Billionaire businessman, Captain Idahosa Wells Okunbo in this interview gives an insight into his relationship with Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki and why they fell apart. Among other issues, he assured that the All Progressives Congress(APC) shall win the September 19 governorship election.
How did your quarrel with Governor Obaseki start? What really went wrong between you both and where does your relationship stand now?
I want to thank you for honouring my invitation. I am a very press shy person, I hardly grant interviews but I find it very important and relevant at this time for me to also talk. I have written but I think I should talk.
Thank you for the question about Edo. Facts are facts and a lie will remain a lie. You will get real facts today.
First, I consider myself an elder statesman of this country; I also consider myself a relevant stakeholder in my state.
Just as important as that market woman who is also a stakeholder that sells tomatoes and pepper, so I have always wished well for my state and I still do.
At the beginning when Governor Godwin Obaseki approached me in 2016 that he wanted to run for the governorship seat of Edo State, he came in the company of a friend, Noggie Meggison, to my house in Ikoyi ( Lagos) and that day I unveiled to him the relationship between me and his late father who happened to be like a father to me; in fact, he he nurtured me in my youth.
I told him the relationship between myself and his father that as a child, I was his father’s friend and that I had no choice but to support his ambition.
And after that, he kept coming to my house with Rasaq Belo-Osagie.
When he came, he respected me and we respected each other, we eat together and the relationship was very cordial and I was happy that at least somebody from the private sector like myself had come into the governorship race in Edo, apart from the relationship I had with the father which was very dear to me.
When it came to the time to support financially, he came to me in Abuja with the same Rasaq and I did my little bit to support him and thank God it is the same candidate today that is also his opponent again.
Now, what happened after that?
He was elected as the Governor in 2016 and I was very elated and as we continued, the political class that elected him were all coming to me including Rasaq Belo-Osagie that brought him to me.
I want to start mentioning names now so that there can be reference. They were complaining about how he was treating them and how he didn’t want to see them anymore after being elected and I kept calming them down.
I even quarreled with Rasaq, I said “Rasaq, leave this man alone” and I kept talking to the political class and said listen, I know bankers, that I know investment bankers, you can’t squeeze anything out of their hands.
He said he was gathering money to improve our state, I said so be it. He said he’s developing our state and I said so be it, let him be but I kept going back to him to say my brother please manage these people.
You have found yourself in the political turf, so please manage them because I believe there are so many attributes of leadership, the ability to manage people, perseverance and patience.
I told him that when you have even more than ten workers in your establishment, you will have different kinds of people and the ability to manage them to achieve your desired goals is what is important because as I was fighting the political class, I was advising him on how to manage them because for me the state was my concern, development of my state is top priority.
That was why when I was going to China to meet some investors, I mentioned it to him and he was willing to come; I was excited that he was willing to come, I bought his ticket and that of his aides.
And we went to China and we met my investors and we spent good time together, I did that and paid all the bills not because I have too much money but what I wanted to show to my brother was look, I am not coming for government’s purse; I wanted to show him that I wanted to help genuinely and I seriously meant well for him but to my surprise, the things that started unfolding after, I couldn’t believe it. I was always wondering what I had done.
For instance, when the President was coming to Benin for the Army Day, I reached out to the Presidency, the President has seen my products, the President had eaten products from my farm; the President loves the products, so I wanted to use that opportunity of his coming to Benin to invite the President to commission my farm and I also thought that was an opportunity for Godwin, the governor to also showcase the farm as one of his achievements.
Only for me to hear from the grapevine that he never wanted the President to come to my farm; I needed to confirm if the President was going to come to my farm and I did.
Then I got a phone call from Godwin and he said, I learnt the President was coming to your farm, he will come but he was not going to come out of the car. I was wondering how will the President come to my farm for the commissioning of my farm and not come out of the car. Whatever I am saying here today, God Almighty knows that I am saying the truth.
He gave me that call and I laughed, only for the event to be cancelled because there was an incident in Maiduguri and the President had to go to Maiduguri.
I started to think what was going on here. Most of these things started last year. It is very true that a few people had approached me that I should come and run against him.
But for me, let me be honest, I will be the last person to quarrel with any government that is performing or any government at all.
Because at the very beginning when Godwin told me his plans for Edo State, if Godwin presents to you his plans for Edo State on PowerPoint, you will kiss his feet.
It is like in the Bible when the devil said take all this and bow before me and Jesus said get thee behind me Satan. And as we progressed, all those packages that he presented, none was done. I learnt most of them were all on paper and they continue to be on paper and consultancy services attached to most of them. Of course, as we speak, most of those projects are not on ground and me I can’t be deceived.Some can be deceived but I cannot.
A situation where you have 600 children packed in a room selling propaganda on social media of projects that are not there.It is appalling.
But that is why most of our brothers in the Diaspora are sold on his agenda but they do not know that most of those projects are just not on ground.
You can’t continue selling propaganda because when you tell lies continuously, it becomes truth in some peoples’ ear.
You sell propaganda, you impoverished them and then when it is election time, you now throw corns at them and tell them to see white and call it black. I will not allow that in a society I grew up in.
I don’t live permanently in Benin but I have always retraced my steps to my home because there is a saying that a child that doesn’t remember where he comes from is lost.
I am completely in touch with my environment back home. I know that is where I am from and whatever I can do to relate with my people, I always do.
Like I said, a lot of people approached me to run for Governor of Edo State and most of the people that did, will tell you I said I wasn’t interested because I have set a trajectory for my life and over the past 32 years, I have been involved in business and before that, I was a very good professional pilot.
And at 63, my mates that ran for Governorship did that in 1999 and were not ready to start learning new things.
And that is one of the reasons I tried to help Godwin, because in his old age, he could not learn new things, that is why he fell a victim.
He found himself in politics which was not his turf; it was not his forte and he would have sought for God’s wisdom to be able to manage the position he had found himself.
That was was why I was talking to him and trying to mediate in the matter because I never wanted him to fight anybody, not to talk about fighting me. When he started fighting the political class, I told him, when he he came to my house, I said GO, please if you keep fighting these guys, they have a boss who is Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and very soon, you and Adams will quarrel.
He said God forbid, instead of him and Adams to quarrel, he will resign from being Governor.
I said okay and not long, Adams became Chairman of APC and the people on ground whom he was fighting now found solace in Abuja and they came to seek help from him. I was watching and comrade started helping some of them through his position.
And the quarrel started. He became angry with Comrade and complained why he was helping people that were fighting him in the state.
Then it came to their primaries and the full blown quarrel startĺed, I went to him and tried settling them.
I went once, the second time I said GO my brother, your position today is Governor and Comrade is Chairman of APC, I don’t think there is anything both of you will sit in front of the the President and ask for our state that we would not get.
I said please this quarrel should never happen. I said lets nip it in the bud for the sake of everybody. I was in his house for three hours. I knelt down, begging. I said for the sake of the state, I don’t want this animosity to continue, whatever it takes, please close it out.
That night I left and that same night when I got home, I got a call from a common friend in Lagos who told me that Godwin said you should stay out of this matter, otherwise, you might be a collateral damage.I said, collateral damage? Me? I said should I ask him? He said ask him.
The next morning I called him, I said Ogierebor, that is what I call him, I said Ogierebor, this is what this guy told me; he said yes, it is fight to finish, you better stay away so that you will not be caught up in the middle.
I said Thank you! But I said I wont relent. I reached out to elders who were more powerful than myself, that we should not have a state where there are no elders.
Was that the day after you saw him?
Yes, and because of that, the dispute was never resolved till today.
Now, let’s talk about myself, There was a particular Sunday that Thisday Newspapers published a story on its front page and I know that newspaper front pages are very serious.
The headline was NPA Cancels SAA and they put a bogus figure that we were earning, that we were operating illegally and that the person behind this company, OMSL, my name was mentioned and they twisted it that I was interested in the governorship.
That particular write up was a big embarrassment to me and coincidentally, Jim Ovia was hosting Emefiele at the Civic Centre that day on his return as CBN’s governor appointment. I was there at the venue and some friends were questioning me if I was interested but I was responding to them that I was not. As I was leaving, thank God, Godwin was coming in, we were outside, he pointed at me and embarrassed me in front of everyone shouting “incoming Governor”, I held him that is the photograph you guys see of both of us and cuddled him and I said are you one of them?
I took him back inside the venue and in order to disabuse the minds of those who had interrogated me earlier, I went behind his seat and grabbed him and they took our photograph, that photograph is what people see and I left.
As that incident grew, SAA saga grew. Everywhere I went, they told me this is political, your problem is political, and somebody actually told me he was behind it. But I did not believe it and I went in the evening to his house, we were outside among some common friends. I told him, I said GO, they told me that you are the one behind my saga at NPA, he said no, no. I am not the one. He carried his phone and dialed someone very important whom I also respect.
He told the person, why is Hadiza harassing my brother now, the guy replied, he was on speaker, Godwin you said that man is the man troubling you in Edo State.
Hadiza is fighting your battle for you, are you not the one who sent her or have you changed your mind? He quickly switched off the phone.
I said Godwin, I have caught you, you are the one who caused this and you are going to repair it for me.
The common friends that were there included Anselm Ojezua, Austin Alegeh, SAN, former NBA President, my friend, Peter Okundaye was there, Chief Oseni Elamah was there and a few others. You can call any of this people. I don’t lie. He now told me and said on Tuesday, we will see in Abuja. I never saw him.
After that, I was called in NNPC. I was called by the Adhoc Committee on Pipeline Security and Oil theft to make a presentation. The night before that presentation, I went to my brother, I said I did not know you were the Chairman of this Sub-Committee in the Governor’s Forum.
He said no problem, you have nothing to fear; just come make your presentation and that will be it.
The next day, the Oil Majors were there, Shell was there, NNPC Management was there, AITEO was there different people were there.
The industry was complete. I went with Chief Ayiri Emami. I went with him so he could talk about how we have been managing the Community since our operations covered his community.
He does not work for me, but he was there. That day to the admiration of everyone that was there, I presented flawlessly.
The only question was from my brother,
he said how are you paid, what is your contract like?
Who asked the question?
The governor, he is the Chairman. I said Your Excellency, NNPC has my full dossier, they have the payment terms and legal have my contract.
There is huge network of pipelines in this country and I was only handling four- Escravos to Warri, Bonny to Port Harcourt, just four. There are many, you have the trans national lines where losses are being recorded.
But of all the lines, the ones my company were taking care of were performing above expectations and there were no losses because my contract is performance-related.
I work for NNPC, I don’t work for Amnesty Office, NNPC is a structured organisation where contracts are properly drawn.
NNPC is like a relay, your performance will impact on the next person, the next person’s performance will impact on the next etc.before the oil finally gets sold. My four lines that I was taking care of were the best, I pride my self at being the best at what I do.
When the report came out, my brother wrote the report like I was the one handling all the whole pipelines in Nigeria, despite all I was doing, giving the impression that we were responsible for the losses,;it was only my name he put there. I was not upset because I am a businessman and the principle of every businessman or human being is, there are three things you must not fight “God, Government, Gun”. I’m very conscious of those three things and that was why I was patient. I am still not fighting Godwin, I am continuously defending myself and that passed.
Then write-ups started coming out, they started attacking me, I finally wrote “CAPTAIN HOSA SPEAKS, LEAVE ME ALONE, OUT OF POLITICS”, it was well published and circulated.
My brother called me like an Emperor, and said, Capt., this is what I have been expecting from you and I said Your Excellency, I have told you I was not contesting. He said very good, like he was my class room teacher.
My son, that works in his government, (I call him my son), Osaze Uzamere, also called me and said daddy thank you for coming out; I have been defending you and telling them you are not doing this thing.
Igbinidu, the Head of his Tax, several others called me, thanking me for coming out. I said wow, I did not know the matter was this serious.
I then I called.him, I said you too write, CAPTAIN HOSA IS MY BROTHER, HE IS NOT A POLITICIAN, LEAVE HIM ALONE and that will put a stop to everything. He told me he has so many support base at home and abroad and he doesn’t know those who were attacking me and gave excuses.
I felt he had attacked my business and didn’t succeed; coming from the private sector, he knows the only thing he can do was to damage my integrity by writing all these things.
Despite all you have said as a stakeholder, do you see anything stopping the pdp because they seem so confident. And are you not worried about the violence.
Well, we’ve had elections in Edo State, this is not the first time and I can tell you that it has not been this bad because the whole country is shaking because of one state. We have had many elections in Edo State.
My being dragged into this whole thing like I have said earlier is no fault of mine.
It is rather unfortunate that the governor in his mind because he thought he was going to run against me began to plot and I became an imaginary candidate; Comrade Oshiomole who initially brought him as governor, by default is also an imaginary candidate.
Let me tell you something, Mahatma Gandhi was not a rich man yet he changed the fortunes of India; Martin Luther King was never a rich man but he changed the fate of black people in America; Usman Dan Fodio was never a rich man, Ahmadu Bello died without a house, Tafawa Balewa same, even up to our President right now,Muhammadu Buhari, when he became President of this country, he had nothing but people believed in him and voted him into power for a change.
So what I expect from our people is that they should look and see within their environment what has happened in the last four years, see how our state has been managed, see the personality of the governor that has ruled them, see the violence, the quarrels and the fight in our state, let every man search their conscience, it is not about money, it about what you can see around you.
If my people believe that this election is about money, then let their conscience be sold but me Capt. Hosa, I have played my part because if they are happy with what they see and they want to continue in that suffering, so be it.
But I will know that I have played my part and I will definitely excuse myself from my dear state for the next four years because that’s what they’ve chosen, I will stay away.
But I believe that this election is not about money but the truth. And our people believe in the truth, I believe if the election is based on truth and it is held today, I believe APC will win with landslide.
But if you want to talk about propaganda, money, violence, forcing his will on the people, then you can mention the incumbent. I don’t have to buy the conscience of the people. I’m sure evil can never surpass good.
Those people that truly love our state, and know that this is the future of our children should know who to vote for irrespective of political inclination. Who at this time can move our state forward, who is best for us at this time. That is the crux of the matter.
When it comes to violence, it is unfortunate what is happening in our state. Even when bombing now became a thing of the past in the Niger Delta, they started bombing houses of people that were against him in Benin.Very sad.
A governor that could not manage 24 House of Assembly members from his own party; they were not in opposition, all APC, some of us worked to make that possible for him so he could have a smooth ride but he squandered the chance.
He started fighting them from day one. How can you start talking of conviction for a crime you did not commit. He was screaming about being impeached. What did he do that he was afraid of impeachment?
And he ran a state with about seven House.of Assembly members. As I speak, I have no representatives in the House of Assembly.
Even the President had to reach out through the party to the National Assembly to move the country forward. He did not plant a bomb at the Assembly. The last National Assembly we all saw it, did the President use all his apparatus of state against Saraki? What is all the fight about? Pepper Dem, Pepper Dem, if they what to continue to be peppered, let those ones go on but the majority know what is right. I don’t agree with you that PDP is on ground. If there is going to be a free and fair election today, I am sure the people will vote him out.