Prince Blessing Edigin is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State. In this interview he talked extensively about his relationship with the former governor of the state, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and a host of other issues about the crisis that erupted in the party leading to the defection of some of its members to the PDP.
Until recently you were a strong loyalist of the former national chairman of the APC, Pa John Odigie-Oyegun. Why did you leave him?
Actually, Pa Oyegun was my boss. He was a man that I really respected because of his level of education and the positions he has occupied starting from being a federal Permanent Secretary. He later became the Edo State governor and much later the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). I respected him because of all these life achievements and as a Benin man I was prompted to work with him. But one thing that got me pissed off is that he accepted the man that removed him as national chairman of the APC. I am talking of Godwin Obaseki. The same Obaseki told Comrade Oshiomhole that the national chairmanship is good for him because he was eyeing a second tenure as governor unknown to Comrade Oshiomhole. Oshiomhole was accepting everything that Obaseki was telling him. Obaseki knows much about Comrade Oshiomhole. When they were about to remove Pa Oyegun from the national chairmanship position it was the same Obaseki that went from APC governors to APC governors that Pa Oyegun is not worth to be national chairman of the party. My greatest shock is that now the same Obaseki is Pa Oyegun’s best friend. I am not comfortable with that.
Also, another reason that I made up my mind to leave Pa Oyegun was the fact that he does not live by his words. I recall that when he was about to clock 80 years he told me that when he is 80 years old he would become a father to all politicians. But I was shocked when he became 80 years and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu paid him a visit to tell him about his plans to become the governor of Edo State Pa Oyegun denied him.
Another thing is that we that were his aides were not happy. All what you see that they are doing is pretences and I do not want to be a pretender. I want to be where there is truth and love.
Being a foundation member of the APC in Edo State, can you tell us what you know about how Obaseki became a member of the party?
Obaseki has displayed what the Benins have wanted to forget starting from when the first Obaseki betrayed our king. That scattered Benins into different directions whereby our king was taken to a strange land. Also most of our valuable artifacts were taken to Britain. We have been trying to forget all these things in recent times. To our greatest surprise another Obaseki has come to remind us that what the family is known for is betrayal. He has betrayed the APC completely. First, they betrayed the Edos now another one has betrayed the APC. A leader that cannot put his house in order is not worth being a governor. What matters in leadership is how to manage the people and how to manage your home. Obaseki does not know how the APC was formed.
He never knew how the foundation of the APC came about. He only came when Comrade Oshiomhole brought him after one year that he assumed office as governor of the state. Ever since he came there has been confusion. Whatever he was using to control Comrade Oshiomhole nobody knows. But today Comrade Oshiomhole’s eyes have opened. Comrade Oshiomhole was warned seriously that this man (Obaseki) would betray him. I remember that a high chief of Benin Kingdom went to Comrade Oshiomhole to tell him not to pick Obaseki as governor “he will betray you.” Oshiomhole said “no.” He went from house to house and started begin people to vote for Obaseki. Today, you can see that the history of how Obaseki betrayed the king and the Benin empire the same history has repeated itself as Godwin Obaseki too has betrayed the APC. That’s what the Obaseki family is known for. We were expecting that Godwin Obaseki would come and end all these bad names by bringing a good name to his family not knowing that he was coming to do worst. My brother, you know what it takes to build a political party. You know what it takes to build a house. Everybody laboured, suffered to put APC together. Now, you said because you have a problem with Oshiomhole. I don’t know the type of problem he has with Oshiomhole the Benins were now running to Oshiomhole “you brought this man. He has refused to appoint board members. He has refused to attend to the party members. The people in the grassroots are suffering.”
APC members have turned to beggars in the streets. We are not telling him to come and share the state money with us. He charters flight to wherever he goes. We know how much that amounts to.
The party members that voted for you even when we all objected Oshiomhole forced us. The APC members have turned to beggars. You said there is no money. To our greatest shock you have spent over N15 billion on the PDP. What the APC asked for was not even up to a billion. What we asked for was give us our benefits, our rights. I was Oshiomhole’s first ward chairman. It was in Oshiomhole’s time that neighbourhood watch security outfit was formed. Those who constitute the neighbourhood watch team were the politicians who have no job. It is not good that after using them you leave them on the streets to constitute nuisance. Their salary was N30,000 monthly. A hundred people were picked from each of the 192 wards in the state to make up the neighbourhood watch. Then we have YES workers. The same number of people, a hundred each, were picked from each of the wards. Rapid Response workers were receiving N18,000 each. They were attached to government offices.
Those that cannot read and write and those that want to learn work he gave them money. He also constituted the boards of parastatals. Each ward in the 18 local government areas were represented on the boards. I was second in command in the Edo State Waste Management Board under Clem Agba as Commissioner for Environment. All these happened during Oshiomhole’s regime. Oshiomhole did not give us these appointments to seat at home. We go to work just the way civil servants do. Oshiomhole worked. He constructed Airport Road. He did Siluko Road. He did Maria Gorreti Road where they say there is Mammy Water and nobody can go in there. He was still paying salaries. Calculate how many workers who are politicians that Oshiomhole was paying and putting food on their tables. Oshiomhole took the path laid down by General Samuel Ogbemudia(late) when he governed the state. He was making everybody happy. But when Obaseki came he said that we are beggars. He openly said that we wanted him to share the state money.
The politicians have turned to a laughing stock because of his statement. But I want people to understand that a man that said that he cannot take care of his home is that man worth to be a leader or father? A man that cannot see that his children are hungry is he worth to be a father? Is it now that we will come out to say that Oshiomhole is bad? Godwin just bite the finger that fed him. I have not seen what Oshiomhole has done to make Obaseki to raise his hands against him. No, it is an act of betrayal. What has the Benins benefitted from Obaseki? Instead of you to say thank you to those that helped you, all what you used to reward them is evil. The same godfatherism that Obaseki is talking about he is more than a godfather.
The civil servants are caged. Edo State is caged. Every money or revenue that is coming into this state is on Obaseki’s table. Civil servants go to work and by 12noon they go back home because there is no work again. He has diverted every work to himself. He has caged everybody. This is the real godfather with a snake side that have come to swallow the people of Edo kingdom. But we will not allow it. We will resist him. There is no money for you to take care of your home. Obaseki is a man that build a house, paint the house so well that when you’re passing by the house is very beautiful but when you go inside it is smelling. That’s Obaseki for you.
The betrayal of Benin Kingdom
The same Philip who was involved in the great betrayal of Benin Kingdom is still with Obaseki right in the state house. And has betrayed the Benins and APC. Can you see that. The same white man’s name that was mentioned in the betrayal story is still the same Philip who is with Obaseki betraying the Benin Kingdom. What’s happening? But I thank God for our king, His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare 11, the Ogidigan of Benin Kingdom, the great god of our time. He is not sleeping. The Benin Kingdom is not sleeping to bring the truth to reality and put the evil one to permanent silence because Obaseki has not come to do the Benins good. He has come for his own selfish interest.
Let me ask you a question. You are my teacher you taught me in the primary school. When I got to the university I met you there as a lecturer and you taught me. You did everything possible to make me pass my papers. When I graduate is there anything that you will do to me that will annoy me? We are humans, we are bound to make a few mistakes. Then I will now capitalise on a mistake and start rubbishing your name. Who am I fighting? I am fighting God. Fighting the ancestors. So, as Obaseki is fighting Oshiomhole he is fighting God and the ancestors of the land because one thing I see about Oshiomhole he loves the Benins more than any other tribe. He has not stopped loving the Benins. He came and opened the eyes of the politicians that there is enough money to work. Count the number of things that he has done for Edo.
To tell you how wicked Obaseki is all the campaign Oshiomhole did for you to become governor you now turned them against him as evil campaign. Is Obaseki normal? Oshiomhole offended a lot of people for your sake. But one thing I like about Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu he doesn’t talk. He looks at you but what he wants to do is in his mind. That’s one of the reasons that I am supporting him. He and his deputy, Gani Audu, don’t talk too much. See how Oshiomhole rubbished him. He didn’t rubbish Oshiomhole back. You can never tell what will happen tomorrow. I was in a place when Oshiomhole was called and he was asked “all these things that you’re saying about Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu are they true?” He said “most of them are not true but I will talk more to make sure Obaseki wins.”
For all those sufferings you now turned all those things against him using it to campaign for yourself. Let Obaseki know from today that anytime he plays that video on air he is reaping curse on himself. I speak with the authority of the ancestors of Benin Kingdom as a Prince from Edigin Palace where the king took his name. I speak with that authority from that Palace today as Obaseki shows those videos he is reaping curse from the ancestors because Oshiomhole never used it against you. You are using it against him but that’s where the ancestors will turn it against you as as an evil and you will reap the curse unless you stop showing the videos. This is inhuman. This is part of the reasons that I reexamined my relationship with these people who have no love for Edos; who have no respect for the palace. If Obaseki has respect for the Oba who is our god here on earth, the matter between him and Oshiomhole should not have gotten this far. Obaseki is a proud man. If you even great him for him to respond is even a problem.
The politicians you call thieves are the same people you are spending billions of naira for in PDP. The same Pa Oyegun is blindly following Obaseki. This is the same man that betrayed you and removed you from office as APC national chairman. He is now luring you but as he is doing that you are not carrying your loyalists along. Nobody has ever worked with Oshiomhole and regret working with him. They all go home happy. The poor becomes rich, the rich becomes richer.
You (Pa Oyegun) are working with Obaseki. He has brought love to you. As a father how many of your workers has Obaseki helped starting from me? So, what is the essence of being in a place where you are not happy? Even those working with Obaseki are all suffering. But watch Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s workers their is smile on their faces. Watch the faces of those working with Gani Audu, the APC deputy governorship candidate, they are all smiling. Come to Obaseki’s workers, we meet all the time, they don’t smile. Even those working with Pa Oyegun there is no smile on their faces. Lets go to where there is smile.
On Captain Hosa Okunbo
Captain Hosa Okunbo may God bless you wherever you are. How many fathers would be happy to see that the house that he built his child just came and start destroying it? How many fathers would be happy? When we were funding the Action Congress(AC) we started from 4th Dimension. There was a problem in PDP. A big problem that Lucky Igbinedion could not execute all the plans he had. What we did was to form this party. It was in Captain Hosa’s house. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) he was the one funding with Captain Hosa Okunbo, Chief Igbinedion, late Colonel Paul Ogbebor and other dignitaries right in Captain Hosa’s house. The man(Captain Hosa) spent what is called money. All what he asked for, “I need unity in Benin. Put smile on Edo people’s faces. If they are not employed please give them jobs.” That was what he told Obaseki.
But starting from the APC he started from our leaders house, Captain Hosa. It is the same people he started throwing stones at. That’s where he wound himself, fighting the hero of Benin Kingdom. A man with the interest of the Benins at heart. That spend his hard earned money for the development of the kingdom. You can see that Obaseki is a man who wants to destroy the people that have made it in Benin Kingdom just for him to be on top. Is that not godfatherism? How can you fight the people that put you in a position?
If Obaseki is to contest for the position of councillor he will not win. Take my words. I have been a foundation ward chairman. If Obaseki was brought to me when I was a ward chairman that he wants to contest councillorship he cannot win not to talk of becoming a governor. These are people that came together and fought for you. As you assumed office these are the people that you were using as chewing sticks. Who is now the godfather? What has Captain Hosa done to him? Captain Hosa did not come and meet him to ask for appointment. He did not ask for job that he is hungry or give me contract I am hungry. You are trying to pull Captain Hosa down. How can Captain Hosa be happy? The house that he spent billions to build he will just see it destroyed. Akinwumi Ambode(former governor of Lagos State) did not leave APC. He made sacrifice for his people. You cannot make sacrifice for your people. Rather, you decamp to PDP. How do you expect people to be happy with you?
Talking of the issue of the House of Assembly members. It was pride that made them to be where they are presently. It was not Comrade Oshiomhole that took them to Abuja. They cried to Oshiomhole as the national chairman of the party. What really happened then was that the governor was leading us like a military officer who gives command. I came out and said “this is the man I need as Speaker.” The assembly men said “No, we should come to a roundtable and dialogue. From there we can choose our leaders.” He said “No, I have said it.” That’s Obaseki for you. This is what people don’t know. But most of us know. The lawmakers resisted him saying he cannot impose somebody on them as Speaker.
In the case of Osaro Obazee in the contest for the House of Representatives, he brought Osaigbovo Iyoha and we in Oredo told him this man is not on ground. The person on ground is Osaro Obazee. He is the only man that can fight Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama of the PDP. He said “No, I have said it.” He started spending money. We were looking at him. Iyoha was in the state House of Assembly for four years he did nothing for us. On the day of the election we all turned our back against Iyoha and voted for another person. If he had listened to the opposition against Iyoha the PDP would not have won the election to the House of Representatives in Oredo Federal Constituency. He did the same thing in the state House of Assembly matter issuing command and we said “No, we don’t need command.”
When the lawmakers got angry they relocated to Abuja so that crisis will not happen in the state. Oshiomhole avoiding a situation whereby he will be blamed if a crisis between Obaseki and the lawmakers in Edo erupts he accommodated them in Abuja. Oshiomhole was blamed for the crisis that erupted during the Osaro Obazee issue not knowing that we were the ones who fought Obaseki for not listening to us and we reported him to the national chairman. Oshiomhole is blamed for all issues.
Obaseki was trying to cage us. I don’t just know who this Obaseki is. I am yet to know who the man is. What Kingdom is he from with his wicked mind? As the lawmakers relocated to Abuja is it not the right thing for the governor to go and meet them and settle the matter amicably? He said no. But he keeps saying that it was Oshiomhole that planted these people whereas the man is not to blame. It is normal for all party issues that defile solution to be taken to the national chairman for resolution.
Please, I want Edo people to be very careful about Obaseki. What Obaseki has done to Captain Hosa is that he has touched the little tail of the Benin Kingdom. Obaseki has stepped on the small tail of the Benin Kingdom even talking nonsense against Captain Hosa who has been a man of repute. He did not end it there he fought his leader, father and mentor, Oshiomhole.