I want to be remembered for destroying Edo godfathers –Oshiomhole

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By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye

The governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, will
soon leave the Government House after eight years
on the saddle.
Recently, he met with President
Muhammadu Buhari and thereafter spoke about his
achievements in the state, why PDP did not stand
a chance in the last election, what he wants to be
remembered for and why he does not habour any
fears that his successor will betray him.
Why did you meet the president?
My meeting with Mr. president was a privileged
one, one-on-one just to update him on what we
are doing. It was a routine thing to give him report
on progress, events, developments, what we have
accomplished. We are also inviting him to the state
to come and see what we are doing not just in
Benin city but in the three senatorial districts so
that he can come and commission them. There are
outstanding projects that I believe deserve
Presidential commissioning.
After eight years, how do you feel as you are
about bowing out and what will you want to be
remembered for?
I want to be remembered as a factory worker who
worked and laboured as a daily paid worker in the
most subordinated position in the textile mills,
rising to become the leader of the textile union and
eventually spending eight years as the President of
the largest mass driven, mass funded non-
governmental organization which the Nigerian
Labour Congress, NLC, represents. And moving
from there back home to confront the most vicious,
the most feared political godfathers that completely
monopolized the politics of Edo State. And against
that background that I came on the platform of a
new political party, posing that part of my mission
is to purge the state of godfathers which is the
pre-condition for liberal democracy to thrive and to
create a new political environment that is
sufficiently liberal such that the people, not the
godfathers determine who becomes what in the
politics of our state; such that as a precondition
for dealing with developmental issues such as
infrastructure whether social or physical.
Edo State became a laughing stock in the
committee of states. All that you will hear about
our state is that armed robbers have taken over,
even examinations are cancelled because our
parents were using miracle centers for
examination. Everything reported about Edo State
was negative and I committed myself to
addressing all of that.
I remember this meeting I had with a number of
editors over breakfast at Sheraton hotel in Lagos to
inform them of my intention to contest the
governorship of Edo State and they were
unanimous that it would be mission impossible
and they took time to lecture me about the power
of godfathers, that Edo had unfair concentration of
the most potent, the most vicious, the most
aggressive of these godfathers. They had money,
influence, connection in the army, police and in
every aspect of life. And they didn’t think that with
my background equipped only with my mouth and
a level of courage and without money that it would
be possible for me to engage those forces. But I
also told them that from history and I am a
product of the struggle against everything that is
wrong with society, every unblessed power that
dominates, harasses, intimidates, exploits,
subjugates society, it would flourish only to the
extent that the victims of that order accept not to
question or that they are intimidated to submit to it
and wallow in self pity believing that only God
gives.
I said from my experience from the trade union,
from the day I wrote the letter of employment in
which I promised to obey all rules and regulations,
including the ones I never knew what they were
about and not a party to, having gotten a job, I
rose to fight that order and create a new order in
which rules were to be negotiated, which we call
collective agreement. I realized that every unjust
order can be overthrown when victims of that
order have resolved to fight, challenge and to
organise rather than agonise. And that the
godfathers can be defeated and they would be
defeated.
If you look at the billboards erected during my
campaigns, they were not just speaking to
infrastructure or whatever there are that
government will do if we win, but that we can
defeat rigging, dismantle rigging and dismantle the
godfathers.
Now eight years on the job looking back, I believe I
have nothing more to prove. I have defeated the
godfathers all of them even in this last election; in
my election in 2012, we defeated them. The one
that is celebrated everywhere in the country as Mr.
Fix it, we have fixed him. I defeated him in his
ward, in his local government. The other one that
was a former foreign minister who boasted that he
created his local government, we don’t dispute that
he created it but we disputed that he is the owner
and we defeated him in the last election and in the
last House of assembly election. The other one
that has a powerful TV station which he uses to
tell lies every day, through the power of
organisation and communication, we defeated him
even in the last election. It is clear that they are all
down and by the special grace of God, I’m the only
one standing.
So in terms of the target I set for myself politically,
mainly to demystify the godfathers and banish
them from our polity, we believe that has been
achieved. As I speak, all of them are down and I
am standing. Nothing can be better than that.
The second thing in terms of what has changed as
a result of this is that, the resources that would
have been used to service them (the godfathers)
we have channelled those resources creatively to
deal with those critical infrastructure which has
made a difference in the quality of life of Edo
people. I mean if you go to Benin city today, there
is no question that even our critics ride on our
roads with comfort. If you go to Edo central, you
will find that we have constructed roads linking all
the local government areas, we have rebuilt our
schools such that from 32nd position in WAEC and
NECO in the past, we came second last year. And
recall my engagement and interrogation with
teachers? That has translated to result. As a result
of that, we can now say that Edo State truly has
free basic education. When a state says it has
basic education and the children are not in school
or learning under the tree, that is not education.
Today, our schools are much more appealing to
our students than the average private school. And
in all the competition they have participated in
including the Channels competition, children from
Edo public schools not private won. Our children
won mathematics competition including the one
organised in the USA. This shows how much has
changed not just in terms of quantity but quality.
I was just telling the President that one of the
projects he is coming to commission is a five star
hospital. It is one that I had a challenge between
rebuilding an old Government House that was built
during the Midwest region that was occupied by
the first premier, Osadebe which is why we call it
Osadebe Avenue and make it the state of the art
Government House and building a five star state of
the art hospital for the use of the average Edo
person.
For those of you who have visited Benin city, there
was no single drainage, no sidewalk, no single
street light but now if you go to Benin, night life
has returned. In fact, the last circular issued by the
PDP government before I took over was that we
should stay home at 6pm and that if you go out
after 6pm, it is your fault. All that has changed and
there is no better proof of the confidence that the
people has reposed in us than the fact that not
only did I win my re-election but the last election
we still humiliated the godfathers and we won. You
will agree in modern history that only few of us
have exhausted our eight year tenure, fought
democratic election and prevailed.
So for me, I have nothing more to prove, I am
happy I have fulfilled my objectives and I have also
shown to workers like you that if I can be a
governor, you too can. And that it is not true that
agitators who interrogate those in power and civil
society activists that when you give them power,
they do otherwise. But I think my case has proven
that you if you can do the talk, you can walk the
talk.
What will be your response to the allegations that
you rigged the last elections despite the fact that
you benefitted from a free and fair election in
2012?
Who are those complaining? The PDP? In your
honest evaluation of Nigeria’s political history, after
1999 election that was conducted by the military,
which political party has been known to wallow in
rigging, perfecting the architecture of rigging in
Nigeria? It is the PDP. Who did the court find guilty
of rigging me out in election? It is the PDP. You
recall that even when I won in the 18 local
government areas, they went to court to say that I
didn’t attend a primary school. And I said praise
the Lord that I didn’t attend primary school but I
can speak without reading, those who went to
school cannot even speak.
You know my pain, when I look at the way the
media, permit me to use the word recklessly,
parrot the views of armed robbers, you create a
problem in the minds of readers. If armed robbers
rush to your station to say there is robbery going
on, they will mislead you to carry your camera out
so they can rob successfully around you without
your knowing it.
When elections are rigged, you can see. When PDP
rigged election in the South, you will find that even
periwinkles came out to vote when they recorded
99 per cent of voters turn out; where ancestors
come out to vote and return to the grave.
PDP said we rigged. If you must report, you must
hear all. In an election in which everyone said the
turnout was low, they even said our national
chairman lost his unit. If we were rigging the
election, so we won’t even rig for our national
chairman to win his unit? Does that make sense to
you? A party that is set out to write result couldn’t
write the result of the polling unit of its national
chairman? It doesn’t make sense.
The truth is PDP simply doesn’t have what it
takes, they don’t have the skills to mobilize, they
don’t know how to talk because before I came in,
they were used to shouting on the people and
writing results. Now, what makes politics is who
commands the ears of ordinary persons and what
credibility they bring to bear. Now just list any of
them and say what they have done. Chief Tony
Anenih with all due respect to him, for all the time
he was minister of works and leader of the PDP,
he didn’t build primary school, he didn’t build road
to his village. When I won I said the way to uproot
him is to do for his people what he himself refused
to do. I constructed standard roads, road that is as
good as federal roads to his village. I sunk
boreholes there with a world class drilling
machine. The water he had in his hotel that he
didn’t give to people in his village I did, which is
why I won election in his village and he lost.
What about Chief Ikimi? He created the local
government as a foreign affairs minister, that is all
he could boast of. The process of creating local
government is development. In that village, I have
connected all the roads leading to Ikwebe and
today, Ikwebe is a center. I have modern schools
there, I have provided water which they never had.
The same thing goes for Igbinedion. What were
they going to campaign with? Who among them
could say my people because of what I have done
for you, do this for me.
What will be your response to those who will
laugh off the fact that your claim to have defeated
godfathers but you have also brought in
somebody whom you are godfather to. What
confidence do you have that he will not betray you
tomorrow?
That is very important if you say he will disappoint
me. I am not the state; I am only one out of about
four million Edo people. So his obligation and his
loyalty should be to the people of Edo State. The
oath of office he is going to subscribe to says that
he will defend the constitution of Nigeria, he will
do everything to uplift the quality of life of Edo
people. Nothing in his oath of office will include ‘I
shall not betray my predecessor’ because I have
no interest to be betrayed.
For me, I have presided over Nigeria Labour
Congress for eight years and I had a successor,
there was no story of me having conflict with my
predecessor. This is because conflict only arise
when you refuse to accept that when your tenure
is over, it is over.
As for the campaign, and this is the problem, the
media picks the negatives from the mouth of those
who are the least competent. That I campaigned
for him, I was this, I was that. That is the way it
should be. Look at what is going on in the US, is
Obama not vigorously campaigning for Clinton? Is
Obama’s wife, the First Lady of US not as vigorous
perhaps much more than Bill Clinton in
campaigning for her husband’s successor? When I
deployed my skills ,it troubles them. But these are
skills I acquired from short floor which they will
never acquire. I am a product of the struggle as a
result of my many years of being exploited fighting
the oppressors, I deployed those skills and I
defeated them. At a point, they said I should allow
the man to talk, and I ask who is complaining? Did
the electorates complain?”.
Any regrets eight years down the lane?
Going forward, I’m just being honest with you, from
the age of 17, I have never had the benefit of one
month holiday because I joined this trade union
thing out of harassment; since then as they say, a
child who says his mother shall not sleep, the
child must also remain awake. Trying to speak
truth to power whether in a private firm and later at
the federal level, I had to also get myself engaged
in a street fight across the country.
I went to Edo as a governor but as a governor
fighting the godfathers every day every minute, so
I have never really rested. So right now, I’m over
60, I think it is time I rest and to be a good
husband because I am newly married, I need to
spend some quality time. Because a lot of Nigerian
men do not understand that the real victims of
men being in political office is their wives, they just
become absentee husbands. Even though they are
not physically absent, they are mentally absent
and to be a good husband, you need to have both
present.
I hope that now that I would be handing over to a
very competent hand, more competent than
myself, I have every reason now to enjoy the rest
of my life and spend time with my wife, my kids
and tell stories. I will try to write my own memoirs
and I enjoined all you Christians and Muslims to
pray for me because I am an example of the
infinite powers of God, a true miracle to make a
factory worker the governor of the most troubled
state and to succeed after eight years.
I have no regrets.
How do you feel being the first civilian and first
Edo state indigenous governor to hand over the
staff of office to the Oba of Benin?
To tell you the truth, I’m humbled. For us in Edo
State, every Edo son and daughter see the Oba of
Benin of the paramount traditional ruler. In my
case, I had a rare privilege relationship with the
late Oba. I’m perhaps the only person based on
what I have heard and what I know that my first
courtesy visit to the Oba as the NLC president, the
Oba of Benin gave me money and other gifts. By
convention, he is the person that comes to pay
homage that brings gifts to the royal majesty. So I
have had that privileged relationship with the Oba.
As a governor, he was always there for me.
The knew king is somebody I had opportunity of
relating with as an ambassador and even before he
was an ambassador. He is a great man of a sound
mind. He has also experienced the rigors of life
which was why during the coronation, his majesty
had to trek a long distance spanning several
kilometers on foot. So that in that process and this
is the tradition, he will experience that hardship the
people go through so that as a king when a poor
man comes before him, he knows where he is
coming from, he knows the meaning of frustration
and pain even as he superintend as the paramount
traditional ruler of our great state.
So for me, the presentation of the staff of office to
the Oba of Benin is the most significant next only
to my signing the oath of office as governor of Edo
in 2008.

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