Senator Domingo Obende is the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Campaign Council Publicity and Media Chairman. In this interview with journalists, he declares that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State lacks the credible leaders that will be able to deliver their governorship candidate, Pastor OsagieIze-Iyamu to victory. Excerpts:
How is your party taking the postponement of the election?
I think we have prepared so hard and we believe and know that the voters are behind us and that we are going to win. Secondly, I am also happy because Edo has not been known to be a place where violence is the order of the day. If for security reasons, as stated by both the police and the DSS, this shift is realised, I think I am happy for it presupposes that, come 28 of September, the election will be peaceful. We have heard talks about APC forcing postponement. But first and foremost, APC never imported any thug. Secondly, we are not harbouring anybody. Thirdly, we did not bring anybody to come and register, people who are not from Edo. What do we have to lose? Nothing.What is more, our strength are the voters and we have them behind us. They are not going to die or shift. So, for us, any time any day, we are ready for the election and I can bet you that the gap is going to be even wider now than we had imagined we are going to win.
Will you say that the current economic hardship is affecting your party the APC in this election?
Things are tough. But it is not peculiar to Edo State. In Edo, there is no governor that you can compare with Oshiomhole. You can talk about General Ogbemudia yes, but Oshiomhole is fantastic. If you compare Oshiomhole’s work with that of other governors, if they had one at all, you will find out they are not on par at all and that is a big plus for us in this election. The two weeks they gave us is two weeks of grace, where we will showcase all the things we have done. And what is more, it has given us the opportunity to reintroduce our candidate across the state. For the economic situation, everybody knows that the whole world is in total recession and PDP brought us into this problem. We cannot leave the past to blame the current person in government as not finding solution to the problem. APC promised three things: security, economy, fighting corruption. Right now, we all know who collected our money without doing anything. Right now we all know why the economy has moved in this direction. What APC is doing is trying to rebuild Nigeria and put it in a solid foundation for growth.
PDP leaders in Edo are boasting they will win. How do you see this?
There is this adage that says a house divided against itself cannot stand. PDP, as we speak today, has no clear leadership and for that, I don’t think anybody would want to take PDP seriously in the state. They have two governorship candidates, Ize-Iyamu and Iduoriyekemwen. So, how will they win? PDP has had a pattern of leadership in Edo for more than 10 years and that did not lead us to any developmental stride as far as the state is concerned. The current governor started in the past seven and a half years. In fact, I should say six and a half years because within a year he was still within the whims and caprices of the PDP House of Assembly then and Chief Tony Anenih. Anenih allegedly controlled the budget for the whole one year, bearing in mind that Zakawanu Garuba was the Speaker of the House as of that time. But immediately he was let off the hook, in his second year, he started performing and that was part of the failure of the leadership of the PDP.
For me, I do not think any Edo man, having seen or known these experiences on the part of the leadership of PDP, will allow any elected person in PDP to perform. When you look at it clearly, you will ask: who are the people that actually destroyed PDP in Edo and by extension development in Edo? Lucky Igbinedion could not do much because the leadership was sharing the money. The moment money came from Abuja, they shared it. I don’t think any Edo man wants to do that right now. I know clearly that we have taken clear study about this issue and that is why a lot of us have resolved that it must be APC all the way because Oshiomhole in seven years has given us development we never anticipated. He may have his private issues with people, but he has performed. He has done what exactly he was voted to do; he has delivered on his promises. Godwin Obaseki is going to follow in the same way of Oshiomhole’sdevelopment strategy. From debate, you could see the differences when you put questions across to Obaseki. So for me, PDP has no leadership that can guarantee it victory in the election.
Former governor Lucky Igbinedion recently boasted that the next governor of Edo State will be produced by the Igbinedion family in the person of Pastor Ize-Iyamu and Chief Ikimi also boasted in the same manner. what is your take on that?
First and foremost, my brother Igbinedion knows who Oshiomhole is. He was one of those who brought Oshiomhole so you can say Oshiomhole is equally part of that family. So, we have already produced two governors from that family, namely Igbinedion himself and Oshiomhole. Now, we cannot allow three brothers to rule us in the state from the same family. Oshiomhole came from Lucky’s angle and as of that time, Chief Anenih was angry until they met and had a meeting point.
Meeting point? But….
But as you know, Oshiomhole needed to be his own man so as to fulfill his campaign promises and that was where he had issues with these people. The disagreement was for the good of the people of the state. Lucky is our brother. He brought another of our brother, Oshiomhole, who is completing his eight years. So, we don’t want him to go and bring another person from the same family. We are satisfied with Oshiomhole that he gave to us and we are going to get another governor from another family in the person of Obaseki.
What about Chief Ikimi?
Ikimi is a man who likes talking big and that is his style. But I will advise him to win his polling unit first for his party before talking about winning the governorship election. He knows what I mean. So, I don’t need to expatiate on that. The current situation we are facing today as a nation is a product of PDP. But we don’t want to lament about it. We are working in Edo and Edo will keep working. We do not think we need a change of government in the state. The strategy that we have been using even in the state is working for us. We want to maintain that and the person behind this success is the chairman of the Economic and Strategy Team who is Obaseki. Ize-Iyamu will equally agree that this government has worked. But when things have become personalised, you cannot say the fact as it is any more. Everybody wants to have it his own way. But on this, Edo people cannot be shortchanged. Edo people are wiser and will stand to claim what belongs to them on 28th September. With their votes, they will make sure they suppress and oppress PDP where they are now. They can never resurface anymore because as far as we are concerned, we have the people who will use their votes to suppress them. The problem for Ize-Iyamu too is that while Obaseki has been able to point at what his party (APC) has done, Ize-Iyamu has nothing to point to because his boss, while he was Secretary to the State Government, that is Igbinedion, performed woefully.
There has been allegation of rigging from PDP and can you justify the postponement of the election?
For me, the threat that led to the postponement of the election has been justified. First and foremost, we saw militants being charged to court in the state. Some are still facing interrogation. Secondly, the tension in Edo has gone down drastically. You don’t find people walking as if tomorrow, we are going to die. That has calmed down. And security agencies have strategised. They have now known the positions to place their men. For me, the postponement is going to give us another wide margin we need in the election. PDP has lost now because they are finding it difficult to re-strategise and energise. That is the problem they are having. For us in APC, we are going to win the election because we have made strategic moves. We are doing more work to ensure that we win and we are going to win.