Mr Godwin Obaseki is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State. In this interview, he expressed optimism of victory, just as he raised the alarm over alleged plot by the PDP to unleash mayhem on the day of the election so as to truncate the exercise. Excerpts:
How optimistic are you of victory?
We have campaigned extensively. If you recall, this is the second time I am embarking on this kind of campaign. During the primary, I went through the 192 wards. The campaigns for the main election has been more detailed, I went to communities I did not have the opportunity of visiting during the primaries and it has been quite revealing. Firstly, it would be a miracle for PDP to win in Edo State because as we have gone round the communities, we just don’t see their presence. We don’t hear their message, probably because they don’t have any message. In every community we have gone to, we can point to a project that the APC government has undertaken and that explains the popularity of the party. The issue in most communities is that they want more. It is easy to argue that, given our track record of performance, they should allow us to continue to provide for them. Unlike that of PDP, whose track record was so bad that in their 10 years, there was nothing to show the people of the state. So, that being the fact on ground, it has been easy to appeal to the voters to vote for me as the APC candidate and my running mate, Philip Shuaibu.
The second issue is that we have been able to counter their lies because without any message to send, they have gone round to tell lies to people, campaign of calumny, lies to create tension and anxiety and prepare the place for violence. For them, the only way they can win is for them to unleash violence and steal ballot boxes to produce fake results and we know clearly they are working on such strategies. There is evidence and we have reported to security agencies. They are importing people from neighbouring communities to come and cause mayhem so we can have inconclusive election. We also have evidence of the people they brought in to register during the voter registration exercise. You could see from the incident at llushi, where they attacked my campaign train. Due to the frustration and fear that they are going to lose the election, some of their supporters are even acting the violent script even before the day. They cannot even hold it back anymore.
So, they are masters of propaganda. While we are campaigning, the PDP leadership is using the ill-gotten money to oil their propaganda machine and misinforming the people. Much of their proposed theory is to deceive people, give them false impression that they are winning. No concrete message for the people. They are selling a message about the future when they destroyed the past. They go to the markets, trying to create fear, using the current economic crisis to campaign. But we have gone round to explain to people that these are the same people who caused this economic recession, destroyed our economy. You know we are campaigning in riverine areas and those are the areas they are targeting, places like llusin, Gegelege, Agenebode. Our borders are the areas they intend to perpetrate violence and there is evidence they have brought in people in Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba Okhai. They planted at least two militants each from the Niger Delta in each of the units in these metropolitan areas so that they can cause mayhem that may lead to inconclusive election. That is their strategy and we have told security agents.
But is this recession problem not affecting your party in the campaigns and the elections ahead?
In the case of Edo, we know the people are very enlightened. We have been explaining to them that the recession is global. But what is more important is what we have been doing to solve the problem. Campaigning round the state, I found out that in the rural areas, people are beginning to make a lot of money due to rise in prices of goods. But we have told them prices will come down as a result of these productions we are seeing. In most areas with tarred roads, we see people drying rice; people going to their farms to harvest yam and lorry loads of foodstuff coming out. So, we have been selling a message of hope that the recession is only temporary. And because they trust us, they are buying into the message. The other advantage we have is that they have tested the PDP before and they don’t see PDP as an option. When we ask them, they said sometimes they don’t even know who the PDP candidate is, whether it is Ize-Iyamu or Iduoriyekemwen. So, even their members are confused, while many of them felt APC is the only hope and they are joining us every day. So, PDP has no hope in this election. For me, the real opponents I have are that of APGA, Osaro Onaiwu and others but not PDP. So, I laugh when they resort to making comments in the papers. They only exist in the papers not on ground and for me it is another 419, so that the PDP governors will bring money for them to share. Of course, those guys are 419 guys who have been there since 1999, making money from deceiving people. But it is all over for them in Edo. APC in Edo led by Governor Adams Oshiomhole has buried them and we will bury PDP continuously.
Any fear of anti-party?
Nobody in APC will do anti party. That was Ize-Iyamu’s prayers because he called several APC members to come and play the trick he knows best and work against their own party. But they shunned him. The reconciliation effort we have done has been very successful. You would have noticed that some of our colleagues, who were aggrieved after the primaries, have been working very closely with the party in their various wards and local governments. We are all together. I was even touched seeing our members contributing money for the campaigns in their various wards. I am so grateful to them. What is also interesting and what helped us is the wave of defection from PDP to APC. Our people are working in unison, particularly in the local governments like Orhiomwon, Uhumwonde. Those are the areas we had concerns before. But those areas are solid now and under the control of APC. The leaders of the party there are working together now.
People see you as a stooge to Governor Oshiomhole. How real is this?
I keep saying to them that if I was a stooge for the last eight years and that led to the amount of development and progress that we have made, then if being a stooge will lead to the progress of my people, I will rather be a stooge to my people than being a non-stooge that will steal our common wealth. It is nonsense. What is the issue? The issue is about development, about utilising our wealth for our common good. So, if being a stooge means utilising public funds for the betterment of the people of Edo, if being a stooge means I am not going to meet with any godfather to decide on how my budget will be implemented, then I will rather be such a stooge. One of the PDP candidates, Ize-Iyamu, has all his life been a stooge to the Igbinedions. Starting as a personal assistant to Lucky Igbinedion, chief of staff to his government and later the most powerful Secretary to the State Government, who signed the sacking of over 7,000 workers who are crying of pension which the Oshiomhole’s administration is paying today. Let me tell you, we need to begin to change the paradigm. I keep asking people to tell me in specific terms what the Oshiomhole’s administration have not done in the last seven and a half years. So, what is wrong about propagating and continuing with those strides? We must redefine our politics from these brain dead hawks in our politics who think they can continue to destroy and distract our people. The issue is: what did you do with political authorities? Being in the back room of this administration in the last seven and a half years, I directed the policies more. I pointed to the Comrade governor, the direction we should go. So, did that make Adams a stooge? Sometimes try and understand their logic, because of their poor education which has never allowed them do other things in their lives. They make those silly arguments about being a stooge. If with all we have achieved under Oshiomhole made me a stooge, I accept. Then let Ize-Iyamu also accept that he is a stooge to Igbinedion and let him take the blames of the failure of the PDP for 10 years. At least, with that you will expect him to toe the path of honour by withdrawing from the contest.
What is your message to the Edo people?
I want to first and continue to thank Edo people because across the state, I have found out during our campaigns that we have groups and communities which voluntarily endorsed me, assuring me that they will vote for me. My appeal is to security agencies to ensure that they monitor the process to ensure we have no violence. If we have an election, free, fair and credible, that is devoid of violence, I am certain we will trounce the PDP, no matter who they decide to produce as the candidate. I will pick at least 80 per cent of the votes come September 10.