Here in this interview, Edo State gubernatorial contender on the platform of the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Iyoha John Darlington, speaks about Edo politics and others factors that impede the progress being made by the incumbent administration under Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Sir, recently we stumbled onto an article in the Daily Trust of February 25, 2020 titled “Edo 2020: My fact-finding visit to Government House”. What prompted you to embark on this visit?
I did matter-of-fact make that visit on invitation by His Excellency, Rt. Hon Philip Shiabu, the Deputy Governor of Edo State. Bound by a strong conviction the invitation was extended to me in good faith, I unavoidably had to honour it on February 19th this year.
Our State, if you need reminding, is larger than any individual or political factions and seeing that the state was degenerating at a breakneck speed into a theatre of war made up of belligerents within the ruling party amidst accusations and counter-accusations, I deemed honouring the invitation to the Government House absolutely necessary, for starters, being a governorship contender myself having patiently and anxiously watched from afar the lethal activities of the political gladiators which in my own conviction was capable of triggering off a chain of escalating incidents and unmitigated disasters.
My contention is that there has to be a State – I mean a civil division without weapons and violence. Political groups whose sole intent is to take over the reins of power can only flourish in the long term in a peaceful environment which was a far cry in our State as of when that visit was made.
But what do you make of an obviously sad situation when the lifeblood of our State was recklessly laid on the line? What really do you make of an obviously sad situation, I ask yet again, when the State you are aspiring to rule is torn to shreds via activities akin to bloody insurgency?
Worried, I needed to see the men at the helm; that, as a matter of fact, increasingly became very heavy in my spirit and that invitation became a welcome relief which I had no option but to cash in on.
Such is what it was like at the period under review. There is no gainsaying the fact that everything was at sixes and sevens which was an unnecessary distraction to the incumbent administration. I wish to say here without ambiguity that our state was in dire need of a moral compass to navigate her out of the stormy waters. This fundamentally informed my interest and desire for that visit.
Not long ago, violence erupted in Edo State. This was adduced to the conflict between Governor Obaseki and the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole. Can you proffer solutions for a peaceful settlement?
You see, oftentimes I am taken aback at the bushman politics at play in this part of the globe. In the Old World on the north of the Mediterranean, to be precise, where I have sojourned in for over two and a half decades, to compel one to succumb to the whims and caprices of a confederacy of overlords, fraternities and godfathers is alien to the political actors in the civilized world and therefore looked upon as an irredeemable mortal ‘sin’ enough to pull you down from your Olympian height. This speaks volumes in no small measure for the accelerated progress and development we see in that region of the world. Wait a minute! Did I hear you say conflict between Governor Obaseki and the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Adams Oshiomhole?
With due respect, I would have you rephrase that sentence because there is no basis whatsoever for any conflict or clash of interests in the first place between Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki.
It is only proper for the former to work in sync with the latter to bring about peace and development of our State.
Is there any personal development plan template put in place by the former while Governor that impacted positively on the lives of our people shield away from? So why the conflict? And what is the conflict all about? Does it have anything to do with the well-being of our people?
What was left behind in 2016, if one could recall from dim memory, was a State saddled with massive debt burden and a sickly growth trajectory that has reduced our State to an economic backwater.
Governor Obaseki is in charge and therefore needs all the encouragement and support to revitalize the obviously decadent paralysis.
The latter did his bid and left without distraction and unnecessary interference by his predecessor, Chief John Odigie Oyegun who coincidentally treaded the same path with Oshiomhole as a former governor of the state and the national chairman of the ruling party.
That is to say Oshiomhole had no distraction from the above-named while at the helm. That is an office I am aspiring for whose sanctity I respect and the present occupier should be respected without undue interference from any quarter because a house, as they say, that is divided against itself cannot stand. In his capacity as the National Chairman of the ruling party it is incumbent upon Oshiomhole to work in sync with the governor not as a robotic hand-picked successor. He is the Executive Governor of the state and should be treated and respected as such.
What I frown upon is assuming the air of a Machiavellian overlord which is diametrically and fundamentally opposed to what obtains in civilized climes. Our democracy must be allowed to grow and flourish. It must not be stunted by personal aggrandizement to pave the way for peace and development. This is the focus of my humble analysis.
You are the Edo State PPN governorship candidate but you seem to be in support of the present governor who is an APC member. What is the correlation?
You see, Edo State comes first and the well-being of the generality of our people supersedes any personal interests. This is where I irrevocably stand. I will not and could never be part of any iniquitous arrangement that will encourage or endorse the menace of tyranny and odious apparatus of neo-Nazi rule in our state.
I, for one, loathe personal aggrandizement and therefore out of sync with my desire to join the governorship race. Frankly, it is not what it is predicated on. May Heavens bear me witness this day!
I want to see an Edo State that will attain great heights via good governance which she has been denied of by successive governments.
I think it is high time our people saw the essence of having a government in a state – a government that absolutely cares by making provisions for the generality of its people. I have moved across continents and interfaced with the natives and saw these ideals in force.
It really does not matter to me who holds the reins of or wields political power; what matters to me is how this power is employed to impact positively on people’s lives. We find these non-existent in Nigeria.
The duo of Obaseki and Shuiab appear refined gentlemen par excellence whose powers are unfortunately being circumscribed by naysayers and detractors who want a reversion to the status quo ante. This, I dare say, will only return us to the proverbial viscous circle which I condemn this in the strongest terms.
I have been a participant observer in the unfolding democratic process. I have been watching mouth agape with incredulity why some spent brains would want to dominate our political space and have the entire citizenry reduced to mindless robots.
What is in contention here is the wellbeing of the entire Edo people and this makes me a governorship contender.
Now the question is: Is Obaseki toeing this line? Yes, he is doing it but only trudging along because of distractions by naysayers and overlords within his party. I think it is time to join forces with him to remove whatever clog it is that has been in our wheel of progress. Obaseki if allowed to rule without interference is not a bad administrator after all.
Nigerian politics is seen by many as a do-or-die affair and godfatherism an integral part. What do you have to say about these?
Public office in Nigeria must, as a matter of urgency, be made less attractive. There should also be a legislation against granting unrestricted access to the treasury. Nigerian politicians live in the laps of luxury with proceeds from official corruption unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world.
They live a life of glittering opulence while the electorate on whose ladder they climbed thrive on dirt and dirty surroundings. That is why you often see all means are employed to acquire political power including armed thuggery.
Today, there is no honest politician in Nigeria, if you ask me, who sees the call to duty as a moral commitment and this is a far cry from what obtains in the civilized world where public office is made less attractive.
This must be discouraged because no sooner than they are transmuted by constitutional wizardry into the execution of their office than they become demi-gods with the state’s instruments of coercion at their disposal which in turn reduces the electorates to the dregs of society. This, I dare say, ought not to be after all!
Politics as a do-or-die affair in Nigeria is better blamed on the lure of power, fame and money – which is often stolen from the public till to augment their outrageously fabulous salaries and allowances.
Thus, to join the leadership club in Nigeria either by appointment or election, is not easy without patronizing or retaining the services of godfathers. These are a tribe of people who wield influence, power to determine who gets nominated to contest and win elections, and thereafter construct a conduit pipe through their godson so elected to the treasury.
This results in inability to perform well while in office. Oftentimes, elected public officers are hamstrung by lack of funds to perform. This is the agonizing web and predicament I reliably gathered Governor Obaseki was caught in which he had no option but to resist that pitched him against his predecessor.
Poverty and ignorance are twin evil that led to the emergence of godfatherism. The issue of godfatherism is worst in Nigeria. It is no news however that our country has been declared the poverty capital of the world by supranational financial institutions and this constitutes a stranglehold on the country.
Ignorance on the part of the electorate is another factor that gave rise to godfatherism in Nigeria which often breeds corruption via falsification of election results by bribery, maiming, sometimes by arson, abduction and the like.
If the electorates unite with sincerity of purpose against this social malady, I defend this assertion with unprecedented firmness and utmost conviction, it will be extirpated from the Nigerian body-politic and ultimately render the so-called godfathers redundant while aspiring to political offices.
Alas, this ignoble tradition has set us back in so many ways and in fact one of the hydra-headed problems that impedes our socio-politico, economic and cultural development. This lends credence to Patrick Lumuba’s famous quote, “Those with ideas are not in power, while those in power have no ideas”.
That is what godfatherism has, in fact, reduced us to today!
What is your assessment of the Obaseki/Shaibu administration?
To speak ill of the duo under the existing circumstances would amount to making them a fool for their pains considering the time and energy they have exerted on cleaning the proverbial Augean Stables left behind by their predecessors.
The above-named mean so many things to so many people and these varied opinions suggest that Obaseki-Shaibu central paradox is that, despite effective policy-making, they failed to receive credit for their many achievements resulting from the activities of sponsored naysayers who say he is not a party-builder. The Obaseki-Shaibu team could better be described as radical reformists that loathe the highly retrogressive old order which has dragged our state to abysmal depths.
The indefatigable duo would do more if re-elected and given a free hand to operate but that is increasingly becoming a thin hope resulting from the activities of a group of people who have ganged up on the above-named and are further bent on foisting their diabolic whims and caprices on our people in the forthcoming dispensation.
While an unbiased participant-observer might give their policies high marks, naysayers would likely flunk them. What can’t be argued here, however, is that they accomplished a considerable amount during the last four years and equally going unmeasured are a number of the duo’s intangible or indirect accomplishments.
In the area of sports, an indelible mark has been made. Edo State has regained its lost glory.
When Obaseki took over, Edo economy was in a free-fall and unemployment figures rose sharply in fact spiking to double digits and other sectors tethered on the brink of collapse. But all that has changed now for the better resulting from the personal development plan template put in place in the past four years. This must be allowed to grow for optimal results.
What is your reaction to the news making the rounds about the imminent dumping of Obaseki by five commissioners in his cabinet?
Grapevine sources speak about that ill-conceived plan and if it is anything to go by it will only be very unfortunate.
This takes us back to my reactions to question number one. Frankly, I really cannot speak on that now because it has not happened and it is what I honestly do not anticipate. Hence it will be improper for now to launch diatribes or react to trifles and hearsay.
All in all, it is high time the Riot Act was read to all gubernatorial contenders that the spendthrifts’ stars have set in Edo political firmament and are therefore no longer needed on Dennis Osadebe Avenue.
How is your party the PPN preparing for the forthcoming Edo State governorship election?
Our structures are well-grounded and actually in place. You see, there is no denying the fact that our people want to identify with a third force amid the ongoing deadly punches being thrown within the ruling party that has caused the incumbent administration a lot of distractions which redound on the citizenry.
Our winning strategy will pay off in the long run if the vox populi, in any case, will be allowed to count.
We are a highly determined team armed with every missile in our arsenal to cash in on the ongoing volte-face to run a populist campaign. It needs no gainsaying however that the confederacy of stereotypical leprechauns who have made life hellish for our people over the years will be jettisoned in the forthcoming dispensation. I am sure as eggs is eggs.
Having interfaced with different political stakeholders, community leaders, trade associations’ leaders in the course of my state-wide consultations, I have no doubt we have done much work and eventually succeeded in taking the wind out of their sails.
Gentlemen of the press, what is the rationale behind allowing political power to remain ad infinitum in the cruel hands of a tribe of prima uomini and prima donnas who are bent on returning our state and Nigeria by extension to the proverbial vicious circle while other states continue to gallop ahead of us in the race to annex and hoist the flag of victory in the proverbial lost city of El Dorado?
How does your emergence as the Governor of the state hope to make an appreciable difference that will positively impact on the lives of the people?
My love for my people and state -one of the sub-national units that make up the Federation of Nigeria knows no bounds. This informed my interest and desire to join the governorship race.
Nigeria is my country doubtless; I do not love her less either despite my lengthy sojourn overseas. My integrity and patriotism, therefore, remain unquestionable, if you need reminding.
Driven by this patriotic zeal, I decided to join the governorship race in the hope of righting the wrongs that have plunged us into abysmal depths.
I have always been patiently and anxiously watching behind the scenes until a harrowing incident that occurred in the last quarter of 2018 that left a scar of distress on my heart.
It is none other than the daily episode of Mediterranean deaths. No fewer than 96 Nigerians of Edo State extraction perished in the Mediterranean which made news headlines across the world. Goodness knows if the news was ever syndicated by the Nigerian media.
This incident paved the way for inquiries and an avalanche of questions that gave rise to the 2018 Turin Conference & Declaration in Mediterranean nation of Italy which attracted delegates of Edo State extraction from across the European Union.
In this conference joint resolutions were adopted, one of the resolutions is for our state to undergo a rapid transformation to one of the industrial heartlands in the euro-zone to discourage the ongoing mass exodus overseas.
This again gave rise to a deluge of questions from the throng as to the operational feasibility considering the “feeding bottle” type of federalism that subsists in Nigeria.
At this juncture, it was decided that we embark on aggressive Internal Revenue Generation via recourse to untapped sectors from where the bulk of the money would come from to develop our state God willing if voted to power.
We had to retain the services of highly competent technocrats to pursue and implement our ideals. This would in earnest amount to a neo-colonisation of our state because our team of technocrats have worked and lived an integral part of their lives as administrators in the EU and beyond and a retired Judge at the Crown Court in Manchester was nominated and appointed to head the team.
Frankly, we are set to make an appreciable difference having seen, known and enjoyed the products of good governance in our respective countries of residence in that part of the Old World. These are what we are poised to replicate in Edo State to better the lots of our people.
We have no intention to steal from the public till that would bring about a dearth or paucity of funds to finance and execute key capital projects. That is as sure as fate. Again, may Heavens bear me witness this day!
I say yet again, and wish to be reminded someday that Edo State under our leadership shall reduce lures of the cities in the exotic East to glorified urban slums.
Our mind is irrevocably made up to resolutely pursue and implement these ideals, the activities of naysayers and detractors notwithstanding. “O constancy be strong upon ‘our’ side. Set a huge mountain ‘between ‘our’ hearts and tongues, if I may borrow a rephrased hackneyed quotation from Shakespeare.