A former Governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba in Abuja on Tuesday gave a vivid account of how he and his former colleagues put aside their party differences and caged ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo while in office.
According to him, state governors at that time were better and more mature than the crop of governors now in government.
He spoke on behalf of former governors during a colloquium organised for the 80th birthday of a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah, and public presentation of his book. The book which is titled, “It is well with my soul,” is about his eight years administration as governor.
Among those in attendance were the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel; former national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; and former governor of Yobe State, Bukar Ibrahim.
Others were former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio; national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and past and present members of the National Assembly.
Osoba who recounted how governors in those days rallied behind Attah and other Niger Delta counterparts in the agitation for resource control, expressed reservations on the quality and character of those aspiring to become governors these days.
He said, “Today, we are happy to celebrate a man of honour. In our time, we did not know the differences in the party you belonged to and Obasanjo then dared not play with any of us governors. Obong Victor Attah was then from the Peoples Democratic Party while I belonged to the Alliance for Democracy. The AD group included the late Lam Adesina and Bisi Akande.
“When we spoke, to our surprise, Obong Attah who was in PDP would take it up from there, contributing intelligently to the issues we raised. It was on the ground of his style of leadership that we were able to cage former President Obasanjo. I used the word seriously because, first of all, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) 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 won. On the fiscal responsibility Act, he (Obasanjo) said he would not implement Section 8 where all revenues were to go into an account from where it would be distributed according to the constitution.
“When it became almost impossible, we went to court and we won. In all of this, it was not resource control alone; Obong Attah was in the forefront of all these struggles.
“I want to appeal to all of us, we should go back to the characters that formed government in 1992 and 1999. Twenty-six years ago, most of us who were governors had had exposure, 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 are people you will say where are we coming from. We need to go back to that.”
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, although represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the occasion, spoke in his personal capacity on his experiences with Attah.
He said, “I have not read the book, but I have the rare privilege to read the man, Victor Attah and there is much I can say about him. I have known him for a long time, long before politics.
“Our families have been very close. 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 young 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 may be.
“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 cause 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.”