Chief Charles Idahosa, a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was a former Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Edo state. The outspoken and forthright politician also served as Special Adviser on political matters to former Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole. He spoke in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI on developments in the ruling party under Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, anti-corruption war and other issues of national interests. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians are wondering why President Buhari has remained silent over the report of the SGF and NIA DG which has since been submitted to him by the Vice- President. Do you think the president has something to hide?
No. I don’t agree with people politicising this war against corruption. Yes, a committee headed by the Vice- President sat over the issue and submitted the report to Mr. President and he is yet to take any action on it. I don’t think the president is shielding anybody. I think Buhari is just thorough because lot of things are involved that may not be clear to you or me. In that presidency, we must understand the fact that they are divided amongst themselves. They are fighting themselves almost on a daily basis. The report that put Ibrahim Magu in trouble with the Senate was written by the Director of DSS who was also appointed by the same presidency and that report was what the Senate used against Magu.
Nigerians must understand that we are running a government with a divided party. How do you explain a situation where APC as the ruling party has majority in the National Assembly yet it could not influence who became Senate President and Speaker of the House of Reps? The people the party wanted lost out in both chambers and a member of the opposition (Ike Ekweremadu) is Deputy Senate President today. From this, you can see that the leadership of the APC has failed us woefully. We have not been able to put our house in order. But I don’t think the president has chosen to remain silent on the report. Very soon, I am sure action will be taken on it.
There is also this belief in some quarters that the anti-corruption war is lopsided. What is your perspective on that?
It surprises me when people say the anti-corruption war is lopsided and targeted at the opposition alone. Who ran the federal government for 16 years and mismanaged our resources? It is the PDP. So, the people who will be pursued by the government to return money are PDP members because they have access to the money. So, it surprises me when they say if a looter wants to be protected from being probed, they decamped to APC. That is not true.
Some are also claiming that the anti-corruption war is losing steam as no one has been convicted since the president came in, what is your thought on that?
That is another issue. Just look at a situation where the president is tagged as a dictator. If he tries to use his muscle or go out of his way, they will say he is undermining the judiciary and has no respect for the rule of law. They put legal hook in the whole process. Tell me a former Minister or governor who has been convicted since this government came into power. None! It is not Buhari that will pick them up and jail them.
The rule of law has to be followed. Look at Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB. When Buhari was away, Kanu was saying there will be no election and that if the army tries to arrest him, there will be bloodshed. He was putting on military uniforms and majority of the state governors are struggling to go and have handshake with him. All the big leaders are hosting him and hailing him as the emperor of the South East. When Buhari came back in his speech, he said he has crossed the red line and he moved against him. Where is Kanu now? Just few days of Operation Python Dance in the South East, they all ran away. Who is talking for Kanu now? Where is Kanu now?
Recently, Prof. Itse Sagay said the APC leadership under Chief John Oyegun is weak and ineffective. Do you think his statement is justified?
Absolutely yes! Prof. Itse Sagay is a man that has built his reputation and has built his name for a very long time. He is a man I have tremendous respect for, though I have never met him. For President Buhari to appoint him as chairman of that very important advisory committee shows that he has a lot of confidence in him. What Prof. Sagay is said is his observation. He is not a member of APC. The president only called him to come and assist him in the anti-corruption war. So, Prof. Sagay has been watching what is going on in the party and he is not happy about what is happening. He cited so many examples. Look at what is happening in the party today.
We have a situation where Dino Melaye, an APC senator from Kogi state is fighting the state governor, another APC member to a standstill and the party cannot move in and call them to other. It is very embarrassing. We will only be deceiving ourselves if we say the party is not divided. The APC is in tatters and the leadership is so weak. Look at the issue of Timi Frank, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary. The National Publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed became a Minister, everyone expect his deputy to have taken over from him but they went and brought another man (Bolaji Abdullahi) as his replacement.
The party said it is by zoning and not by hierarchy. Don’t you agree with that?
I know Oyegun very well. He is a Benin man like me. He is not old enough to be my father; the highest he can be is my senior brother and I am very close to his younger brother because we all went to school together. Because I know him does not mean I will now lie and say he is doing well. He is not performing well as national chairman. He is not doing the job he was elected to do. He went on a platform to become national chairman, now that he is there, he is now running to powers that be in order to secure his job. That is what is called sycophancy. He is now a friend of the president. The president didn’t bring you. The president did not bring his vice, Prof. Osinbajo. Everybody in that cabinet was brought by one respective leader or another.
He (Oyegun) knows where he is coming from but to keep his job now, everything is right. People are suggesting practical ways to ensure that APC continues as the ruling party in 2019, all Oyegun keeps saying is ‘Buhari must re-contest; ‘ I will fast and pray to make sure Buhari runs again’. Even when the president was sick and was in hospital, all Oyegun keeps saying is ‘Buhari 2019’ yet he wants us to be clapping for him? That is sycophancy and I don’t like it.
Buhari has a right to decide whether to seek re-election or not. What will Oyegun do if Buhari says I am not running? I hate people who are sycophants. Oyegun knew what we did to make him national chairman. Tom Ikimi had already gone unopposed from Edo state. We had to call a State Working Committee meeting to say there is another person from Edo state who is interested in the position. I spoke to the state chairman of APC who is still alive; I spoke to then governor, Adams Oshiomhole that this is what we should do because we are not very sure of Ikimi.