Posted by By Simon Ebegbulem on
Former Senate Chief whip, Senator Rowland Owie in this interview with Vanguard, declared that President Olusegun Obasanjo’s war against corruption is selective justice.
Former Senate Chief whip, Senator Rowland Owie in this interview with Vanguard, declared that President Olusegun Obasanjo’s war against corruption is selective justice. The ANPP Chieftain accused the president of using the EFCC to fight vendetta against his political enemies. He attributed the travails of Governor Alamieyesigha to his opposition towards the alleged third term ambition of the President. Senator Owie who contested the governorship race in 2003 against Governor Lucky Igbinedion also defended Governor Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto state, who was recently accused of money laundering. He spoke on the alleged third term ambition of the President, the recent comment by the chairman of the ANPP Board of Trustees, Admiral Augustus Aikhomu that the ANPP is dead and explained why the Binis want to retain the governorship in 2007.
What is your reaction to the arrest of Governor Diepreye Alemieyeseigha of Bayelsa state on money laundering allegation?
All that have been happening to Alamieyeseigha as far as I am concerned, is unnecessary and a vindictive act against the poor man. Until he is convicted in the court as far as I am concerned, he is not guilty. I believe strongly that one of the reasons Alamieyeseigha is suffering is because he does not believe in the third term agenda of the present administration. And besides, he has been a vocal advocate of resource control. And all the south-south governors that are not shoe shiners are being pursued one way or the other, I warned about this as far back as 2001 –– 2002. Anything that Govs. Victor Attah, Alamieyeseigha, James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion do is evil. They are never in the good book of the President. Because these are basically those that are not practically shoe shiners, even though they hob nob with their leader at a point in time. You can see all the debacle they have around them, Ibori is being pursued as an ex convict. We know governors from the south south have the highest allocation, but there is nothing to show for it. And yet none of them has been branded a thief. But, if, Alamieyeseigha and co decide to be shoe shiners today, EFCC will stop pursuing them. So my prayers is that the truth shall come out. What I want to let Nigerians know is that St. Athannasius when he was alive, when he sees a thief on the street he will say, Oh here is Athanasius, but for the grace of God. All these propaganda right and left, Alamieyesegha buying houses so on and so forth, those that has not been involved, they should thank God by the grace of God. What has the EFCC done about the Abuja stadium, what has EFCC done about COJA, what has EFCC done about NPA that was looted by the last board. The chairman is still in a big position in PDP. What we are saying is all these are selective justice, only God will save Nigeria from it.
Are you saying government is using EFCC as a tool to fight its enemies?
There is no debate about that. Not too long ago the papers reported that Governor Bafarawahas a house in London. If you know Bafarawa very well, he is the most transparent governor in Nigeria. I served with him in the ANPP caretaker committee. His activities then during our tenure was so wonderfully transparent that I respect him till today. Bafarawa is one of the governors that has not taken loan from within or outside the country. He does not give contracts, the roads that he has built, the Federal Government cannot boast of it until Ogunleye came. The President was there to commission numerous projects. Anyaoku was there to commission projects a couple of weeks ago. Admiral Aikhomu was there to commission projects last year, and after commissioning projects for three days he announced that those governors who want to work should come to Sokoto and learn. But I thank God he has told the world that he has surrender his immunity and ask the House of Assembly to probe him. Let other governors and the president do the same. But I want to assure the whole country that ANPP is solidly behind Bafarawa, we know why they are pursuing him. He was the one that made the powerful statement in the north, that the north was being marginalized, since 2000, that the Obasanjo’s government was anti- north. Some few shoe shinner governors in the north started denying that they ever took part in that address, which all governors jointly wrote. A few weeks ago he made another statement that the quarrel between Obasanjo and Atiku should not turn the attention of the north from producing the president in 2007. When I called him I said your Excellency, your statement is very wealthy, I hope EFCC will not follow you, he said my senator let them follow me I have nothing to hide. He is a transparent man. Bafarawa was a wealthy man before he became a governor as far back as 1991. During the NRC days when money had value, he was already a multi millionaire. Are we saying that wealthy people should burn their monies when they get into politics? Bafarawa enemies who are jealous of his enviable achievements are behind this campaign of calumny. Besides, they see him as a formidable candidate of the north in 2007. The Lord shall vindicate the just. All they are doing is all vendetta because the man has not done anything to anybody.
How do you react to the statement credited to Admiral Augustus Aikhomu that ANPP is dead?
I just read it today in The Sun Newspaper. I hope he was being misquoted, but if that statement by my leader was not a misquote, as Chairman of ANPP Board of Trustees, we will now ask him before the party dies to give us account of his stewardship. Because as the chairman of the Board of Trustees he has the conscience of the party. I hope like I said that he was being misquoted. If we find out that he was not being misquoted, then we will react appropriately.
But it seems most of you ANPP leaders are working for IBB 2007 presidential ambition, which Aikhomu allegedly acknowledged in that interview. Do you not think that is what is actually going to kill ANPP because IBB is in PDP?
Quite frankly, anyday, any time IBB is my friend, whether politics or no politics I respect him. If by the end of the day, IBB, becomes a presidential candidate of PDP, on the day of the presidential election, I will know what to do with votes within my family. But if he is the presidential candidate of the ANPP or the proposed coalition, the movement we want to ensure that democracy can be restored in this country, I will go out every way to campaign for him. As a matter of fact a house divided against itself will never stand. As at today, PDP the way I see it is heading towards perdition. A party that is selecting who to register. In a democracy you do not just decide who registers. Party registers are kept in the party offices at ward level, he who is interested goes there to register. However, you can never predict politics because I say quite frankly that there is going to be a political revolution in Nigeria between now and the end of March 2006. All like minded politicians will move into a major political party that will save this country from disintegration, anarchy and perdition that the PDP is trying to lead it to. So, as far as I am concerned until we get to the bridge before we cross it.
What is your comment on the third term speculation of the President?
The Mr. President I worked closely with when I was in the senate as chief whip, does not respect sycophants. If you tell him there it is, he respects you. The problem he has is that he has been captured by these sycophants, those who surrounded Abacha, the same people who surrounded M.K.O, and sat near the grave and abandoned him. Those that surrounded Yar Adua and abandoned him. They are the people surrounding him today. And I wish he call Ishiaku Ibrahim again to tell him the role of the people around him today. What they did in the United States of America when he was in prison. I am shocked that Mr. President does not look at some of these fake people who are campaigning for third term for him. He should know that it is for their own interest, they know that if he leaves there, their feeding money will be finished. They can no longer pay the people they have duped. But for Mr. President, I think he wants to be a statesman whose name will not go down in the mud, because he knows that third term is danger and I do not think he will try it. But these sycophants and shoe shinners around him that call themselves leaders, he should pray to God to save him from their hands.
Introduction of tuition fees in higher institutions?
I expected that this government will definitely introduce school fees and very soon I am expecting them to introduce personal taxes, they will tax women, they will even introduce baby tax. There is no tax they will not introduce to make money. At the end of the day you do not see that money, and they are even planning to tax churches. Can you imagine a born again Christian, that is head of a country and that country is planning to tax churches. Have you head it any where in the world. So the truth is that any attempt to introduce school fees in higher institutions, is a disservice to this nation. As far back as 1955, Late Obafemi Awolowo had introduced free education in primary schools and in 1982 free education has already entered the old Bendel at secondary school level, they even supply free books. Today, they are reverting back to tuition fee in higher institution. Even under the worst military, tuition was free in higher institutions. Imagine a government that has made the highest revenue since 1914 is now trying to bring more pain to parents in this nation. We appeal to Obasanjo not to please do it and allow the common man enjoy a little bit of the increase in fuel hike.
In Edo state we have two bodies, the Benin Leaders of Thought and Benin Forum, which you are a leading member. What is the difference between these two, and why should they want to retain the governorship seat after eight years?
The Benin Forum and the Benin Leaders of Thought are both organs of the Binis. Every Bini man is a member of the Benin Forum. In the Benin Leaders of Thought, every Bini man is a member. But the difference, I will use the old Action Group and Etu Edo to illustrate. In the first Republic there was a Reformed Ogboni Fraternity and then there was the Owogbe society. The Reformed Ogboni fraternity and the Owogbe fraternity, had members who could belong to any political party. They were not purposely political. You can find two, three members of Ogboni fraternity belonging to three different political parties and you find them fighting each other at the political arena, when they belonged to the same society. I am telling you this because I have passed through there. And apart from that, I was born into Owegbe before I finally found Christ..
Whereas the Owegbe society was meant strictly for the defense of the rights of the Binis and it was political, they do not mince words, any thing that will infringe on the Benin liberty and Benin interest, they ensure that they sort it out for the interest of the Binis. That is why you find that the late Dennis Osadebey was prime minister or premier of the old Mid West. He was a member of the NCNC and Otu Edo. And Otu Edo was strictly the interest of the Binis and they support the interest of the Binis in their various political activities while ensuring that they form alliance at the national level. So while the Reformed Ogboni fraternity is in line with the Action Group, it was a national affair, but there was not so much commitment that says they must fight for the interest of the Binis. Some of them were very willing to sell off the rights of the people during the creation of Mid West region. Quite a number of the Action Group people voted against the creation of Mid West. While the Etu-Edo which has the Owogbe as the cultural backing campaigned, lobbied and voted massively for the creation of Mid West. So, we are saying the same thing, while the Benin Forum is an amalgam of all Edos, there is not that type of commitment to say look we are committed to the Benin course to that extent. Where there is a social affair we sit down and talk. The Benin Leaders of Thought is saying clearly, this land must not be allowed to be destroyed. This land must not agree that our rights should be taken away from us because we form the bulk of the population of this state. We were short changed in the state constituency and federal constituency. The present Edo south senatorial district was one senatorial district, when the old Mid West and the whole Bendel was one. It was the same when the present Edo central and Edo North was one senatorial district. So, while the whole North and Edo central that was one senatorial district in the old Bendel became two senatorial districts, the Binis remain one senatorial district. While others have increased their representatives at the federal level, we had only increase once. It used to be three in the old Bendel, we now had additional one making four. The late Justice Ephraim Akpata, when he was Chairman of INEC, tried to rectify the anomalies, but before he could do it, he joined his ancestors. The Binis should ask Guobadia what happened to those constituencies that Akpata wanted to rectify before his death. Guobadia is a member of Benin Forum, who rigged the election in 2003.
So the truth is, the leaders of thought are saying that all those who are currently accusing the present governor of not having performed and for which reason they are talking about power shift, should hang their head in shame. Because they supported the present governor in his first and second tenure, and if they wanted to ensure that he performs, they should have done enough to advise the candidate they put there to do more. But for me as an ANPP leader in this country, the ANPP leaves the governorship open to the three senatorial districts. Those who are interested in running from Edo north, central and south are free to contest and compete within our party. Whoever emerges winner, will be our candidate. But talking to you as chairman of Bini leaders of thought political group, my first move is to work hard to ensure that a Bini man becomes governor.
But how do your reconcile this as chairman of the political group in the Benin leaders of thought, you want a Bini man as governor and as ANPP chieftain, you are saying the race is open?
Listen, if my people want me to leave active politics to ensure a Bini man emerges, I will not hesitate to do that. But what I am saying is that I am not bigger than my party. The party has opened the issue of governorship to the three senatorial districts, all those who are interested can compete. We are not like the PDP who will impose any body.
But I will work hard, taking into consideration the instructions and directive of my people, that we should produce a governor, but definitely when it gets to party issue, whoever emerges become governor. During my senatorial election, they needed a different candidate not me but by the grace of God and the support of Bini people, I won. They never wanted me. They want fools around to be supported so that they will push the person about. Now we are saying there must be input from everybody, before any candidate is accepted.
Do you think the Binis can face the political strength of Chief Tony Anenih, who have zoned the PDP governorship ticket to the central, where he hails from?
Which fire power does he have. Where was his fire power when his NPN lost to UPN in 1979. Also when his DPN lost woefully to UNCP in Edo state during Abacha era. Where was he when AD dusted PDP in his Uromi wards in 1999. I am certain that God fire power will liberate Edo state and Nigeria from her current political bondage in 2007.
And if you recall, the only ward the PDP lost in Uhunmwode in 1999 was Umagba North, the ward that Chief Ogbemudia claims today. I say it with all sincerity and with the power of God, any one that tries to rig elections will not reach home. The PDP said they have settled their problem here, but nobody is interested whether they have settle or not, the Binis have not been involved in their quarrel. But we are saying that the Binis are bigger than Ogbemudia, the Binis are bigger that two hundred Anenihs. So, the fire power you are talking about that Anenih possesses, I do not know where it is going to come from.
They will get the police and get the military, let them try it in 2007 and let us see.
But the truth is that in the history of this world, I have never seen where those that played God did not pay dearly for it. Some of them praised Abacha to the extent that they said they will die for him, but I do not know why they did not follow Abacha when he died.
May Abacha’s soul rest in peace, because today he is a hero when you compare his regime to the one we are in.