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I respect Anenih, but... Ė Oshiomhole

Posted by By EBOMHIANA MUSA/ TAIWO AMODU( on 2008/04/25 | Views: 920 |

I respect Anenih, but... Ė Oshiomhole

Former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, [NLC] and the gubernatorial candidate of the Action Congress in Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has said that the immediate past chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih is a prominent Edo leader, who will be accorded his deserved recognition and respect as an elder-- when he [Oshiomhole] eventually mounts the saddle to exercise his mandate in the state.

Former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, [NLC] and the gubernatorial candidate of the Action Congress in Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has said that the immediate past chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih is a prominent Edo leader, who will be accorded his deserved recognition and respect as an elder-- when he [Oshiomhole] eventually mounts the saddle to exercise his mandate in the state.

Speaking with SATURDAY SUN in an exclusive interview, the Action Congress flagbearer who had been pronounced the winner of the gubernatorial poll in Edo state by the elections petitions tribunal, dismissed the submission that Chief Tony Anenihís style of politics appears repulsive to many in his home state of Edo and Nigeria.

ÖíWhether you like it or not, heís a prominent Edo leader and there are a lot of Edo people who look up to him . Thatís the factÖ I donít think that he represents all that is negative; I can tell you that he has a lot that is very, very positive. It might be a poor judgment to think , to use your language, that mentioning his name is repulsive. May be the circumstances we find ourselves makes some people to find themselves in certain positions. I donít necessarily share those views Öí
Reacting to insinuations that the former labour leader is already courting the prominent politician with the sobriquet, ĎMr fix ití and such romance could be a hindrance to good governance, Oshiomhole countered that it is possible to give to ĎCaesar , what is due to Caesar and you will still find that youíve substantial space to address the critical concerns of our people.í

Many Nigerians have expressed concern over our experience with the electoral process. But thereís this observation that those aggrieved over election malpractices, donít even seek for reprimand of election riggers in their prayers in court; thus allowing those who actually perpetrated the fraud to go scot-free.
The tragedy of Nigeria is that the electoral law was framed and passed by the national assembly, whose membership was predominantly rigged into office, accepted too by a President who was also rigged into office.

So, itís like armed robbers having to make laws against armed robbery. Honestly, they wouldíve to be as lenient as possible. The electoral law as it is, is designed to reward rigging. I think itís just that itís impossible for them to openly accept rigging that they make it as something that look unlawful.
But for me, I donít think itís by accident that thereís no punishment for established cases of rigging. For example, an INEC man is caught in the act, the tribunal finds that in fact he was involved in criminal forgery of document and all the court says isí ďyes, the offence of rigging is established, cancel the result!í. And thatís the end of the matter.

But even worse is the impunity of beneficiary of stolen goods. A tribunal has found that a governor for example, was rigged into office, a senator was rigged into office and established by a court of law. Yet, the only pronouncement is, Ďplease, vacate!í And you vacate with whatever youíve collected illegally for an office which in law, you never really occupied. So, I donít believe these were errors. I want to believe these were built in by the legislature, because majority of them were beneficiaries of rigging and they werenít really determined to penalize election riggers. I think, for me, that really is the tragedy.

Even more intriguing, the law has also been crafted in such a way that even when a court established the fact of rigging and make a pronouncement, itís not enforced until you go to a Court of Appeal. To me, thereís a different criteria for different suspects of crime. Under the common law, when a court finds you guilty of theft, the stolen article is removed from you. In fact, once youíre suspected, the stolen article is taken and presented as exhibit.

Youíre not left to go away with the stolen thing. But here weíre, youíre left with the stolen goods, and even when it has been established that youíre caught that you stole yourself to office and the court pronounced as in my own case, that the certificate of return should be withdrawn; it should be issued to Oshiomole who actually won the election. The mere fact that the man says, ďI will appeal,Ē that statement of intention, even before he files the appeal automatically translates to stay of execution.

So, there you are. The man has been declared the winner of an election, but heís not in office. The man whose certificate of return has been nullified remains in office and he even boasts, ďI am still the governor! So, my conclusion is the law as itís was framed by majority of election riggers in order to protect rigging and the burden to prove that you won an election is so high and thatís why you find that in many cases people simply go and say nullify, because the technicality is so much, the kind of work youíve to do to make sense that you won an election is so high like we had to do in Edo State. So, when you had a legislature thatís dominated by a ruling party, majority of members were rigged into office, the law that they make can only reflect their own values, not necessarily the values of society. Thatís the paradox weíve found with the Nigerian electoral law: itís made by riggers, for riggers, to perpetrate rigging.

The only luck we have now is weíre having a determined judiciary that is trying to give the most liberal interpretation , in order to be able to do substantial justice to petitioners. So, but for the determination of the judiciary, to do substantial justice and down play technicalities, we would have been in Kenya by now , because there wouldíve been no means of really getting redress, even in the face of obvious abuses and malpractises.

Still on election petition. At a recent forum, the Vice President said the multitudes of petitions, before the tribunal is a hindrance to the work of the electoral reform committee; that it would íve been able to come out with its recommendations, but for the petitions, still being attended to in courts.
It doesnít make sense, because the elections petitions have nothing to do with any attempt to reform the electoral process. He hasnít established any link. If he knew that the facts that the petitions that are ongoing, would affect the work of the committee, why did they in the first place, set up the reform committee? They should have waited.

So, obviously that wasnít a convincing explanation. But the greatest reform we need is the reform of attitude for political leaders like himself to appreciate that the country belongs to Nigerians and only Nigerians will choose. The problem is that people in power are tempted to equate themselves, as if they are the owners of the country and therefore, they canít see how they can be kicked out of office through the popular votes. Even Zimbabwe is doing better than Nigeria. For me, thatís the greatest irony. At least election took place, people apparently voted free, so free that the opposition was able to win majority in parliament; still so free that the opposition was able to win majority of the votes against the sitting president; but the only snag was that the president and the leadership of the elected body lacks the courage to announce the results. But at least, elections were held.

Osunbor exudes the optimism that the tribunal judgment would be reversed at the Appeal Court. To use his words, the judgment given by the tribunal is that of men. Godís judgment íll be given at the Appeal Court in his favour.
I join Osunbor in praying to God, that not only should God preside over the appeal, but that He should punish those who benefited from election rigging. I join Osunbor in praying to God Almighty.
Iím adding that not only should God take over the Court of Appeal, but that He should punish he who actually cheated during the election, because God knows. I was shocked that a thief could call the name of God in vain and itís typical of leaders. We know the other big one in Ota; everyday he will call God and even build Church at the Government House and yet we now know that everyday he was in government, he was doing all those things that God forbids you and I from doing.

Osunborís hope is that he can use the resources to manipulate the process. But heís a poor student of history. My response to it, is that God knows the people voted for me, He made the people , He directed the thoughts of Edo people to vote for me. He knew that INEC rigged the election in favour of PDP, He had used a courageous tribunal to return the verdict in my favour. That same God will not abandon the project half way; he will complete his project and I believe that the Court of Appeal will also be populated by men and women of courage who will have the courage to pronounce on the truth and on the facts because legal system isnít a mystery that canít be understood by ordinary people. The basis of my declaration is documentary evidence; the language of the judges was clear, the processes were transparent, the evidence on which itís based is open and verifiable.
So, thereís no escape route for Osunbor and if the voice of men is the voice of God, Osunbor has to start packing. Thatís the truth.

I invite you to go through the judgment and you would find, youíll be shocked that in Iruekpen, Osunborís polling booth he was found quilty of rigging---in his own polling booths! Thatís the findings of the tribunal, because a witness testified how he was beaten and how the ballot box was seized and how they failed to count the results at the polling station. Thatís is his own polling booth. If I canít win election in my polling booth, Iíve to rig, then, I have nothing to live for.

So, what do you expect him to say? Now go through his petition. His main prayers now is that he wants the election to be cancelled. Osunbor now wants cancellation, which means he now admits that he didnít win in the first place? Why should he remain in public office, for one day, longer, when youíve agreed that you didnít win? The fact that one of his prayers now is the election should be nullified. Yet, at the beginning of the tribunal, he never pleaded cancellation.

He insisted he won. Now that the tribunal found that he didnít win, that I won, heís now doing like the story of the woman in the Bible, who said King Solomon should divide the baby whose ownership was in contention into two. The actual owner of the baby said, donít kill the baby even if youíre going to give it to my opponent. The person who isnít the owner of the baby is saying divide it into two so that the baby will die and nobody will have it! Thatís the devilish role Osunbor is now playing.

I know God canít oblige evil forces. The jubilation in Edo State, he was shocked. The man who said he has been doing marvelous work for ten months. After ten months, the bitterness of the people is probably more now than before. Now, heís assembling virtually all the senior advocates in Nigeria, but they canít turn the truth upside down. If justice will be delivered on the basis of who can afford more senior advocates, of course, we wouldnít have even won in the first instance, because they have government resources at their disposal which they are lavishly doling out to all kinds of people. But even in the face of this subversive generosity on his part, we are still having men and women in the judiciary who will stand by the truth.
So, I have no fear at all. His hope is that, if itís cancelled he can re-perfect the rigging. Iím sure the judiciary will not oblige him.

Thereís one man whose activities on the Nigeria political terrain, many find repulsive. Thatís Chief Tony Anenih. Thereís this speculation that youíre romancing Anenih and some are alrealy drawing the conclusion that even when you eventually gets the mandate, governance in Edo may be business as usual?
Well, the truth of the matter is that when people look at Oshiomhole and they see the amount of respect that he commands from the people, they look for all kinds of things to say to divert attention.

In my electioneering, nobody was critical of the godfathers like I did . In fact, I made it an election issue. I made it a campaign issue and you can find that in the billboards, theyíre still there. But having said that, the truth of the matter is, Chief Anenih is a prominent Edo leader. Thatís the truth Ė whether you like his politics, or not, heís a prominent Edo leader and there are a lot of Edo people who look up to him. Thatís the fact. The fact that heís in a different political party and Iím in another party, he sponsored a candidate against my candidature notwithstanding. Thatís the truth.

I donít think that he represents all that is negative. I can tell you that he also has a lot thatís very, very positive. It might be a poor judgment to think that, to use your language, that mentioning his name is repulsive. May be the circumstances we find ourselves makes some people to find themselves in certain positions. I donít necessarily share those views.

I know that there are people when theyíre drowning, those who helped them yesterday, theyíre ready to label them anything. I fought my election on the principle of no to godfatherism. But thatís not to say that Iíve no respect for elders. My father tells me when he was alive that every young man who wishes to grow old must respect elders. I respect Chief Tony Anenih as an outstanding elder in Edo State and he commands huge followers.That you must acknowledge.

I donít therefore think that you must draw the conclusion that his activities are necessarily repulsive. I donít think so, yes, we have different political viewpoints. I campaigned against godfatherism, but thatís not to say I deny the fact that heís an elder, who has made his mark in the politics of the country.
On your allegation of romance, well, I donít know how children romance elders. But like Iíve said in my earlier statement, if it pleases God Almighty to hand over the governance of Edo State to me, my mandate is very clear to me.

Itís to work for the upliftment of the quality of life of all Edo people and to be a governor isnít a reason to be disrespectful of elders. Where our views differ, I will stick to what I believe in. Where he has something thatís useful to the state, it would be accommodated .Like I said to you earlier, I think it must be a foolish man who gets power and thinks that thatís the end of the world. Give to Caesar, whats due to Ceaser and youíll still find that youíve substantial space to address the critical concerns of our people.

I can tell you, there are many, many deadly politicians that youíve not mentioned their names. I am surprised that you only know one name; there are many others in Edo that if you put their names side-by-side, you wonít hold the same views of Anenih. Thatís the truth.

Iím a product of struggle, Iím not a product of godfatherism, but I will respect people for their age. If theyíve a contribution to make, they shouldnít be denied the apportunity. But I have my cross, in what I believed in and once Iím convinced, everybody knows I stand by my convinction. No power can make me deviate from what I believe in, but I bow to a superior argument, if thereís one.
You were 55 last week, if you look back from the beginning, all these years are there really things you ought to íve done; are there things you think you had opportunity to do all over again, if given the opportunity.

Any regret at 55?
No, my life is a life of miracle, because Iím always quick to remind people of my very humble background and God has been extremely merciful. As a village boy, who was very obedient to his parents, my parents advised that I get married early and for me, it was a law. I married at the age of 21 and it was tough, it was difficult, there was no one abroad to assist. But today, Iím glad that I listened to my parents.

As we speak, my first two children are medical doctors and one is already specializing as a consultant in a very prestigious university in U.S., one is in Nigeria. Iíve an Accountant as a daughter, who is pursuing a masters programme now; I Ďve a son whoís 300 Ė level student in Engineering in a university. Thereís another one who is doing Business Administration.

So, at family level Iíve one wife and all my children have one mother--- no half brother, or half sister and I took that after my father, because my late father had only my mother and Iíve no half brother, no half sister. So, itís a very small but very happy family.
So, in spite of all the running here and there, there were things that I believe one managed to pay attention to. Thatís give the children the best education that was possible. I think that thatís all you could do. So, once youíre able to fix the family question, I believe that nothing else is so important that I can think of regretting.

When I took to unionism, there were many of my relatives and friends, who thought I was crazy, because of the risk involved including, dismissals which many of my comrades suffered and each time we told some hard truths to power and all that there were many who thought I was crazy. When I sold my property to go to schoolÖ when I was going to Oxford, I sold a car, furniture to go to school, there were people who thought I was stupid, because according to them, people go to school so that they come back and buy cars ,furnish their homes and so on, but here I was selling what Iíve to go to school.

I knew that I needed to improve myself, to be able to play the kind of role I could play in the course of interacting with power and having to engage people on all sorts of issues in the course of my union work. Today, Iím happy. It was tough for my wife who had to stay with the children Ė I had two, before going back to school and I still had to manage them, without a big uncle or a big aunty.

So, I grew up an independent person. Thatís why when I talk about godfatherism, itís deep from my heart, because Iím not a product ofÖ you know, people trying to assist Ė no cousin had to give me notes. Everything Iíve had in life, I worked for it .I was never born with a spoon, but I never went to bed without food. I had to work to earn it. So, I believe everything is possible; that what you require is to pray to God that you are not afflicted with the poverty of ideas, poverty of courage and youíre not consumed by fear. Once youíre free from those, then, thereís nothing you canít attain. The world is meant to be a good place for children of God. Your beginning not withstanding, you can grow to be what you want to be, the very best you can be.

My late father inculcated this value that whatever youíre doing that God is smiling on you, that heís blessing you, keep doing it. The day you deviate and try to be greedy, then He gets angry and leave you on your own. Iíve lived through that and Iím a fulfilled man.
So, really thereís nothing. May be as president of the NLC on reflection, may be one or two judgement I mightíve made some errors of judgement that, if I had those opportunities, again Iíd probably would have do one or two two things, differently. But short of that, Iím very fulfilled and I thank God for what He has done for me, what He has used me to do and I pray to Him to continue to use me to do any of those things that would make a difference in the life of my country and in the lives of our people.

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