By Deji Adebayo
Hon. Simon Ebegbulem was the spokesman of the immediate past national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and currently the Imo State Commissioner for Special Projects. In an interactive session with some journalists, he speaks on the forthcoming Edo State governorship election, Oshiomhole’s tenure as APC national chairman, among other issues. DEJI ADEBAYO presents the excerpts.
Oshiomhole is now in Edo State to campaign ahead of the September 19 governorship election in the state. What is your projection here?
You are right, that he is once again leading the APC in the stateahead of the governorship election, and even in the heydays of thePeople’s Democratic Party (PDP), he won the 192 wards in the 18 local government areas of the state; which had never happened before. Aside his popularity, he built infrastructure, schools, hospitals, markets, roads, name it. He worked with the good, the bad, and the ugly to get results. That was how he achieved success and solidified the APC in Edo State. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that the man he was going to hand over to is a snake in his cabinet. This man pretended for eight years. The company he was running, Afri Invest, had collapsed.
Oshiomhole now brought him, packaged him and said so many good things about him to Edo people because he wanted to market him. But, little did he know that the man never meant well for him and the good peopleof Edo State. Each time I read that Oshiomhole wants to turn himself into a godfather, and that is the reason he fights Obaseki, I know that is not true. All Oshiomhole wanted was for him to carry on with the developmental programmes which he started, to bring party men and women together, so that the APC will continue to be a household name in Edo State.
You can imagine, a hospital that Oshiomhole built and equipped with tax payers’ money, with this same man being chairman of the economic team when the decisions were made; Obaseki now came and destroyed the legacies, refused to allow the hospital, which Oshiomhole built for the Edo people, to run, three years after it was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari. But for COVID-19 that forced his hands, the hospital would have remained shut.
Some of us saw this earlier, and we told our boss, but because the man was a real deceiver, Oshiomhole did not observe him well enough. Some of his (Obaseki) family members advised Oshiomhole not to field that man, but Comrade felt otherwise. But, shortly after he was sworn-in, he banned all APC leaders and party members from entering the Government House, and sent some leaders who disagreed with him to jail; people like Osakpawan Eriyo. He destroyed the houses of some of them. All the while, Oshiomhole never knew that the man had been envious of him and his achievements, to the extent that he became so blinded that he made to undo, instead of building on them.
He tried to destroy the political structure of the APC that was solidified during the Oshiomhole years by enthroning neophytes. Yet, Oshiomhole was patient, pleading with the party members that Obaseki will change. For instance, during the 2019 general elections, Oshiomhole wanted the APC to field strong candidates capable of defeating those of the opposition PDP but this man refused, and rather, fielded weaker ones, all of who lost woefully at the polls.
In Oredo, for instance, where he (Obaseki) comes from, Oshiomhole wanted Osaro Obaze to run against Ogbeide Ihama of the PDP, who is the incumbent House of Representatives member because he felt Obaze is more grounded in Oredo, but the governor felt otherwise and imposed his lackeys. Oshiomhole was even trying to save him from disgrace in his own council, but he insisted and imposed a neophyte who eventually lost to the PDP candidate, and that was how he (Obaseki) lost in his polling booth, lost his ward, lost his local government area during the presidential election. And, funny enough, shortly after that, he went to play golf, without minding whether Mr. President lost or not.
That was how the APC lost the presidential election; the National Assembly elections in Edo South where the governor comes from while Oshiomhole, who he warned to steer clear of Edo State politics won the Edo North for Mr. President and the APC. That was why in the State Assembly election, Oshiomhole became angry, put his foot on the ground and rallied all the people Obaseki had offended, and even brought in the business mogul, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, to help the APC rescue Edo State. Oshiomhole jettisoned the failed tactics of Obaseki and made way for the APC to win the entire 24 State Assembly seats.
Even after that, he refused to swear in 14 of the members of the Assembly who rejected his decision to foist an unpopular member-elect, as speaker, on them at the time. During the 2019 APC primaries in Edo, while Oshiomhole was trying to field stronger candidates, the governor at the party secretariat in Benin attacked me and asked me to tell Comrade that, he was going to ‘deploy the resources of the state to ensure that’ he remove him (Oshiomhole) as the national chairman of the APC; that he will stop him from stepping into Edo State, and, of course, I delivered his message to Comrade. It was on that day that he found out that the man was truly not the person that he claimed to be before the Comrade and all those that had the interest of the APC and Edo State at heart.
The governorship election is less than two months away and Oshiomhole is seen apologising to the people of Edo for misjudging Obaseki. What’s your take on this?
Comrade is a man that is not arrogant, and is quick to apologise if he feels he has wronged you. He was doing that because Benin leaders had earlier warned him to be wary of Obaseki. I am happy that the campaign is on now and the people are fully aware that the four years reign of Obaseki is a total fraud. He promised the people on the Gelegele Seaport but today if you go to Gelegele, you will not see a single block, while billions of Naira of tax payers’ money has been exhausted in the mirage of a seaport.
He promised 200,000 jobs in four years, but rather, he made more people jobless in Edo, because he has sacked thousands of people who Oshiomhole empowered, particularly youths, inhis usual Ponzi scheme agenda. He brought in foreigners who are getting richer while they are of no political value in the scheme of things.
So, I am happy that we have a governorship candidate today, in the calibre of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is a guru when it comes to the politics of the state, and who comes from a well-respected traditional family in Benin Kingdom. If you may know, his father was the former Esogban of Benin Kingdom. He understands the vision and mission of the APC, being one of the founding members of the party.
He is a former APC national vice chairman for South-South. There is no place for Obaseki. Pastor Ize-Iyamu will not only bring back jobs meant for the people of Benin Kingdom, but those of the other two Senatorial districts. You could see that since his emergence, the APC in Edo State is rejuvenated, waxing stronger, and that is why you see the mass resignations from government of Obaseki, with all of them pitching tent with the APC. What Obaseki failed to realise is that Oshiomhole has institutionalised the APC in the nooks and crannies of Edo State.
So, there is nothing that will make him get the votes of the people. And rigging is out of it for the PDP, because of the ‘one man one vote’ mantra which was propagated by Oshiomhole. In the coming weeks we will find out that more people will leave his cabinet, including Charles Idahosa, who has been vociferous in mouthing the failed policies of the Obaseki administration.
The challenge we are facing is nothing new, because the toughest challenge Oshiomhole faced in his political experience was marketing a neophyte like Obaseki. Now, with the calibre of the politician that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is, Obaseki and his pseudo-PDP will be routed at the polls.
You were privy to some of the events back then at the APC national secretariat. With what happened, what is your assessment of the Oshiomole-led National Working Committee?
As far as I am concerned, the tenure of Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, my boss, as APC National Chairman was most successful, considering that before he became the chairman, the party was in turmoil, there were threats of defections here and there; in the National Assembly there was some kind of implosion, so to say. Anybody following the politics of the APC will know that these problems were there before Oshiomhole came in, but, he made efforts; brought the party together. If not, majority of the lawmakers, both in the House of Reps and the Senate, would have left the party.