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OSHIOMHOLE'S FIGHT WITH ANENIH IS JUST – IDAHOSA

By NBF News
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The Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Edo State Governor, Hon. Charlse Idahosa has said that the fight between Adams Oshiomhole and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Tony Anenih, is not a personal affair. According to him, it is a fight that is in the interest of the ordinary people of Edo State.

The former chairman of Uhunmwonde Local Government described Anenih as an overbearing and egoistic leader who always like to dictate to every governors ruling the state. He said such attitude has contributed greatly to the backwardness of the state over the years.

In this interview with Saturday Sun , the former governorship aspirant also spoke on zoning, electoral reform, 50 years of Nigeria independence and many other issues.

Excerpts:
You were once a member of the PDP before decamping to the AC. what is your view about the zoning controversy currently rocking the PDP?

I was a founding member of PDP. I participated in the affair of that party in 1999 and 2003. I was a member of the National Working Committee and I worked for Obasanjo campaign organization. I was the coordinator to Ekwueme, which means I have been an insider. We witnessed the meeting that was held and as far as I am concerned, there was an agreement that the south should do eight years.

When there was pressure because the governors felt uncomfortable with Obasanjo and were trying to drag Atiku into the race, I do remember that Atiku said there was an arrangement that the south should do eight years.

That was why Atiku didn't contest. So, it has been the situation on ground. I am totally embarrassed to hear people saying that there was no agreement or something like that. It is very shameful. I have not been too keen on it because I am not in the PDP anymore. But when I look at the caliber of people making these statements in the national newspapers just because there is a sitting president, I feel embarrassed. Everybody wants to say something that would please the person in power. It is unfair. There was an arrangement that there should be eight years for the south and eight years for the north. Unfortunately, Yar'Adua could not complete his eight years. As Nigerians, we need to stabilize everything we do in this country. What is federal character? Is it not an arrangement? Is it not zoning that brought in everybody that is in position today? Is it not zoning that brought the VP that eventually became the president? So, I don't think we should deceive ourselves.

It is zoning that brought David Mark, Bankole and others. How come Ogbulafor was removed and Nwodo had to replace him as the PDP national chairman? Is it not because it was zoned to the southeast? The basic truth is that if Yar'Adua had not died, I don't think anybody would have come out to say he should not run next year. This is not the first time a sitting president or Head of State died in office. When Gen. Murtala Mohammed was killed, why didn't Obasanjo come out with a fresh transition programme to extend his tenure? Gen Abacha died nine months to the end of his tenure and Gen Abubakar completed it. Why didn't they go ahead and remain in office? What they are telling Jonathan to do now is easier under military regime because the military rule by fiat. So, we should think of the interest of our country and I believe Jonathan should know better. He should just try as much as possible to make his impact felt within this period God has placed before him.

In the real sense, if the party were to tell the south south to bring out somebody to run for the position of VP or President, would they choose Jonathan? But God has made him what he is today. So, he should not allow people to use him to tempt God. That is my advice for him.

What is your take on electoral reform?
You saw what we did in Benin City. I was the chairman of the committee of 'One Man One Vote' campaign. What is electoral reform? All these are big grammar. What we need is to educate and tell ourselves to do what is right. You don't need to spend billions moving from place to place. Let us tell ourselves that there is no need to rig and carry guns on election day, snatch ballot box and that the police should not aid a particular group to defeat the other. At the end, all these boil down to 'one man one vote' initiated by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, which was celebrated throughout the country. We all saw the problem that followed it because of the invitation of certain people. So, electoral reform is an attitudinal thing and it cannot change our attitude. We should learn to have the principle of 'one man one vote.' And if we complied with it, we don't need all these grammars.

Was it because of the election problems that rocked Edo State in the last gubernatorial election that motivated the idea of this 'one man one vote?'

Yes. It was from that experience. Everybody knows that Adams Oshiomhole won that election but it took him 18 months to retrieve it through legal means. If the 'one man one vote' had been allowed to prevail, there would not have been the need to pass through the rigorous process of litigations.

Is it actually the solution to the problem of elections in Nigeria?

What do you think is the solution?
Many people believe that rigging of election is having its way because there is no strong punishment for offenders.

I agree with you. That is why I mentioned something about attitude. If from day one, we convinced our people that there is no need to make election a do-or-die-affair, there would be no need to punish anybody because nobody would do the wrong thing. But now that we are at that level, there is need for people to be punished as an example. That is why I am happy with the idea that we should set up a special court to try election offenders. Maybe that would compel our people to do the right thing.

Jega has been confirmed as INEC chairman. What are your expectations from him?

You see, a lot of people always get this muddled up. On the day of election, Jega would be in Abuja. He would not be in Ehor or Abudu in Edo State. I am always surprised when people talk about individuals instead of the institutions. We should be talking about how we can effectively make INEC work. Jega cannot be in 774 local government headquarters on Election Day. It is the result submitted to him that he would announce. So, what we need is orientation. What he has to do is to look at INEC generally and pick the people he can work with. I have confidence he would do well. He would try to infuse his radicalism into the system. But he needs more than that. We are the ones who should check ourselves and cooperate with him to fish out the bad eggs in INEC so that we can move forward. But people must understand that he is not a magician.

What is your view on the state of Edo State politics?

Edo State has become a one party state as far as I am concerned. The people are running everyday to join the Action Congress because the government is doing well. Everybody can see the pace with which the state is developing. I was in Abuja a few weeks ago and the Edo State indigenes said nobody is saying again that Oshiomhole is not performing. When he started, people said he was not doing anything; he is a trade unionist and has no idea about governance. Now, what they are asking is that from where is he getting the money with which he is doing all the projects. I always told them that I am not the Finance Commissioner. But I have had the privilege to sit with the governor and I told him my worries on whether he would get the money to pay for the projects going on everywhere. The comrade governor looked at me and said, 'I don't give out jobs that I don't keep the money aside, and that there would be no abandon projects.' That is where we are. He is doing very well; it is a rebirth, a reengineering and reconstruction of a new Edo State. I do believe that in the life of a people and at one point in time, God would bring a messiah.

I contested the governorship ticket with Oshiomhole in 2007. I was not happy when I didn't get it. But on hindsight, I do believe that it is only God that gives power to whoever He wishes for some certain reasons. The time he came to power was when the state actually needed him most. I must confess to you that with a lot of decisions he has taken, if I were to be the governor, I would not have been able to take those decisions. I would not have been able to carry out the massive master plan of Benin City he has brought up. It would have been difficult for me to embark on the massive destruction of illegal structures the way he has done. He is doing what he feels is good for the people. Maybe it is because he has been away from home for a very long time and his affiliation with the people is not really there. I have been a homeboy and I thought it was an advantage. But with what Oshiomhole has done so far, it would have been a disadvantage because I know every family in Benin City. So, such venture would have been difficult for me.

Many people have been talking about the fight between him and Anenih. What is really the true state of things?

There is really no fight. The true is that the issue of godfathers has been here. There is no governor that has governed this state that Anenih did not fight. Ogbemudia was here for three months and, they fell out in 1983. Oyegun was there for 20 months and within the period; he got angry and fired all his commissioners. Lucky Igbinedion time was when they had two secretariats. They fought because Anenih is an overbearing and egoistic person.

He likes to dictate to the governors. I was in that administration and I know what happened. Before Oshiomhole came in, his predecessor, Osunbor was already vandalized. They had two factions, Ogbemudia faction and Anenih faction. So, it really didn't start with Oshiomhole. The incumbent governor wanted peace and carry everybody along. He went out of his way and approached Anenih to give him three persons to be appointed as commissioners in his administration after the exit of Osunbor. The truth is that a leopard can never change its skin. I tried to tell the comrade that he was just wasting his time and that I know him very well. Everybody knows my relationship with him. I have been fighting him for about 10 to 15 years now because of his attitude. But Oshiomhole was ready to do everything to carry him along until he ran into a problem with the first budget he presented to the house. That budget was stalled for almost six to seven months and Oshiomhole could not do anything. And people have started making insinuations that he is a trade unionist and that he can't do anything. You must have heard how Anenih summoned Oshiomhole as a governor with the former speaker to his house in Abuja. He was asked to bring Edo State budget to his sitting room.

You may ask, in what capacity? This is a governor sitting now before a man who calls himself a godfather. And he brought out his red biro and said, 'No, you can't do this in Benin City.' He strokes it. 'You can't do Airport Road,' he strokes it. That was how he cancelled about 60 percent of the budget. That was when Oshiomhole said; 'Yes, this is what people have been telling me and I must free myself from this stranglehold.' That was how the fight started. So, it is nothing personal. It has been a fight on behalf of the ordinary people of Edo State. It is like what happened during Oyegun's time, Anenih now asked his three commissioners to pull out of the government. Right now, those constituencies have no representatives. That is what godfathers can cause. It has been fought to a stand still and it can never rise again in Edo State.