Hon Saturday Idehen Uwuilekhue, a businessman and a grassroots’ politician, was a former Orhionmwon Local Government Chairman, a former Secretary of Orhionmwon Local Government Chapter of Peoples Democratic Party before joining the All Progressive Party. Recently, he resigned his membership of the APC. The versatile politician in this exclusive interview bares his mind to RAFIU AMULE on his political sojourn, the alleged anti democratic policies of Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, reasons why he resigned his membership of the APC, how the deputy governor betrayed Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and other issues.
What informed your decision to resign from APC and decamped to PDP?
If one is in a marriage without comfort and concession and the husband is always fighting for one reason or the other especially on frequent basis, the best option to take is to go your separate ways in order to avoid bloody crisis. We all know it’s not good for us to fight frequently and for me and my group not to be consumed by those who feel without government they cannot survive, those who are over ambitious and visionless, we therefore decided to leave and as a true progressive and democrat, the only compass that can enable me navigate properly politically is to join a party that will represent the interest of my followers and the generality of Edo people, therefore, any party that I belong that down plays the interest of my people, no matter whose ox is gored or whatever personal interest that is involved, I will leave because to me politics is about service to the people. Those you see today patronizing the government feel they do not have any other profession or trade to fall on that is why you hear them say the only job they have is politics. That is the misconception they want the people to believe and as I said earlier, politics is not a profession but an avenue or platform to serve the people. How can a man force somebody who has been a party chairman since the past 16 years on the party? To me, such people should examine themselves properly if they are psychiatrically alright. In a democratic setting such as ours, two terms of four years each is what party constitution recommends and as such when one man who claims to be a politician now feels he can arrogate number of tenure to himself because he is a friend to the person in power then the party will definitely head for the rock. The initial issue arose towards the end of the first term of Governor Oshiomhole that the group which I belong, that is the Pastor Ize- Iyamu group does not want the governor to get the second term which was wrong, now they come up that if Pastor Ize-Iyamu is allowed to succeed Oshiomhole he (Ize-Iyamu) will expose Oshiomhole to EFCC. If the governor truly believes he has no skeleton in his cupboard why is he afraid of Pastor Ize-Iyamu? So many people have held elected office before including me so if the governor feels his hands are clean why should he be afraid of going to jail? The governor must examine himself properly, if he has soiled his hands otherwise he would not have believed those peddling or selling the dummy that somebody will send him to jail. All of these made me to have a rethink and I decided to opt out of the party even though I was given an appointment that belittled my status.
Why did you accept the appointment when you knew it belittled your status?
I accepted it because as a progressive and a democrat, you don’t accept appointment for personal gains rather you accept because you want to serve the people. I believe I can serve my people in any capacity no matter what. I believe a man who is rich in blood is that man who will after taking cassava flour will tell a man who is eating cow that he has eaten than a man who is poor in blood like those in Edo government house today who having eaten cow leg will deprive those who want to eat cassava flour of their food. They abound in this present administration, for instance some of those who were proponents of Edo in safe hands were tenants in “grace group office” while some were dry cleaners but today go and check them, they live in massive and expensive mansions, yet they say Edo is in safe hands. It did not happen then in PDP I can attest to that, go out and you will understand how corrupt these people are. The PDP they keep criticizing to divert people’s attention from their corrupt activities are saints were APC members in government are, go and investigate PDP members from the national assembly to counsellors, none of them had the kind of mansions these APC people have today, Senator Roland Owie till date still live in his house at medical stores road but go and see the kind of mansions own by special assistants, special advisers, commissioners and council chairmen under Oshiomhole, you will pity Edo State. I decided to join my group to path ways with them because they are not ready to change for the better hence our decision to move to a better place to pursue our political career.
How will you as a former chieftain of APC react to the insinuation that Governor Oshiomhole has promised and started disbursing monetary gratifications running into millions of naira to your group to pacify your members?
As far as I am concerned I did not received calls from the governor but from friends who are still in government appealing that I should rescind my decision, I feel they did not observe what I observed maybe because they are benefitting one way or the other from the government. If a man offers democracy and the other offers bags of grains, there is no amount of starvation that will make a man who is principled to prefer a bag of grain to democracy, those who are presently in government today in Edo State belong to the class that will prefer bag of grain to democracy, these are people who take government patronage as their oxygen to survive. Yes, they try luring people with money to perpetrate themselves in power at the expense of credible individuals in the state, there stock in trade is to live and die in power. It is proper to actually understand that democracy in Nigeria is evolving and those of us who believe in the institutional principles and ethos of democracy need to make sacrifice to strengthen it in this part of the world. The only way democracy can be strengthened is for democratic minds to work together to filter the bad ones out. There was really a time a group christened grace group evolved in the PDP and later metamorphosed to AC through to ACD and ACN in Edo state during which I was part of them and I had cause to disagree with them then because of the calibre of people they were parading for elective position, for bringing in one of those who is in office today from the National Assembly who for eight solid years does not have a single constituency project or an individual he empowered to show for those years and bringing another person who because he was in labour union and did not get to level 16 to come and contest election, that was why I refused to vote for ACN rather I voted for PDP. Thank God I reminded my leaders in a meeting recently that I am now vindicated because I told them then that these people they introduced to contest election were never reliable, has Odubu the deputy not shown ingratitude to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu who nominated him (Odubu) as running mate to Oshiomhole? He was already in Auchi on his way to Benin from Abuja when his cell phone rang that he should come back to Chief Lucky Igbinedion’s house in Abuja to come back to sign his nomination paper as deputy governor? That was the time he first met Adams Oshiomhole.
It is unheard of for a governor not to be accessible; is it not laughable for you will spend more than 24 hours to access an individual because he is a governor? This is a state where it takes over ten months for a certificate of occupancy to be approved, a state where retired soldier is forcefully installed as a permanent secretary, a state were multiple taxation is the order of the day, you cannot drive freely because of the retinue of state traffic boys who get paid with the money extorted from innocent road users, or is it the teachers and the civil servants who got to office to suddenly discover that his/her name is no longer in the voucher? As far as I am concerned, I cannot continue in a system that will consume me and my people and the best decision we took was to leave since they refuse to heed the call for change to join a democratic party and above all, am not an ingrate, I can never be ungrateful to those who assisted me in any way to climb to the top. I was a council chairman and at no time was I ever ungrateful to those who helped me, I can still remember very vividly then when the PDP party leader Barr Jonathan Aghimien (SAN) told Pastor Ize-Iyamu that he has made the greatest political mistake of his life for entering into such arrangement with Odubu and Oshiomhole likening it to a person who entered into a coffin asking a man to nail him with six inches nail, though Pastor Ize-Iyamu defended his actions, but today where are we?
Do you think Edo people will trust your group for leaving the APC considering the campaign by the leadership of the APC that you all left because Pastor Ize-Iyamu was desperate about his governorship ambition?
I have never taking a wrong decision and am convinced that the wave that is already radiating in Edo State will bring about the needed change, it is too parochial to ascribe our leaving the APC to the issue of somebody becoming a governor. Lucky Igbinedion, Ambrose Alli, Odigie Oyegun, Samuel Ogbemudia and Oserhiemen Osunbor were all governors in this state and I know that very many people cannot come out today to say these statesmen have not done well, why singling out lucky Igbinedion’s administration for comparison by Oshiomhole? It means Oshiomhole has failed because if he says he is performing yet he keeps comparing his achievements with that of a man he claim has failed then he too has failed. One would have expected that he will be the best ever in the country because of his labour background which of course was the reason his popularity rating was high when he first came into politics but today his rating is so low that he cannot walk alone along the street. In any case, one would have expected Oshiomhole to be comparing himself with the best and not with the person he acclaimed has not performed and don’t forget the fact that the man he is referring to has not replied him. The question should rather be is there any comparison between his government and that of PDP? Why is he not comparing what he gets now from federal allocation and his internally generated revenue to that of the PDP then? yes he has busied himself by patching some few roads in Benin metropolis compared to the ones he did in Edo North, we are not bothered because we know that we will soon have a governor who knows how to spread development across the state, a governor who will not create disaffection amongst the three senatorial district, a governor who will base his principle on equity and fair distribution of resources and infrastructure. To me, he has not done something new, for instance there is this Idunmwogo-Ugo-Urhonigbe road and the indigenes of the communities in question know that the Ugo-Urhonigbe axis was an existing tarred road. If the government is not corrupt and deceitful let them tell Edo people the cost of the road and other roads he claimed to have reconstructed. My advice to them is that they should keep quiet and spend their remaining time in office and leave.
As a former chieftain of APC, how will you rate Oshiomole’s administration in terms of percentage?
I will look at the performance as somebody who has held elected political office before and I will like to talk about the Lucky Igbinedion’s government even though I am not his publicist but because that is Oshiomole’s yardstick for rating his government. Lucky never ask vulcanizers to pay tax neither did he ask market women to pay any levy, the civil servants hardly notice how much was deducted as tax from their salary when Lucky was a governor. What Oshiomhole does is collecting taxes based on percentage so if the man wants to drink more Moet and entertain Nollywood visitors he jerks the tax percentage up. As far as I am concerned, considering the volumes of monies he gets in terms of allocation and IGR available to this government, he has not performed, he has failed. I was a council chairman and I asphalted 4.6km road for 107million and the road is still there today, I did a 6km electricity project for less than 12million, I constructed a primary school building for about 6million and many more they are existing but today Oshiomole’s government having deceived our people with his so called red roof reconstruct block of primary school for between 40 and 50million so you can see the kind of government we have, how much do they sell red roof and tiles after all? He has only hoodwinked and bamboozled the people with the so called red roof. I think the better parameters or indices to rate a government should be physical, infrastructural and human development including the policies of the government. The teachers whose names were deleted from voucher were employed by the PDP government which means that the PDP government employed people meanwhile APC has not employed a single individual into the civil service till date, the employment Oshiomhole specializes or believes in is the casual workers he gave uniform to harass and exploit road users instead of establishing farm settlements where they will be gainfully trained to be able to be useful to themselves, their family and the society.
What is your advice to Edo people as we approach 2015 election?
I will advice that we all rally round President Jonathan first because his election is coming soon, aside his been a south south man, his transformation agenda is fully on course and his gentle disposition is worth emulating. He has not because he is a President make sarcastic statements even with all the insults the opposition rain on his person, he is focused and it is just unfortunate that there are some security challenges which we all know is not peculiar with Jonathan’s administration. There are federal presences in Edo even though we still yearn for more, the Benin bye pass, Benin/Asaba dualization, Benin/warri dualization, Benin/Ore and the Benin/Auchi/Lokoja/Abuja dualization and so many others. The only reasonable solution is for us all in Edo to ensure that we are connected to the national grid which is the federal government instead of remaining with one miniature political party called the APC.