Chief Charles Idahosa is a chieftain of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. He was the Special Adviser on Political Affairs to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole. In this interview with reporters in Benin City, the state capital, he speaks on the Muhammadu Buhari administration, security, why Governor Godwin Obaseki may not return to the All Progressives Congress (APC), and how the governor’s successor would emerge in 2024. Southsouth Bureau
Nigerians are not fair to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. As far as I am concerned, Buhari is not the best, but there are a lot of things that have happened since he came on board. They are judging President Buhari on insecurity. I am on the board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and I know how much he has put into that sector. The Nigerian railway has improved; he has tried in other infrastructural areas like roads, bridges and others. But, the insecurity in the country is overshadowing all the good things he is doing. We must also understand that COVID-19 is affecting the entire world economy, not only that of Nigeria.
As far as I am concerned, the restructuring of Nigeria has started with the VAT controversy, and I am very happy about it. Let us go and test the constitution in court. How can you raise N15 billion and they give you N4 billion? Meanwhile, those practising Sharia say no alcohol and a major part of this VAT is from alcohol. Let each state take what it can generate, that is what the then premier of the defunct Western Region, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, did.
The crisis in the PDP is very unfortunate. I have been monitoring, and you can see that Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike holds the ace; he is in charge and I cannot see Prince Uche Secondus surviving it. As we are going into 2023, there will be division and the APC is just waiting to capitalise on it. But, unfortunately, the APC is equally divided and the court may nullify all that they have done. So, we are really at a crossroads. I left the APC when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole started giving us problems, but here we are in PDP, there is a lot of crisis. All of us that left the APC for the PDP with Obaseki on June 19, 2020, do not know where we are. PDP leaders in Edo State won’t allow us in, they said they have finished their congresses and it is for four years. We said let us negotiate as they did in Sokoto and Borno states; they said they are not interested. Next year is a pre-election year, and we are not delegates. So, we cannot be part of the processes and the APC has just completed its own. Right now, there is a committee in the PDP in Edo State, trying to negotiate; that is the hope that we have in the PDP.
The time was so short. Immediately Obaseki was disqualified, we had to leave and look for a new party. The time was so short that we did not cross the t’s and dot the i’s. All we just wanted at the time was the PDP governorship ticket, ahead of the September 19, 2020 election. So, we went there without a proper negotiation like the cases of Samuel Ortom and Aminu Tambuwal. We were in a hurry; all we just wanted was to get the ticket first and we would negotiate later.
It worries me, but the law does not say when the governor must form a cabinet. The law gives the governors and the president the room at their own time. We are not happy; I must make that very clear to you. But, you see, Obaseki cannot be like Chief Lucky Igbinedion. Igbinedion cannot be like Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Each governor comes with his own style, but the governor will give you reasons. As I am speaking with you, there is another committee set up by the party (PDP), but the governor has just finished moving around the 18 local government areas. Maybe Obaseki is taking advantage of that to save more funds because he is more concerned about having funds to turn Edo State into an Eldorado. As far as I am concerned, only one person cannot do that. He has a very big dream. A lot of our people are not happy, but the truth of the matter is that there is no law that any person can use to hold him.
I was the chairman of the committee on One Man, One Vote. Taiwo Akerele, who later became Chief of Staff to Obaseki, was my secretary, and we launched it at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City, only for him (Oshiomhole) to turn around to become the godfather himself, and I said no. So it wasn’t about him (Obaseki). He was only fortunate to be the governor at that time. So, he was the symbol of the struggle. Oshiomhole let me down. When he (Oshiomhole) came to government, we were not in control of the state House of Assembly; Oshiomhole, a sitting governor, had to go to Abuja with the state budget to get Tony Anenih’s approval. That was how the fight against Anenih started. When he (Oshiomhole) got to Abuja, they took him to Tony Anenih’s house. When he got there, Anenih started adjusting the budget with his red biro, cancelling many of the proposals and inserting new ones. Thereafter, he mandated members of the House of Assembly (who were also there) to go and pass the budget. Oshiomhole called me from the airport and showed me the markings by Anenih, and there I told him we had to fight, and I told him we must take over the Edo House of Assembly because as long as they are in control of the house, we would continue to carry budgets to Abuja.
He is doing very well. As I said, he has a very big dream; he wants to do so many things, but the resources are not there. I am happy with what Governor Obaseki is doing, though I am not happy that we are not enjoying it in my local government area. I want him to extend it to our local government area.
That is a lie. Can only Edo South senatorial district alone produce a governor? We need votes from other parts of the state. The issue is that we need to sit down and talk. Edo South has the population and anywhere we swing, we will pull weight. But my joy is that I do not play tribal politics, I talk about the individuals. What makes Edo State beautiful is that there is no ethnic group in the state that cannot trace its origin from Benin. The 2024 governorship election will be determined by the strategic position of the two major political parties: the PDP and the APC. If the APC decides to field Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is from Edo South again in 2024, what do you want the PDP to do? If the PDP stubbornly decides to pick its candidate from Edo Central or Edo North Senatorial District, the party will lose abysmally, because there will be tribal sentiments. The two parties must be able to agree.
No, that will not happen. I have been begging him that we should go back to where we came from (APC), but he said no. He is not interested. This is because I am not comfortable with the way we are being treated in the PDP. To be candid, Obaseki never made any promise that after winning the election, he would go back to the APC. President Buhari did not want him to leave the APC, but Oshiomhole pushed his luck too far. Oshiomhole said he wanted direct primary, but members of Edo State executive of the APC said they wanted indirect primary. At a point, President Buhari told Oshiomhole to return Obaseki, whether direct or indirect primary. But, Oshiomhole made sure Obaseki was disqualified from participating in the primary.
It will be very difficult, but could be possible if Oshiomhole makes the move. He should initiate it, because he was very ruthless in dealing with Obaseki. Obaseki supported Oshiomhole a lot. I knew how they were relating very closely. Obaseki once told a friend of ours that instead of him quarrelling with Oshiomhole, he was ready to do away with all of us. That was how close they were. Obaseki was Oshiomhole’s father and best man when he married his current wife. I pray there is reconciliation, because this is a state Oshiomhole invested in and he was very popular, but he just threw it away. He allowed inconsequential persons to mislead him, but Obaseki is very bitter. I am not comfortable in PDP; I left the party in 2004. So, anytime I raised this issue with Obaseki, he always tells me that returning to the APC was not an option.
I do not feel any difference. At 68, by the grace of God, I still feel as if I am 50. It is just that there are certain things you want to do that you cannot do again. I am very grateful to God that in my 68 years, I have never been hospitalised, I have never slept in the hospital, I have never been rushed to the hospital. I hear of people saying last night they were sick and they were rushed to the hospital, it has never happened to me. So, I am grateful to God. The body is strong, and the children are doing well. Politics has been disastrous in the sense that it is a game that is littered with ungrateful people. You fight battles, you defend people, you fight for people and in the end, they pay you back with ingratitude. So, that is politics. I have suffered a lot of embarrassment in politics. I wanted to go to the Senate and, without a primary, they dashed it out for a pot of porridge. I wanted to be governor, I contested with Oshiomhole, they massively rigged the primary; he was too new in the party to beat me. He was barely two weeks old after he traversed all the political parties in Edo State, but thank God, we are still alive, we are not begging for food. At 68, I am very fulfilled. I have served my people. I was a local government chairman elected on zero party basis; where you have to put your integrity at stake and the people voted for me. I have been a commissioner, I have been the Director-General of Edo Liaison Office, I have been a political adviser and I have been several other things. I have been a member of the board of NTA, which was very satisfying to me, having started my working life as a reporter with the NTA. Today, I am in the board of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). So, I am satisfied. I am not looking forward to any political contest, I am contented and I am grateful to God.