Chief Olusegun Osoba was Ogun State governor between 1999 and 2003 and was in that capacity a colleague of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, outgoing two-term governor of Katsina State and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP ].
But Osoba who plays politics with the keen insight of a journalist and media manager almost drew blank when asked to assess the ability and clout of the person President Olusegun Obasanjo insist must be his suceesor. Osoba said he could not recall any contribution of Yar’ Adua at the Council of State and Governors’ meetings throughout the four years they were chief executives of their respective states.
“What I know about him was that throughout the four years that we were together, he was a very withdrawn , introverted kind of person. I cannot remember him making any serious statement at the Council of State meetings on the few occasions that he attended . H e was not regular at our meetings and at the meetings of Governors, I can’t recall seeing him more than once or twice throughout the four years,” Osoba stated.
A former editor and later Managing Director of Daily Times group at a time it was one of the biggest newspaper conglomerates in Africa, Osoba is now a chieftain of the main opposition Action Congress [ AC ] . He also among other topical issues ex-rays the ‘garrison command’ politics of the PDP, offers an insight into why the merger talks between the AC and the All Nigerian Peoples Party [ ANPP ] collapsed , made a projection on what the future holds for Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and explained why he would never honour any invitation from his state government as long as Otunba Gbenga Daniel remains the governor until he satisfies certain conditions.
The most current issue in the polity today is the state of health of Alhaji Umar Yar’ Adua, presidential candidate of the PDP. What are the implications of the state of health of a potential president of this nation being perpetually in doubt to the extent that there were rumours of his death because he was flown abroad for medical reasons ?
Can you elaborate ? What do you mean by people who are designing the transition to fail? Are there official designs for the transition to fail?
In recent time, you just find out that within 48 hours a panel is set up , it examines over one hundred cases and comes out with a report and within 24 hours, the Federal Executive Council would sit and immediately indict those people who have never been given the chance to appear before the panel to state their own side.
That is an evidence of serious concern. Another evidence is the chairman of the electoral commission which is supposed to be an independent body according to its name. He job is supposed to be that of the chief umpire but who has become part of the war against opposition and making pronouncements on the competence of an individual or candidates who would not be allowed to contest.
And before you could even digest that, you start hearing Nasir El-Rufai, who is a minister, who has no business whatsoever with the electoral process spitting fire in far away United States of America that a presidential candidate will never be allowed to contest. His name will not be on the ballot paper, he will not contest. And nobody has called any of these people to order.
There are more evidences. Only a few days ago, the Muhammadu Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation and the ANPP issued a statement that their candidate is being restricted on the means of his arrival in Bauchi State. That he should come by helicopter, he must not travel by road, he can only pass through certain roads, a former head of state of this country in a democracy!
I had a direct experience in Abeokuta myself. We were restricted from passing through a major road in front of the Government House when we went to campaign. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was with us. The vice-president of the country being restricted? And I, a former governor of the state, being told where to pass through and where not to pass through. I remember when I was the governor and Gbenga Daniel was campaigning , he used to go about with pilot cars and sirens in front of the Government House. I didn’t stop him . Nobody stopped him. The intolerance of the government of the day does not show evidence of good faith on their part.
You were in active journalism in the Second Republic when Alhaji Shehu Shagari was drafted into presidential race despite the fact that he wanted to be a Senator. Can you draw a parallel between that and the way Alhaji Yar’ Adua was drafted to fly the PDP flag.
The case of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was even more reasonable than what we have now. Alhaji Shagari took part in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) presidential primaries that was conducted at the Casino Cinema in Lagos and I was present . In the case of Umaru, he has never shown any serious interest, he is even more reluctant than Alhaji Shehu Shagari. It is a cause for worry for people like me, because although he is a fine gentlemen from a noble and good family in Katsina, I wonder why we should be looking for reluctant people to be presidents of this country. It is a job that one must be interested in before one should be given. Before and throughout my career as governor I was interested in the job. I wanted it and I went for it and I put in all my energy into the job. I don’t expect anything less from anybody who wants to be president of this country.
Why are worried about Yar’Adua?
Look at the Rivers State governor, he was virtually stopped from the presidential race. The same thing with my good brother, Donald Duke of Cross Rivers State. PDP does not believe in democracy.
It is, therefore,difficult for me to assess him and come to a very rational conclusion except if I can recall any serious contribution made by him at meetings which I cannot.
If you ask me to comment on Governor Victor Attah for example, I will give you a deep assessment of my knowledge of him or you ask me to comment on Donald Duke.
Are you trying to say that they will make better president ?
Would you do an appraisal of the on-going transition program so far?
While people will agree with you that the postures of the Federal Government is combative, what do you say about a recent statement credited to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of your party that there will be no election if the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] disqualified him?
It is the interpretation that some people got wrong. What he said was that INEC chairman should be careful, that he may end up in jail if he disobeys court orders. It would amount to contempt if you disobey court orders and you can be easily sent to jail if you commit contempt. That was what Atiku said. I could remember that at one of our rallies supporters were shouting ‘no Atiku, no election’. It doesn’t mean they were planning to go on rampage. What we are asking for is due process.
So, it was not that your candidate was already losing faith in the courts as the final arbiter on whether he would run or not?
Your party and the ANPP were to forge an alliance for the purpose of confronting the PDP. What went wrong along the line?
That was the major setback that we had . It was because of the inabilities of the parties to work out merger plans that we later thought of an alliance. Unfortunately, alliance is difficult to manage in a presidential system. It is not the same as in a parliametry where each party will hold its constituency and put everything in a basket and form a coalition.
It was said that the talks failed because neither Atiku nor Buhari was willing to forgo his presidential ambition. How far is this true ?
Do we now take it that each party will go into the elections as separate entities ?
You earlier spoke of the treatment you are getting from your state governor. Could that account for why you have not attended any state functions since he became governor?
I will want you to do a comparison of your administration with that of Otunba Daniel?
You can go through Epe and take a road we did from there to Ijebu and the East. In Ijebu Igbo, we did a road linking Ogun State and Oyo State, we call it Dagbolu.The same thing in Yewa. You can live in Aiyetoro now and work in Aboekuta because of the road we did there. I can go on and on. He did one side of the road from Sagamu junction to Abeokuta which is a federal road, for which he was even sudsidised and there is so much noise, so much celebration. And I tell people to ask him to mention any major road that he has done beside the one from Sagamu junction to Abeokuta comparable to all that we did throughout the state.
For example, from Abeokuta, you can go through Ajebo Road or through Odeda Road. These are two major roads that will take you to Oyo State. The one he is making noise about is that the Ajebo road failed and I said fine, if it failed , how about his own that was commissioned last February? Between February last year and February this year when it was commssioned, they have spent N500million patching the road.
It is incomparable. We managed resources very well, we delivered in a way that we spread projects round the state.We electrified 150 towns. In one day , in a local government called Ijebu North East, we electrified 17 towns.Those electrification projects are still functioning. With N 48 billion , we delivered so much. With over N 150 billion that Gbenga Daniel received , I have not been able to see comparable performance in terms of the money that came in . What the government of Ogun State collected in the past four years is much more than the totality of what all the governments collected since the creation of the state 30 years ago.
Unlike our time when oil was not more than about 20 dollas a barrel, it went as far as 70 dollas per barrel within the past two years.