Professor Oserheimen Osunbor is former Governor of Edo State and a former member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who has now pitched tent with the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview he speaks on his defection, why Nigerians should understand Buhari’s delay in the constitution of his cabinet. Excerpts…
Do you agree with the reasons people adduced for the PDP’s failure in the last election that Jonathan didn’t meet Nigerians’ expectations, and also that Tony Anenih and other PDP leaders contributed substantially to the former President’s loss at the poll?
Let me say that I have been very reluctant to judge 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 prevent a lot of people from reaching him. This is a complaint that I’ve heard from 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 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 the 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 have led 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 happy retirement. What’s more important now is the present. We now have a President, and a Vice President who can be trusted to do a good job, though they have a government which is facing a lot of challenges. And we do hope that they will be able to meet the very high expectations of Nigerians.
You left the PDP for the APC at a very critical time when the party needed people like you. Why did you choose to leave at that time?
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 that I deserved or that many people felt I deserved. And on the contrary, the opposition in the state, whether it was the ACN or the APC, showed me respect and love and felt that I can contribute to the development of the party and the state. While I was loyal to the PDP for having provided me the platform upon which I became senator for eight years and governor for one and half years, I was slow to react to the disrespect that the PDP was showing me. And on the contrary, the ACN and, later APC, was showing me lots of recognition to the extent that many of my political leaders in Edo State began to wonder what I was still doing in the PDP due to the lack of respect. And with the determination of the owner of PDP in Edo State, the one who claims to be god and owner of PDP in Edo, not to see me, threatening the PDP people never to visit my place to seek my support in any way, it became a surprise to many people that I was still in the PDP. So, after considering all these factors and listening to the advice of well-meaning political leaders in my senatorial district, I had to bow to the wishes of my people. After that I was supporting candidates of the APC privately one-on-one, because they were the only ones who came to seek my support. But before the elections, I had to come out openly to support the APC.
Rumours have it that you left PDP for APC because you are targeting the next governorship election in Edo State, what is your reaction to this?
First, there will always be rumours, but I thought that in these past few minutes that we have talked, I have been able to state clearly the reasons I joined the APC. One: that I’m now in the APC is no longer a rumour, and 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 April 7. As for the reasons I joined, I couldn’t exhaust the reasons because they are so many. 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 in the state, and then you now place the party at the national level on his laps, what would you expect? So people also left the PDP across Nigeria on account of this same man. It should no longer be a rumour that I left the PDP. And many people thought it was about time. They asked why it took me so long to leave and dump PDP.
What about your governorship ambition?
The other issue about my governorship ambition also should not be a rumour. The newspapers, I think it was in October last year, carried news reports that some youth groups visited my country home in Iruekpen and made a passionate appeal for me to come into the race; come back and complete the work that I’ve started. They felt that it was a journey whose end I have not reached. And, in my response, I assured them that I would consult with leaders of thought in my party, the APC, and so many other people have also made the same appeal for me to come back with the same vigour and determination with which I govern 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 come and govern them, I don’t think it is proper to say no to them. There is no greater feeling than for your people to invite you to provide them leadership. 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.
Is it not possible that you left the PDP because you couldn’t reconcile your differences with Chief Anenih and because of the secret romance between you and Adams Oshiomhole, even though you were offered appointment by the PDP government at the centre?
Thank you for that important question. First, the appointment that I had was due to my personal relationship with former President Jonathan. Because the same man who claims to be god didn’t even want Jonathan to give me that appointment. So it couldn’t have been a party-influenced appointment. The second one is that I’ve always supported Comrade Adams Oshiomhole since the 2012 governorship election in Edo State, but the PDP had been supporting him even before then. I’m sure you know that the PDP traded off my position as governor of Edo State. I will be surprised if you as journalists do not know that now. A number of PDP governors were targeted and traded off for the opposition in order for the party to have its way in some other places. If there is a Nigerian who doesn’t know that, then I will be surprised. So, 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? This is because at that time, the then National Chairman of the party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, boasted to me that the PDP had 28 states and that the PDP was not bound to win everything, and 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 asked me: ‘You see what I was telling you. Did you see what has happened?’ He said that if I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have been removed. When Adams Oshiomhole 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 that I supported Adams Oshiomhole, I ask, who gave Adams Oshiomhole more support, the PDP leadership or myself? But, of course, I supported Adams Oshiomhole 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 has done more work in four years than the PDP could have ever done in all its years as a ruling party in Edo State.
Have you ever gone to beg Chief Tony Anenih?
As for the issue of begging Chief Anenih, the newspapers have reported many times that I have gone to beg him. Again I would be surprised if you have not read those stories. Personally, I don’t know what I did to him, other than that, according to him, 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 that money was paid to him. So he was then saying that we never paid him any money, that he borrowed N200million. I do know that it was against the electoral Act for any individual to spend that kind of money in support of a governorship candidate. So, is he saying that he violated the Electoral Act and used 200 million to install me as a governor? And if he spent 200 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 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 200 million for my election after all the contributions, I never saw any 200 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 him 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 beg him does not mean that 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.