Dr Isaiah Osifo was a two time chairman of Uhunmwode Local Government Area in Edo State and a pioneer Chairman of Edo State chapter of Association of Local Government Chairmen (ALGON), A Political scientist trained at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Benin and the University of Hull in the UK. He holds a P.hd in International Relations and was a Chief of Staff to the Edo State Government under Prof. Oserhimen Osunbor and at the moment a Edo South PDP Senatorial Aspirant , in this interview with RAFIU AMULE, spoke on the implications of the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, the way out and the administrative style of Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
How will you as a politician and political scientist access the administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole these past six years despite the unabated crisis in the state House of Assembly?
I am a writer and have written a lot of articles on national politics and development, I have about 10 published works about Oshiomhole before I joined the defunct ACN and I am happy that everything I said about him and his government were true, some people ask if I could write all the things I wrote about him why did I join him? As at the time I left my party, the PDP, they were guilty of the violation of the principle of internal democracy and Governor Adams Oshiomhole was able to give me the impression that his administration is not just about development but about the development of democracy in Nigeria. He said he wants me to join him to develop and entrench democracy in Edo State and Nigeria, I did not look at the roads he claim to have built rather I looked at the history of how he became Governor and his One Man One Vote mantra. He was able to convince me to the extent that I felt if a serving governor can be talking about the development of internal democracy, that the PDP then decide not to practice then I needed to join him to develop the platform for the practice of internal democracy for me and future generation.
Fortunately, the man failed woefully by his demonstration of dictatorship during the ward, local and state congresses.
I was the chairman of Cross River congress election committee, I knew all that transpired in Cross River. The records are there. I conducted a free and fair congress but here in Edo State, Oshiomhole hijacked the committee in government house where they wrote names of their people without the participation of party members. Meanwhile, I had initially warned the Edo chairman of the congress electoral committee when I ran into him at the Edo State Government House, I asked him what he was doing at the Government House and advised him not to handover the electoral material to any person. It was then I discovered that Oshiomhole has deceived me, the internal democracy he said I should come and help him to build was just a ruse. Oshiomhole was just interested in political power and money. Oshiomhole has turned himself to a dictator and as you are aware tyranny comes out of the conviction that one has failed therefore he will need somebody as a stooge to handover to because he knows fully well that he has not done well. The philosophy behind tyranny is because the tyrant knows that he has failed as a government and has offended so many people. So, the only means of survival is to die in office or bring in a stooge. If there was a constitution that does not specify tenure of office, Oshiomhole would have loved to stay in power till he dies. The man is not a democrat. He is hypocritical and I don’t tolerate that. What you say in the morning will be different from what you say in the night. For one to say a government has performed is to check the revenue profile, you will juxtapose it with the project by accessing the cost. But what we have in Edo State is yes, I have constructed a walkway even if the cost is 10 billion. I don’t care provided I have constructed a walkway. People fail to realize that it is cost effectiveness that gives interpretation to accountability. If a project that is worth one billion is inflated to 10 billion, that is stealing and not performance. This is a man that said at the inception of his government that he was going to establish three model schools in the State. One in Benin, one in Ewohimi and One in Iyamho, as I speak, go to the new Era College. It is a sorry site. The man has not done anything as far as Education is concerned. What he is doing is refurbishing the school building at exorbitant rate with the federal government UBE Fund. Oshiomole’s Education budget is not up to 10% performance, you can imagine a governor who could not build just three model schools talking about establishing a University? Democracy the world over is the ground norm for development if men like Oshiomhole who claim to be a democrat say the lawmakers he suspended were not known in their various constituencies and that they rode on his back to win the election that brought them to the house, it means something went wrong. It is either they were imposed on the people or the election that brought them in was rigged. In all, Oshiomhole does not have any democratic credential and if it is characters like Oshiomhole that the APC intends to be parading then the party has come to fake Nigerians.
What is the way out of the present political predicament in Edo State?
I will like to advice Edo people to open their eyes very well and ensure that in the next elections they come out massively to vote credible candidates that will be products of genuine primaries from the PDP. Oshiomhole does not understand what democracy is and if he claims to know, I am sure he is giving a different interpretation to democracy.
APC as a party don’t have mission, they don’t have vision, it is a party of hustlers and hypocrite and the people of Edo State have a responsibility to totally reject them at the polls. Edo people must reject their leader. Adams Oshiomhole who does not have the credentials to be governor neither does he know what democracy is nor his followers who are hypocritical individuals that believes in what they can get from Oshiomhole at the detriment of their people.
All the demonstrations and solidarity visits you see on television are index of a failed government, Edo people must reject Oshiomhole.
What do you think is the consequences of the emergence of two speakers in the Edo state house of assembly?
In democracy there is bound to be interactions, argument and conflicts, what is important is the observance of the principle of the rule of law whether there will be consensus conflict or argument, will be subordinated to the principles of the rule of law which simply means that guidelines that is responsible for the conduct of the activities of the house of assembly are all embedded in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There is a provision in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that gives interpretation on the basis upon which a serving member of the state house of assembly or national assembly can defect from party A to party B and there is equally a provision that gives room for the possibility of defecting without any repercussions. be that as it may, we are all aware that the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria allows for freedom of association, but there is a lacuna in that section of the constitution that say for example if a particular individual is elected on the platform of a political party he or she should be allowed to move to another party. In the All Progressive Congress, the Congresses that were conducted at the ward, Local Government and State Level violated the provision of guidelines of the party. They deprived a lot of their people from participating freely and fairly in the congresses and many of the members of the state house of assembly felt that they belong to a political party that does not obey its own guidelines and regulations, a party that does not allow for free participation of members hence they decided that they can no longer associate with the party because of the violations, therefore they moved to the PDP. In the movement to the PDP, the members of the APC wanted to declare their seat vacant, but the defecting members proceeded to the court to seek an injunction from the Federal High Court restraining the other members and the leadership of the house from declaring their seat vacant which was granted. However, the leadership of the house still went ahead to suspend the members from the house indefinitely. By extension that indefinite suspension that was imposed on the defected members is disobedience of the court order which states that their seats must not be declared vacant. Because of the violation of the court order by the Uyi Igbe leadership, the purported suspended four lawmakers decided as well to disobey the suspension order and went ahead to also suspend the speaker, Uyi Igbe and seven others. Don’t forget that the principle of fair hearing by the constitution of committee to try acts of misconduct was not there which makes the suspension illegal. The four lawmakers had to hang on the order of the Federal High Court to flout the purported suspension slam on them.
How possible could this crisis of speakership be resolved?
Like I said, democracy thrives on the rule of law and the judgment of the court which said don’t declare the seat of the four lawmakers vacant must be respected. Again the rule of law as applicable to the legislation of the house on the suspension of erring member should be applied otherwise they should return to the status quo by lifting the suspension and the counter suspension.
Is defection of elected political office holders good for our democracy?
Defection is not peculiar to Nigeria political clime, but the rate or frequency differs between developed countries and undeveloped countries.
The Frequency might be higher here and again defection is not peculiar to this present republic because in the first republic, politicians moved from NCNC to AG in the western region parliament and in the second republic, people also moved from NPN to UPN just as people equally moved from UPN to NPN, therefore the movement of politician from one party to another is not peculiar to this present day political dispensation.
Be that as it may, when people move from one party to another, the movement is made easy and possible because the political parties we have here today share similar ideology. There is no strict definition of the ideological frame work of any of the political party. I am speaking authoritatively as a political scientist because when you look at the definition of a political party abinitio, what we have in Nigeria today really do not fit into the proper definition of political party instead what we have is an association of like mind, and association of friends and associates coming together under one umbrella. what really make the difference here in our political party system is the leadership, that is the personality that is leading the party either at the local government level, senatorial level or at the federal level but in terms of ideological definition it is difficult to identify because we are a developing nation trying to evolve what will probably make our people to be happy. We are neither extreme conservative or extreme socialist. So if you like, we are on the 3rd lane which is an admixture of all. Political parties like the UPN and AG group were not really successful because of their ideological persuasions but because of the intelligence of the leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The party became a known progressive party because of the personality of the leader who believes in welfarist programme.
What informed your coming back to the PDP?
In politics people like to be consistent and circumstances force one into taking some decisions that will entail sacrifices. I cannot really say that I have enjoyed the movement from one party to another but I want people to know that it is a huge sacrifice that I am making and the sacrifice is for democracy and I think what should be asked is that, did I move because I was given money or did I move because I was not given contract, or is the movement because I was not given appointment? But when one move from a party that decides to violate his own internal rules and regulations. Mark you, a party without internal democracy is not a political party. People decide to join political party believing that they will be protected by the constitution of that party and until we begin to have the mentality that political party is a collective ownership of all members of the party or that all members of the party jointly own the party the movement of persons from one party to the other will not stop. The principles of the rule of law are in three pranks, motions of legality which means an organizations or an association have their own guidelines or documents that guides its members and when you are joining such organization you already know the dos and don’ts and they are expected to be protected by the rules of such organizations. So, if it is violated, it means such organizations are not responsible. As a responsible political party, congress and primaries are conducted with the frame work of the guidelines based on the party constitution, hence, when a party chairman flout its own guidelines and an aggrieved member decides to move.Iis it the aggrieved member that is at fault or the party chairman who decides to violate his own party’s guideline? Therefore those who leave the party because the rules and regulation of the party were violated are the true democrats, while those that derive pleasure in flouting party guidelines are unexposed and undemocratic elements. It is unfortunate that those who are not conversant with this dynamics see those who leave political party based on violation of party principles and guidelines as irresponsible character, instead, those who leave that are pursuing the sustainability of internal democracy in the party, and for me, my stand is nobody must violate the party constitution or guidelines.
Party chairmen and leaders are bound to ensure the strict implementation of party guidelines in the constitution.
Are you interested in contesting for elective position in 2015?
Yes. I will make myself available to serve the people but if during the course of my aspiration I discover an aspirant with a better credential and I am convinced that he is genuinely patriotic and want to truly serve the people in my constituency with all sincerity then I don’t need to contest, but if on the contrary, it is the other way just like what is presently obtainable in APC where it is very clear that the governor is wrong and some few people are praising him then I will challenge such person by contesting. It is on this basis that I am offering myself to contest for the Edo South Senatorial seat on the platform of the PDP. There are two types of contestants, those who are interested in the service to the people and those who are just looking for privileges and money. Therefore, if I see that those who are at the forefront to contest are just going there for the money I will challenge them. I will contest because I am convinced that the people are desirous of patriotic citizen to represent them. Don’t mind that I am just returning to the party, I was a founding member of PDP in Edo State and I left them when the party refused to practice internal democracy but today I am happy that people are returning to the party because of the genuine desire to practice the principles of internal democracy. I was in Jos in 1998 where I witnessed a free and fair primary that produced former President Obasanjo. I have made reference to the 1998 PDP primary severally in my papers. I am not just speaking as a political scientist but as a participant in practical politics. The founding fathers of PDP like of Chief Solomon Lar and others in G34 had that vision for internal democracy formed the party. Here in Edo then, former Governor Lucky Igbinedion was not imposed on the party; he contested the party primary and won. On a general note, I will advice that the antecedents of contestant for any elective position should be critically scrutinized as well as the credentials.