Barrister Henry Idahagbon is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and leader of Edo People’s Movement (EPM). he insisted that the choice of Godwin Obaseki as APC flag bearer in 2016 was a mistake and would be corrected in 2020.
Prior to 2016 gubernatorial polls, you had a friendly relationship with Mr. Godwin Obaseki. You even endorsed him for the governorship position. What triggered your sudden disaffection?
Everybody worked for him, because of the enormous goodwill Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had. So, this man does not have the justification, whether moral or otherwise, to call politicians thieves or liars, because he didn’t give money to anybody and nobody expected money from him. All we expected was a continuation of Oshiomhole’s good work in terms of human and infrastructural development.
Obaseki used to join us every afternoon and evening to eat lunch and dinner with Comrade Oshiomhole in his house, together with many politicians. I want to ask him today: how many politicians join him to eat lunch and dinner in his house since he became governor? From what we hear, those who join him to eat lunch and dinner are politicians from Lagos and Rivers States, among others.
I took Obaseki and his very good friend, Dr. Henry Nzekwu to meet Senator Daisy Danjuma in Lagos. Obaseki didn’t know Senator Danjuma. All these happened just three years ago.
What did you see in Obaseki that made you endorse him?
There are reasons for that decision, which I’m afraid I won’t be able to make public for now. Maybe in the future, if God gives us good health and we grow old, we might discuss some of those reasons.
We saw a cool, quiet and soft-spoken urbane gentleman. He was likable in his own way. He was a reluctant politician, as he was never interested in politics. He got his APC card barely six months or one year before the elections. Whenever you discussed
Politics with him, his response was “no, no, no. I am not interested. Politicians with their wahala.” He was very dismissive of politicians and politics.
But now in retrospect, we didn’t read him rightly. He was a man obsessed with power. He earnestly wanted to be governor, but he sold a red herring to us. He gave us the impression he was not interested. We didn’t see the other side of him. We were warned. Pedro Obaseki, who unfortunately is now his spokesman, told me privately and publicly that this man was a difficult human being; impossible of being managed. He said so many things I cannot repeat. There were a couple of other people that tried to warn us.
I will give you an example. Two or three days before the primaries, an SMS was sent round to many politicians in this state and many of them will remember this. We believed then that it was the handiwork of his opponents in the gubernatorial race. In the message, we were told he ended up fighting all those that helped him and everywhere he had worked. They gave an example of a king in Bayelsa State. They said the king gave him his first job in the bank, and also sponsored his education abroad. But that today, he is not on speaking terms with him.
But we never believed. We thought all these were fabrications and smear campaigns. But now we know better. That has led me to the conclusion that we voted for a man we didn’t know.
Are you saying Obaseki deceived you?
That is why it is not always difficult to win the election the first time. It is the second term that is difficult. Because the first time, people don’t know you; they couldn’t see through you.
But why did Oshiomhole tag Obaseki the ‘Engine room’ of his administration?
He did that to sell Obaseki to the public because he had made up his mind that Obaseki should be his successor. He knew many
people were resisting him. We had formidable politicians who were challenging him. There was Dr. Pius Odubu, who is a grassroots politician in charge of Edo South. Odubu can speak perfect and flawless Benin. Odubu can sing and dance. Up till today, Obaseki cannot make a sentence in Benin language. He cannot hold a conversation in the Benin language. He is 95 percent a Lagosian and not Benin.
I am not afraid. I am convinced and it is the conviction that we made a mistake in Obaseki that led me and other APC progressive leaders to form EPM, which is the platform currently fighting Obaseki.
We have just two cardinal objectives: To strengthen the party to regain its winning ways, because, during the last general elections, we lost woefully. Obaseki has gone down in history as the only Governor to lose his unit, ward, local government, House of Representatives seat and senatorial district. The three metropolitan Local Governments in Edo State – Egor, Oredo and Ikpoba Okha were lost. The second objective is shopping for a credible alternative for Obaseki come next year.