Prince Tony Momoh, a former Minister of Information and one of the national leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), in this interview speaks on the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki from the governorship primaries of the party and options ahead of him. Excerpts:
With his disqualification by the APC Screening committee from participating in the primaries, will you be surprised if Governor Obaseki dumps the APC for another political party in order to realise his mandate?
It’s a choice. The governor, having been disqualified has the opportunity to lodge an appeal to the Appeal Committee and later to the National Working Committee (NWC) . Although the NWC said that their decision is final, the governor can also go to court. But since the governor said that he is not going to appeal his disqualification; then he will leave the matter, finish his term and go or maybe opt for a ‘Plan B’. Plan B can mean any other thing. There are 15 political parties contesting in Edo state; APC is one of them. Obaseki can go to any of the parties and if they give him their ticket, he can still contest the election. There is freedom of movement among political parties. That is another option for him. He can as well say he is tired and will rather remain in APC and not contest again. So, the options are open to the governor and it is left for him to take decisions. Let’s assume he leaves the party, then there will be less concern for bloody confrontations as predicted for Edo state. It means then that if the governor is in party A or B outside APC, then the election will be more peaceful relatively than if he was to remain in APC and they fight out the battle.
Another thing is, if he leaves the APC, the battle in court may lapse if it is a party. But if it is not a party, then the battle in court may continue until the courts finally decide. If the courts decide in favour of APC and it wins, then it will continue after the election. If APC wins and the courts decide against APC, then the situation will be like it happened in Bayelsa and Zamfara. I am only analysing the consequences of what may happen, I am not praying for any of them to happen because I’m a national leader of APC and I will continue to support the party. I am only speaking now as a monitor of governance on the consequences of action.
With University of Ibadan coming out to attest that he was an alumnus, do you think the disqualification of the governor by the Screening committee is justified?
Let me tell you this. I blame the governor over the credentials issue. I have Primary School Leaving Certificate but I don’t know where it is. If I don’t know where it is, then I won’t plead it unless I swear to an affidavit in court to protect me. If he pleaded documents and he doesn’t have proof of those documents, that is grounds for disqualification. Do you know that since 2003 when President Muhammadu Buhari started contesting elections, he has been using School certificate? That is what he has been presenting.
Do you know that Buhari has all the qualifications in military and a Masters degree from US? But the fact is, he has never pleaded all those qualifications. So, what you plead or presented, you must prove. If Governor Obaseki attended HSC and doesn’t have the certificate to present, that will be a ground for the screening committee to say he is claiming what he doesn’t have. That of the University has been taken care of because the University of Ibadan has attested to the fact that he was finished from there and his records are intact.
He came in in 1976 and left in 1979. They have cleared him and nobody can question that. So, if he had just presented University of Ibadan certificate, that would have been the only certificate the committee will use; but he pleaded many other documents. For instance, his NYSC certificate, the committee said his surname was written as ‘OBASEK’ instead of ‘OBASEKI’. But that is not a ground for disqualifying him because the document was made by NYSC and not him. But the screening committee said they did not disqualify him on the basis of that but he would have gone to NYSC and protested and get a statement from them that he is the same as ‘OBASEK’ or they replace the certificate with another one bearing his correct name.
if you have a certificate you are pleading and you do not have the original certificate to back it up, you swear to an affidavit about what happen to the original certificate. The best thing politicians can do is to present the minimum qualification that the constitution said you need. You don’t need to present all the certificates in the world because nobody wants to set an examination for you. But once you submit a document, you must be able to prove that you actually possess the document.