Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonyima, popularly known as EJ is an old head in politics both in Nigeria and the international arena. A former aide to Adams Oshiomhole, he in 1999, served as the campaign manager for Senator Roland Owie when he ran for senate and also in 2003 when he ran for Edo governorship. He has served as a chief consultant to National Assembly, and in 2005, was chairman for publicity, subcommittee for PDP convention in Abuja, working with John Odey, then PDP national scribe. He was also the international coordinator for IBB campaign organization in 2007.
In the United States, he was coordinator for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in Texas, was involved in mobilizing the African community for Mayor Lee Brown in Texas, and has worked with George Bush, Hillary Clinton, the governor of Texas, Rick Perry. In this interview with Correspondent Onukwube Ofoelue, he speaks on reasons why he is convinced Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN will be disgraced out of Edo Government House come next Saturday’s elections, among other issues:
Why did you people decide to run against Adams Oshiomhole knowing that he is performing well?
We started with Oshiomhole. He was a great man, but as soon as he came to power, he changed. It is when you have power that you can make impact. But if you have power and you don’t have money, and if you are somebody that is your friend before, and remains your friend, then he is a child of God. I was with him, and then, when he did not have the money or power, he was as good as ever. Immediately he got the power and money, I can see that the same Oshiomhole I know before has changed. I tell you today, those of us who started what you call ACN today in Edo State are no longer in the system because the manifesto of our party has been eroded. That is why now, if I tell you that I was part and parcel of those who brought Oshiomhole into power, and we supported him immensely, especially by people from Edo South senatorial district. I am from Ikpoba Okha Local Government. We came out en masse, and we gave him the needed support. That is why you can see that ACN was very formidable in this state. But as of today, ACN, we used to call it Air Conditioner without Compressor, I can tell you now that the compressor is gone.
You were among those that brought ACN to limelight in Edo State. What was it that made you abandon ACN and is today running against the same government you brought to power?
People marry for reasons. It could be that you are compatible, or she is beautiful, and you say you want to marry her. After sometime, you start seeing that differences are coming in to the marriage. Maybe the woman is cheating, because what destroys a marriage I mostly about cheating. The party and most of us were like husband and wife, cousins, brothers of the same family. You see parents disowning their own children, and children disowning their parents. Why I left was not because we don’t have good people there, but because we have missed our real, original mission statement, the manifesto of the party. We missed the focus and began to pursue shadows. People came out en masse without any money inducement. Their coming out was as a result of their hunger for a change. They saw that in developmental strides of the dividends of democracy. It is not just because you build a borehole with N5 million and commission is with N10.5 million. That is not dividend of democracy. When we did not have democracy, we did have running taps in this state. And now in the 21st century we are talking about boreholes in the 21st century. You build with N1 million and commission with N5 million, that is monumental fraud. Not only were the people who brought this government to power marginalized, especially the Edo South people who have over 60 percent of the votes. We brought Oshiomhole into power, we are not saying he should focus on the Edo South people, but if you don’t know where you are coming from, you will never know where you are going. God himself also knows that the man who will forget those who gave him a ladder to climb to the top, and when he gets up there, throw away the ladder, throw away the people, so Oshiomhole threw away the ladder, and decided to throw away people who brought him into power. Why? Because without money and power, you cannot make any impact. But with power and money, you get there. And somebody that is your friend before, who remains with you is truly your friend. But he is no more the same Oshiomhole. Money has changed him. It is to the extent that his own close friends will tell you that money is evil. Money is now the one ruling him, he is not the one ruling money. He now buys Prado jeeps, giving people millions of naira to get their votes. When we came to power, we never brought any vote. Action Congress of Nigeria today is now buying votes. Air Condition without compressor is now broken. If it’s not working, go and replace it. The CAN is now a bad party, from the ideal party we found it to be.
There are a lot of development in Edo State effected by Oshiomhole’s Government. Don’t you think this is a great challenge against PDP?
The change is actually like a tsunami, what I describe as a moving train. That train is stopping in every local government picking passengers. What I have seen so far, even before I joined PDP, after I resigned from Oshiomhole’s government- I resigned when I saw that if I remain in the party. So I decided to resign from the government before I officially resigned from the party. They say charity begins at home. My local government did not have any tangible project going on, and my people were seeing me as one of the most prominent people to Comrade. I was the most senior aide, but I did not join politics because of myself alone. If I cannot empower my people, and there is no single project in my local government, I have no business playing politics, or joining that political party. Because as at today, there is no single project going on in my local government. Even Comrade promised me that there is a road from Ikpoba-Okha- Upper Sakponba to Ikpoba Hill that they will build and put a bridge through Ikpoba River. He promised me two years ago. Up till now nothing has been done. There is no one project, the road to the local government is not motorable. I will take you there if you have the time to see for yourself. I know there are other local governments, but I am only speaking for myself because they say charity begins at home. If I have nothing to write home about that local government. The chief of staff is from my local government as well. May be he is there for himself alone, because he does not have anything to write home about. He is a total failure, because politics is about reaching out to you people. It’s about going to the government and gaining access to the people. When my people begin to tell me that there is nothing in my local government, that there is a problem, no single project from the government, then there is a problem. The schools that are being renovated, the Federal Government brought N5 billon, but the Comrade is not mentioning that. If you go around the school now, you will see Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s signboard, schools being transformed. By who? Just painting classrooms does not mean that is a good job. Somebody built those schools, you are only painting. Show me any road that you have constructed in Ikpoba Okha, show me even clinic, not even talking about hospital. Show me any market. You destroyed the market, and did not build a new one. Where do you want the people to sell their products? Go to Ikpoba Okha and see the roads, the markets, even Oba Erediauwa Road is totally condemned.
You complained that Oshiomhole did not develop Edo South. Don’t you think it was possible he was planning to move to that level after some time?
I have lived outside Nigeria, and I have seen light. What I am seeing here is darkness. They are not doing anything.
Compared to what was in place during PDP’s Lucky Igbinedion government, do you truly think they are not doing anything?
You cannot give a total score to any government. That a government did not do so much does not necessarily mean that it did not perform. If the government did not perform, have you ever seen Oshiomhole, Osunbor, Igbinedion saying, ‘these people embezzled money, this is what I am doing about it, to charge them?’ Some of these governors did well. Just like Comrade now, if you ask me, he has done something in some areas, but in totality, he has failed. Uhumwonde, Ovia, Egor all Local Governments in Edo South, nothing. But in Benin City, Oredo, Edo South, you cannot tell me he did not do anything. What has he done, he tarred Federal roads. He did this so that people coming from Abuja, Lagos can pass, see those roads and say, ‘This man is really working’. It’s like somebody who built a house, beautified the parlour, but the kitchen, toilets and bedroom are all smelling. And he instructs his children to bar people from those areas that smell. He is afraid and does not want you to know that every other room in the house is dirty. He did this because Benin City is the parlour of Edo State. Look at the water fountain at Ring Road, do you know how it came about? I initiated the water fountain project to Oshiomhole, because I meant well for him, and I will challenge him anytime. What they built there is a far cry from what I gave him. Ring Road was supposed to be a state of the art design. It is rubbish, all ideas wasted. Look around the water fountain and look around Ring Road, does the dirtiness of Ring Road correspond with the beauty of the fountain? They just copied my idea incomplete and did rubbish. I will show you the original rubbish water fountain the Commissioner for Environment built. I saw it and I laughed. It is still there, a monumental fraud. Comrade meant well at the beginning.
So what went wrong?
By the time he started getting money, it got into his head, and he forgot his friends. If you forget your friends, people that gave you ladder to climb up, who voted for you even though they had no money, those that had money and they gave to you, some people spent N1billion, N500thousand, and even N100, because that’s all they have. Today, Oshiomhole has forgotten them. Today, they are buying people. Then, we were not buying people. Today, they are buying people with N5 million, N10 million, Prado Jeeps, that is criminal, undemocratic. It is unfortunate that it is against the law to be lawful in our state, because it is a lawless state. a governor that does not obey court order. The judiciary gave you power, today, the court has given an injunction for the removal of caretaker committees in the local governments. Now after 4 years, you refuse to conduct elections, and you say you are a democrat. And you now put people who cannot read and write in some of the local governments. You now deny the people a right to vote in their local government chairmen. I have always said, that your vote is your right, and two good heads are better than one. I am urging Edo people to vote their minds and their conscience. Today, I have spoken my, and will vote my conscience. I have one single vote.
Why did you return to PDP, a party the Edo people don’t trust anymore through a decamp? Do you think Edos will ever agree to vote PDP?
I did not decamp. I went back home to the new, reformed PDP. It is a new PDP. The name of a party is not the problem, it is the people operating under that name that is the problem. PDP does not move, its people. You cannot say that the so-called name is the problem, that is why people keep moving from one party to another. If someone who cannot afford a three square meal a day is given N3million or Prado, won’t he move? He is hungry. They have turned our people to Bingo, they just say, ‘come come’ and they come. They have been turned to Bingo. The people that destroyed PDP of yesterday are the same people that have moved to CAN, and I can assure you that they will be doomed later. They don’t mean well, and are only there for their own selfish interest, not the people. Comrade said in the beginning, ‘let the people lead’. But today, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole is the one leading today.
There is a lot of zeal being exercised by PDP towards July 14. What is it giving you so much confidence despite the overwhelming presence of PDP?
When you see a good material, you are quite sure you will be able to sell it to the people and they are going to buy. We have a good material in the person of Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), a man of decency, integrity, and the fear of God. He cares for the people, and this is a man who made it from the bottom in the military to the highest pedigree, which is the Major General. Becoming a candidate for PDP is a plus for the party. If you look at the primaries, it was so free and fair that even CAN was so jealous. Of course, some candidates were aggrieved, but you don’t beat a child and expect him not to cry. There has to be a winner and loser. He has served the Nigerian government even at international levels and knows what it takes to develop a state. He is well enlightened, so well brought up, so well trained accountant. So when people begin to see the caliber you bare bringing in, you appreciate. Comrade’s gift is his mouth. He is gifted, his mouth is his gift. He is a loud speaker, but they say, practice what you preach, but he is not practicing what he preaches. That is why he is bound to fail, because he has failed his former supporters, former followers who brought him into power. But thank God that today, those people are saying, ‘thank God, we have seen the new light coming to PDP’. Had it been a different candidate, it would have been a different situation. They were looking for somebody, not one whose credentials is questionable, who did not work, but they can see that with the man on ground, we will change. God has favoured PDP with a man like Charles Airiabvere. Edo people are yearning for true development, not a cheating one. Note that Airport Road has already consumed more than N11 billion, a road that is not up to seven kilometers. That is a shame, that is a monumental 419. I am asking the House of Asssembly here in Edo State that if they fail to perform their duty, to protect the state, by probing the contractor, that is the failure of the House of Assembly. The roads in Edo is nothing to write home about.
Don’t you think people will say you people are aggrieved just because Oshiomhole did not develop your area? That you are playing against him just to express your anger?
The people who live in those local governments know that nothing has been done, that the development is only here in Benin City. Ring Road, Sapele Road, Sakponba, Akpakpava were constructed by Osunbor, of course comrade did it. The Federal roads he is working on is in conjunction with the Federal Government. What I am talking about is the state roads, and there is nothing to write home about. Go to the inner streets, come to GRA, now that it is raining, you cannot go out. Inside GRA that we should be proud about is River Oshiomhole. He has left off service to the people and taken to serving his stomach, and serving his friends.