Chief Tom Ikimi is an old horse in Nigeria’s political scene. He has been national chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), leader in the defunct Action Congress (AC) as well as the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) which he dumped for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014 following the APC national chairmanship. He speaks on why PDP will win the September 28 governorship election in Edo State. Excerpts:
TELL us what the critical issues are in the election. Many say you have been a leader in both parties, the APC and the PDP at the national and state levels. Is this all about the political pride and ego of Ikimi and Oshiomhole?
Governor Adams Oshiomhole has been in politics for about eight years altogether, which covers the whole period of his governorship. I have been in full-time national politics at the highest levels, non- stop, for about 28 years now. There is a vast difference between the two of us. It is true that I have been a leader of both the PDP and the APC. In 2012, we successfully installed Oshiomhole for a second term. A critical issue in this election is to prevent a de facto third term governorship by Oshiomhole through the back door.We want a state in which all the three senatorial zones operate in harmony and have a sense of belonging.
Some have speculated that you want to end your active political career on a high note by ensuring victory for your party in the election, after which you will bow out a satisfied politician and successful architect of immeasurable repute and fame. Any truth in this?
A victory for the PDP and the installation of Pastor OsagieIze-Iyamu as the next governor of Edo will be the best thing to happen at this time for Edo, the South-South geopolitical zone and indeed the whole country. Edo will breathe a gale force relief of fresh air and embrace a new lease of life. The Edo people need to regain their position of excellence in so many spheres once again.
Among the lot of governorship candidates, only Pastor Ize-Iyamu has an agenda of reasoned policies. Virtually all the notable political leaders and respected national elder statesmen in Edo are in the PDP. They are all in full support of our candidate. The victory will be a high note success for all of them in their political careers. With the entry of Ize-Iyamu and with the support of all our leaders, we look forward to the restoration of Edo in sports once again. We shall have modern sporting facilities, rescued from the run-down, 40-year-old Sam Ogbemudia Stadium. I thank God for preserving my life with His blessings of good health and physical strength. I do not intend to end my contributions of serving the nation and particularly Edo, the birth place of my ancestors. I am in fact energised by the warmth of reception accorded me at various locations during the campaign.
You have been quoted as saying the results of the 28th of September election will shock Oshiomhole and APC. What makes you so sure, what reasons made you say so?
Oshiomhole, I believe, is quite aware of how he got into power in 2007/2008 and how he got re-elected for a second term in 2012. Oshiomhole has no idea of how Etsako West, his local government area, was created. His “ajasco” dancing on the soapbox from place to place and insulting elders has not gone down well with the members of the public who are determined to pay him back on election day.
People from your senatorial zone, Edo Central, allege the zone has suffered very serious neglect by the present government in the distribution of infrastructural and other development projects . Has this influenced your current position against Oshiomhole and the APC?
Let me tell you my vision of Edo land. I see it as a homogenous family in which we all should share and share alike. In 2007, I enthusiastically supported the zoning of the governorship seat to Edo North. Our reasoning was that Edo North had not been given a chance to govern the state. Even after the election, when Professor Osariemen Osunbor from Esan land — my senatorial district of Edo Central — was declared the winner, I fought tooth and nail, shoulder to shoulder, along with other colleagues, through the court process, to have Oshiomhole declared the rightful winner, notwithstanding his origins in Edo North. This reasoning is in keeping with the lofty ideals of the founding fathers of Edo who wanted an ethnically homogeneous state in which the three legs of Edo North, Edo Central and Edo South enjoy equal opportunity in the state.
We were most unlucky that in selecting and backing the outgoing governor, we chose a man who did not share our passion of homogeneity. Even so in penalising Edo Central, Oshiomhole set a new standard all on his own. The state, which had always operated peacefully with the three top political positions of governor, deputy governor and speaker rotated among the three senatorial zones, ended up through a series of manipulations, with governor in the North and deputy governor and Speaker to the South. Oshiomhole soon revealed his true character of arch-clannishness with an attitude that Edo Central being the so-called least populated could be sacrificed.
What would you say are the essential political advantages of Ize-Iyamu over that of APC’s Godwin Obaseki? You must have some fears about your candidate. What are these?
The PDP candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, is a consummate politician who has endeared himself to a vast majority of the politicians in the state, and that is across both political parties. He is a qualified lawyer who has acquired good working experience in government as a former chief of staff and Secretary to the State Government. Ize-Iyamu’s late father was a respected high chief of unblemished record in the Oba’s palace – the Esogbon of Benin. His family house, still standing, is a historic relic being the first storey building – Egedegenokaro- in Benin City. Pastor Ize-Iyamu, who was the Director-General of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation, is fully groomed, knows all the ropes and has submitted faultless documentation to INEC. OsagieIyamu has personally led his own campaign to all the nooks and crannies of the state and has interacted with all our people, big or small.
Indeed, controversies surrounding Obaseki’s qualifications are the subject of a case before the courts. He certainly did not have the basic qualification to be admitted to the University of Ibadan. Oshiomhole does most of the talking at rallies, which is why people see Obaseki’s campaign as an ill-disguised struggle for a continuation of the policies of the outgoing governor.
The political composition and alliances between the gladiators in Edo State appear quite fluid and very mobile. At one time it was Ogbemudia/Anenih/IgbinedionVsIkimi/Oshiomhole/others. Today, it is Ikimi/Igbinedion/AnenihVsOyegun/Oshiomhole/Ogbemudia. The question is whether the political landscape in Edo is determined by the agreements and disagreements between the personalities who constitute the leadership of the parties?
Over the past two and a half decades or so, I have related with the political leaders of our state within the framework of different circumstances and interests. These interests are sometimes influenced by leaders’ relationships in the wider national context. I have, therefore, had the privilege to work closely with most of our leaders under a variety of circumstances and at different times.
For instance, I worked very closely with Dr Samuel Ogbemudia and Chief Gabriel Igbinedion in my days as national chairman of NRC. At that time, Chief Anenih was in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which eventually fielded Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as its governorship candidate. I am aware that Dr. Ogbemudia is quietly retired now and not a member of the APC. He leads a group called EMM – Edo Mass Movement.
Oshiomhole has not got the benefit of long-term relationships with any of these leaders.
When I was a member of AC, ACN and APC, I was the leader in Edo. A primary issue then was to form a party that would stop the PDP becoming the sole party in Nigeria. The circumstances that connived to make Chief Oyegun national chairman of APC were very interesting. There were other contributing factors from outside the state.All that was then. Today, the Edo political leadership’s priority is overwhelmingly in favour of establishing harmony between the peoples of the three senatorial districts of our state.
After this hotly contested governorship election, should your candidate emerge victorious, what promises can we hold you and the PDP to?
The state will be in very safe political hands in which the politicians will play their role; the executive and legislature will play their roles side by side. Pastor Ize-Iyamu has campaigned round the state and everywhere he went he presented a document containing his agenda titled The Simple Agenda.I trust that as an astute, God-fearing politician, our candidate will keep faith with his pledges. During the Channels TV sponsored governorship debate, he made a pledge that he would restore Edo’s lost glory in sports.
What are you and other leaders of your party doing to ensure free, fair, violence-free election on the 28th of September? Why are there so many allegations and counter allegations of rigging and intentions to fraudulently win at all costs flying on both sides?
A free, fair and peaceful election can only be guaranteed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies comprising the police, the military, Department of State Security, DSS, and the para-military forces. INEC, which had met several times with the security forces, conveyed to all stakeholders that all was set to go for the election. The PDP is in the opposition and cannot influence the deployment of these forces.The PDP is set for a free, fair and peaceful election and we plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to maintain his stance of neutrality.