Ahead of next month governorship election in Edo State, the chairman of the state’s chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Osi Orbih speaks with Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, on the chances of his party and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu .
The governorship election in Edo State is some few weeks away and there have been brickbats between your candidate and the ruling APC. There are threats of EFCC and ICPC investigations. Do you nurse the fear that your candidate will be denied the chance to contest the election?
It’s unfortunate that it has taken [Governor Adams] Oshiomhole about eight years before he will realise that our candidate has problems that are worthy of investigation by EFCC. There is no doubt that his allegations are politically motivated. You know Adams Oshiomhole more than I do. If Oshiomhole has anything, no matter how little against our candidate, by now he would have published it in all the newspapers; he would be shouting on top of his voice. But he has nothing. He has checked everything. I understand that even the official car our candidate used while he was Secretary to the State Government, he went into the pigeonhole to check in case there is anything. He didn’t even see anything. That’s to tell you the extent he went to try to see if there is anything he could use against our candidate.
Fortunately, he could not. Now, he is boasting that even if the candidate wins, he will use the EFCC to pursue him. He will use the police on election day to harass voters. He will use soldiers; he will use INEC, that they are in government. He has forgotten so soon that there was a party that was in government that had control over all the institutions he’s naming and they never used them against him when he contested twice. But I can tell you that Edo people are waiting. You cannot subvert the will of the people. If in Turkey, civilians could march against armed soldiers with armoured tanks and guns and when they saw the determination of the people, they abandoned their armored tanks and guns and they fled, I can tell you Oshiomhole will know that he has a challenge in his hand if he dares try what he is boasting about using the police and the army on innocent citizens.
But your candidate was interrogated by the EFCC…..
The subject of interrogation is well known. I was interrogated. Several other people from Edo State were interrogated. Our crime is that we belong to a party that contested the presidential election against APC and the party we belong to, the candidate of our party sent money to our state to use for logistics for the election. The whole world is aware that the PDP candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, had a well-attended fundraising ceremony where billions of naira was raised in his favour and for us in Edo State, he sent us money for the election. We believe strongly like we did at the time we received the money till date that the money he sent to us was from the proceeds of the contributions and donations received during the fund raising. So, it is politically mischievous by Adams to instigate frivolous petitions that why should PDP spend money, why should Jonathan give PDP Edo chapter money for the purpose of the election?
It is now common knowledge that even when his party contested the previous presidential election, he [allegedly] went to Abuja to collect money to [allegedly] work against his own party. You will agree with me that it is anti-party for him to have collected money from PDP at that time. Even this last election, Olisa Metuh accused him of flirting with the PDP. Until he saw the handwriting on the wall, he started behaving and crying more than the bereaved; he started behaving as if he was Buhari. He would accuse [Ngozi] Okonjo-Iweala today; he would accuse all the principal actors of the last administration just to make himself feel as if he’s a committed member of APC. But we know better.
The issues with your party at the national level, don’t you think these will affect the perception back home?
The much talked about crisis at the national level has nothing to do with us in the Edo State governorship election. Our needs and the needs of Edo people are localised. We are not contesting the presidential election. The presidential election will not come up until years after. Our immediate concern is the governorship election. If you watch our campaigns, the turnout of people who are going about their normal business, once there is any gathering and they see it’s the PDP that is holding a rally, they will abandon wherever they are going and stay until the end of the rally. People are eager to support PDP in Edo State, having seen the deceit of Adams Oshiomhole in the past years. And his choice of candidate, personally picking the governorship candidate and his deputy has not helped the APC cause in Edo State. In fact, the greatest challenge of Godwin Obaseki in the coming election is Adams Oshiomhole and his politics of deceit. And giving him the centre stage has not also helped him. We are now seeing an election coming up as if Adams Oshiomhole is contesting for third term.
If you go round Benin City, you will see some of the billboards carrying Godwin Obaseki’s picture and Oshiomhole’s pictures. So, we are wondering whether Oshiomhole is running for a third term or whether it is self-conviction that the candidate he’s projecting has not got what it takes to convince the good people of Edo State on the need to support him.
What led to that question was that you have a candidate that is known, then Sheriff’s faction also held another primary…
Well the organ responsible for the conduct of election in this country today is INEC. They have come out clearly to state who is the party’s candidate and I think that puts to rest the issue of Sheriff and his group of political travelers who are trying to create something out of nothing. They thought we will be distracted with all those rubbish but we are not. We are much focused because our present attitude is driven by the constant calls coming from concerned citizens of the state that we must rescue this state from the present APC people. A lot of people are asking questions about the tone of the campaigns the way it is going. You are aware that it is the governor who is throwing accusations at PDP leaders, our candidate, my dear self and every person and we have decided to ignore him.
But the story out there is that Oshiomhole’s performance will intimidate your party?
You need to move round the streets of Edo State to make your own assessment of the situation. I come from the same senatorial district as Oshiomhole. We travel on the same road to our home. Today, the road from Benin to Oshiomhole’s village is impassable. I’m sure he will quickly say that after all, it’s a federal road. But Governor Ifeanyi Okowa [of Delta State] just rehabilitated a federal road because of his own people. The Federal Government is based in Abuja. The people who elected him in Delta, they were the ones going through that hardship and he had to come to their rescue to resurface the road and eventually, he will put up claims to the Federal Government. The Eleme Petrochemical and the Port Harcourt Free Trade Zone area where most of the companies are operating, the road was so bad that [Rivers State governor, Nyesom] Wike did not wait for the Federal Government; he went ahead and resurfaced the road because of the interest of the people of Rivers State. He did not wait for Buhari to come before attending to that road. In the same manner, I find it difficult to understand why even the road leading to Oshiomhole’s village is [allegedly] totally impassable. You now get to Ekpoma, you go into Ekpoma and Ekpoma town is nightmare. Sometimes, a journey that will normally not take more than one hour fifteen minutes, people will spend four hours between Benin and Auchi. On a very bad day, they will spend up to six hours and the governor is aware of this.
What do you say to those who say both at the national and state level that the 16 years of PDP was a waste and that it’s because the party didn’t do well in Edo State?
I feel it’s rather too early to say too much about Buhari’s administration, even if it is one year gone and we are well into the second year of his administration. But let us look at Edo State. Oshiomhole came into government and all he was telling the world was that PDP mismanaged the resources of the state. Eight years after, he is still talking about PDP in Edo State. Does that make sense to any sane person? Obama took over the government of the United States of America at a time of economic recession. He never blamed his performance on the situation of the economy at the time he took over. After one or two years, he took total control and today, the economy is far better than what it was at the time he came into government. What was the motivating factor for him to contest? If all was well, he would have said let them return the PDP candidate at that time unopposed. But he felt that maybe there were areas that were not properly attended to by the PDP government. He came into power and for him to keep talking about PDP government eight years after shows clearly that the man is not serious. He has totally failed the people of the state. What we are expecting from Oshiomhole at this point in time is for him to start reeling off all that he has achieved in the past eight years and asking the Edo people to support his candidate so that they can continue his programmes. But here we are, every day he goes out to campaign, he’s talking about eight, nine years of PDP government in Edo State. He has spent almost the same period in government with nothing to show. So, I think Edo people are watching; they are seeing through him and on election day, they will show their disgust and disappointment with his government.
Recently, the state government secured the second tranche of $75 million from the World Bank to improve Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). I read the report that led to that approval by the National Assembly. It was like the World Bank and all the agencies of Federal Government gave Edo a pass mark; they said he has improved in good governance and all that.
Are you saying that people on ground in Edo State are not feeling the impact of the governor’s performance?
A friend took a loan from a bank and the loan was not doing well. He needed more money. Somebody from the bank- an official of the bank- was helping him to package a proposal for further assistance from the banker on the way the paper should be written for him to get further approval. So, Oshiomhole writing about good governance and all that is rubbish. You have a lot of people in the streets of Lagos whose job is to package proposals and you get approval without wasting time. I’m telling you what is on ground; you are here now in Edo State. Is there anything that has changed substantially from what you used to see in Edo State?
How prepared is your party for September 10 election, in view of all the security challenges?
We believe that power comes from God. We also believe that the people have a major role to play in this process. Those who are relying too much on security should learn from history. Even the colonial security people were there when you had the famous Aba Women Riot. [Former President Goodluck] Jonathan had total control of all the security agencies, but he contested an election and results were declared against him and his party. In the same manner, we have an election that is coming; we have decided to go to the people. We are campaigning everywhere. We want to campaign in all the 192 wards. But they [the APC] go to the local government headquarters; they will beam it live to show that they were there. But we don’t have that type of money to be showing our movements live. But we have decided to meet the people who will vote on election day. We are going to 192 wards, they are going to 18 local government headquarters and each one they go to, they will move the outside broadcast vans there. On our part, every local government we visit in a day, we go to a minimum of at least three places until we will go to all the wards in the state. The judgment day is near. The day of reckoning will soon come and we will see for ourselves.