Senator Ehigie Uzamere, in an interview he granted to the Punch newspaper on February, 28, 2014, justified why he decamped from the APC to the PDP. Read him: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality; and the reality of today in Edo State is that despite all the razzmatazz and media visibility, it is an unfortunate situation that we find ourselves in the present party (APC) and government in the state. I make bold to say that the people of Edo South are actually a people in bondage. And this is unacceptable. Many people see through the entire façade but lack the courage to speak.”
This has become an established pattern by which the Senator who represented Edo South in the Upper Leguosative Chamber of the National Assembly from 2007 to 2015 on the platforms of the PDP and APC respectively plays with the sensibility of Edo South people who are principally of the Benin ethnic stock when switching parties to further his personal interest as could be observed in his recent decamping from the PDP back to the APC.
In an interview with the Vanguard newspaper on August 14, 2016, he had this to say: “I have nothing against the PDP except one. The structure of the PDP did not help Benin people and I asked one question which I am still expecting them to answer. How many appointments that were given from 1999-2015 went to the people of Edo South?”
It is apparent that in pursuit of his personal aggrandisement, Uzamere has always played and championed the ethnic card as if the redemption of the Benin people begins and ends with him: a self-arrogated assumption, which he has not been able to discharge in spite of having had the opportunity to represent them at the Senate for eight years. The excuse for his failure has always been hinged on either the machinations of fellow Edo South leaders or leaders of the other two senatorial zones.
This is what he said of Governor Oshiomhole in 2014 when he was parting ways with the APC: “Number one is the issue of godfatherism. We have now discovered that it is a cankerworm in all the parties and that certain people blew that of the PDP out of proportion for their political aims. Soon after acquiring power, they slide into that very whirlpool that they criticised so bitterly in the past and upon which they shored up their support base and popularity.”
He also said in reference to the APC and Adams Oshiomhole: “I believe that a party organised around a sole administrator, who overturns and overturns, depending on his mood, desires, whims and caprices, cannot dispense justice, equity and fairness in a heterogeneous polity. The people of Edo South Senatorial District have been criminally short-changed by the current party (APC) and government in Edo State…. how many positions of critical importance are occupied by Edo South indigenes? In the location of projects, how many projects are sited and executed in Edo South considering the population, landmass and resources of the district?”
The relevant question to ask the distinguished senator, who has penchant for fair weather cruises, is: what has changed in the APC between February 2014 and July 2016 besides becoming the ruling party at the federal level and an Edo South man being its national chairman – two reasons he put forward as accounting for his latest defection? So far, how have these developments conduced to the emancipation of Edo South people from the stranglehold of Governor Adams Oshiomhole with his Edo North agenda as Uzamere had alleged in the past?
Since Chief John Odigie Oyegun became the national chairman of the APC, in what way has Edo South benefitted? How many quality appointments has he been able to get Oshiomhole to give to Edo South people as a departure from the past? When it came to the issue of appointing an APC minister, why could Oyegun or the Edo South structure in Edo APC not influence the Edo South nominee, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, to be made a senior minister instead of a Minister of State, Health? What role did Oshiomhole play in the appointment of the minister of state? Granted that the APC primary produced an Edo South man as the party’s candidate for the 2016 governorship election, could we say he represents the choice of Edo South people in a free and fair contest? The protests which came before and after the primary attest to the contrary.
To be sure, this is one situation Uzamere says he abhors when referred to the appointment of Gen. Godwin Abbe who served as a Minister of Interior and Defence under the PDP between 2007 and 2011. He said that Abbe was not the choice of Edo South leaders. If that were true, what difference is there between Godwin Abbe nominated by Chief Tony Anenih, an Esan man, and Godwin Obaseki nominated by Oshiomhole, an Etsako man, or by whoever within or outside Edo State? Where is the Edo South input in the Obaseki affair?
It is most uncharitable of Uzamere to have tried faulting PDP governorship primary held on July 4, 2016. The primary, from all ramifications, remains the fairest and most transparent party primary in the history of Edo State, across party lines. The emergence of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was not a product of imposition by the leaders. Ize-Iyamu is the result of sound collective judgment and decision shared by leaders and members of the PDP who are genuinely interested in taking over power from the APC and thereafter making impact in governance. Among the aspirants that contested, given the time and circumstances, it was very evident that Ize-Iyamu possesses the qualities needed. Their collective support led to his overwhelming victory at the party primary.
Uzamere who had the ambition of contesting the primary before the 2015 Presidential Election, which the PDP lost, chickened out of the race. He had hoped on getting the support of President Goodluck Jonathan and his political godfather, the late Chief Diepriye Alameseigha, the former governor of Bayelsa State, to influence the primary in his favour. Unfortunately, President Jonathan lost the election and Alameiseigha died. Uzamere, who had failed to build sufficient goodwill in the party, felt that he stood no chance in the primary.
However, in his 2014 Punch interview, Uzamere reported accurately the new spirit in the PDP that conducted the July 2016 Edo Governorship Primary. He had stated then: “You must have the leader. And we have raised the consciousness of the people to draw a thin line between genuine leadership and godfatherism. So, in the past, in the PDP, the way the godfather was perceived as dishing out instructions is not what we have today. The PDP leadership has gone through turbulence. I have met with its leaders and we now have an understanding on due process, transparency in the emergence of candidates as well as internal democracy. You can perceive the change of demeanour; lessons have been learnt.” It is this PDP that conducted the Edo Governorship election which produced Pastor Ize-Iyamu as its flag bearer.
The conclusion by Uzamere that APC’s Godwin Obaseki will defeat Ize-Iyamu bears no relationship with the reality on ground in Edo State. Like Uzamere Observed, Edo South people and, indeed, all Edo people still have a sense of bondage as nothing has changed. They have not only been politically emasculated, they have also been economically frustrated by the plethora of obnoxious taxes and anti-labour inclination of the APC administration in Edo State. For them, the APC represents a continuity of the Oshiomhole highhandedness and economic frustrations.
Apart from the people desiring a change of party, the grassroots support Ize-Iyamu enjoys from across the parties has been very infectious. This election will go down in history as a test of the will of the people against a government party, which leaders have been boasting that they have the advantage of controlling all the apparatuses of state that will be engaged in the conduct of theSeptember 10, 2016 election.
Mr Omoruyi, a public affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Benin City.