Anslem Ojezua is the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State. He is worried about the development within the party in the state towards the governorship election.
He believes that the National Chairman of the party, who is also a former governor and godfather of Governor Godwin Obaseki has a hidden agenda, to prevent the APC from winning the election so he can be the only one calling the shots in the state.
In this exclusive interview with PATRICK OKOHUE, Ojezua also speaks on why the key opponent of the governor in the election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is not an issue in the governorship equation of the state.
There was a ruling in a High Court in Benin City this week suspending the governorship primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, what is the implication of that ruling for the APC?
The implication is that the rights of the APC in Edo State is preserved, the right to choose which was graciously granted by the National Executive Committee, which Adams Oshiomhole thought to deny us, the court has preserved it while looking into the details and until the case is determined, Oshiomhole is restrained from carrying out any primary, we made this application because we know that he has a penchant for disobeying court orders.
There is a concern, because the primary is time bound, what is the guarantee that this court case will be dispensed with before the time that the primary must hold for the party to be able to be part of the election?
Well, these things are quite simple, all the party has to do is to go back to its rules, once they rein in Oshiomhole, bring him back to the part of righteousness and let us do this according to the position that we have reached as a party, because we cannot be running a political party according to the whims of an individual who has no respect for the rule of law, we cannot, otherwise we will just allow him to destroy the party, we cannot, all of us have a stake in it, so he cannot personalise the party.
But, there is a concern that that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the umpire in this contest seems to be agreeing with the position of the Oshiomhole led National Executive of the party?
No, that is not correct, the only thing that INEC said is that the line of communication between INEC and a political party is through the National chairman, it doesn’t mean that they are agreeing with his actions, some of us even believe that the man who spoke for INEC did not tell the whole story.
Don’t forget that it was INEC who drew attention to the fact that the primary that was conducted in Zamfara was defective, it was INEC that blew the whistle, so they cannot now come and tell us that they will accommodate a clear infraction of the Party’s constitution simply because the person is designated as the national chairman, no.
INEC has a duty under the Electoral Act to ensure that whatever he is he must work in accordance with the rules of the party and that is the reason we deposited our constitution with INEC. So, INEC cannot pretend not to know what the law says, so I believe that at the appropriate time they will do the right thing.
The State chapter of the APC is insisting on indirect primary while the national body is insisting on direct primary…..
No, not the national, it is the National Working Committee, there is still another organ that is superior to the National Working Committee called the National Executive Committee and the National Executive Committee has empowered the states to take that decision, so when the state is carrying out that function, it is doing so as authorised by the National Executive Committee, which is superior to the working committee.
Now the governor in line with the state chapter is insistent on Indirect primary and even if the state communicates their decision to the National and the National communicates a different thing to INEC, are we not working towards Zamfara?
No, there is a limit to which INEC can intervene, because there are certain things that you have to leave for judicial intervention, because it is not their turf, we approached the court that is where you go to preserve your right and that is where we are.
But does all of these not endanger the APC’s ability to return to power in Edo State?
It doesn’t, it enhances democratic practice and the rule of law, it put parties on notice that they must obey their own rules, unfortunately, the APC lately has paid so much price that you will think that by now they would have learnt their lessons, under Oshiomhole, we had 26 governors when Oshiomhole became National chairman.
Today we have 20, we have lost six, really to arbitrariness, recklessness, impunity, arrogance, these are all features that a national chairman must not possess and he has not learnt his lessons.
He is insisting in behaving like a bull in a China shop, so we have to continue to rein him in until the leadership of the party decides that this man has done more harm than good therefore we should excuse him.
But the state from the ward, if I remember correctly, has suspended Oshiomhole and nothing seem to have happened….
This is the point, a party must have the presence of mind to enforce its own rules, that is the problem, that is our problem, we are not able to enforce our rules and that is why he has operated like a military commander and it shouldn’t be.
There is the concern in some quarters that the governor seems to be scared of going for the party primary because of Ize-Iyamu
No, no, no, the governor is not scared, certainly not, the governor has defeated Ize-Iyamu before and will defeat him again ten thousand times, that is not the issue, it is a matter of principle, if the rules says this, then everybody is subject to the rules, including Adams Oshiomhole, is Adams above the law?
So why should anybody consider any other option except that which has been chosen by the organs that have been empowered to do so?
That is the issue, it is not a matter of direct or indirect, does Oshiomhole even have anybody in Edo State anymore? He has created his own party called EPM, he should go and stay with them.
But, people believe that EPM is just a formation within the party in the state, isn’t that so?
Even according to our own rules, that is enough to expel a person, organising a parallel body within a party is called factionalisation and is anti party and there is no better way to go for expulsion, it was because of that factionalisation that we suspended him with a recommendation for his expulsion, which the NEC should consider, he himself is on suspension.
I think the man has a hidden agenda, you know there are some people in Abuja who believe that they gain more when they don’t have a governor in their states, because the tendency like in Edo State the governor is the leader of the party, but the national chairman has just discovered that his position and power is diminished, but if for instance he is able to ensure that the party does not have a governor here he will now be the be all and say all in the state.
Is that to say he is working towards the APC losing Edo State, is that what you mean?
You are an intelligent observer what do you think? If a man begins to work so hard to destroy the party what do you expect? When a man who should build the party is the one threatening the fabrics of the party what do you expect? What will be your conclusion?
No, the governor is not scared, certainly not, the governor has defeated Ize-Iyamu before and will defeat him again ten thousand times, that is not the issue, it is a matter of principle, if the rules says this, then everybody is subject to the rules, including Adams Oshiomhole, is Adams above the law? So why should anybody consider any other option except that which has been chosen by the organs that have been empowered to do so? That is the issue, it is not a matter of direct or indirect.