Edo State Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Special Duties, Hon. Damian Lawani, is the Convener and Leader of the Obaseki Shaibu Movement (OSM). In this Interview with OJIEVA EHIOSUN, he spoke on the Chief Bisi Akande-led reconciliation committee and the need for the All Progressives Congress (APC) crisis in the state to come to an end, among other issues. Excerpts…
What is the view of the OSM group on the Bisi Akande-led committee? Do you have confidence that the committee will resolve the political feud?
Yes, we have high hopes that the committee will work effectively to unravel the gray areas that people are complaining about. We have a competent chairman whose worth of experience and age is enough to give us satisfaction, justice and fair hearing with an understanding to resolving them. When you have justice, the ‘war’ will end. That is what we have always yearned for. We believe that a person of his caliber and status in the society will proffer solution that will put an end to the crisis.
The threats and counter threats will now disappear. There have been threats that; ‘I will send any name I want to INEC, or l will change the delegates list and do all I want to do’. All these threats will come to an end. I am also sure that the Bisi Akande committee will look at issues critically from both side with a view to finding solutions to them.
Don’t you think that the crisis has dragged for too long?
Again, one thing people should bear in mind is that this crisis is not Governor Godwin Obaseki’s crisis. Is it Obaseki that is responsible for the crisis in Ondo, Rivers, Ibadan, Zamfara, Imo among others. It is not Edo State crisis but APC crisis, and above all Nigeria crisis. There are several other states that are in tumoil over issues of godfatherism and mismanagement of some political leaders.
Some people feel that the National Chairman or National Leader of the party is for them, but APC as a political party is for us all. If the party is good, it is for everybody, and if it is bad, it is for everybody. So we are confident that the leadership of our former chairman, a former governor and pioneer member of our great party, with his reconciliation committee members will be able to find a lasting solution, looking at issues critically. Their solutions will put smiles on the faces of people and Edo State will move ahead.
As it is presently, Adams Oshiomhole is still the head of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), don’t you think his position can influence the decision of the committee?
The reconciliation committee is set up by President Muhammadu Buhari, the President is the leader of the party at the national level, just like Obaseki is the head of APC in Edo State. The president called for a reconciliation committee and asked the NWC to inaugurate the committee. We as OSM members don’t have problem with that, all we are interested in is justice and fairplay.
Even if Adams Oshiomhole is chosen as chairman of the reconciliation committee and we are sure he is not going to take sides and work accordingly, why not. That is why it is said that a judge must not descend to the arena, this is the reason why we rejected the previous committee because its members were already inside the ring, because there is no way they will resolve the issue. This matter in question is what the NWC would have resolved if its members were in the ring themselves. So you cannot fight somebody in the boxing ring and also want to be the referee. It is not doable, it is not possible, it is not acceptable to both parties.
Political violence has increased in the state and people say that the governor is responsible. Don’t you agree that the governor has a hand in it?
When people want to kill a dog, they first give it a bad name. Let me say this, every reasonable person in Edo, even in Nigeria, knows that Obaseki is a refined person, and that is why the fight is tough, because he is trying to bring in modernisation and sanity into the system, that is the reason people are resisting him. They do not want to accept change. For people to accept those fundamental changes, a lot of toes must be stepped upon, people must learn to accept realities. We cannot continuously do things the same way and expect different results. For changes to come, we must make sacrifices, especially with stomach infrastructure.
Now they are throwing bombs destroying properties and pointing accusing fingers at the governor and OSM group. We warned few weeks ago that they want to start bombing and introduce violence in the state. We are peaceful people, if we had used the powers available to us as it was done during Oshiomhole’s regime, none of them would be seen around this town.
We love peace, we are not involved, we are not interested in whatever they are doing to themselves. We have called on relevant agencies to fish out those involved in the bombings. We have no hand in it, what we are asking for is peace, fairness and justices.
It is reported that you as the leader of OSM have been going about, begging top leaders of EPM. How true is this?
This is why I told you that we are a peaceful people; we try to reach out to our people, preaching peace. Yes, we reach out to them for dialogue, we can’t be calling them for dialogue and the same time attack them. No matter what they say, we are concerned about bringing peace to our people, bringing peace to Edo State, bringing peace to Nigeria, bringing peace to our party and bringing peace to Nigeria so that our elections will be held without hitches.
Our state is a peace-loving state, APC is one umbrella body, we are brothers in this business, we want them to come back so we can work together to build Edo State for all. It is only those who are completely out of APC that we don’t reach out to.
One thing about politics is that the moment you win an election, you automatically become the people’s man right from your unit to the national level. So, Obaseki is for Edo people, the masses of the state are behind him, he has done marvelously well, the people are seriously asking him to continue, so with or without Oshiomhole and his EPM, eight years of Obaseki is gaurantee, because he has been tested and trusted, there is no going back.
Assuming the party primaries go the opposite way, what will OSM do?
Look Godwin Obaseki is the only man now that can fly the APC flag in the coming election. He is the man the people want because of his track record in all aspect of governance. APC and Edo electorate will give him the ticket for the second term. Go to the 18 local government areas in the state and see what the man is doing, he has won the hearts of Edo people, and the are ready to carry him on their backs to ensure he wins a second term. Don’t let anybody deceive you, Edo State is not Lagos State, it is Edo people that will determine the fate of our 2020 gubernatorial election, not a group of greedy elements.
Obaseki can’t be charged with the responsibility of securing lives and properties of the people, and at the same time be responsible for destroying them. So, I want to call on the good people of Edo not to believe in the campaign of ‘pull him down’ syndrome that some aspirants are using against him. Obaseki is the man we have chosen to seat on that seat again for another four years in the state. Whoever is against him is against the development of Edo State.