On Saturday, April 30, 2016, Edo Deputy Governor Dr. Pius Odubu, on campaign tour, was attacked in Auchi while meeting delegates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the area. Imoudu Afe, a member of the campaign organisation, who witnessed the horrible scenario, gives an account.
Looks like violence has become the norm in this early stage of the contest. Not long ago your campaign team alleged that it was shot at, also a few days thereafter, Godwin Obaseki’s team alleged that a gunman attacked them. What do you think that this portends?
A friend of mine, a lawyer, who is also a member of the civil society, told me that he has read section 308 and he is aware that the Deputy Governor enjoys immunity under the constitution. He also affirmed that much attention is being paid to his protection and that is why he is protected using tax payers money. That he would have given orders to his security details to shoot at the people that attacked his team during that scenario in Auchi because we knew them. The people did not come from outer space we saw them and were even discussing with them. We know them. They are our friends.We are members of the same political party. We were telling them that what they were doing is wrong. We thought it had ended. We were at the entrance of the two doors leading into hall when we started hearing gun shots. It was when one of the bullets hit somebody close to me that I knew they were direct shots. Before you know it the escort commander that was trying to tell his men to take position and defend his principal was shot in the eye. The DSS (Department of State Security) operative was shot on the shoulder. Why we said it was an assassination attempt is that you know that in security issues the DSS is the last body of security before the principal. For the DSS man to be shot on the shoulder that means if the bullet had missed him God forbid what would have happened. It is wrong to say that the Odubu campaign team was shooting themselves. My brother, we are one; we are not violent people. But let me warn that nobody has monopoly of violence. You can push somebody to the wall and he would react. What has happened after (the second shooting incident) is not APC matter. It’s a local political contest between two opposing political divides who are supporting a particular candidate that want to show relevance. That was what happened. Somebody was coordinating and another person wanted to take over from him. Politicians believe that it’s what you put in now that will determine what you will benefit after the election. So everybody wants to be serious. On our own part, we’ve visited other local government areas after that and we were well received even in some local government areas where they were given instructions by some persons that we should not be received. They disregarded those instructions.
Your principal, Pius Odubu, is now planning what seems to be a herculean task, to succeed his boss in September. Do you think that this is possible?
It has happened in Kano State. It’s a clear example. The Governor of Kano State was the former Deputy Governor of the state. It has also happened in Enugu and so many other states. Some even moved up to be governors from their former position as Secretary to State Government (SSG), Chief of Staff to the Governor, commissioner etc. History is made by people who are bold and strong. People who are determined and driven by their passion for the people. People who know their constitutional rights and want to enforce it. History is not made by those who are lily-livered or sit on the fence. We pray that our Comrade Governor who started well ends well and history will be kind to him.
Your principal and his boss have been serving the state on their joint ticket for almost eight years running and the belief is that they have a cordial relationship. But accusations, counter accusations and denials between them recently has shocked Nigerians. What is your take on this?
Let me tell you, even as we speak the duo still enjoy a cordial relationship. They’re still best of friends. The nature of the Deputy Governor is a result of his exposure. He didn’t do all his schooling here (in Nigeria). At the age of 18 years he went abroad on scholarship. While abroad he attended three Ivy league universities in America. He came back to Nigeria with a doctorate in law. He realised early that there can never be two captains in a ship. He realised early that he has a boss, who is the Governor, and he is the Deputy. He realised early that he must be loyal and be able to work with his boss so that there will be an environment for them to entrench development. And that is what you have seen in the last seven and half years. It’s what the Deputy Governor has learnt in the Oshiomhole’s school of developmental society that inspired him to seek to succeed his boss. He is the only person who’ll hit the ground running as soon as he is elected. The man is intelligent and he knows his onions. On the issue of the attack (of his campaign team in Auchi) he has not taken it serious because he has faith in the security agencies that they’re going to do their investigations. I think that names have been mentioned and I also think that very soon we’ll get to the end of it all. Coming to the issue of use of juju(diabolic), it was very appalling to have read it in the papers. We also knew all these issues before now. We heard it on the corridors of power that these were the things that were happening, that the governor and his deputy held a reconciliatory meeting. But the press was wrong. There was never a reconciliatory meeting between the governor and the deputy governor. They have never been involved in any quarrel or altercation. It’s only mischief makers and some politicians I call hustlers that want to be in the centre of attraction at all times that were putting together these meetings. Before now, you will remember the issue of Gentleman Ameghor. That he is very close to the Deputy Governor and has said that he (Deputy Governor) can win election without the Governor. It became an issue. You also recall the issue of the Vice Chairman of the party, Alhaji Magaji. That too became an issue but later died down. Then after that you heard the issue of security. They all resolved that it was a non-issue. The informant they agreed was not somebody that has a good character or is reliable. A source at the meeting (not Deputy Governor) quoted the Governor as saying: “I am the Governor today. I didn’t know that I will be governor many years ago. It’s God that gives power. I cannot stop my Deputy from exercising his rights.” The governor went further to say: “if you hear that I say anything about you tell me. If it’s true I will tell you why I said so. But let us be on the same page.” If anything goes wrong with this administration the Deputy Governor knows that he would share from it too that is why he is determined to ensure that the current administration under the leadership of Comrade Aliu Oshiomhole ends well.
Many people fear that this argument and counter argument may not augur well for the APC at the polls. What are you doing to reconcile with the opposing camps?
There is no rancour at all. We are all members of the same political party. The philosophy of the deputy governor is that we’re all members of the same political family. That after the primaries everybody will come together and work together because we must keep Edo State in safe hands. He had earlier said he has no enemies what he has are opponents. In a contest you must have opponents. He is pursuing his own political aspiration by the rules. That is why he has control over his social media team and other organs of his campaign organisation. I know that most of the time he doesn’t sleep early because he wants to ensure that no member of his team is saying anything that is wrong against the other aspirants. He wants to ensure that everyone is cautious and we use good language when we are expressing ourselves. This is about canvassing votes from the delegates. It’s only twelve persons per ward, the local government area executives and members of the party’s state executives that are going to participate in the primaries. You cannot rule out the fact that this is the only state under the control of the APC in the south south geopolitical region so, the party is also very careful. The National Chairman of the party (Chief John Odigie-Oyegun) is from the state and he has assured that there is going to be a level playing field during the primaries. The only way you can be angry is when aspirants feel cheated; feel that there is no level playing field; there is no sincerity. That’s why you feel that you cannot manage the system. But if they go through the rigours of the primaries and the system is transparent everybody will congratulate the winner and they all work together during the election. The deputy governor has always said that whoever gets the ticket in a sincere and credible primaries would have his backing in the election proper. He also said he will need the support of all Edolites if he gets the ticket in a transparent way. We know that we have bigger enemies to confront after the primaries. We are talking of the other political parties.
If at the end of the day your principal does not get the party ticket would you volunteer to work with the elected candidate?
I have told you earlier that some of us are very experienced. Some of us have a history and a culture and we have conquered fear many years ago. I am an activist and I operate at my own risk to the extent of been imprisoned so that Nigeria can return to democratic governance. People will attest to that. So, we’re not just local names, we are people known internationally because of our courage to fight for what we believe in. When the aspirants began to reach out to me about their aspirations I sat back and assessed them. I did a SWOT analysis on all the aspirants – their Strength, their Weaknesses, their Opportunities and their Threats (SWOT). On that scale, I chose to work with the Deputy Governor. He didn’t approach me. He has been a father to me. He is somebody that I relate with as he has known me over the years. So, I approached him and told him he is the best person to be the governor of the state after Comrade Oshiomhole. I have made allusions to three very important factors in a contest, namely transparency, credibility and ability to authenticate what is right. If the primaries meet these three factors, I am telling you we’re going to support whoever wins. But I know that the contest is between the deputy governor on one side and the others on the opposite side. What we are saying is that the process should be plain so that at the end of the day during the election everybody will back the aspirant that emerges as the party’s flagbearer.