Prince Tony Momoh is a foundation member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview with MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE, he explains why the crisis in the Edo State chapter of the party is lingering, why Amotekun should be sustained and other national issues.
How can the rift between Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki and the APC National Chairman Oshiomhole be resolved?
Through effective communication, the rift can be addressed. What is happening between them is likened to what happens when the love between a boy and girlfriend goes awry.
But they remember the first time they met and saw how it was sweet; they now look back to that period and decided to be lovers again because of what they stand to gain. You know, God brought Godwin Obaseki and Adams Oshiomhole together in the past.
This made Oshiomhole to work frantically for Obaseki to be acceptable to our people. As a result, they accepted Obaseki instead of any other person. If they look back to that time, then their minds will be settled to take Edo State to the next level. But, because of what had happened, the gap in communication has exacerbated the differences between them.
At the end of the day, as you can see, the differences are becoming wider and wider. They are so divided now that Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) and Obaseki and Shuaibu Movement (OSM) in Edo State have effectively polarised the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State into two.
What you now have is that every day through their communication, through their fight and utterances, the division is getting wider and wider.
At the end of the day, because we have an election in August, when the primary is over, whoever wins, you will discover that the gap has been so widened that the one that loses will work for the defeat of the one that wins.
So, when two elephants are fighting, at the end of the day, one may win but the two may lose what they are fighting for. That is what is happening in the crisis that has engulfed Edo APC.
But, what is the national body doing to settle the matter?
I have always said there is no quarrel between Oshiomhole and Obaseki because I have personally spoken to them. I can say that I am proud that communication link was restored after I spoke to them. But, later, their supporters began to widen the gulf because of vested interests.
Oshiomhole is not going to be governor of Edo State tomorrow and neither is Obaseki going to do more than two terms in office. So, the only people who can solve the problem are those who have vested interests. Look at the lawmakers who were elected and have refused to be sworn-in.
I spoke to them and they told me that they have issues to be resolved with the governor before they would be sworn-in. I told them if they wanted issues to be resolved with the governor before they would be sworn-in, they will lose at the end. I told them, why not get sworn-in and then pursue your interests.
And that without being sworn-in, you will not earn anything, you will not influence anything, you will not impact anything and you have a minimum number of days that you must attend parliament in a year. And if you cannot meet that commitment, your seats will be declared vacant.
For one reason or the other, they stayed in Abuja and have refused to be sworn in. I doubt if they can now say they want to be sworn-in. For more than six months they have not presented themselves to be sworn in. The house is passing laws and governance is taking place without them.
I also doubt if they will find it easy, to say they will go and contest under the platform of the APC. Since they were elected on the platform of the APC and did not present themselves to be sworn-in, it will be difficult. In the other area, those who think by supporting or hanging on Oshiomhole will make the impact, but like I always say and people accuse me of taking sides.
I am a leader of the APC; I packaged the APC through its coming together as a party. The legacy party which includes the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) dissolved into the APC.
So, we are the legacy leaders of the APC, with President Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. We structured the APC in such a way that, if you have a governor in a state, the governor is the leader of the party. He funds and maintained the party structure.
That is what happened, for instance, in Kano, when we had Rabiu Kwankwaso as governor and the leader Shekarau, but because Kwankwaso was governor the leadership of the APC in Kano went to Kwankwaso. Shekarau was angry, but it’s unfortunate because that is the structure.
The National Leader of the APC is Adams Oshiomhole and then the state leader of the Edo State APC is Obaseki. That is the structure and Oshiomhole has never said he wanted to be leader of the APC in Edo State. He is the national leader; I don’t know why people say he controls APC in Edo State.
He has never said he does. The structures are all there for people to see; people who are taking sides in this struggle have something to lose or gain.
And unfortunately, when you have two elephants fighting at the end of the day they may both lose what they are fighting for. And that is the truth, but the good news is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not organised enough to win any election.
But, if the opposition gets its act together, will this not undermine your party?
They are certainly not organised enough to do so in Edo State. Incidentally, part of the scenario is that you allow those who are intransigent to test their power and at the end of the day, they will sit down on the same table to discuss.
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All wars that have ever taken place have been preceded by discussions. The powers that think they are helping Oshiomhole or those thinking they are helping the governor will discover that they are not helping the party.
It is not that there is no precedence, what happened in Zamfara State, what happened in Rivers and other places are lessons for us to be careful because human beings only learn from bitter experience.
Obaseki said he wants to probe Oshiomhole…
He is the chief executive of the state and it is the chief executive that knows what he wants to do. I know that it is the quarrel between father and son that is extending to this level.
Otherwise, you cannot divorce Obaseki from Oshiomhole’s administration. Oshiomhole told me that Obaseki was the brain box of his economic team.
So, I think it is the dimension that the disagreement is taking. If Obaseki wants to probe Oshiomhole, it means he would be probing himself because he was part of the administration.
Some people have called for the resignation of the President over the deteriorating security situation in the country. Are you concerned?
There is freedom of expression which is guaranteed in the constitution and because we are in democracy freedom of expression cannot be curtained. People can ask the President to resign even if things are going on smoothly.
Resigning is a way of removal from office and if he resigns, then the Vice President will take over. If the VP resigns, the Senate President will take over; if the Senate President resigns, the Speaker of House of Representatives takes over; and if he or she equally resigns the Chief Justice will take over.
That is the structure, but there is due process for removing someone from office. The President came to office by being elected. The same thing happened in 2019. In 2023, those in the opposition would want the APC presidential candidate defeated, if they can the required number of votes.
This is because President Buhari will not contest in 2023. That is freedom of expression. Mind you, former President Goodluck Jonathan was asked to resign by the opposition. But did Jonathan resign? Another thing is the issue being discussed.
Have we taken the pain to analyze them? People say the service chiefs should resign or be sacked. One person is there to appoint and remove certain levels of officers. The President appoints service chiefs and removes them.
If there are failures it is the President that should be blamed and if there are successes the President will be praised. So, people are expressing their feelings and they are entitled to it.
In your view, what can be done to better secure the country?
If what we are now doing had started in 1999, we would be better off today. Look at the unprecedented attendance to the need of the armed forces. The support by this government to the armed forces is unprecedented.
Look at the Army, Air Force, and the production of arms and so on; this is unprecedented in the history of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. If the same efforts had been put in place since we returned to civil rule in 1999, we would not be talking of what we ought to have done 20 years after.
We now have lots of challenges all over the place. Indiscipline has increased, if you have to do the roads, it has to be done. When it is not done, there will be challenges. Many things seem to have been neglected over the years.
Look at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), it has become an automated teller machine (ATM), people just go there to pack money.
I was almost shedding tears, when I read the interview given by one of the members of the interim committee, about how people spent more than one trillion naira without budgeting.
There ought to be more discipline in our lives. Like I have always said, we must decongest the political space. That is why I am calling for restructuring. We must decongest the political space for economic derivation to be automatic.
The establishment of Operation Amotekun generated controversy. What do you think is responsible for the controversy?
It is only those in the true picture that knows what to do about the need of the place. Look at the humiliation suffered by our governor in Katsina State; they had to sit down to negotiate peace with bandits.
But how can the government sit down with criminals? Are we expecting that people should sit down and negotiate with criminals, on kidnapping, banditry and insurgency? Not that peace is not necessary, but in fact, as a matter of priority, the welfare and security is the paramount agenda of the government.
There is need for both the government and the people to collaborate for the security of the citizens. Amotekun is a policing body and not a police force. Policing is an attempt to look after the people through irregular force. I think the Southwest should be commended for the initiative.
If they work with the police, I am sure within three months the kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery will be a thing of the past. There is no armed robber who is not known, 65 per cent of Nigerians live in rural areas.
The rural areas are controlled by traditional institutions, age-group associations and so on. So, all these are involved in policing.
So, policing efforts should be at the national, state, local government and community levels. So, when people say that Amotekun is Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) or call it any name, people know that Amotekun is not OPC. Amotekun is an attempt to policing the Southwest; it is structured to protect the area.
There should be such body in the Southeast, the Southsouth, the Northeast, the Northwest and the Northcentral. If this is done, within six months, we would have re-engineered the security infrastructure.
Though police is in the Exclusive List, policing is everybody’s business. I support Amotekun wholeheartedly.
How would you want the country to be restructured?
If you spent more than 25 per cent of your resources on recurrent expenditure, you have to go back to the drawing board; in Nigeria you spend about 95 per cent. Democracy is the most appealing way to govern; we know what it takes to have monarchical and other forms of government, but democracy is the way, we have chosen.
It is the freest way any country can choose to run the affairs of state. It is so structured that we have the federal, state and local governments. The fact is we the Federal Government, 36 states and 774 local governments, with 93 areas of lawmaking.
The federal-level carries out the lawmaking done by the Senate and House of Representatives. There are two lists, Exclusive and Concurrent; with 93 areas of preponderant lawmaking powers at the centre. Yet, we are a federation.
The late Obafemi Awolowo identified 52 nations in Nigeria, 35 of them are in the North. The North is even divergent more than the South. A true federation has federating units; we had three regions in the past and in 1963 four regions. The fourth region was created through due process, the Midwest region.
After that, the state had been created through just a pen. When we had regions, they attended to the resources we had; that is when federalism had meaning.
We must go back to regions and six regions have emerged: the Southsouth, the Southeast, the Southwest, the Northeast, the Northwest and the Northcentral. The powers at the centre should be reduced to not more than two dozens; all others should go to the regions.
There is no region that cannot feed the whole of Nigeria. There is no region that does not have resources to feed itself. We are talking about Niger Delta, at the end of the day, in no distant time anybody who digs the soil to look for oil will be charged for pollution.
The country is so endowed that all that we need are in Nigeria. So, when we decongest the centre and give more activities to the region, the country will be better.