Chief Francis Inegbeneki, a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Edo State and one of the leaders of Oshiomhole faction, spoke on the unending crisis in the party in the state, assuring in this interview with FRANCIS ONOIRIBHOLO that the crisis will be over before the governorship primaries coming up early next year. Excerpts:
Where are we now in the current political imbroglio within APC in the state?
There is no political imbroglio in APC in Edo State, what we have is internal wrangling and it is not a major problem that can affect the party. We have internal wrangling where there appears to be indiscipline in the party.
Recently, a section of the party came together where we saw a faction called OSM (Obaseki/Shaibu Movement) emerged, so when the leaders of the party noticed that there is a group called OSM, we waited for the party to react, to take action or to condemn it, I am talking of Edo State APC and none of such action was forthcoming. When we noticed that a group called OSM germinated from APC the leaders were worried that factionalizing the party will spell doom for the party, especially when those who supposed to condemn it did not do so. So we decided to come together, I mean the other leaders under a name, The Authentic APC, yes you can call it EPM (Edo People’s Movement), it is like a movement of the party, the real apostle of the party, that is what we call the EPM, they are the real apostles of the party. We did not want any problem in the party, we did not want faction so we decided to rescue the party because we discovered that the State Chairman of the party who is supposed to be a father figure of the whole party is now taking side with OSM, we now saw OSM going from Local Government to Local Government, we found that one very insulting that in a political party a group will emerge.
So those of us that were not members of that group decided to come together to save the party, that is what you see today in Edo called the Edo People’s Movement.
Now the fear people are expressing is that some members of the Assembly have not been sworn in, what is their fate presently?
You see maybe this is the first time I will speak on the crisis in the Edo State House of Assembly. My position is the position of majority of APC leaders in Edo State. In the last 48 hours our leader came out openly to tell the world that as at today Edo State does not have a House of Assembly. I am not a lawyer, if you go through the constitution it is clear that a State House of Assembly must not have below 24 members, that is what makes up the State House of Assembly, at least 24 members, so if 9 members went to the House at a nocturnal hour to inaugurate a kangaroo inauguration, so they were not up to 24. So as at today a House of Assembly that is not up to 24 is not a legal or legitimate House of Assembly, so there is no House of Assembly as at today in Edo State. What we have is a group of elected House of Assembly members that have come together waiting that maybe someday they will have a majority. But of course you know that minority cannot rule over majority it is not possible, 9 members cannot be more powerful than the rest out of 24 members or claim to be majority. Of course that is not true they are a minority, so no House of Assembly in Edo State today, that is the truth of the matter.
What is your reaction to a court verdict which says the governor cannot issue a proclamation twice?
I will not speak on that because a Federal High Court has given the order that a governor cannot issue proclamation twice. What am I going to say, this is a country with the rule of law, if the court has said so maybe a superior court will also give a contrary order, they will interprete it, if they have said so it is ok, it is already a subject of the court.
The fear of the people, especially the APC supporters, is that if this crisis between Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki continues, there is every possibility that the APC in Edo State may lose in the forth coming election. Do you agree?
Really there is no crisis in the party. We have internal wrangling as a result of divergent views. Those that are supporting this illegitimate inauguration are few, the minority cannot have their way, the majority will have their way at all time in the event of any consequence, it is going to be minor because it is only a minority that is supporting this illegitimacy, it will not affect the foundation of the party. Our party members are resolute, some of those you see jumping up and down holding rally carrying microphones are paid agents, they are not authentic members of our party, they really cannot make decisions, they are insignificant, it will not hurt the party, we will come out of it very clean and Edo people will be happy.
Are you not seeing a situation where Edo State will witness what happened in Lagos State that prevented former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode from getting a second term?
We are not there yet, it is still very far, maybe before the primaries we will put our house in order and we will be able to do anything and anything can happen but as of today let us not talk about second term, let us talk on how to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. Yes, the governor is trying, he is working, but only that we have internal wrangling because he is not carrying the leadership along, his style of politics is digital, he met us local, we are still on analogue but he came maybe trying to impose digital system of politics to the state, it is alien so there is a disconnect between himself and the party. So when that one is resolved which we are going to resolve very soon, I believe that it will be resolved very soon so we will be one once again.
Can you suggest any way the wrangling can be resolved without ruffling feathers?
Oh yes, I will kowtow with the words of my National Leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, I am sure you read his interview, so I kowtow with those his decisions. You see the Governor must reverse and adapt to our analogue style of politicking, his own computer style will not work because they are digital, ours is analogue. Remember we are still practicing democracy; he cannot just introduce his digital style just overnight to the system. He will have to reverse, come back to our own level whereby you respect the party and respect the leaders because there must be tomorrow. So in a political party we always want to organize very well so that after every four years we come back and the people will vote for us but when you behave like this to the leaders who will now vote for you again and we do not want to lose this state, so that is why I kowtow with my national leader that he must retrace his steps and come back to our own level and let us practice analogue politicking.
What is your advice to the state, to your supporters and to APC generally?
My advice to APC generally is that we must try and put aside our personal interests, let us drop our personal interests right now and form a robust political party. We must learn to forgive one another, let us unite the party, where there is wrong we admit there is wrong and will seek redress, when we see the party not going in the right direction, leaders must be able to speak out and tell the party. Remember that these people we are talking about were elected by us, we elected them to become our representatives so they cannot be more powerful than the leaders. When they are making mistakes we must guide them, when the party is not moving in the right direction we guide them, we must unite the party that is my advice.
And those of them that are advising the governor wrongly they must first remember that the party is supreme and it is only when we have a united party that we can win an election, they must give useful and important advice to the governor, don’t tell the governor that, “nothing dey happen” something will happen when you disregard the leaders of the party. Maybe because they give you six classrooms, two or one road to go and build, you are benefiting and then you advice the man say, “nothing dey happen” no, the party must be able to direct the governor and give him useful advice, that is my advice to them.