By Simon Ebegbulem
Ehigie Uzamere is the only senator from Edo South who has won election to the Senate twice. He broke the jinx in the politics of the senatorial district. The hope of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to win back Edo State ahead of the forthcoming governorship election is becoming slimmer as several top leaders of the PDP, including Uzamere and his political ally, Peter Enoguero, who is also the state representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), dumped the PDP for the APC penultimate week, alongside their followers.
In this interview, Uzamere says the PDP is a failed party in Edo, explaining that it’s candidate in the September 10 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is no match for Mr Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the APC. Excerpts:
Why are you joining APC after your sojourn in the PDP?
I resigned from PDP since March 2016 and decided to face my business and take care of my family. I did not say I have left politics. All I said was that I was resigning from the PDP. Now that the same leaders who assisted me to run for Senate came to me to say I should come back home, I have no choice than to agree, and today I am a full fledged APC member. I monitored the primaries of the two political parties, I saw the way they were conducted. I saw Obaseki emerged and he deserves it. He may not be a politician but he is a man that has all it takes to move Edo to the next level after Governor Oshiomhole. Power belongs to God. The primaries have come and gone. I urge all APC members to work together to ensure that Obaseki wins at the polls. I have known Obaseki for a long time. We were born in the same neighbourhood and we have had contact on several occasions and I have seen his commitment to the welfare of the people of Edo. He is very intelligent, hard working and I know he will win the election so as to take the state to the next level. PDP does not have what it takes to win this state in the next election. Politics is based on issues and you can see what Oshiomhole has done in Edo. Apart from the fact that Oshiomhole has done well, the PDP today is in tatters. As things are now, we don’t know who will be the candidate of the PDP in the election in the state. I saw it coming when I resigned from the PDP three months ago and I have been proved right. The PDP has two National Chairmen, two governorship candidates. So how do I convince my people to vote for a party enmeshed in crisis?
I have no regret leaving the party. From the way things are now, they might not have a candidate. We have Ize-Iyamu and Matthew Iduoriyekemwen as two candidates for the election in one party. And i don’t even see Ize-Iyamu beating Obaseki. Obaseki has an edge. We all know ourselves and even Ize-Iyamu in his closet knows that in this election he stands no chance. But whoever wants to continue to deceive himself should go on. I think I am too experienced in politics to be fooled by anyone. So I want to encourage our people to vote enmasse for APC so that we will remain in the mainstream of the nation’s politics. Again, the National Chairman of the APC is a Benin man, so we need to rally round him so he can succeed because we are proud to have him as the National Chairman of a ruling party.
You are known to have fought the cause of the Binis all these years. How has that affected your political life?
I demonstrated this commitment on June 5, 2015, the last day of the last Senate, when I was called upon by the then Senate President to end the 7th Parliament and I did say that ‘I, Ehigie Uzamere, the representative of the ancient Benin, second the motion’.
I may have offended some people in the course of this journey but I have returned home. And returning home, you cannot say we should forget our differences, we must understand our differences before we can forget the differences. We must look at exactly what happened. When I campaigned last time, my campaign was based purely on issues and not individuals. I have nothing against PDP except one. The structure of the PDP did not help Benin people and I asked one question which I am still expecting them to answer. How many appointments that were given from 1999-2015 went to the people of Edo South? Godwin Abbe, one of our brothers, was not nominated by the leaders, he was nominated by the system. When I was told not to clear Godwin Abbe, I called our late mother and said i will clear Abbe and I did. And because I did, i was not in the good books of Edo South leaders for some time. The problem was that Abbe was not the choice of Edo South leaders, we had problems. At that time, the governor came from Edo Central and the Speaker from Edo North. Our father Dr Ogbemudia suggested that since Edo Central had produced the governor and North produced the Speaker, it was fair for Edo South to produce the party Chairman. Those who said they owned PDP disagreed but I came up at the stadium to say that on Ogbemudia’s declaration I stood. That was where my problem started. I was sworn- in on June 5, 2007. Exactly one month after, they started planning my exit all because I was difficult to control. But I allowed the collective interest of the Benin race to override my personal interest.
God used Oshiomhole to give me second term in Senate
While they fought me in the PDP, God used Governor Oshiomhole to turn my fortune and gave me return ticket to the Senate. It was the decision of Comrade Oshiomhole and former President Obasanjo that I should be returned. Comrade came and informed our leaders here to deliver me. And I have stood by the covenant. You all know that in that process I had a cousin who was in the PDP and I stood by the Comrade Governor. But whatever happened between me and the Comrade Governor before I went back to the PDP, myself and the Comrade Governor have since settled.
I have never cast aspersions on him (Oshiomhole) and it is not in my character to do that. The next appointment that came to the Binis came through the back door, and because that appointment came through somebody, he was given Minister of State for Works, even when we pushed for him to be made Minister of Petroleum, and that person was Dr Chris Ogienwonyi. And I felt humiliated and I complained to Mr President, ‘look at the votes we brought and you are giving us this’. Two or three years after, he was dropped and a Minister came from Edo Central and he was given senior ministerial appointment. Therefore I started having a rethink about PDP. The next appointment was nominated by me but recommended by Dr Ogbemudia. Immediately that letter got to the President, he approved it but the next thing the PDP structure here did was to decide not to send that name to the National Assembly for clearance. Therefore that Benin candidate was allowed to stay at home for one year six months. By the time we pleaded with Mr President, his name came after a year six months and less than nine months after, he was asked to leave by the new government. This fight that I fight for justice, I do it not for my own personal gain, it is for us to be uplifted to the next level. And I challenge PDP today, they should tell us how many appointments that came to Edo South and the votes we have given the party, that is going to cause a lot of problem in this election for PDP because nothing has come to us. We do not want to stay at the back of other ethnic groups, it is either we are at par or we are ahead of them.
So I stand on whatever you call me. I have no apologies to make to anybody. Let me thank everyone for what they have done for me. I said i was not decamping, I was coming back home. There is a difference between decamping and coming back home.
Committed to APC
I am back home and my followers across Edo South are with me. In the South-East, PDP is not controlling that area. They just lost election in Imo State. I am going to campaign in 77 wards and I can assure you that in these wards we will get 65. If you are a member of APC today, be a member of APC; if you remain in APC and do anti-party activity on September 10, Holy Ghost fire will destroy you. If you know you are not going to vote APC, go to PDP rather than doing anti-party activity. I was not in the primary of the APC. I did not participate in that of the PDP because I saw the nonsense happening in the PDP coming. So if you know that you are going to vote for another party, you can go now, but if you remain in APC and do anti-party activity, the ancestors of this kingdom will kill you. Myself, wife and children, we are in APC.
We are returning not to take any body’s position. Let PDP tell us what it has done for this state before we consider the party. PDP ruled here for ten years and APC seven and a half years, buy we have seen the difference. Apart from Obaseki, every other person that contested the primaries in both APC and PDP are from the PDP. Therefore Obaseki is the only neutral person. And not only did Obaseki go to school, he went to the premier university, University of Ibadan. He is not only a financial broker, he is very intelligent. The current Minister of Finance in this country was the Commissioner for Finance in Ogun State. She got up in one meeting that we attended and told me, ‘Sir, you people have a wonderful man in Obaseki’. It is not about politics now, it is about who you know and we know that Obaseki will take us to the next level.