Former Ogun State Governor, Chief Segun Osoba said on Tuesday that governors who served under former President Olusegun Obasanjo were able to cage him and stop him from doing a lot of unconstitutional things because of their maturity and unity among them irrespective of political affiliations.
Osoba spoke at the 80th birthday celebration of former Akwa Ibom state Governor, Obong Victor Attah just as the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma revealed how Obasanjo threatened to prosecute the Akwa Ibom Governor for “inciting” his people against the President and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The former Ogun State governor who spoke on behalf of other former governors present at the event including former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief John Odigie Oyegun and his successor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole said the governors spoke with one voice and stood against the antics of the former President and dragged him to court on a number of occasion and won.
He said “Today we are happy to celebrate a man of honour. In our time we do not know the differences in the party you belong to and Obasanjo then dare not play with any of us governors. I am happy to say that Obong Attah was from the PDP, I was from the AD.
“The AD group made up of the late Lam Adesina, and Bisi Akande. When we speak, to our surprise, Obong who is of the PDP will take it up from there contributing intelligently to the issues we raised. It is on the ground of his style of leadership that we were seriously able to cage former President Obasanjo.
“I used the word seriously because first of all, Abdulsalam Abubakar left a huge sum of money that was to be distributed to the governors. The first thing Obasanjo did was to seize the money and use it to buy vehicles for local government councils.
“We kicked, went to court and we won. On the fiscal responsibility Act, he (Obasanjo) said he will not implement section 8 where all revenues were to go into an account from where it will be distributed according to the constitution. When it became almost impossible, we went to court and we won. In all of these, it was not resource control. Obong Attah was in the fore front of all these struggle.”
Osoba who recounted how governors in those days rallied behind Attah and his other Niger Delta counterparts to agitate for resource control, expressed reservations on the quality and character of those aspiring to become governors these days.
“I want to appeal to all us. We should go back to the characters that formed government in 1992 and 1999. 26 years ago, most of us who were governors have had exposures.
John Odigie Oyegun was a former permanent secretary, I was former Managing Director of Daily Times, I can go on to give you backgrounds of all those who became governors in 1999. None of us were people you will say where you are coming from. We need to go back to that this days of governors of any kind should stop.
Speaking earlier, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma said “Throughout his eight years as governor, I was the senator representing Akwa Ibom South Senatorial district and also served as the leader of the Akwa Ibom legislators’ forum having been unanimously elected by my colleagues.
During our time in the National Assembly, there was no Abuja front working against the home front. Under Victor Attah’s leadership, we were a strong united team and having worked with him, I can say something about his character.
“He is somebody you can go into battle with because he is fearless and once he gives you his words, he does not turn back, no matter how fierce the battle.
The battle to remove the onshore/offshore dichotomy was indeed a fierce one. “At one point, the three of us, myself, Obong Attah and Senator Ibok Essien were summoned to Abuja and made to appear before the President, Minister of Defence and all the service chiefs and were threatened with prosecution for inciting our people against the President and the federal government.
“But under his leadership, we refused to allow ourselves to be cowed or intimidated. We believed in our course and we did not stop the fight till we succeeded.
“As the senator who led the fight in Abuja, it really helped us as we staked our political career to ensure the passage of law abrogating the onshore/offshore dichotomy into law. It was good for us to know that we had a fearless governor back home who was watching our back.
“I will like to join others in celebrating a man of immense character, a dogged fighter foe the rights of his people. A man of vision and action and yet with an artistic temperament. He is not just a politician, but a professional who is highly regarded as by his colleagues.”
Responding to the accolades poured on him, the former governor said “Listening to All the things that have been said, I ask myself, did I actually say all those things? Where did I get the courage to say all those things? But I want to assure you that the fight was not just for a better Niger Delta, but I believed firmly that it will translate into a better Nigeria.
“So, the fight always and the purpose was for a better Nigeria. But because we spoke specifically about a particular fight which is the onshore/off shore, when we were being threatened, somebody said in pidgin English your governor no dey know how to end? Senator Ibok Essien said, the axe does not rest until the tree has fallen.
“Those are the types of battles we had to fight for some of the things that are happening today to happen. But as I have said, in all honesty, I believed that our founding fathers who agreed on a federal system for this country, a system whereby the region’s had and control whatever they had and contributed to the running of the country at the Centre remain the best and will continue to be the best for Nigeria. I believe strongly that any struggle towards achieving that is worth fighting for.“
He said further: “I tell people, I enjoyed being governor and sometimes they wonder I say that. It is because of this kind of comradeship.it is just fantastic working together with people with whom you can argue, reason and at the come to a solution”.
With fond reminiscences of what happened then during his election as chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Attah said his emergence came as a coup and that his colleagues referred to him as “headmaster”.
Those who attended the event which also heralded the public presentation of his book, “it is well with my soul” include former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of a Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, former National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, Publisher of Vanguard Newspaper, Sam Amuka, Managing Director of NDDC, Nsima Ekere, former Senate Leader, Ndoma Egba, Gov. Udom Emmanuel and his deputy, former EFCC Chairman, Farida Waziri, Executive Secretary of Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, former Governors Achike Udenwa and Bukar Abba Ibrahim among others cutting across all political parties.