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Nobody can retire anybody from politics, says Idahagbon

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Idahagbon

Edo State APC chieftain, Henry Idahagbon, told LEO SOBECHI that there was no magic to Obaseki’s victory except voter inducement, assuring that APC will bounce back after four years

•Oshiomhole didn’t plan a comeback, says Idahagbon

You were very optimistic of victory in the run up to the election. What really went wrong?
Well, what really happened was that, for the past five to six months, Obaseki’s government agents went round meeting voters, collecting their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and the registration number of voters in every polling unit in Edo State. And he was paying them N10,000 each. No matter the rhetorics we gave, the people could not listen. Rather, they just preferred to collect the money thinking that it would continue even after winning. Let him continue paying them the money. There was no magic; he has no magic. That was just what happened.

But the refrain has been that it was a dethronement of godfathers. How do you marry that narrative with your allegation?
That is not correct. Nobody attempted to play godfather here. He knows the truth, but we wish Edo people well. Let them enjoy the governorship for the next four years. He won. That is it.

What is the way forward for the party?
Let the state government do what it wants, even if they want to turn everything over to PDP, we don’t care.

The perception in certain quarters is that you, alongside others, have been retired politically. What do you make of that claim?
Nobody can retire any politician. PDP has been out of the seat of power in Edo State in the past 12 years and by the treacherous act of an APC governor they have bounced back. Some APC governors decided to destabilise the party at the national level. Now, there is an ongoing effort to rebuild the party and we are confident that in the next four years, we will bounce back.

I maintain: nobody can retire anybody from politics. We are politicians. So nobody can retire us. Retire what? Who can retire us from what we chose to do? Did anybody retire (late Chief Obafemi) Awolowo from politics? Has anybody retired Jagaban (Ahmed Bola Tinubu) from politics?

So, nobody retires anybody from politics. Politics is like every other game: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Now, we have lost. And I can live with that. Those that have won should savour their victory. That is what it is. That doesn’t mean that tomorrow we cannot win. So, anybody thinking of retiring us is living in a fool’s paradise.

There was also an undercurrent. Some said part of the problem for Pastor Ize-Iyamu and APC in Edo State was the excesses of the former national chairman, who refused to play by the rules, both at the centre and state level. Is there any truth in that? 
That is not true. (Adams) Oshionmole remains a political icon and a leader any time any day. Whether at the state or the national level, there were no excesses.  Ize-Iyamu is a formidable politician and he is well loved by the people. He scored over 200,000 votes. Those were the voters that were not bought. Those were the people coming out on their own to vote. You know, failure is an orphan. We have lost and people are bound to make up all kinds of theories. We accept it. We have no problems with it. We may be down, but we are definitely not out.

But as a grassroots politician, would you say Tinubu’s short video message barely four days to the election was a plus or minus to the electoral fortune of the party on September 19?
Well, some people appreciated the message. It depends on the political divide you belong to. I believe in Asiwaju (Tinubu) and I believe the message was well delivered, well structured, immensely. But, of course, those who do not belong to our political divide will see the message as being irrelevant. Everything was well structured, but like I said, it depends on what divide you belong. It is well.

I have accepted the verdict. And I wish the governor well. And I pray that he will do better than he did in the past four years. He should construct roads in Edo State that have remained bad. It is for the benefit and enjoyment of all of us. Let him go and work on the roads. During the electioneering, my car broke down due to bad roads. Let him fix the roads so that all of us can enjoy them.

Let me pose these two questions together: being close to Adams Oshionmhole, do you think all his politics, as the chairman of APC while it lasted, was not defined by his closeness and loyalty to Tinubu? Secondly, what critical issues would you advance for Governor Godwin Obaseki to show he is magnanimous in victory?
Well, whether he chooses to be magnanimous in victory or not, it is his cup or tea. Ideally, and I know he does not have the capacity to do that: I think he should unite Edo people now. This election is the most divisive and keenly contested election we have ever had. But, it is his decision whether or not to be magnanimous in victory.

Then, on the issue about Tinubu and Oshiomhole, Oshiomhole belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody. Jagaban was not breathing down his neck as chairman; he (Oshiomhole) was fair to all and sundry as chairman. The only problem he had was that he wanted the party to be run on a proper footing and in accordance to the laws of the land and the constitution of the party. The governors, who see themselves as emperors, were not comfortable with that.

That was why they ganged up and removed him. And the man has accepted his removal in good faith. He has come back to Edo to enjoy his retirement. He is 68 going on 69; if he were a public servant, he would have retired at 60. He has had a very active life and he is enjoying his retirement now. But, of course, because of the development he has done in Edo, there is no way he will not be relevant in Edo politics now and in the nearest future.

What about the claim that he wanted badly to win Edo governorship so as to boost his plot to come back as APC national chairman?
No, he had no plans to come back as the national chairman. He has done his best as the national chairman and he has moved on. No plan whatsoever to come back as the national chairman; he has moved on. That national chairman’s job is a thankless job. Both in APC and PDP, tell me one national chairman that completed his tenure; they never do, because of intrigues.

(Chief John Odigie) Oyegun, who completed his tenure, was a dormant national chairman. He followed everybody and could not stand for anything; that was why he survived before he was booted out just a couple of months before he completed his tenure. So, there was no plan for Oshiomhole to come back as the national chairman. No plan whatsoever.


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