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.”
Barely five months after he assumed thenational 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 formerboss, Comrade Adams Oshiomole. As a former member of the party, how do you seethe development in the APC?
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Well, it is a statement of fact that the partywas already fractured before Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was brought in to remedythe situation. There was political inertia in the days of Chief Oyegun;meetings were hardly called, and the role of the party was subsumed intodifferent groups formation that make up the APC. The expectation was that withComrade Oshiomhole, he would be able to rally round all the centripetal andcentrifugal forces within the party and make it whole again. Events in the pastfive months have proven otherwise. I am very happy this is happening because itis my prayer to see that president Buhari retires to Daura in 2019. Nigeriamust move away from the prism of hypocrisy, contradictions and nepotism in ourshared commitment to advance the cause of nationalism. We cannot afford to bedetained by leadership atrophy that has polarised the country with recklessemanations. Comrade Oshiomhole had no cognate experience in party managementand those who would have helped him have been relegated to the background. Thedynamics of party management is another kettle of fish. I wish him well as hecontinues 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 theAPC was primarily because of the absence of internal democracy, lack ofconsultation in decision-making, absence of constructive engagement andcollective bargaining. There was too much of impunity, impositionand manipulation of processes leading to certain desirable outcome. Evenat the local level in Edo state for example, you just wake up and hear XYZ hasbeen made this without recourse to due process and collective engagement.
I feel a sense of pain that when people talkabout internal democracy; they accord it a different meaning. The Edo primaryelection (which produced incumbent governor) had its own internalcontradictions, squabbles and complaints. Don’t forget that Chief ChrisOgiewonyi and Kenneth Imasuagbon were so bitter after the primary that theythreatened court action. It was my personal intervention that prevailed on themto drop their litigation intention. I won’t volunteer more than that; you willhave to wait for other details in my memoirs. Let me make the point thatComrade Oshiomhole is generally a good fellow; but just like every mortal, hehas his shortcomings and imperfections. I still admire him as a friend andformer boss; but he doesn’t have quality minds around him presently to give himselfless advice. Or those around him are waiting for him to fail. If youlook straight into his eyes and tell him the bitter truth, he adjusts. Thatmuch I know. My quarrel with him should be knowing when and where to applybrakes when confronted with a political disagreement. Leaders are calledleaders because of certain qualities in them that are not in others. And partymanagement comes with its own contradictions. If you fight againstgodfatherism, do not aspire to be one. You cannot condemn godfatherism onthe one hand and exhibit all traits of godfatherism on the other. Yourfollowers won’t take you seriously.
How do you see the situation in the governor’shome state in the aftermath of the primary election? Is it different from whattranspired at the national level in terms of his influence in the process?
I am no longer a member of the APC anywhere inNigeria, but I still have a lot of friends in APC, including the Governor ofEdo State whose approach to governance has its own peculiarity. My only quarrelwith the government I served in and this one, is the total neglect of Okpellaroads and other infrastructure in Okpella. I complained bitterly under ComradeOshiomhole, the roads were started and abandoned midway. It hurts me till date.I have also made representation to Governor Obaseki who has promised to fixthem. 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 bluntwith my advice any time. I think from what I am seeing, he desires greatly tobe a good graduate from Tinubu’s politics of godfatherism and dictatorship inLagos. 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 ownman and take full responsibility for his actions and inactions. That’s the wayto go. Once anyone meddles into the affairs of a Governor, he or she carriespart of the blame. I see a lot of friction coming; but like one adage in myvillage, if you have sacrificed a rabbit for the gods, you remove your handsfrom its tail. That should serve as a good lesson to all of us in the politicaloscillation process to birth a new paradigm.
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