Give Obaseki Free hands, Afegbua Tells Oshiomhole

In this interview with Adekunbi Ero, executive editor, Kassim Afegbua, former Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, and later Commissioner for Information and Orientation in the administration of Adams Oshiomhole, immediate past governor of Edo State, comments on the leadership style of the former labour leader, and notes that he aspires to be to Edo State, what Bola Tinubu is to Lagos State. In his words, “I think from what I am seeing, he desires greatly to be a good graduate from Tinubu’s politics of godfatherism and dictatorship in Lagos.” Afegbua, spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Campaign Organisation, however, believes that “But it won’t flourish in Edo because of our geopolitical configuration.” He says though generally “a great guy” when it comes to party affairs, the embattled national chairman of the ruling party, “Comrade Oshiomhole will always be Comrade Oshiomhole; always wanting to ensure his ways are followed.” 

Kassim Afegbua Photo
Kassim Afegbua

 Barely five months after he assumed the national chairmanship of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, the party had been grappling with unprecedented crises such that some members, including governors, were calling for the sack or resignation of your former boss, Comrade Adams Oshiomole. As a former member of the party, how do you see the development in the APC? 

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Well, it is a statement of fact that the party was already fractured before Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was brought in to remedy the situation. There was political inertia in the days of Chief Oyegun; meetings were hardly called, and the role of the party was subsumed into different groups formation that make up the APC. The expectation was that with Comrade Oshiomhole, he would be able to rally round all the centripetal and centrifugal forces within the party and make it whole again. Events in the past five months have proven otherwise. I am very happy this is happening because it is my prayer to see that president Buhari retires to Daura in 2019. Nigeria must move away from the prism of hypocrisy, contradictions and nepotism in our shared commitment to advance the cause of nationalism. We cannot afford to be detained by leadership atrophy that has polarised the country with reckless emanations. Comrade Oshiomhole had no cognate experience in party management and those who would have helped him have been relegated to the background. The dynamics of party management is another kettle of fish. I wish him well as he continues to demolish the APC for the greater good of Nigeria and Nigerians.

Oshiomole, in defence of the primary elections that are causing so much uproar in the party, claimed as governor of Edo State, he had conducted transparent elections and party primary, including the one that produced his successor. How do you react to this having been very much around and in the APC to witness these elections?

One of the reasons why I took my exit from the APC was primarily because of the absence of internal democracy, lack of consultation in decision-making, absence of constructive engagement and collective bargaining. There was too much of impunity, imposition and manipulation of processes leading to certain desirable outcome. Even at the local level in Edo state for example, you just wake up and hear XYZ has been made this without recourse to due process and collective engagement. 

I feel a sense of pain that when people talk about internal democracy; they accord it a different meaning. The Edo primary election (which produced incumbent governor) had its own internal contradictions, squabbles and complaints. Don’t forget that Chief Chris Ogiewonyi and Kenneth Imasuagbon were so bitter after the primary that they threatened court action. It was my personal intervention that prevailed on them to drop their litigation intention. I won’t volunteer more than that; you will have to wait for other details in my memoirs. Let me make the point that Comrade Oshiomhole is generally a good fellow; but just like every mortal, he has his shortcomings and imperfections. I still admire him as a friend and former boss; but he doesn’t have quality minds around him presently to give him selfless advice. Or those around him are waiting for him to fail.  If you look straight into his eyes and tell him the bitter truth, he adjusts. That much I know. My quarrel with him should be knowing when and where to apply brakes when confronted with a political disagreement. Leaders are called leaders because of certain qualities in them that are not in others. And party management comes with its own contradictions. If you fight against godfatherism, do not aspire to be one. You cannot condemn godfatherism on the one hand and exhibit all traits of godfatherism on the other. Your followers won’t take you seriously. 

How do you see the situation in the governor’s home state in the aftermath of the primary election? Is it different from what transpired at the national level in terms of his influence in the process?

I am no longer a member of the APC anywhere in Nigeria, but I still have a lot of friends in APC, including the Governor of Edo State whose approach to governance has its own peculiarity. My only quarrel with the government I served in and this one, is the total neglect of Okpella roads and other infrastructure in Okpella. I complained bitterly under Comrade Oshiomhole, the roads were started and abandoned midway. It hurts me till date. I have also made representation to Governor Obaseki who has promised to fix them. On the party side, Comrade Oshiomhole will always be Comrade Oshiomhole; always wanting to ensure his ways are followed. But he’s generally a great guy. I admire his intellect and native intelligence, but he knows me to be blunt with my advice any time. I think from what I am seeing, he desires greatly to be a good graduate from Tinubu’s politics of godfatherism and dictatorship in Lagos. But it won’t flourish in Edo because of our geopolitical configuration. I will rather he allows the incumbent Governor the opportunity to be his own man and take full responsibility for his actions and inactions. That’s the way to go. Once anyone meddles into the affairs of a Governor, he or she carries part of the blame. I see a lot of friction coming; but like one adage in my village, if you have sacrificed a rabbit for the gods, you remove your hands from its tail. That should serve as a good lesson to all of us in the political oscillation process to birth a new paradigm.

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