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You're toying with state of emergency, Ihonvbere tells Oshiomhole

Friday, March 12, 2010


Former Special Adviser to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo on Policy andPrograms Monitoring, Prof Julius Omozuanvbo Ihonvbere, has called on Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State to calm down and be focused in the governance. He said that Edo is seriously drifting and with the recent crisis in the House of Assembly, the state is toying with a state of emergency.

Speaking with Daily Sun, the former gubernatorial aspirant in the state known as 'the Heart Beat of the Nation,' said.  'I honestly think that we are not doing things right in Edo State. The governor has to calm down. He is my brother. We come from the same senatorial zone. We are both Afemai and I would believe he needs to calm down; he needs to listen to himself and to people.

He does not need to see this thing as a war. I believe Edo State is at the precipice right now, and what is going on there is very sad. I feel pained that on the televisions, newspapers, all you hear about Edo is not about peace, not about harmony, dialogue, tolerance or promoting sustainable growth and development; rather, it is about impeachment, threats of impeachment, abuse of power, and rape of the rule of law, violence and intimidation. And this is not good. If things were different at the national level, Edo State is toying with a state of emergency.' He spoke on these and other sundry issues.

Edo House crisis
I believe Edo is at the precipice right now and what is going on there is very sad. I feel pained that on the televisions, newspapers, all you hear about Edo is not about peace, harmony, dialogue, tolerance or promoting sustainable growth and development; rather, it is about impeachment, threats of impeachment, abuse of power, rape of the rule of law, violence and intimidation. And this is not good. This is not good at all. There is no way in which a government, no matter which party, can intimidate an entire state or intimidate another party to docility. When you close avenues for dialogue and communication, you encourage extra legal approaches to governance and violence.

If people took arms to the state House of Assembly and I don't care who took them there, the important and very sad point is that there were weapons: tear-gas and axes in the House of Assembly. And these are people who are supposed to make the law. Where do we go from there?  What example are they showing? Where is the future of democracy? What quality of leadership is this? I feel very sad about what is going on in Edo, and I believe that if things were different at the national level, Edo State is toying with a state of emergency.

Can you trace the history of this crisis?
The history of this crisis, if one has to be holistic, is rooted in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) politics. The way PDP handled its politics, its primaries, its campaigns and the victory, coupled with the contradictions and conflicts, the divisions that occurred and the failure of the leadership to work together but broke into different camps. Of course, it was that failure to work together that cost them the governorship.

And the person who was put there, who has a different style, a different vision, a different commitment, a different pattern of listening to people; whose understanding of government and governance are significantly different from what some of us believe in, is demonstrating this in every case. When the results of the election came and so on, we saw him personally leading demonstrations in which people were injured and property destroyed. And since he got into power, from what we have seen, the lines of cooperation, dialogue and fair competition that ought to exist among political parties have disappeared.

There was a whole vibrant and very expensive war against the godfather, against imposition, the campaign for one person, one vote, which has unfortunately not been demonstrated in most of the re-run  elections in Edo State. This has degenerated to a stage for PDP members to defect, suspension of PDP chairmen one after the other, encouraging others to defect, encouraging all those whom we know were bound to violence in the state to decamp to Action Congress (AC), thereby heating up the political environment in the state and that kind of environment has only expressed itself in the Ambrose Alli University, PDP, Edo State House of Assembly and I believe there would be much more coming.

I honestly think that we are not doing things right in Edo State. The governor has to calm down. He is my brother, we come from the same senatorial zone, we are both Afemai and I would believe that he needs to calm down, he needs to listen to himself, and listen to people. He does not need to see this thing as a war. You are not a big man because of the number of people that you destroy. You are not a great man because of the number of conflicts you generate. You are not a great man because you succeed in intimidating everybody into signing.

You are a great man because you build people, institutions, values, encourage dialogue, cooperation, collaboration and everybody to reach the highest point of their productive and creative abilities in the interest of Edo people. I think that when the governor begins to look at things from that perspective, all of these would disappear. It is ridiculous for 12 or 13 people to say that they are two thirds of 24. I have never seen that kind of mathematics before. So, all the things that happened in the House, in my view, was as a result of quest for power and use of power and this can be avoided and must be avoided.

The legislature
Whatever happened there is a disgrace. No right thinking person would condone violence.

That is why I told you that they are toying with a state of emergency. Who else will sanction them? Who will sanction the members of the House of Assembly? But if there is a breakdown of law and order, if they cannot maintain the law, remain violent, encourage violence outside the assembly and the executive is found to be colluding in one way or the other, this would spill out to the streets and the opposition parties are already organizing demonstrations around the market square. It is spreading. I heard that some women want to wear black and walk round the streets. It is spreading. This is a sign of danger to come. We don't want a wild, wild Edo State.

Government of Adams Oshiomhole
I would not think the people are happy at this point. This is not PDP or AC issue. I am speaking as a seasoned politician, as an intellectual, an activist and administrator. What are the things that are expected from an administration? It is to make the living conditions of the people better, to assist people to meet their basic human needs, and to struggle to meet the established goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). But what we are seeing everyday is a hunt and search for people to decamp and when one, two or three people are going to decamp, there is a big ceremony; buses are moving up and down, money being spent, people are being insulted, abused with all manner of speeches that are not about building the party, promoting internal democracy even within the AC. No. It is about insulting the other party, carrying coffins; we are burying this party, we are banishing… what kind of nonsense is this? When are we going to stop all these rubbish? For God's sake, Edo State is bigger than anybody, including the governor and nobody should work to destroy Edo State.

One thing I can assure you is that the PDP is not going to lie down and allow itself to be intimidated or run out of town. I believe we still have more members in PDP than AC. It is true that many are angry and some are alienated. It is now the challenge of the leadership to look inward, get back to the chessboard and respond to the needs of their members, re-organize the party, re-structure it, re-focus it, re-position it and show the AC what leadership means, what governance, political responsibility and discipline mean. That is what we need now. That is the challenge before Edo people and I think we are already working on that.

Anenih's silence
Like they say in politics, elder statesmen don't rush to judgment. Presently, fees were increased through a circular by the Public Relations Officer of the Ambrose Alli University from N30,000 to N100,000 over times two. They went on rampage. All I did was to visit some of the students that were shot in the hospitals, and the government and their agents went on the television to accuse me of inciting the students. I did not call a press conference or issue a statement but my foundation did, cataloguing what I have done for that institution individually and I believe that very few people in Edo State have done that much or show that love or interest for Ambrose Alli University. But I did not rush because I did not hear the governor accusing me. It was just some little officials in the government who felt over enthusiastic and officials of the university who were trying to come and rush to judgment by making those statements. I believe it has reached a level where I am sure Chief Tony Anenih would make a statement.

Until now, he didn't want to interfere but wanted to leave the governor to probably go on, say all he wants to say about him, about PDP and then we get down to playing the real politics. But after the re-run in Akoko Edo amd Etsako Central, coupled with the present crisis in the state House of Assembly and the suspension of local government chairmen without any visible allegations or investigation, I believe that as the leader of the PDP, he would say something. I know at the moment, he is working very hard on the re-structuring and re-positioning of the PDP.

Government's policy.
I have made my position very clear. If I were governor of Edo state, I would do it differently. It is sad that the government has not denied that they were still discussing but the Ambrose Alli University went ahead and issued a circular. I believe the university authorities would not be bold enough to issue a circular without the government's approval. But they are looking for a fall-guy. I believe for a government that has taken time to demolish hundreds of stores and  shops because it wants to construct good roads; and we like these roads, but alternatives have not been provided neither has compensation been paid to the owners.

And if you check very well, it is the children of the women and men who own these shops and stores that are in that university. The big, rich people have their children in Federal universities and abroad. And for a government that has increased taxes and levies from between 50 to almost 1000 percent, to private school owners, private hospitals, name it; to follow it up with increase in school fees is a bit testing the waters too deep into the ocean. That handshake has crossed the elbow. And I believe that the government ought to have known this. It is also worse that in this situation, there is no bursary and scholarship program to cushion the effect of increased school fees. That government is looking for trouble.

We also have reason to doubt the quality of education being given to the part time students of that institution who are almost 7,000 not to talk of the over 12,000 full-time students. We know the staff strength of that university. Lecturers are being overstretched, facilities are being overstretched; the library and the laboratories are grossly outdated. These should be the first things to do and after working on them, you can go ahead and tell people, you see what we have done, it costs money and we cannot put all our money here.

We also need to look at the polytechnics, colleges of education, teachers training, nursing schools, secondary schools and primary schools. We need to work harder in this area. And you discuss with students and the management. You have to reach some understanding with them. You need to even call the alumni association into the process and say we are creating this low scheme, it is a small amount. We can only afford N20,000 per student a year and we are creating it. But there is also a low scheme you can get up to N50,000 provided you are guaranteed by a public servant so that if you don't pay, we take the money from the salary or the pension of that public servant and because of this, we are increasing it from 30 to 60. There would be no demonstration.