By Kemi Yesufu
If you knew Prince Kassim Afegbua before he became the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in his second missionary journey with the comrade, you will remember his second name is IBB.
Before aligning with the comradeship of the comrade governor, his major preoccupation was ruffling feathers by taking on anyone who dared confront his mentor, Nigeria’s self acclaimed military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
If football fans pride themselves with slogans such as “Chelsea for life” for Afegbua who has also gained reputation as a successful entrepreneur, it is, “IBB for life.”
He told Abuja Metro during a recent visit to the capital city, his first stint with Oshiomhole administration was cut short because he left to be part of IBB’s failed shot at the presidency in 2011.
“My going into the Edo State government was based on certain agreements, one of it being that once Gen. Babangida signals his ambition to contest for president; I will be allowed to return to him to be part of that power process”, he revealed. “Some people didn’t understand that we had an agreement. They went around saying that my relationship with the governor had gone bad. But they were wrong. Even while I was outside government, I kept in touch with the people I left behind.”
Adding that He would confirm to you readily that he was with Oshiomhole administration in spirit all through its first term. That is actually a signal of the belief in the comrade, and that justifies the creed: ‘I believe in IBB and Oshiomhole.’
“Though I was outside government, I was one of the voices giving vent and support to the comrade governor’s policies. To this extent, I can say that I was one of those who ensured that the governor’s first term was a success. You might also remember that I worked as a director of Media and Publicity in the governor’s second term campaign team. Thereafter, I was humbled by the call of the governor who asked me to work as his Special Adviser Media and Public Affairs in his second term. I don’t see myself having any problems with doing my bit in celebrating a man whose intervention in Edo politics has delivered the state from the doldrums.
“I say this because he met Edo in a state of squalor. The period the governor first got into office was quite difficult because here was a man who came from the organized setting of the labour movement to a castrated state. He also came to government burdened by the notion that activists don’t make good administrators. So he has to prove book makers wrong. He worked hard to move the Edo state from its knocked engine state to the auto-pilot stage it is now.”
Despite Gen. Babangida losing to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was picked as the northern candidate by the Alhaji Adamu Ciroma committee; Afegbua who once worked as the acting chairman of National Democratic Party (NDP), says his godfather has no equal in the country. He doesn’t accept speculations that point to a wane in the ex-military leader’s popularity; instead, he blamed party regulations for IBB’s failed bid for the presidency. “Remember that I am a politician who ran a party nationwide. I understand party politics. So in other words I wasn’t disappointed by the results of the People Democratic Party (PDP) primaries”, he said. “I must say that though IBB announced his retirement from politics, many of us still feel he personifies the kind of leadership we need in Nigeria. Right now IBB is Nigeria’s consultant-in-chief, who most of leaders go to for advice.
“He has retired from partisan politics but I must say that he is one man with following that cuts across every facet of the country. He is the kind of leader that when he speaks, people listen. Regrettably, we don’t have that kind of leadership at the national level. Never mind how things went, there is no other person in Nigeria who has the large heartedness, the magnanimity and deep political network that IBB has. If you mention any of the LGAs in the country IBB will tell about someone with whom he has a good relationship with. It is not the same with those ruling Nigeria. These people ruling the country don’t understand the nation.”
Afebgbua known for speaking his mind, told Abuja Metro that he is back in Edo with great expectation which is based on his unflinching belief that his boss will rise to the occasion “Edo people are enlightened and it showed in how they voted for the governor again. All the 18 LGAs voted for the governor. They didn’t allow ethnic or religious sentiments to sway their belief that a man who has done well be given a second term. This kind of hundred percent endorsement from the people places enormous responsibility on the governor.”
He is sure the comrade governor will not slow down on what many have tagged a fast paced style of development. “Besides the heavy endorsement from the people, I don’t think the Comrade, Governor Adams Oshiomhole is that kind of administrator that will slow down because he is in his second term. The governor is genuine about whatever he does. He doesn’t do things or make promises to impress people.
“He promised the Edo people that he will implement his well planned economic agenda for the state and he will keep to his promise. During his first tenure, he built the foundation for rejuvenating the economy of Edo by courting the private sector. He also applied himself to infrastructure development in order to attract private investors. Aside from attracting investments to the state the Comrade Governor did a lot with regard to education and healthcare. He spent time remodeling educational institutions, just as he invested time in improving access to healthcare. So the second coming of Gov. Oshiomhole will be primarily about bettering platforms that will attract private investors who will in turn create jobs for our people. His projection is that government can facilitate the creation of 30,000 jobs for the sons and daughters of Edo state.”
It is quite revealing leaving politics and public service for a peek into the private life of the Edo governor’s aide. The man who comes from family with 6000 members said that his kith and kin are committed to keeping the reputation of his family intact. “My grandfather married 52 wives with 75 of his children still alive. The last census of the Afegbua family put the number of the members of our family at 6000”, he disclosed.
“We have the Afegbua family Union in America, the United Kingdom and all of the states of the federation. Every December we go home for a conference in order to promote unity among us. We have a family of talented individuals to the extent that we produced the first democratically elected female senator Franca Afegbua. Also my uncle, Abdulmalik Afegbua contested as the deputy governor of the old Bendel State and he is one of the respected leaders in the Edo ACN. I also am involved in politics. I can say that we the younger generation of Afegbuas are doing our best in our fields. But more importantly, we ensure that we protect the good name of our family.”
People might hold the impression that he is flamboyant but Afegbua disagrees. He also explained why he doesn’t chase government contracts. “I don’t put money first in anything I do. You are here in my private office and you can see what I did to raise an income. Some people have even called me a tailor because of my fashion outfit. I also ran an upscale barbing salon that catered for high profile clients.
“I am from a humble home. I was taught independence and self reliance at a young age. By my next birthday, I will be 44, so I grew up at a time when the Nigerian society had a value system. Children were taught to be hard working and honest. I am a perfectionist so anything I set my mind on, I take my time to plan how I will execute the project with perfection. I am not like those who run around with the crowd looking for free money.
“Rather, I just want enough to cater for my wife, children and my aged mother. However, the main reason I don’t go to people for a favour is that, I need the freedom to speak my mind whenever there is a need. I cannot imagine myself resorting to eye-service or not speaking the truth because I owe a government official a favour.”