Hon. Damian Lawani, the Edo State Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Special Duties as well as the Convener, Obaseki-Shaibu Movement (OSM) for the state governorship election. He spoke in this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI on the political developments in the state and the chances of Governor Godwin Obaseki in this year’s governorship election.
What is your take on the stance of the Edo People’s Movement (EPM) against the state government?
In the first place, I will like to tell us that there is nothing like EPM again in Edo State. The convener has said that the group has achieved its aim, so there’s nothing like EPM. As far as Edo APC is concerned, the group is completely dead and has no voice again
Whatever its intentions are, I think it has been able to draw the government’s attention, and the government on its part had been addressing the issues raised by the group.
The much-talked-about 2020 is here, what do you think about the December 31, 2019 deadline given to Obaseki?
Look, we are just aggravating the issue, there was nothing like a deadline, it was something that was dead on arrival. How do you with your right senses give a performing governor a deadline? Are they the masses that gave Governor Godwin Obaseki the mandate? Is there any segment of governance that is not functioning? Are the electorates complaining about the government?
Even a blind or a mad man knows that Obaseki is delivering the dividends of democracy to the people that voted him into power. The political party is like a vehicle carrying people, the people inside it can decide to go along with the vehicle or drop out of it. In a democratic setting, everybody cannot belong to the same line of thought, there must be some people that disagree in certain areas, yes; it is allowed.
But what the government will not take is for people doing things that would be detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the masses. So, if the issues raised by some aggrieved persons are cogent enough, the government will always listen to them. For us in Obaseki’s government, it is the people first, and the people will always top the agenda of the government. That is what we have been doing and we will continue to do it.
Are you not seeing the crisis as an obstacle to Obaseki’s continuity?
Well, as I said before, in a democratic system, there are bound to be differences, but what is important is having the majority. To us, as a political party, we believe in party supremacy and every operation of this government is based on party rules.
We don’t do anything that is not entrenched in the APC constitution. In Obaseki’s government, anything that is not in the interest of the people, this government will not be part of it. If there are some deceptive voices that you hear, it means that they don’t know what they are doing
Governor Obaseki was recently quoted as saying that the battle is a fight to the finish. What do you think is the implication of such a statement?
Well, if the governor had said that, I don’t know why he did so. However, the issue about fighting to the finish bothered on what I have been saying since. If your interest is about Edo people, Obaseki will gladly listen to you, but if your interest is about you and you alone, Obaseki is ready to go down with you.
Edo electorate has decided on Obaseki’s return to power, and any person or group of persons that want to truncate Obaseki’s second term bid will incur the wrath of the gods.
Don’t you see the crisis as a division, which may connote a big loss for the party in the next election?
As for the division, there must always be divisions, that is why it is called politics. We cannot all reason the same way, and when there divisions, it is either the division for the people or not. For Obaseki to succeed in government, he must, as a matter of fact, bring the people to bear, and because of this, some individuals are not comfortable with it.
So, from what we have seen, even to the blind and the deaf, they see and hear about what this government has done within three years. We are not four yet, by the time we are four years in office, Edo will be ranked among the best-developed states in the country.
Have you seen some of the things that the opposition parties listed as failures of the state government?
Look, one thing I hate about the opposition is that, because they are in the opposition, they don’t bother to know whether the government in power is performing or not. As an opposition party, you should be able to give credit to the government in the areas you feel they had done well, don’t just take a blanket approval or disagreement just because you are in opposition.
As an opposition party, you should have the interest of the people at heart. Just a few days ago, I had a serious discussion with a top governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he told me that he is seriously in love with Obaseki’s regime, and that is because the governor has done marvellously well.
He said if Obaseki is not given the ticket, they should give it to him. This is a highly formidable PDP person talking. He went on to say that if he gets the PDP ticket, he would follow the laid down principles of the Obaseki government. Anybody or persons who are not comfortable with the system of this government is an enemy of Edo people.
Recently, there was news about a commissioner getting involved in money laundering, what is your take on that?
People are blaming the government for denying him, well the government did not only deny, but the government also have no hand in it. The truth of the matter is that we are individuals; we have worked somewhere before taking up political appointments with Edo State government. And now that we are in government, it is not immunity against crime, so whatever we have done in the past, government anywhere can ask questions.
So, whatever that commissioner is going through now is a personal thing. This government did not send him to do anything; neither did the government give him money to launder. If he has personal issues, the government will investigate and come out with its findings. So by the time the government is done with its own investigations, people will know that the government has nothing to do with it. But for Obaseki, the 2020 dream is a done deal.