In an interview with Leo Sobechi
Obaseki offered himself as torchbearer of democracy
In the cusp of the recent Edo State gubernatorial election, The Guardian spoke with prominent stakeholders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, Mr. Ken Imasuagbon of PDP tells LEO SOBECHI the implications of the election outcome, as well as expectations from Governor Godwin Obaseki’s second term mandate
What do you make of the outcome of this governorship election?
It means the will of the people is stronger than the tyranny of a few. It means that Nigeria has come back to reckoning and righteousness, to take its place in the comity of nations, as it affects international and local politics. It means that the people, at all times, are the bastion of democracy.
For the international community too, it means that we are partners. It means the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a good man, like I said in a television interview recently, and other electronic media, when the president of a country is for free and fair elections, righteousness reigns. That is what President Muhammadu Buhari has shown; he allowed for a free process.
What it means for the military is that they can be professional. The Inspector-General of Police: I must say kudos to the Nigeria Police. Nigerians must be grateful to the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), too. We must thank Professor Mahmood Yakubu; he is a great guy and I must thank him most sincerely because he allowed the will of the people to prevail. The mood for the country is great. The country is coming back now. It is a foundation.
Edo is now a gateway, a door to democracy. I hope we build now on what we have done in Edo and take it to Ondo. It doesn’t matter the party that wins. Even if we had lost this election, it wouldn’t have mattered. What matters to me is that the president allowed democracy, the military did not interfere, and the police did not interfere, and Professor Yakubu of INEC himself did not intervene. For the country, it is okay; it is not about the party, but about the people.
What lessons would you draw from the election and what are your expectations from Governor Obaseki, as he settles for his second term mandate?
The lesson to be learnt is: God will always win; the people will always win. I must also congratulate Godwin Obaseki for his courage to fight and be on the side of the people. We must salute his courage. When he was denied a ticket in APC, a lily-livered man would have chickened out, but he offered himself as the torchbearer of democracy.
He showed he is a democrat. He was on the side of the people. If you are on the side of the people and the people are on your side, leadership becomes beneficial. The people saw Obaseki as a bastion of hope, as a torchbearer of democratic light and he seized the opportunity and ran with it.
I have learnt that we must take one lesson away and that is that power belongs to God and the people. I am not surprised that Godwin Obaseki won by the act of God and of the people.
My expectations from the governor, and I will be speaking for the people and Nigerians at large: I expect Obaseki to settle down quickly. He doesn’t have any excuse now; the era of godfather has gone, and he is a free man, no chains, and no encumbrances anymore. So, he must settle down quickly to do the work of the people. The people voted for him; they were with him and they expect so much from him. We will give him our support. I will personally give him my support. I will tell him the truth at all times. There is nothing I am looking for, except for our roads to be tarred, our schools to work, our hospitals to be brought back and, with the good work he has been doing, I expect he will advance in the second term and God will help him.
From this massive show of solidarity for the government, it means the governor must confront the real challenges of governance. What essential mileposts for progress will you suggest to him?
Well, his essential pillar of progress is, one: I know Godwin fears God. He should fear God in his second tenure. I know his heart and that is why I stepped down for him. He is Godly, fearless, and passionate about the people’s job. So, the essential engine should be those attributes that some of us saw that convinced us to give him our support.
Those attributes include honesty, sincerity and passion for the people. He should hold on to those and drive the economy of Edo State. We expect a robust economy in his second tenure; we expect security and stability of Edo; we expect that he would create enabling environment for good governance, attract more investors like he has done.
We expect him to have a good team irrespective of where they are from. If I were him, I would select a good team, a crack team to crack the problems of Edo State. I don’t expect Godwin to be a godfather. He won’t be a godfather. I watched him closely. For the few times I have associated with him, I think he is an honest gentleman, whose interest is Edo and the development of humanity. So, he would not play godfather.
He would play the people’s mind and run with the dreams, values and thought of his mind. He has got a very good wife. She is Godly and very gentle. She is not a bad person. So, with a good wife, a good team, with his state of mind, with his educational horizon and his perspective, I see a very bright second tenure that will end well for him.
But there are insinuations out there of a pact with his colleagues in APC for him to return to their fold, having won the election. How would you respond to that?
Quite honestly, I don’t see him going back to APC. I don’t think that will happen. My own advice is that it is not about party; it is who you are and your thought for the people, what you want to achieve. But people might not remember you for the party you belonged to. They will remember you for your developmental strides, your actions and inactions, what you did and what you failed to do, whether you did well or badly. I think party or no party, he is sincere and we will help him to succeed.
With the election victory, PDP has finally taken the entire South-South as a bloc. Going forward to 2023, what does that portend for the party?
It is a good signal. It means that PDP is going to produce the next president. The calculation is now there. South-South is purely PDP, no doubt anymore. Even the Northeast and Northwest, they are PDP, too. I predict that by 2023, PDP will have the day from what is gathering. When you see the storms and clouds gathering, you know it is about to rain. When you see game shifting, know that things are about to change.
Even as you bask in the euphoria of Obaseki’s victory, at the polling unit where he voted, he actually expressed some reservations about INEC’s preparations, saying it was shoddy due to malfunctioning smart card readers and vote-buying. With Ondo election next, what do you expect from INEC?
I expect that INEC should improve on Edo. It is not about the party or individual, it is about the country, it is about Ondo people. Ondo people must take a lesson from Edo to say to Tinubu that Ondo is not Lagos. The people have the power. I call on all Ondolites to take the challenge. The godfathers in Ondo are very few. In fact, the last godfather general has been defeated; his era has ended, and Edo people are now free.
Ondo people, I urge you be free, break the chains of slavery and God will be with you. If we did it in Edo, you will do it better in Ondo.