Major General Cecil Esehaigbe (rtd) is the Director-General of the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation in the Edo State governorship election. In this interview with BIYI ADEGOROYE, he speaks about the prospects of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in Saturday’s election and sundry issues
How prepared is the All Progressives Congress for the governorship election in Edo State?
We are very prepared. As the Director-General of the Campaign when we were inaugurated, I made it very clear that our campaign would be based on issues and I think we have been able to express those issues as articulated by Pastor Ize-Iyamu and we are very confident that he those issues have been sold out to the Edo people.
They have been able to look at, in retrospect, whether their lives have improved in the past four years in all issues of human development. And I can tell you categorically that the answer has been no.
What new thing is Pastor Ize-Iyamu bringing to the table?
The difference is that we have somebody who is prepared for governance, who has gone through, through the tick and thing and has passed through the mill and understands what governance is all about. This is not somebody you brought from outside and imposed on the people.
He has been Secretary to the State Government, Chief of Staff. So he knows the rudiments of governance and the difference is that he is going to start from day one, respecting the political structure, and also delivering on the dividends of democracy.
How do you see the contentious inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly and its bearing on the current political crises in the state?
It is very unfortunate because that is one area where I disagreed with Governor Godwin Obaseki because Edo people are civilized people and a situation where, you know, the minority is rule over the majority is not in consonance tenets of democracy. It is not the business of the executive to interfere with the activities of the legislature because there is separation of powers.
In politics, things are not done by force, rather it is about negotiations and persuasion. So if you nursed any fear, all you needed to do was to win the hearts of the legislators elect. But to resort to nocturnal inauguration and kidnap of the people in short nickers and slippers to be able to do that very unfortunate inauguration is at variance with democratic tenets.
Now I am aware that they are quick to make reference to the Senator Bukola Saraki inauguration, yes, when Saraki was inaugurated, he did not stop other members from coming to the Senate to be sworn in and take their seats. So by his action, democracy was turned upside down in the Edo State legislature. Sadly since then, the minority has taken decision on issues that affect every man and woman in Edo State.
But Comrade Adams Oshiomhole played a key figure in the election of Governor Obaseki. How do you see that?
That is true, because he worked with Oshiomhole for eight years as his economic adviser, and he looked at him from the surface and said having worked with him for eight years, he should be able to continue with my legacy projects. But as Williams Shakespeare said, you don’t identify the construction of a man’s heart from the look on his face. At the end of the day you discovered that the man that worked for him for eight years is not the kind of man he expected.
There is apprehension now of the possibility of violence in the election in Edo, despite the peace pact. There have been video making the rounds of your candidate passing instruction to thugs. What do you make of this?
I can tell you authoritatively as a security practitioner that Edo election will be peaceful, irrespective of the drum beat of war here and there. You know that they make all this noise respecting violence in order to prevent voters from coming out to perform their civic responsibilities.
The security agencies are equal to the task. You will recall that the Inspector-General of Police has deployed a DIG and an AIG and six Commissioners of Police and I tell everybody that apart from the apprehension, Edo State election is going to be peaceful.
Given the level of popularity of PDP in the state, with two senators and now the incumbency factor, don’t you think the party will have an upper hand in this election?
You know that Edo electorate are very sophisticated because they look sometimes look at the personality of the candidate rather than the party coming on board. So that they have that is not a reflection of their popularity. Most of these votes are dissenting ones because a wrong person was brought in to contest election and that was what Governor Obaseki did in my own senatorial district.
In Edo Central, he brought in somebody and imposed him on the people and we paid the price. So when there is a fair primary that is when you can actually gauge the popularity of a candidate not when there is imposition. The consequence of imposition is not normally too good.
How certain are you about the victory of Pastor Ize-Iyamu in this election?
We are going to win, not because of federal might or any super structure, because number one, he has a manifesto.
The other party says they want to make Edo State great again and that means the state has not been great in the past four year.
So the SIMPLE agenda, Security, Infrastructural Development, Manpower, Private/Public Partnership, Leadership and Employment, captured the full tenants of national development and people are beginning to appreciate it. And it is easy when you are dealing with an incumbent that has not performed because they have nothing to campaign with.
The issue of godfatherism has been a contentious matter in Edo as people often make reference to late Chief Tony Anenih and now Oshiomhole. Is Edo State ever going to break free from this?
There is nothing unusual about godfathersim. Even in the Catholic Church where I belong, when you want to go for baptism they talk about godfather. It is unfortunate that politicians are giving negative connotations about godfathers.
A godfather is somebody that brings you, supports you as you go through a process. So is there any politics without godfathers? Because, but for godfatherism, Obaseki would not have become governor because he was brought from nowhere and made the candidate where he became governor.
If you want to deemphasize godfatherism and want to pass through the normal electoral process and primaries, he win be there.
So let us not look at godfatherism in a negative sense. It only becomes bad when after winning the election he comes to demand for thus contract and that or wants the governor to give so much as from the state revenue, or the governor cannot prepare his budget without the input of the godfather. That is the negative trait of godfatherism.
But in the positive sense it is a situation where he is able to give you the torchlight and say with this you will be able to see through the darkness. That is the difference.
Politicians talk about gotherfathersim when it does not favour them in the negative sense. Bu when it does, they don’t talk about godfathersim.
How central is Edo to the success of APC, especially as an oil-bearing state?
We are not even looking at it in that sense. We are looking at it as the only state held by the APC in recent times and it is very strategic because APC started building its springboard when they won Bayelsa until the unfortunate annulment of the victory. APC does not want to be seen as a regional party, hence it is extending its tentacles across every nook and cranny of the country which is a symbol of a great party.
Is APC afraid of any trouble from Niger Delta militants during the election?
You know Edo is so sophisticated and no man can take an average Edo man for granted. No one can come to my sitting room to rob me and go back just like that. But these are all permutations and apprehension created by politicians to scare voters but I can tell you that no political party has monopoly of violence. But like I told you earlier the election will be peaceful.
At the national level, the APC government is said to be creating more pain for the people than pleasure, especially with the increase in electricity tariff and fuel price. Also in place is increase in bank charges, don’t you think this is a disadvantage to your party at this time?
You see, unfortunately, the consequence of the COVID-19 does not distinguish one party from the other, because a national or global economic crisis will affect the length and breadth of the world.
So, if in good faith the government thought the removal of subsidy will bring succor to the average Nigeria, I support it. Because any time there is fuel crises, an average man will buy fuel at N500 per litre. So if we buy at N150 per lite and the difference is used to cushion the effect on the people through provision of infrastructure, I think it is a good move.