Obaseki Has No Power To Pick Who Would Represent Esan People – Edaghese

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Obaseki Has No Power To Pick Who Would Represent Esan People – Edaghese

Mathew Edaghese is a legal practitioner, a chieftain of the Labour Party, human rights activist, social critics and a political leader in Esan. In this interview, he speaks about Edo 2024 governorship election, why godfatherism doesn’t exist anymore in the state, among other topical issues. JOY ANIGBOGU brings the excerpts: 

 Politics of interest is taking the center stage in Edo State, party primaries are coming up in February 2024, as a political leader what is your take on the governorship election? 

2024, like every other year will come and go. Edo election is an unsettled election as we know. Many people are showing interest in the gubernatorial race. It’s after the primaries have been concluded that we’ll separate the pretenders from the contenders. As we speak now, we don’t know who is a pretender on the Edo governorship election, and those who are real. It’s after the party primaries we’ll know where the pendulum will swing. 

There seems to be serious crisis over who succeeds Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State in 2024 across the three major political parties in the country. The sweet romance that once existed between the Governor and his deputy has since become bitter over power tussle, what is your take on this? 

We shouldn’t be indulging ourselves in encouraging people to personalise power. Nobody can play God. No one has control over the destiny of another person. The Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu, has the right under democracy, multi-party democracy to make his own choice on which direction he wants to go politically. As long as he is not playing anti-party politics, no one has the right to dictate the direction to go for him. 

It was rumoured all over the state that Obaseki has anointed Asue Ighodalo, a well-known financial guru from Ewohimi in Edo Central, to succeed him, as a stakeholder and known political voice in Edo, will you throw your weight behind him? 

I am an Esan man, and an Esan-born political actor, a key stakeholder in Edo State politics and Nigerian politics in general. Governor Obaseki has no power to pick who would represent us. Assuming Esan people want to unanimously agree on one candidate, no one man can impose a candidate on us. It is the Esan people that will agree to say; “yes this man will be our eyes there.”

That being said, Dr. Asue Ighodalo has right to aspire to the office on his own, not by being imposed by anybody. The biggest mistake any aspirant will make in Edo State politics is to lean heavily on one man’s assurance, thinking that he can be imposed. Nobody owns the votes that we will cast on voting day. If Edo people have not stood their ground on the second term of Godwin Obaseki, he wouldn’t have returned to office.  

I was the one that came out with the slogan; “Edo no bi Lagos” and it came out to be the leading slogan and force of Obaseki’s campaign strategy. The truth is that if anybody wants to play the role of a kingmaker the person might end up being humiliated at the end. It wasn’t because Godwin Obaseki had the strength of a lion that he became successful, it is because Edo people stood their ground. Presently, no right thinking Edo man will condone imposition of candidate of any kind; be it in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Labour Party. Even if people have made up their minds to go for a particular candidate, the very fact that he has a godfather, people will stand against him. Godfatherism is dead and buried in Edo State. 

President Bola Tinubu has promised to deliver Edo State to the APC in 2024, how would you react to this? 

When you have people making arrogant statement and playing God in a democracy where the choice to elect who will lead the people is the right of people to make, then you are talking about tyranny and autocracy. They are unpleasant to the principle of democracy. President Tinubu cannot decide who will succeed him, neither will Governor Obaseki decide who takes over from him. I said it before, and I will say it again imposition is dead and buried in Edo State. Any political party that tries it is calling for big trouble and it cannot stand. 

Tinubu is the President of the country; whether it is good or bad, there was an election that produced him. Edo people will elect their preferred candidate, who will govern them from 2024. Neither Tinubu, PDP, nor LP can play God when the time comes. 

You’re a big force in the Labour Party, which seems to have gone underground after the last general elections. Now, there are almost 12 aspirants fighting to grab the ticket of the Labour Party for the 2024 Edo guber election, do you see the party winning considering what has happened to it? 

I won’t want to jump into conclusion to say that the Labour Party is facing any form of political crisis. All I can say is that the party will conduct the primaries like any other party to produce a candidate for the party. Whether there are a million aspirants for now doesn’t matter. Everybody has a right to aspire, but the right to choose belongs to the delegates, who are the representatives of the people. We cannot have more than one candidate at the end of the exercise. So, whether there are five hundred aspirants now or not, we will pick only one person. 

Are we sure of a level playing ground for all the aspirants looking at the way politicians throw monies at delegates during such elections? 

A level playing field is presumed under a democratic setting. So doing otherwise means you are expecting manipulation, which has no place in democracy. 

What would be your reaction to insinuations that the Labour Party would sell out to moneybags in other parties in the 2024 governorship election in the state? 

Any attempt to sell out the Labour Party to money bags will negatively affect the fortunes of the party. I don’t think that is the direction any Labour Party man would want to travel. If there is compromise, if there is sell out, the consequence will be very great because what the party enjoys is the sympathy and goodwill of the ordinary people. So the very minute you decide to patronise illegality and manipulation, you will flush down that confidence of the people through the gutter and you can never regain it. So it will be suicidal for the executives and leaders of the Labour Party to dream of selling out their party to the highest bidder, this would be detrimental. 

You once said that an Esan man has never been the governor of Edo State, now if it doesn’t go to Esan now, will that not mean that they’re second class citizen in Edo State? 

When you talk of denial, who is going to deny who? It’s suggestive of the fact that it is in the hands of a particular person or a segment of people to produce the governor. It’s not in the hands of anybody. It’s in the hands of every electorate in Edo State to decide who next governor will be, not anybody. It should be our turn now unless Esan people want to deny themselves of the opportunity to have a taste of the government house. The truth is that if it is on equity, it is time for Esan people to produce the next governor of Edo State by reason of rotation and ethnic justice. Looking at the past, an Esan man was governor of Bendel State in the person of Professor Ambrose Alli of blessed memory. The standard Alli set is still unbeatable till tomorrow. So, if it is our turn to produce the next governor, it shouldn’t be short of standard, the person should be in the class of Ambrose Alli. We won’t be part of a plan to produce a political neophyte, anti- societal man or a politically blind man. It is better to support a stranger who is competent than have a native, who is going to ruin our collective political destiny. So we won’t take the risk of committing political suicide of electing somebody who will betray our course and at the end humiliate us. There must be unity amongst us else we are politically doomed.