• Tony Igele

Why Obaseki Can’t Abandon APC Leadership in Edo — Osagie, ex-minority whip

Though the immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was recently appointed as leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state in seeming deference to Governor Godwin Obaseki’s apparent decision to concentrate on governance,

Samson Osagie

Mr. Samson Osagie, the immediate past Minority Whip in the House of Representatives, however, warns that the governor cannot abandon politicking completely. He warns that in his absence some persons are beginning to take advantage of the situation in the state. Osagie in this interview in Benin also reviews the situation between the National Assembly and the presidency saying that it is symptomatic of a virile democracy. Excerpts:

On the seeming face-off between the National Assembly and the Executive.

The face-off between the National Assembly and the presidency is not unusual. The public and the media will like to call it face-off but we regard it as the normal intercourse that has come to characterize our young democratic experience as a nation where first and foremost each organ of government tries to assume power and over step their boundaries and the other organ tries to do same. At the end of the day, in the ensuing muscle flexing, you now have open confrontation, open disagreement between the legislature and the executive.

Curiously, these two organs of government cannot do without each other no matter what you see. I think it is the media that gives so much hype to these disagreements because behind closed doors, there are constant meetings, consultations on issues, deliberations on issues of governance between the two organs of government. Unfortunately, some officials of both sides tend not to understand that this relationship must be symbiotic and not a one sided affair. I like President Buhari’s approach to the issue by asking the Vice President to look at the issues involved.

Driver of the governance

That underscores the fact that he recognizes the importance of the organ of government for its smooth operations as the driver of the governance of the country. It is not abnormal.

Is your party leading the country in the right direction?

I believe the party has very laudable programmes for this country to be resuscitated economically. The challenges facing the government and the party at the moment probably are far more than what was contemplated.

Given the mindboggling pilfering of the public treasury that we have seen in the last administration from which this government is trying to buckle up coupled with fall in price of oil prices, and of course lack of adequate revenue, this government inherited a problem it didn’t bargain for. You cannot question the integrity of this government compared to the last administration. That is why I believe that in spite of the gloomy economic situation in the country, the APC stands a greater chance of removing the nation from the clutches of corruption, indiscipline and the free for all way that this country used to be run in the past.

Reports indicate that the APC is broke?

Those are speculations. It is true that the recession is affecting every organ of government including the party. That is not to say it cannot hold national convention because of lack of fund. It is not possible.

Obaseki’s position of separating governance from politics. Will it grow the APC in Edo?

There can be no difference between the government of a state and the party that brought the government to power. If there exists a gulf, strictly speaking, it can create a political problem for the governor and I pray that he does not allow that to happen. What will happen is that some persons will use that opportunity to use the party as an instrument for fighting political opponents, for personal aggrandizement whether or not those persons are capable of holding the state together politically. A governor cannot ride on the platform of a party to governance and then totally neglect or run away in the running of the affairs of the party.

There are dire political consequences for that action because those he will leave it to will create political problem for him. They will use the party to take political decision that can create instability for his government. Governance that is party based cannot be separated midway. It will be my advice for him not to allow people to create confusion for his government because that can affect the performance of his administration.

Will you say Obaseki has performed in the last 100 days?

You can see that the government has a clear cut focus on delivery on the promises he made during the campaign. Not because the previous government did not perform but you will notice difference in approach in the way and manner he is delivering. Even without much advertisement, people know he is working. He is interested in so many areas, creating job opportunities, industrializing the state and of course continuing with infrastructure development of the state. We are not in doubt he is going to do a lot more.

You and others were recently suspended from the APC. What can you say about that?

It is unfortunate. It looks like Governor Obaseki does not seem to be interested in the running of the affairs of the party and that can have political consequences. If you suspend all these persons, who are you recruiting to replace them? Can you even replace them? I think the suspension was not a healthy thing to do. The PDP went this way in the past when it deregistered a retinue of people from the party because it wanted to secure power in 2007. At the end of the day, the APC took power from them.

Political opponents

I do not think anything that suspension should be the first thing to anything that happens in the party. That should be the last resort after thorough investigation has been conducted and it is clear that the person or persons involved actually committed the offence as spelt out in article 21 of the party’s constitution. A situation where crude methods are used track down political opponents, hurt their feelings rather than building the party, you are dismembering it.

To dismember a body is easier than to build. It is quite unfortunate that it is happening at this stage. Thank God Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is the Leader of the State Caucus of the party. He will be able to intervene and halt the gale of suspensions across board because you can imagine that in the last six months, we are witnessing the gale of suspension that was never witnessed as at the time Oshiomhole held sway.

It is because these persons are capitalizing on the policy of the governor to concentrate on governance rather than partisan politics. They are exploiting what looks like a gap. If you go down the records, the people behind this are almost political liabilities who cannot produce results during election periods.

In order to sustain their hold on party politics and party position, they have resorted to suspending people they believe are threats to their local positions. What is my business being a leader of a local government. Is that the position I want to aspire to? Leaders evolve. You don’t appoint leaders in a community, you don’t appoint leaders in an organizations. People come around to say you are their leader.

At less than 50, I have had the rare privilege of being an officer in the National Assembly. With age on my side, my ambition cannot be to be a local government leader. It is tantamount to be a chairman of a local council. People are feeling threatened by my stand on certain issues before now. They are calling me various names because they believe I am a threat to their positions.

There is nothing they can do about that unless they kill me that is when I cannot continue to show interest in politics. A man who has been elected five times to represent his people, do you want to say he is a nobody? If you go through the local government, I have projects tied to my name. Some of these leaders do not have such legacies. They are holding on to the little positions which they believe is their last bus stop. I think the governor should watch out for them so that they don’t create unnecessary crisis for his government.

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