FORMER Governor of Edo State, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor in this interview spoke on expectations from the new federal administration, his frosty relationship with Chief Tony Anenih, his governorship ambition among other national issues.
You left the PDP to join APC at the very critical time when the party needed people like you most. Why did you?
Well, the PDP didn’t show they needed people like me whether at the state or at the national level. The PDP never accorded me the respect I deserved or that many people felt I deserved.
So first of all, PDP traded off my position as governor of Edo State.
So, if PDP government gave me an appointment as the chairman of Nigerian Law Reform Commission, was that really a fair compensation for removing me? Because at that time, (Vincent) Ogbulafor, the National Chairman boasted to me that the PDP had 28 states and that the PDP was not bound to win everything. That the PDP was ready to concede some states to the opposition.
He told me if I didn’t succumb to Chief Tony Anenih I ran the risk of losing my seat. And after I was removed, he told me; ‘you see what I was telling you. Did you see what has happened?’ That if I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have been removed.
And when Adams Oshiomole came in, he gave three commissionership slots to Chief Anenih in appreciation for the help he gave him to become governor. That was before 2012. So when people claimed I supported Adams Oshiomole; who gave Adams Oshiomole more support, the PDP leadership or myself?
But, of course, I supported Adams Oshiomole in 2012 when it dawned on me that the PDP leadership was not ready to win the election. I knew that all the leadership wanted was to trade with PDP in that election and amass billions for themselves. And I was not prepared to be led by people who were out to use the party to enrich themselves.
Then I said to myself that if we have all decided to make things very easy for Oshiomhole, why should I withhold my support for him? After all, he did more work in four years than the PDP could have ever done in all its years as a ruling party in Edo State.
And as for the issue of begging Chief Anenih, the newspapers have reported the countless number of times that I have gone to beg Chief Anenih.
Personally, I don’t know what I did to him, other than he said, he borrowed N200 million to finance my election. I didn’t see any N200 million that Chief Anenih contributed to finance my election. But I’m aware that he contributed N100 million to the PDP in Edo State and as governor, I ensured that money was paid to him. So he was then saying that we never paid him any money, that he borrowed N200 million.
And if he spent N200 million of his money to install me as governor, how much contribution did he receive from the PDP national headquarters? The State House also sent out money to states for governorship elections in the states. How much was sent, I don’t know because the money was not sent to me. And how much did he get from other individuals and corporate bodies who were contributing money for the election in Edo State? I don’t know how much he was given, and if he borrowed N200 million for my election after all the contributions, I never saw any N200 million.
But in the interest of peace, I ensured that the one I knew he contributed was paid back to him. So what offence did I really commit against Chief Anenih that he doesn’t want to forgive? Of course it doesn’t surprise me because he had told me before when the relationship was rosy that he doesn’t forgive people. So if I have offended him in one way or another, I know he would not forgive because he told me he never forgives people.
Although, he is not my God, and he cannot influence my destiny or whatever God wants me to become in life. So, if I’m begging him does not mean he can make me anything, or can prevent anything that God wants me to achieve. I only asked for forgiveness in the interest of peace and the development of our people.
Do you agree with some that the PDP lost the last election because of the quality of advisers such as Chief Anenih that the president had?
Let me say that I have been very reluctant in judging former President Jonathan. I wouldn’t want to judge him or any other man for that matter. I leave posterity to judge him. But there are a few groups, a few people, one of them you just mentioned now.
So essentially, he allowed some elements to create a fence around him and fence off a lot of people from reaching him. And this is a complaint that I’ve heard from different people across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
People who did a lot to help him win the 2011 election and yet were unable to reach him one-on-one after the elections are too numerous to count. I’ve heard of people who held him hostage. People who were not necessarily political assets to him. People who were more of a political liability to him than assets. But as to why he allowed himself to be in that position is what I wouldn’t know. I think that’s as much that I want to say about Jonathan.
Except that he did his best under the circumstances for five years; but his best was not good enough, there is really nothing that anybody can do about it now. He is a lucky man. From not even having any political ambition, he became a Deputy Governor, Governor, Vice President, then acting President and finally President of a country like Nigeria for a period of five years. I think it’s an achievement that anybody should be contented with for the rest of his life.
And I do hope, listening to former President Jonathan at his thanksgiving that he feels contented and grateful for having the opportunity to lead a country like Nigeria even though, he has his faults. No man is perfect. I also have my own faults. He has served his term and I wish him a happy retirement.
What’s more important now is the present. We now have a President, Vice President who can be trusted to do a good job, though they have a government which is facing lots of challenges. And we do hope that they will be able to meet the very high expectations of Nigerians.
Some say that the government is starting on a very slow pace and given the continuing onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgents, do you think the government is doing well?
Well, two quick comments on that. Nigerians should learn how to be patient. There is so much impatience on the part of Nigerians which is why traffic congestion, gridlock and jams on the road are always a recurrent decimal, due essentially not to the bad nature of the roads but due to the impatience of Nigerians.
There are so many things wrong with Nigeria today due to impatience. The government has been in place for less than one week and already people are being impatient wanting to see magic happen. At least, let them give the government a period of grace to settle down. The fact that these appointments have not been announced yet doesn’t mean that things are not being done. Just a few days ago, the appointments of his media aides were announced.
This man was one of the best generals of his time. He had, as a former general confronted a lot of religious fanaticism in the North. He dealt with foreign incursion into Nigerian territory under President Shagari in the past. He knows very well what the terrain is like because he is from that region of the country which is more affected by terrorism.
President Buhari is a war-time Presidential material who knows what strategies to adopt and get the job done.
So when he made the pronouncement of moving the military central command to the North East, I wasn’t surprised. He has set out to do things differently having realised that directing the pace and mode of operations from Abuja has not really worked. He understands the problem much more than any of us. So let’s give him the benefit of patience and time.
Let’s allow the government to settle down. He has not even appointed his security team. He has not appointed his ministers. What do you think should be the priority areas the new government?
Well, I have been asked this question before by a journalist, and my answer was that a government should be judged by the manifesto of the party which produced it. If political parties and their elected officials work to implement their manifestos, then we will achieve a lot in Nigeria. Because, no party will ever put out a bad manifesto and hope to get voted into positions.
But there are also other key areas such as the economy and job creation and the issue of power supply which are all related to security.
However, I want to say that not enough was done by the past government in this regard. Because you can’t have some elements bursting the pipelines all the time and the government was helpless and unable to do anything even when we heard that billions of the nation’s scarce resources were being paid to some contractors to safeguard these infrastructures.
A situation which drove the former minister of Power, Prof Chinedu Nebo to tears, saying that despite the enormous efforts being made by government, these criminals kept bursting the pipelines and preventing gas supply to the power plants. But there was a government in place. Is it spirits who go to burst the pipelines? They are human beings, some of whom are even known, because there had been cases of oil thieves who were caught and set free following interventions from some highly placed people in the country. So that is for the problem of power. We must not be helpless as a nation to say oh, we don’t have electricity because some people are bursting pipelines which are supposed to supply gas to the generating plants thereby reducing the amount of power generated to the national grid for distribution. It is pathetic and unacceptable. And I hope that this government will not feed us with that kind of apologies.
The other issue which is not very tangible is the issue of entrenching democratic institution in Nigeria and allow it to work well. And first, the independence of the Judiciary has to be addressed. Judicial reform and independence need to be a priority in the list of items the APC leaders are talking about. Because Nigerians must be made to have faith in our Judiciary. As of now, very few people will say with confidence that they are satisfied with the performance of the Judiciary. So I do hope and pray that something will be done in that sector. But then you cannot scrub everybody with the same brush. It is not every judge that is corruptible and indulges in the kinds of unprofessional things that go on in the Judiciary.
Which segment of the Judiciary then is the problem?
As you know, there are support staff in the management and adjudication of justice. Courts don’t just sit to pronounce judgements, they must serve summons, take applications and hear cases before reaching judgements. And in all of these processes, there are support staff who prepare summons, deliver them and even type verdicts as delivered by Judges. And in most cases, you find that these support staff sit on these processes waiting for people to come and grease their palms before they can do what is necessary. It is that bad. So many cases or judgement are delayed due to practises like that apart from the greed and mischief of lawyers and some judges whose behaviours have brought the system to disrepute.
There are rumours that you left the PDP because you want to contest the next governorship election on the platform of the APC. Is it true?
That I’m now in the APC is no longer a rumour. Why I left the PDP is no longer a rumour. I have always been an APC supporter in Edo State. I only formally joined on the 7th of April. As for the reasons why I joined, I couldn’t exhaust the reasons, because there are so many of them. I mentioned it before that PDP in Edo State is like a personal property of one man.
If that one man who is the owner of PDP says he doesn’t like you and you have committed an offence that he will never forgive, would you still remain in that party if you were in my shoes?
Many people in Edo State left the PDP over the years on account of this one person. If you have watched the television when people were decamping, they were saying that they were leaving PDP because they were tired of the dictatorship of that one man. And the whole of Nigeria now knows who that one man is. So it’s not a secret or rumour that I left the PDP because the conditions in that party were no longer acceptable.
And I would say that the cancer or the disease that killed the PDP in Edo State was allowed to spread to the PDP at the national level. Somebody destroyed the party at the State, and then you now place the party at the national level on his laps, what did you expect? So people also left the PDP across Nigeria on the account of this same man. So that is one.
The other issue as to my governorship ambition, that also should not be a rumour. The newspapers, I think it was October last year carried news reports of some youth groups that visited my country home in Iruekpen in Edo State and made a passionate appeal for me to come into the race; come back and complete the work that I’ve started and I have not completed.
And in my response, I assured them that I would go into consultation with leaders of thought within my party, the APC and so many other people who have also made the same appeal for me to come back with the same vigour, determination with which I governed the State before. And I said yes, that I’m now ready and available to come back and serve the people of Edo State once more. So if your people show you so much respect and honour and they are calling on you that please, come back and govern us, I don’t think it is proper to say no to them. There is no greater feeling than for your people to come and say please, come and provide leadership for us. And I told you that – that is one of the reasons that made me to answer the clarion call by joining the APC. Of course I can only aspire on the platform of my political party which is the APC.
Do you agree with some in Edo State that the incumbent governor slowed down his performance in the second term?
Well, like I said before, I don’t want to sit here and judge people. Like I didn’t want to judge Jonathan, I won’t judge my governor. If you want to know, Adams Oshiomole has done and is still doing very well. I supported him in 2012 because I saw what he was able to do with the meagre resources coming to the state. I saw that he was better, far better than the people in PDP. And he showed more commitment toward the common man in Edo State than the so-called political leaders in PDP had shown in so many years. Adams Oshiomole is by far a better human being than some of the so-called leaders in PDP who are only interested in their pockets, and not in the welfare of the people. Ask some of them. What have they ever done for the people of Edo State? Some of them have been in politics for as long as we can remember, can they compare themselves with what the APC government led by Adams Oshiomole has been able to do in less than eight years? Go round and ask what has this so-called PDP emperor done for his own people of Uromi, his Senatorial District or even his own camp, let alone the people of Edo State? Go and ask. But you can see what Oshiomole has done for his community, his Senatorial District of Edo North, what he has done for other Senatorial Districts and the people of Edo State generally.
And to address your question as to the good things the people remembered my administration for and asked me to come back and lead them, again the list will be inexhaustible. I won’t go too deep into that. But what I can say is that, if given another opportunity by my party and the people of the state to serve again, I will work to consolidate on the legacy of Adams Oshiomole, because he has set a clear standard that subsequent administrations should live by.
Nobody can undo that nor afford to do below what he has done. And you need creativity and courage to do what he has done, both of which our people must have seen in my short stay in the Government House which is why they asked me to come and serve again.