in his ambition to rule the country. So, what are we talking about? Who is fooling who?
CORRUPT PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF BUHARI
Those who are corrupt are the ones afraid of Buhari coming back. You know that in this country if you do not have a private jet or mansions all over the world where parties are held you won’t be taken serious. All those who have looted Nigerian funds are the ones that are now becoming fidgety. When you attend their parties you see who is who in Nigeria. They feel insecured that Buhari is gunning for a second tenure. I am fulfilled. Presently, I am not seeking for any political office I have seen it all in the political space of the country. I have played politics at the national level. I was there at the formation of PDP(Peoples Democratic Party); I was there at the formation of APP(All Peoples Party) and was also there at the formation of AC(Action Congress). This is the only country where you are denied an elective position because you do not have money. I was to go to the Senate in 2003 but they said that there they have decided that there would be no primary. They brought in Daisy Danjuma. That period was wasted in the representation of Edo people. Some of them who go to the national assembly don’t know why they are there. While they are campaigning they will make promises they cannot fulfil. All the campaign against Buhari is being coordinated by corrupt people but we won’t fold our arms and watch them. We will enlighten our people. It’s the duty of journalists to spearhead this enlightenment. If this country should not collapse we have to support Buhari to come back. The PDP destroyed this country for 16 years non-stop. Just imagine when you open someone’s door and you discover millions of dollars. Yet you don’t see anything wrong in that. They will be caught with huge sums of money and they will say it’s from their relatives. Huge sums of money are recovered in the homes of supreme court judges which cannot be accounted for. Many funny things happened under PDP watch. A country where somebody will steal N25 billion and you will fine him N3.5million. All those who stole this country’s money must refund it and must go to jail. That’s why they are fighting Buhari. Look at the agriculture sector. About 80 percent of the rice that we consumed during the last Christmas season was from our local outlets. This saved this country billions of naira in foreign exchange.
OBASEKI’S WORTHY LEGACIES
Look at what Governor Obaseki is doing in Edo State now under the same Buhari administration. People don’t know the implications of the Industrial park. By the time he finishes with the industrial park and the Gelegele Port nobody will cross the Mediterranean again and go to Italy because the factories would be here. With the industrial park all the foreign companies will be producing their products here with cheaper labour. If over there in their country they pay say $30 per hour for labour here our people will take $20. They know that when they convert it to naira it will be a substantial sum of money. To encourage such companies we will give them tax incentives. They will get water and constant power supply. That’s why Azura(Power Plant) is nearby. If you look at Edo State today people fear government. There is respect for the rule of law. The governor is called ‘wake and see’ but some people do not know what it means. What it means is that you may have a structure that could be brought down anytime because it was built on an unapproved location. You do the wrong thing you pay for it. You see people who are orderly and obey the traffic regulations because they don’t know if Obaseki is close by. There was a case of a man who did not obey traffic regulations not knowing that Governor Obaseki who was behind him had called for his arrest. He was locked up in police custody that weekend and taken to court the following Monday. Look at Ring Road, there is sanity there now. Recently, Buhari was complaining that the first time he ruled Nigeria under the military he was using decree but now he cannot do that because of civilian government and democracy. When he came in 1983 he locked up majority of the politicians and asked them to prove their innocence before they can be released. When Obasanjo came out of prison he had less than N20,000 in his account. It was Orji Kalu that gave him N15 million for his campaign. The late Shehu Yaradua in his last days in prison stated that if he dies Obasanjo should be made President. Now he is supporting Donald Duke whom he denied the opportunity to be president a few years ago.
PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS NOT DOING MUCH FOR THEIR CONSTITUENTS
The national assembly is an offshot of the APC. But the party is out of tune with reality. (Chief John Odigie) Oyegun(National chairman of APC) is a disaster. I have said it many times. He doesn’t know what he is doing. He has not been able to manage the party well. He is close to 80 years. At his age he should be able to do things for which he can be remembered. He was looking for award. Is it award that would save him? Look at the set of people that attended the award ceremony. No governor; no deputy governor; no speaker etc. When Tom Ikimi was national chairman of NRC(National Republican Convention) the Benin Airport will be jam packed with the arrival of dignitaries if he was been honoured. What kind of party national chairman is Oyegun? Drive past his house you will not see anybody there. You are national chairman of a ruling party, the party is in tatters but you are looking helpless and cannot do anything. He is just interested in holding on to his position. I am 65 and I have seen it all in politics. I am no longer aspiring to be anything. I thank God for his mercies. In a state of about three million people I was elected as a council chairman; I was a governorship aspirant; I was a special adviser; I was a Commissioner; I was a director general of the state liaison office in Abuja; I am a party leader; I was a member of the board of the Nigeria Television Authority(NTA) for five years etc. There is nothing else to prove. God has blessed me with good children who are all doing fine in their different endeavours. What else do I want in life? I am contented though I will still remain in politics. Nobody can call Charles Idahosa a thief. So, what’s the problem with the National Assembly? You cannot run a national assembly where there is a division in the house. You cannot run a party where your created organs are fighting themselves. (Ibrahim) Magu is an appointee of the Presidency, by extension the APC federal government. The Senate is controlled by the APC and they are fighting themselves. NIA(Nigeria Intelligence Agency) will be fighting the DSS(Directorate of States Services) while DSS will be using gun to pursue the EFCC(Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). These are things the party should handle. In the night these people will be called by the national chairman and some party leaders to settle whatever is the problem. In the famous word of the PDP ‘it’s a family affair’. Oyegun doesn’t know what to do. (Senate President Bukola) Saraki is on his own same thing with (House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu) Dogara. They talk like they are in the opposition party. The first family is disciplined. You see how simple Buhari is? Aisha Buhari and her children go by commercial flight any time they are traveling. Nigerians forget so easily the theatrics of the former first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan. She was caught with a large sum of money but she said that her grandmother gave it to her. The APC is operating in a world of its own. The different parties that made up the legacy parties that formed the APC are not together. They are operating on different wavelength. They are out to champion their individual interests. But by the grace of God we will survive it. Uptil now, the APC leadership cannot call a meeting. The opposition PDP has held three conventions. Probably, the fear of the APC leadership is that if they hold a meeting a vote of no confidence may be passed on them and thus they will be removed from office.
ARE YOU IN SUPPORT OF THE CALL FOR THE REMOVAL OF OYEGUN FROM OFFICE AS NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF APC?
I have no interest in his removal or continued stay in office as the national chairman of the APC. I don’t even know who can act better than him if he is removed from office. I know the role I played in his emergence as national chairman of the APC. I thought that he would make a difference. Tom Ikimi was already coasting home to victory. I made the state working committee to reopen the contest so that Oyegun can come in. Some of you will recall that Ikimi fought me on the pages of newspapers for my role in Oyegun’s emergence. He has let us down. I have known him and his family since 1963. I went to school with his younger ones. We are all members of the St. Peters Anglican Church, Benin. Samuel Ogbemudia died over a year ago but the Federal government has not named a monument after him. Alex Ekwueme just died recently and already a university has been named after him. The reason is that the people from the same ethnic group with Ogbemudia who are in a position to make a case for him have not done so. Can you believe that Edo State can have a minister and a ruling party national chairman from the same ethnic group yet when one hundred people are crossing over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy 80 of them would be from the state. Is that not pathetic?
THE PDP IN THE COURSE OF ITS STATE WIDE TOUR RECENTLY ALLEGED THAT GOVERNOR OBASEKI IS NOT PERFORMING
What do you expect a dead party like the PDP to say? What they wanted to do through that tour is to say that they are still a force to be reckoned with. What I can infer from their action is that they are not strong enough to engage us(APC) in an election. They should have participated in this forthcoming local council election but they are scared of been disgraced. They don’t want to gamble. When I watched Dan Orbih, the state chairman of the PDP, talking during the tour and waving his stick which looks like the one that his co comedian, Tom Ikimi waves around I laugh heartily. I think Ikimi said he got his own from the Ooni of Ife. Orbih has yet to tell us where he got his own which is longer from. The way Orbih dresses now is like masquerade. They don’t know we are practicing a Presidential system of government. Osagie Ize Iyamu is not a shadow prime minister. That you were defeated in a governorship poll and you are still parading yourself are you saying that others cannot aspire? Their state wide tour was a charade. Constitutionally, the House of Assembly can make laws concerning the local government councils. They can reduce or add to the campaign period of the local council election. Take for instance, in Osun State they now operate a parliamentary system in the local government council whereby all are elected as councillors while they(the councillors) elect one of their own as chairman.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A FORMER LOCAL GOVT. COUNCIL CHAIRMAN DO YOU SUPPORT THE CALL FOR AUTONOMY FOR THE COUNCILS?
It’s not autonomy that’s the problem of the local government councils. It’s teachers that are the councils’ problem. Teachers’ salaries are deducted from source by the Federal government. The local government is a tedious and complex system to operate. By the constitution local government councils are subject to the control of state governments. The two must work together. The local government councils are the only arm of government that do not have a control on their staff. The local government service commission is vested with the power to promote or discipline staff of the councils where necessary. The councils pay the salaries and allowances of teachers but they cannot punish an erring teacher. The teachers are under SUBEB(State Universal Basic Education Board). The staff strength of the teachers in the Metropolitan local government councils is often bloated because a lot of influential people normally insist on their relatives been retained in the Metropolitan areas instead of the hinterland which has a shortage of teaching staff. Most of these teachers that bloat the teaching staff strength in metropolitan councils are auxiliary teachers. So, what’s really needed is separation of power.
CATTLE COLONY IS A MISNOMER
There is nothing like cattle colony. If there is a cattle colony who will govern it? Do we now have two or even more governors in a small area? All these things you are seeing are stage managed. The Boko Haram that we used to know them are no more. Buhari has dealt with them. What we have now are those who are using guerilla warfare and who attack soft targets at random. They are now scattered and decimated. You will recall that as at the time Buhari came into office some local council areas in the northeast most especially were under the control of the Boko Haram but when Buhari assumed office he sent them into oblivion. These people going about are not herdsmen they are political hirelings out to discredit President Muhammadu Buhari.