Former Minister of Information and Culture, Prince Tony Momoh, in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO, speaks on the battle of supremacy between the National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki that has plunged the state chapter of the party into crisis. He warns the warring parties against sticking to their guns, positing that the crisis could spell their doom politically.
Your state chapter of the APC has been boiling as a result of the disagreement between the state Governor, Godwin Obaseki and the national Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole. As an elder statesman and one of the founding fathers of the party, what is your take on the situation?
One thing with human beings is that if there is any problem with communication, there is problem with living together. With political parties especially, people have their own interests, which they protect against other political parties or within the same political party. I think what has emerged in Edo State is that there are people who say they are supporters of Oshiomhole and others who say they are supporters of Obaseki. When you have such issues, then you have very funny reactions like the ward where Oshiomhole comes from saying they have suspended him from the party and then the other people saying they have suspended Obaseki from the party. You can see that those supporting Obaseki cannot say they suspend him; those supporting Oshiomhole cannot also say they suspend him.
You can see that the division has crystallised into two main major groups – Edo People’s Movement (EPM) that purports to be supporting Oshiomhole and Obaseki/Shuaibu Movement that claims to be supporting Obaseki. All of them will have their interests. So, it depends on the camp where they think that their bread will be buttered.
But the fact is that one thing with politicians is that today, you will see them quarrelling, tomorrow you will see them embracing. And I know that since the interest of the APC is the overriding interest of all members, there is no problem without solution. We will resolve the problem before the elections and APC will retain Edo State.
We saw this kind of crisis in Zamfara and Rivers states chapters of the APC in the build up to the 2019 general elections and it was never resolved. In the end, the party paid dearly by not fielding candidates in the two states. Don’t you think the same scenario may play out in Edo?
Why should I think? You asked me of Edo State and I am from Edo State. I am telling you what will happen in Edo State. I am not from Rivers; I am not from Zamfara. You asked about Edo State and I told you who and who are quarreling within the party. And I’m saying they will resolve the problem and we will retain Edo State. That is my own opinion; other people can have some other opinions.
But the worst-case scenario is that if these things become unmanageable, then we will lose Edo State. But whom do we lose Edo State to? The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has collapsed. So, we will retain Edo State. We have our own ways of resolving problems in Edo State. We have elders; we have very viable and strong traditional institutions. They are our children. We will talk to our children and they will hear the voice of the elders and sheathe their swords and APC shall win Edo State.
Some political pundits are of the view that the defection of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to APC is part of the plot by the Oshiomhole camp to draft him into the governorship race in 2020 and then upstage Obaseki. If that scenario plays out, don’t you see the governor defecting to another party and thereby limiting the chances of the APC in the election?
The governor is not moving to any other party. The governor is the chief executive of the party in Edo State. That is our structure. Where we have a governor, the governor is the boss of the party in the state. He establishes the structures and maintains them. So, nobody denies that the chief executive of the party in Edo State is Obaseki. Nobody denies it! Oshiomhole has his hands full nationally. So, the question of any quarrel in that direction doesn’t arise at all.
You just said that Oshiomhole has his hands full nationally but a lot of people are concerned that his own house is not in order…
(Cuts in) Which his own house? Oshiomhole’s house in the area of responsibility is the national APC; the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. For instance, the president’s constituency is the whole country. You cannot say the president’s house is Daura. You can’t be talking of Daura when you are talking of political issues as we are talking about now.
Oshiomhole was born in Edo State; he governed Edo State but as it is, his house now is Nigeria because he is the national chairman of APC. And that is where you locate his function as at now. You cannot say his house is not in order because his house is the whole of Nigeria. When we have problems in APC anywhere in Nigeria, that is Oshiomhole’s domain. We had trouble in Zamfara, Ogun, Imo; anywhere we have trouble, as long as Oshiomhole is the national chairman, you can say he has problems in that house because that is his house.
Are you satisfied with Oshiomhole’s leadership style given the numerous crises APC has had on his watch unlike the John Odigie-Oyegun era?
Let me tell you, there was a lot of indiscipline in APC during the time of Oyegun. Many people were shouting for Oyegun to go; Oyegun has gone. Oshiomhole is there now and Oshiomhole is trying to tame the terrorists in APC. If you use terrorists’ tactics, you cannot deny him the right to use certain tactics. There is so much indiscipline in political party organisation in Nigeria. Everybody has his way of attending to the problem. If you are too quiet, as Oyegun seemed to be, they blame you. If you are tough, as Oshiomhole seems to be, they blame you. Can you satisfy human beings? Everybody is trying to promote his or her own vested interest. And why not! Politics is a business in Nigeria. Holding political office is a business in Nigeria. And until we decongest the political space and make holding many of these political offices part-time, we are going to continue to live with the problem of greed manifesting in our public life.
Can you point at some of the indiscipline in the political parties that are inimical to the polity?
You are a journalist; analyse all the political parties and tell me where there is no indiscipline. For instance, a person is the national chairman of a party and still wants to be the presidential candidate. What of the PDP? The party has its own problems, lots of problems. In fact, the PDP has more problems than APC presently. Look at even Edo State where some people got up and started suspending the leaders. They said they suspended High Chief Dokpesi, Senator Oyofo, former Chief of Staff to the president, Oghiahdome, Chief Ikimi and others. Those are the big leaders of the PDP in Edo State and someone stood up to say he is suspending them.
So, Ize-Iyamu is not coming to APC because someone is trying to bring him to APC to do anything. It’s because his attempt to stabilise PDP failed. Are you not aware that Ize-Iyamu was in AD, AC, ACN and was one of those who packaged APC before he left for PDP? And APC doesn’t deny anybody who wants to come to the party. You can come today and want to be president, governor, National Assembly member today.
So, people don’t come to the party because of what they want to become and even if they want to become they have a right to want to become. But the fact is that there are other interests. You were given the impression that Oshiomhole brought Ize-Iyamu to upstage Obaseki. I can assure you that there is no such thing and if he did, then he would be disturbing the arm of the group in Edo State that supports him.
If you look at the line up, three people in EDM were aspirants in the last election where Obaseki emerged. They are there. You think they are not interested in being governor again? So, if a person like Ize-Iyamu was brought in you think they will just say, ‘okay, we endorse Ize-Iyamu’; you think they will not assert their interests? I don’t know how people do their analysis. Nobody went to bring Ize-Iyamu. Ize-Iyamu has the right to come and he came. And the fact is we all should come together to welcome him as all others who are coming into APC in Edo State.
If you say Ize-Iyamu’s return to APC was like that of a son coming back home after going astray, why then was there so much squabbles over his welcome rally?
It is a question of perception. When the prodigal son came to the father, the father embraced him and arranged a party. The prodigal son did not come and tell the father that he is arranging a party, come and attend. Edo State government thinks that they are the ones to organise the reception for Ize-Iyamu and all others who are coming, not for Ize-Iyamu to invite them to his rally. This is a question of perception; they may be right or wrong. But that doesn’t mean that Ize-Iyamu is not welcome. We welcome him and we are very happy that he came with the massive support he had. We are very happy that all of them are back into APC. If there was breakdown of communication in the way of his coming, it will be resolved.
What would you advise the warring parties in Edo APC given their hardline posturing of late?
Part of measures in settling a problem is to allow the child that is approaching fire to touch the fire to know that it burns, if you try to hold him back and he continues to approach the fire. Then he will never go near fire again. Let me tell you; wars all over the world were fought not because there was no attempt for peace. Those who wanted to fight thought they would win. So, you allow the pugilists to pummel themselves and since they are like two elephants, one must win or two of them will be stalemated. At the end, the one who wins may get the laurel or two of them will fight so much that the laurel will be missing. So, the consequence of disagreement and fighting is that we may lose Edo State. But the good news is that PDP is not organised enough to win anything in Edo State.