Barrister Kenneth Imansuangbon is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and three times governorship aspirant in Edo State at different times, under the PDP and the APC. In this Interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he described the just-concluded Edo election as freedom from political godfatherism and demystification of the APC. Excerpts…
What is your view on the justconcluded election in Edo State?
I thank God almighty for the victory. Governor Godwin Obaseki’s triumph is a victory for Edo people, its God’s victory. I congratulate Obaseki for offering to lead the change we wanted and the change has come. Obaseki will go down in history as one of those who brought democracy to the people. He offered himself no matter whose ox is gored. It will go well with him in history. I want to salute him; the godfathers have finally been caged. It was a contest between the good, bad and the ugly ones; light and darkness; godfathers and the people. Of course light will always overcome darkness. Just like good will always overcome evil, the majority will always overcome the tyranny of the few. What happened in Edo State on September 19 is a landmark; it is a change from the past. The younger generation now has a platform to build upon, going forward. It is not about a political party, it is not about Obaseki, quite honestly, even the so-called godfather, Oshiomhole, the victory is not even about him. The contest was a contest for the future of democracy in Edo and in Nigeria.
You have been nursing governorship ambition for the past 16 years, why did you jettison your position to queue behind Obaseki?
Yes, I have been in the struggle for 16 good years, simply because I love my people. I have feelings for my people, I have tasted poverty and I know the pains in it. I know our people want freedom, they hate oppression, and the only way to do it is to support a man who God has sent to rescue the people from oppression and put total end to godfatherism in Edo and Nigeria. In the past 16 years, I have never been a councilor, I have never had any appointment, I have not had any federal, state or local government contract. I earn money from a primary school and bring it to Edo State. I survived a car crash that almost took away my life, yet I am still fighting. I have never had any pecuniary benefit. Why do you think I am doing that? 30 years from today, it may no longer matter, the kind of house I live in, the kind of clothes I wear or wristwatches I wear or the class of airplane I fly in. What will matter is the legacy we leave behind for our children. Going forward, Obaseki’s greatest achievement in history would be this struggle. In his right years the greatest achievement of Obaseki would be the struggle he offered himself for. When we are all gone, bookmakers would come and say Obaseki confronted the godfathers and he defeated them. So, in the future, nobody would play the godfather any more. No human being would play the godfather because if you do, they will defeat you.
Is it true that your active involvement in the election is because of Esan 2024 Agenda?
I am not promoting ethnicity, in Nigeria we have about 900 ethnic groups, I am a patriot to the core. I have gone round the world, my friends are Americans, Britons, Canadians, Japanese, and Chinese, etc. My best friends in Nigeria are even from the North. I schooled in the South West; I was born and raised there. My wife is from the South East and I am now living in Abuja. How would some people say that I am promoting ethnicity? They should get themselves examined. The truth is that, what is fair is fair. Freedom, fairness and liberty are the same. The last time somebody from Edo Central was governor was 41 years ago under Professor Ambrose Alli. By law, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor was never a governor. The law does not recognise him as a governor. It means the last time Esan man was governor was 41 years ago when I was about 13 years old. What we are saying is that when Obaseki finishes his eight-year tenure it would be the turn of an Esan man. Who will determine the Esan man who will become governor is the Benins and Afenmais, not even the Esans, because they are the majority. Who is the Esan man that will not want a prosperous Edo State? Let nobody be mischievous, the country is inching towards a perfect direction. Edo State governorship poll 2020 is a signpost to a democratic Nigeria. The victory of Obaseki is a signpost to a democratic Nigeria.
If in 2024 the Esan Agenda did not work, would you still describe Obaseki as a hero?
Why would it not work? It will work; justice and equity demand that the Esan Agenda works. The truth is it is not actually Esan Agenda. It is a coinage. The agenda is Edo Agenda. When I give out rice do I give it only to Esan people? Most of the rice I share go to the people of other ethnic groups, mostly the Benins. I have lived the major part of my life in Benin. Most of those who have helped me while I was growing were Benins. They are wonderful people. It doesn’t matter where a man comes from, whether you’re the son of a rich man or you were born in a manger, what matters is your identity. What you bring to humanity, that’s what is important. That’s why in America, for example, nobody cares about the state you are from, but what you’re bringing to humanity. What contribution are you bringing to make a life better than you met it, that is the key question people should be asking themselves. So 2024 is not about Kenneth Imansuangbon, it is about the people of Edo.
Would you advise Edo to follow the Deltal example?
My panacea would be, let’s take the Delta State example. The Delta experience answers it all. Delta and Edo are one. In Delta, they have succeeded in rotating the governorship from one senatorial district to the other; that is guaranteeing a peaceful and United Delta State. I suggest that we should do that in Edo State. Edo South has produced governor twice. The north has also had it once, next time it should go to the Esan. Like I said, the Benins are rational, educated, very accommodating, humane and loving people. In 2012, Edo South gave me vote in four out of the seven local government areas in the senatorial districts. The Benins are not tribalists. So, there is no Esan Agenda, the agenda that we have in 2024 is Edo Agenda. Today, I have made Nigeria better than I met it through education. No governor or minister or President has ever done what I have done with all modesty. Even 200 years from now when I am gone, what I have done in education would remain. They are immutable. It is because there is poverty in Africa, and that is why people die to be governor, senator, President etc. For me, what does a governor, senator or president mean? You become relevant as a governor when you are relevant to the people. The only reason Obaseki got my endorsement was because I saw his heart for the people, nothing else. There is nothing he can give me. I have told him that. Even if he makes me a governor it is not an offer.
Why are you still sharing rice after the election?
I followed the campaign of our party from start to finish, I saw the aguish and pains on the faces of our people, I saw the hunger on their faces too, during the camping. I did promise that if they vote PDP and we win the election, that I was going to say ‘thank you’ to them, this is exactly what I’m doing now. It is just to tell them that I have them in mind. By the time we got to 2024, we would know how to cross the bridge. But I want to tell our people that godfatherism is completely dead in Edo State, not even Obaseki can afford to be godfather.