Esogban of Benin Kingdom and Chairman of the Benin Forum, umbrella organisation for Binis home and in the Diaspora, Chief David Edebiri, in this interview, speaks about his group’s tour of projects executed by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. The revered Benin chief, fondly referred as the ‘Oracle’ of Benin Kingdom, also speaks on the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the politics of Edo.
Your group recently went round to assess Governor Oshiomhole’s projects. What are your findings?
It is true that the Benin Forum went with Governor Oshiomhole on inspection tour of some projects. From what we saw, it is very encouraging that something is happening in Edo. We would have loved to invite people from other states to come to our state and see what is happening. It is not enough to make statements on the pages of newspapers to say this man is not doing anything, it is better you come and see what is happening here. Even with the current economic down turn, Oshiomhole continues to build and construct. We were impressed and every human being who is good will be impressed with what the governor is doing. We love him, we have confidence in him and we will continue to support his government.
We went on behalf of the Benin Forum,and the BF is the apex organization of all Benin people at home and in the Diaspora. What the governor is doing is marvellous and all the Benin people at home and abroad appreciate it. Those who say he is not doing enough ought to know that there is no way one can eat his cake and have it. Oshiomhole could not have been stealing Edo money and still have money to do what he is doing. So the only thing one can conclude is that whatever penny the government is generating through IGR, is being put into the construction that is going on everywhere in Edo. The governor is doing well and the Benin people are most favoured and blessed by whatever project Oshiomhole has brought to the state. We are satisfied.
But what effort are the elders making to get a credible successor for Oshiomhole?
The process of selecting a successor is first and foremost the work of politicians. They have their own method of producing candidates. At that stage, those of us who are not politicians can only be onlookers. When they finish and a winner emerges, we will look at all the candidates, not from the APC alone, but also any one of them we feel can do more than Oshiomhole, one who will be able to do something for the majority of the people of the state. Then we will advise our people accordingly. But, currently, the parties have the show because they will conduct their primaries and at the end of the day, we pick somebody we feel will do well for us. We are not restricting it to only APC alone. We will look at the candidates of all the parties, PDP, APGA or Labour Party. So if we find, for instance, that APGA has produced somebody we feel can work for the greater number of the people of Edo, we will support him and advise our people accordingly.
But don’t you have the fear that APC governorship primary may create crisis in the party?
My advice is that APC, if they want to retain their dominance of political power in Edo they should go in for a credible nomination process. If they can come out with a credible process, nothing has happened to change the political pattern that brought Oshiomhole to power. Nothing has happened to change that situation if the ruling power in Edo can conduct a credible primary election. Oshiomhole is still going to be the issue whether he is contesting or not. To their advantage, Oshiomhole has performed, so whoever is chosen by the party will rise on the back of Oshiomhole as against their opponents who will not have nothing to show us what they have done. And from what is coming from Abuja today, how they looted when they were in power, I don’t think that is a credit card for any party. So, it is up to the APC to put their house in order and see that whosoever emerges as the candidate of that party is the popular choice. He is going to be someone that the majority of the people will accept. I am not aware that Oshiomhole is imposing anybody. Once APC conducts a credible primary, there is nothing changing the calculations or the voting pattern of the people.
But the Binis betrayed Oshiomhole during the last National Assembly elections. What makes you think that will not repeat itself?
I do not agree that the Binins betrayed him during the National Assembly elections. Many factors went into play during the elections and many of those factors cannot be seen again. Some of those factors that affected the elections may never come back. Binis did not disappoint Oshiomhole. The question of the National Assembly elections was not a Benin affair. And to tell you that the results of those elections were a fluke, two weeks after, the results of the House of Assembly elections changed. So I disagree that the Binis disappointed Oshiomhole.
I recall that you actually predicted President Buhari’s victory. Are you satisfied with the current economic situation in the country?
Definitely. I hold the same view about Buhari. As a matter of fact, the views is stronger this time than when we supported him to win election. I believe that those things most Nigerians believe he will do if he becomes President are within possibility. As a matter of fact, it was on November 12, 2013 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium that I first made it public that the party that was being formed them, that is today the APC, will form the next Federal Government. I predicted it that time and, as God will have it and because we speak with the authority of God Almighty, the prediction has come true. And on several other fora, I did say that Buhari will become President from 2015. We met severally and I told him he will become the President of Nigeria again. On a particular day when he visited the palace of the Oba of Benin, before I broke the kolanut to pray for him, I make the remark that if I knew that Buhari will not win the coming election, I would not have left my home for the palace. The fact that I was at the palace to break the kolanut and prayed for him, showed that he will be the winner of that election. Although many people did not take kindly to it, God has vindicated us.
Now, since he assumed office, I want to say, with all the emphasis, that he has shown a very decent and civilized mode of administration. The three principal targets of his administration have been followed diligently so far. I have not seen where he has failed in the implementation of the promises he made to the people. On security, it is now public knowledge that he has succeeded, using the Nigerian armed forces, to defeat Boko Haram. Whatever the terrorists are doing today is just to say they are still somewhere but, in the actual fact, they have been so dismantled that they can never have a formidable force any more to do damage to Nigeria.
On the economy, the way he is battling the problems is also commendable and I know we will still get to the destination. I am surprised that many Nigerians are not showing enthusiasm as they ought to show at the disclosures coming out of Abuja, how people conspired to loot the Nigerian treasury. But for President Buhari sitting, I am not too sure that any other Nigerian would have gone so far in digging out these people who looted our money. Even those who we entrusted powers to rule us were all co-conspirators to loot the treasury of this nation. Even we did not know that many of them we had thought were genuine leaders were all partakers in corrupt practices to the extent that the money that was meant to buy arms for our armed forces was shared for political purposes. The old regime arrested soldiers who refused to go to the war front without guns, weapons and they were tried, court martialled and sentenced to death. I am happy that they have been given reprieve but as a Nigerian, I want to call on the Federal Government to further look at the issue of the soldiers with a view to discharging them without any punishment. And to bring the people who had brought this shame, untimely death to our people, bring them and try them for being cruel to humanity. And I see that while people have been dancing around the corner, the real culprits are outside. If you cannot charge them locally, charge them at the International Court for crimes against humanity. So I think the Buhari revolution is on course and I have no doubt that he will lead this country to a safe place.
But he is being accused of being selective in his war against corruption?
Any time I hear that allegation, I ask myself, will Buhari leave those who stole and go for those who did not steal? When Dasuki was arrested, he told them the people he gave money to. So will Buhari go and arrest somebody that was not mentioned? I think these are the same people, trying to derail the good work of the President. There is nothing selective in this war against corruption. Those who were given the money have admitted receiving the money. So I think it is all blackmail. I want to urge that this inquiry is ongoing and should not stop until the last penny is returned to the treasury of this country.