Former President-General of Trade Union Congress, Mr. Peter Esele, who was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, in this media interview, spoke on his experience in politics and made case for the emergence of the party’s candidate, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as winner of the upcoming gubernatorial election.
You were among those who vied for the All Progressives Congress, APC, ticket ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State. Can you relate your experience against the backdrop of the mixed feelings that trailed the exercise?
The exercise tells much about how our democratic system works and how it is structured. At the end of the day, the fact that I accepted and congratulated the winner does not mean that I don’t feel that there were some infractions during the primary election. The way I am wired is that I have to look at the big picture and it means that the party structure is bigger than individuals. No matter how I feel about it, I prefer an APC governor than someone from the other party. The education I have gotten in this process cannot be quantified financially. I know the country faces a lot of challenges politically but I did not know they were that deep.
I am talking about our structure and value system. I also found out that sometimes being intelligent is a crime. I have heard some comments about people saying ‘I am fantastic and good’ but that they can’t guarantee my loyalty. At the end, what gives me joy is that I was not running for the sake of it. I did that for the state because I have a blueprint for Edo based on my vision. I looked at 20 years from now and the challenges that will manifest and how the state will be able to take on the challenges. My blueprint was on how to navigate through that in various areas like agriculture, education, IGR, among others. All these were the reasons I wanted to govern Edo. I really had a wonderful experience.
Were there specific lessons you learnt from the exercise that you think do not conform to the general principles of party primaries?
We didn’t have access to the delegates. Having access to talk to them was cumbersome; it was not easy. A lot of money was involved in the process and every aspirant is guilty of that. Some of us were smart enough not to throw in so much money in that process. The bottom line is for one to ask why so much money was being spent. If someone spends so much to become a governor, why would you complain if he is taking your money when elected? In the process of the campaign, delegates were pressured; I met delegates and had to negotiate with those at the top to make it easier for you to talk to the delegates.
When you finish with the delegates, they will tell you they have been told who to talk to and not to talk to. I don’t think that was democratic enough. We also have people who, at the end of the day, were pressured. One of the things I learned from where I am coming from is that no system is perfect. In a previous interview, I said that if I emerged, I will do a thanksgiving and if I didn’t emerge, I will still do same. I know Edo better now and their challenges. Going to over 190 wards across the state provided more knowledge about my state. One of the reasons I joined the APC is that I want to add value to the party. My wish is that Obaseki becomes the next governor of the state.
What informed this wish of seeing Obaseki become the next governor?
The most important thing is that we have listened to our flag bearer. We want to see our party succeed. The party is bigger than individuals.
Just like my training in the labour movement, the way I am wired is that we can slug it out, we can debate, we can argue, but, at the end of the day, we must not lose sight of the fact that we need the platform, the APC.I think it is something we have to address, but my appeal to most of our people is: Politics is not a race. So, the fact that you did not get what you wanted today does not mean you won’t get it tomorrow. What I have always said is that when you see a society where people are preoccupied with primordial sentiments, such as ‘it is our turn,’ it means there is no equity in development. If there is equity, you won’t hear people saying that.
So, those who are complaining in Edo Central have the right to do so. Their complaint is justified. So, it is now left for the party leadership to look at these complaints objectively and see how to assuage their feelings. For me, I think that is important. The attitude of politicians, who think of their interests and not how to put food on the table of the people, is dangerous for Edo and Nigeria in general. A society where politicians reduce governance to individual interest will sooner or later fall apart. I think the challenge right now is for people to look beyond that narrow angle. It is also up to the party to assuage the feelings of the people of Edo Central. Sincerely speaking, I have always looked at things from a broader perspective. But I find out that in politics, it is a different ballgame.
There is a feeling that the failure to pick the deputy governorship candidate from Edo North where you come from does not reflect equity and such may work against the APC at the polls. What do you think about that?
The people of Edo Central are not comfortable. I think it is something we also have to look at. But my appeal to most of them is: Politics is not a race, politics is a marathon. So, the fact that you did not get what you want today does not mean you won’t get it tomorrow.
What I have always said is that; when you see a society where people are talking about ‘it has to be my turn’ or ‘it has to be our turn’, what you will need to also look at is that there is no equity in the development. If there is equity in the development, you won’t hear people saying ‘it is my turn’ or ‘our turn’. So, for those who are complaining in Edo Central, they have the right to complain. So, it is now left for the party leadership to look at these complaints objectively and see how to assuage their feelings. I think that is important. What I will also tell them is; it is not a matter of individuals’ position. You know, most times, when we talk about these things, even if Peter Esele is deputy governor today, the first thing is that Peter Esele is from Edo Central. If I was governor today, one thing is clear: How do we ensure that he brings development, employment? I think that should be the focal point. I have always grown to look at things from that perspective.
How do you put food on our table? Since I started this journey into politics, I found out that it mainly doesn’t put food on our table. And that is very dangerous for Edo and also dangerous for our country, because a situation whereby we have now reduced governance to an individual aspect of it, where everybody now thinks only of ‘my own’, and not ‘our own’, it is a matter of fact that society will fall apart. I think that is the challenge right now; that people should look beyond that narrow angle. And it is also for the party to assuage the feelings of the Central.
What do you think your party should do to assuage the feelings of those in the Central?
I have always looked at things from a broader perspective but I find out that, in politics, it is a different ball game. What I have learned in all of these things, and my years of experience of leading people is that, if they tell you anything, you can be sure eight over 10 will be right. But, in my political journey, I found out that if they tell you something, you will be lucky if two is right out of the 10.
And they are so proud of it. And that is the danger because that is a signal you are sending to the young ones. That yes we play politics and it is acceptable to lie. It is acceptable to manipulate. It is acceptable to do whatever you want as long as you get what you want. To me, that is wrong. So, Edo Central has a case because what we have is a tripod. We have Edo South, we have Edo North and we have the Central. One of the legs of the tripod is gone and then what are you now using to assuage the feelings before September 10, 2016? That is why I need to come in.
As an individual, what I try to do is to let the people see a broader aspect of it. And I am also going to sit down with our flag bearer. I will also let him have my view and what I think we should do because the campaign in the Central right now is that the APC really doesn’t care about them. But, that may not be entirely correct. We need to do something that will make sure the people don’t feel that way. So, it is now left for us in the APC to go ahead and convince them on the direction they want to take people from the Central to.