Prince Kassim Afegbua, the Special Adviser, Media to Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, is never afraid to pull punches. He shoots straight at opponents of the state government and like an armour bearer he also takes the flaks on behalf of his principal. In this interview with journalists in Benin, Afegbua speaks on a wide range of issues rocking the state and the country at large. AGENE AKHERE was there for WESTERN POST…
Edo State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ), Dan Orbih, has often raised allegations of reckless spending of state resources against Governor Adams Oshiomhole. What is your take on this?
As far as we know, the PDP state chairman and his sinking co – travellers are not just desperadoes who are looking for relevance, they are also individuals who do not have the intellectual capacity to understand the dynamics of governance, the execution processes of governance and the delivery of services to the mass majority of the people. He is at best a dramatist, a very bad one at that, who is trying effortlessly to make an impression in a state where they have lost relevance. It is understandable that having been denied the patronage and grand acquisition that used to be the hallmark of PDP rulership in Edo State, they’ll naturally be crying like the baby cow looking for milk to suck from a cow that they have sucked dry in terms of the collective patrimony of Edo State. So, to that extent one would not expect anything different from their sing-song. But, again, we have a basis for comparison: PDP state chairman and his renegades piloted the affairs of this state for ten good years and the record they have to show is that of apathy, depression, degradation and personal aggrandisement at the expense of the state. So, if they now woke up suddenly and they see the monumental achievements of a Comrade-governor in a state that was hitherto classified as a poor state by the PDP when they were calling the shots, so you can understand their anger. They are not angry that we are doing so much; they’re angry that we have come to put a lie on the long-held notion that the state has no money to develop itself. But you and me know, with verifiable evidence, that since the intervention of the Comrade-governor in Edo State, he has been able to alter the narrative of under-development to a positive narrative of development and wonderful achievement. We have no apology to render to the PDP chairman and his bandwagon.
Your principal, Governor Oshiomhole, is from Edo North Senatorial District. Are you not worried about the growing popularity of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in that district based on the defection of Engr. Abubakar Momoh to the party?
(Laughs). You and I know that in this country you cannot just wake up in the morning and give that kind of adulation to a party that has not even been able to find its feet whether at the local, state or national level. Even the leadership of the SDP is placid. The leadership of the party is made up of failed politicians, turncoat politicians, who at every turn of elections want to register a party, a party I will call briefcase party that they’ll use to negotiate. You already heard them endorsing Jonathan. A party that has a clearcut ideology and philosophy of governance would not condescend to the level of endorsing a candidate of another party when you realise that their Chairman, Chief Olu Falae, used to be a presidential candidate some fifteen years ago. That is to tell you that even on arrival they’ve considered themselves dead. I don’t know where you get your popularity rating for the party from. Engr. Abubakar Momoh had enjoyed so much support from the ACN and now that the party has metamorphosed into the APC, he has decided to jump ship. Let’s see how he will test his popularity. But I have witnessed a few of his rallies and I have seen one or two canopies mounted in different localities where he spoke to people. I don’t know if that is what you call popularity, but of course the elections are there to decide.
What is your view about the postponement of the elections?
Nigeria politicians, especially those that are domiciled in the PDP, are fond of working from answer to question. Having noticed that Buhari (General Muhammadu) and the APC have taken over the political space in a tsunami-like form and knowing full well that if elections were to hold on that lovely Valentine Day (February 14, 2015), they would be defeated. They then decided to rake up all manners of security concerns and ordered that the elections be postponed as there would be no safety, security, etc. You now begin to wonder if a ruling party has suddenly developed cold feet towards elections, that should naturally tell you that they are not ready for elections and they know that the results would be against their whims and caprices. Again, this is Nigeria where anything goes. We have stated our position when the postponement was made. We have also watched President Goodluck Jonathan on his Media Chat telling Nigerians that he was not consulted before the postponement was conceived, forgetting that two days earlier they held the Council of State meeting where he reportedly argued that security concerns were posing threats to the elections and now opted for postponement. Again, if the C- in-C was not briefed about the security situation with respect to the conduct of such a general election, it shows that he is not in charge. It is a simple scenario. But it is quite unfortunate, my brothers. You see, Nigerians, we tolerate all kinds of bestialities and we want to wear them the cloak of morality and decency. But in the 21st century, having very apt examples from The UK, USA and even some of these developing democracies; Afghanistan had election under war situation; Iraq, Pakistan and others, you now begin to wonder what the rational for the postponement is. More so, when the INEC Chairman (Professor Attahiru Jega) boldly said if 2011 was adjudged to be free and fair, the preparation for the 2015 polls is more than that of 2011. That should give us confidence that INEC was ready for the elections. But like I told you PDP has started developing cold feet; they are just postponing the evil day. March 28th is just around the corner when Buhari would be elected president of Nigeria. Nigerians are speaking with one voice that they need a change; they need a new narrative; they need a new team; they need a new approach; new dynamics to governance. You can imagine when a president goes to a state and say ‘I am sorry, I have not done anything for this state for the past six years. When you give me the opportunity once more, I am going to do more.’ Do more of what? More of nothing! It’s a simple logic. We’re working towards March 28 and April 11 when our candidates at different levels of the election will come out victorious.
There are moves by the PDP to force INEC to dump the use of Card Readers for the election. Some of the party members are even calling for INEC Chairman Jega’s sack on the suspicion that he is hobnobbing with the APC. What is your take on this?
That would be a sad commentary on the nurturing, development and sustenance of democracy in Nigeria, especially having noticed that PDP has been calling the shots in the last 16 years and Nigerians are saying that for God’s sake we should learn to build institutions and not individuals. PDP would be mistaken if they feel that Jega may be an obstacle in their plans. The INEC of today is different from the INEC of yester years. There is a growing awareness in the international community that Nigeria must get things right not only as the giant of Africa but also as the largest country in the entire Black Race. For that reason we cannot afford to toy with this election. Jega or no Jega, INEC should remain INEC and they should be firm in their decision-making process; they should be firm in the way and manner they conduct this election because the future of our children is at stake here. If this country explodes, it’s going to boomerang. It’s the responsibility of the media to help us educate these persons who have a fixated mind of getting it their own way. If it’s not their own way they want to spoil the cook. It shouldn’t be that way; elections are good platforms for competition. That is why they call it electoral contest. If Jonathan is defeated, he should simply pack his things and go back to Otueke. There are no two ways about it. It’s a democracy. Jonathan did not create Nigeria, Nigeria created Jonathan. The country should be seen to be bigger than any individual or any ethnic stock. There must be a Nigeria before anyone can be called a Nigerian. I am proud to be a Nigerian. I may not have achieved what I want to achieve in life but ‘am hoping that my children will inherit a country where their hopes and aspirations would be fulfilled to the maximum. People should be asking questions why is Oshiomhole getting money to develop the state more so when PDP says that Edo State has no money. If we’re to join in that circle of lamentation, of course you know we will not be able to do anything in this state. But thank God we have been able to leave our imprints in the sands of time and our legacies will speak for us when Oshiomhole’s administration is no more here.
Your principal embarked on some projects a few weeks to the elections, and some people believe he is doing this to woo voters. What is your view on this?
You don’t determine when projects should be done. You determine when projects should be done depending on the availability of resources. Have you seen any abandoned project in Edo State? You should please go round. We are not in the PDP culture of abandoning projects or building elephants projects and money fully paid. When we start a project we follow it to a logical conclusion. When we started the Airport Road nobody gave us the benefit of hindsight that we would complete it. Today, PDP chieftains are posting Jonathan ‘ posters on the electricity poles. That is the dubious nature of the PDP. Go around the roads we constructed, they have littered the whole place with posters of Jonathan. Meanwhile, the same presidential candidate of PDP has done nothing in the state. We’re very civilised people, we left their posters hanging on the poles. The projects we have started now would be driven to conclusion. We have demystified governance by creating access for people to see the governor. People from the lower strata of the society who hitherto had no access to the Government House do so now. We are able to embark on projects inspite of the fact that the PDP-led federal government is short-changing the state government every month. In the last 16 months they have been deducting over a billion naira from our allocation as a result of what they call oil theft.