Edo State chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Barr. Anslem Ojezua, in this interview described the claim by two aspirants of the party, Dr Chris Ogiewonyi and Kenneth Imasuangbon that the governorship primaries were rigged as clear mischief, just as he accused the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun of isolating the state executive of the party from the just concluded governorship primaries.
Two governorship aspirants of the party are contesting the outcome of the just concluded primaries, what is your take on that?
The claim by Ogienwonyi and Imasuangbon are either borne out of mischief or out of ignorance. I prefer to consider it as mischievous because one of them is a lawyer and the other is an accomplished petroleum engineer who has served as a minister in this country. Therefore, I really cannot ascribe to them ignorance particularly when they followed the process. They knew all that transpired. The responsibility to conduct the primaries rests squarely on the shoulders of the National Working Committee, NWC headed by Chief John Odigie Oyegun. Because of these same aspirants, the NWC completely isolated the state government and the state party chapter from this process.
In all other states and in all governorship primaries that have been conducted, forms had been sold by the state chapter of the party, in this case the NWC chose to sell the forms directly. Screening usually takes place at the states where the election is to take place, but in this case the screening took place in Abuja. In fact I got to know of it by accident, I walked into the National headquarters in Abuja, then somebody announced to me that we are inaugurating the screening committee that day for an election that would take place in my state.
The delegates’ register was mutilated by the National Chairman, Chief Oyegun at the behest of this same people, forgetting that this party had crisis at the formative stage which led to the departure of a lot of party chieftains and their followers, most of whom were executives of this party and that those structures needed to be reconstituted and they were in fact reconstituted. This was done before people like Ogienwonyi and Imasuangbon came into the party. Yet when they shouted the National chairman removed all those names numbering 115.
The national chairman forgot that these same 115 party members voted in the primaries that brought in our current House of Assembly members including the primaries that brought in Samson Osagie and other APC candidates in the last general election. What the NWC purported to do now indicated that in some wards we did not have executives at all. Just because some individuals who claim to run on the platform of this party indicated their reservations the national chairman bowed to their pressure to damage the party. But we decided to just allow it because we are confident that it will not make a difference, we knew we were doing nothing wrong and I knew I was innocent of most of the allegations.
In fact, I told some, who asked me, that these are people who already know that they have failed and they are looking for who to blame for it. I remember that one of the aspirants requested to see a specimen of one of the ballot papers and Governor Masari said he could not do so that they were in sealed packages and that even he himself had not seen the ballot. That all of us will see the ballot at the stadium in the presence of all delegates.
Unfortunately, the following day these same people went and told him that they heard information that people were coming to dump ballot papers. Alhaji Masari, in his own wisdom, took his time and signed all the ballot papers that were to be used in the election. That was what was responsible for the delay that day, what I considered as inordinate delay that could have actually jettisoned the process but for the patience of delegates. You can imagine people went to accreditation centres at 8 a.m. got into the stadium by 1 p.m. Alhaji Masari did not come into the stadium until about 5:30 pm. Again because of these same people. Now the process was so transparent, it was televised live for the whole world to see.
And it is significant to note that this is the first time that the NWC insisted that the ballot must be by thumbprint. All these were to ensure that there was no incident of intimidation. As a matter of fact, in order to quicken the process some of us had insisted that more ballot boxes be provided, perhaps Local Government by Local Government. They said no if they do that it will be easy for people to detect who voted for them and who did not vote. They organized six boxes and in the end the result was clear.
Why will anybody in his right mind want to impeach such a process, just to cut off the nose in order to spite the face? What they do not know is that the national chairman who has made so much sacrifice on their behalf, perhaps to the detriment of his own party, is now the one that they are now impeaching because he is the one that organized that process. I had the opportunity of talking to the deputy national chairman and I told him that I took very strong exceptions to the fact that the NWC did not have confidence in the state executives of this party. And I thought it was unfortunate that they will repose more confidence in people who are not officers of the party.
How far have you gone in reconciling aggrieved member of the party?
Immediately after the primaries, I inaugurated a committee headed by Prince Malik Afegbua. It is a seven man committee and its mandate is clear; to identify all areas where we have frayed nerves. We also needed to give clear indication to all our family members that all that happened was a family affair and therefore it must be seen in that perspective. Therefore, there is no need for anybody to be gloating that we have won, nobody is the loser, everybody is the winner. I directed that they should reach out to the aspirants and their supporters and any member of the party they consider to have ill feelings for the party. That they should look into it and try and reconcile. We want to remain united and face the opposition on September 10.
Is it true that the APC is scared of the PDP governorship aspirant, Pastor Ize-Iyamu?
Why should we be scared of him? Some of us were together, we all founded a group called the Grace Group. And what was our maxim? Our maxim was no man is God and that includes him and me. We know ourselves, it is possible that in the past certain people were credited with some things deservedly or not. I believe this is one opportunity we have now to demystify ourselves. As far as any serious politician is concerned, at the moment one is not too sure that PDP is really in existence. The way to determine that any organism is alive is the head, once an animal is decapitated, that animal is dead. At this point in time, PDP does not have a national executive so why will I be scared of an animal that does not exist?
We are prepared for the election. We have a government that has performed. Edo State has the benefit of having experienced PDP for 10 years and APC for eight years, so they know the difference. And I have heard it said by people who are not politicians that Edo State will not go back to Egypt.