Business mogul and major stakeholders in Edo State, Flight Captain Hosa Okunbo, has spoken on why he is supporting Osagie Ize-Iyamu instead of Godwin Obaseki this time.
In an interview with Tribune, Okunbo clears air on his affinity to the Obaseki dynasty and genesis of the cold war between him and incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki and how their quarrel started.
Narrating, Captain Hosa Okunbo said, “At the beginning when Governor Godwin Obaseki approached me in 2016 that he wanted to run for the governorship of Edo State, he came in the company of a friend, Noggie Meggison, to my house in Ikoyi (Lagos). And that day I accepted him because of the relationship between his late father and I. His late father was like a father to me, in fact he nurtured me in my youth. I told him the relationship between his father and I, that as a child, I was his father’s friend and that I had no choice but to support his ambition. After that, he kept coming to my house with Rasaq Bello-Osagie. When he came, he respected me and we respected each other, we ate together and the relationship was very cordial. I was happy that at least somebody from the private sector like myself had come into the governorship race in Edo State, 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.”
Like I said, a lot of people approached me to run for governor of Edo State and most of the people that did, I told them I wasn’t interested because I have set a trajectory for my life. 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 I am 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 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 came to my house, ‘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 quarrelling, he would resign from being governor. I said: ‘okay, and not long after, Adams became the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (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 (Oshiomhole) started helping some of them through his position. And the quarrel started. He became angry with Comrade Oshimhole and complained that he was helping people that were fighting him in the state. Then, it came to their primaries and the full-blown quarrel started. I went to him and tried settling the quarrel. I went once and the second time I said, ‘O, my brother; your position today is governor and Comrade Oshiomhole is the chairman of the APC, I don’t think there is anything both of you will sit in front of the President and ask for our state that we would not get. Please, this quarrel should never happen.’ I said, ‘let’s nip it in the bud for the sake of everybody. I was in his house for three hours. I knelt down, begging him. I said for the sake of the state, I don’t want this animosity to continue, whatever it takes, please close it out.
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, which is what I call him, this is what this guy told me. He said: ‘Yes, it is fight to the finish oh! You better stay away so that you will not be caught up in the middle. I said: ‘Thank you.’ But I added that I won’t relent. I reached out to elders, who were more powerful than myself, that we should not have a state where there are no elders.
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, ‘Captain, 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 classroom teacher. My son that works in his government, 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, and 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, and 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, compliance and competence by writing all these things. I am not a politician. If you throw stones at a politician, he may not reply but as a businessman, when people throw stones at you, a day will come when they will ask you: ‘when you were accused of this, how did you respond?’
So, as they kept attacking me, I kept responding. I said this man wants to destroy my business, not physically but through compliance. That’s why at a point, I threw everything into the papers. You saw me in the papers every day, showing people exactly who I am. I started exposing myself. I have done business for over three decades only a few knew me. Friends called me and said ‘Captain, what is going on; you are in the news every day? I had to tell them that I was defending myself. My brother exposed me. When the attack got too much. I wrote an open letter. One of the boys that wrote a libelous article against me, I filed a complaint and he was arrested and was to be charged to court but his lawyer came to me to apologise. I have many children, biological and many others that I look after. I am a role model. I mentor these children. I was not ready to destroy this young child, who should have been positively engaged but was set up in a room to be abusing his fathers. When I finished speaking to him the guy broke down in tears. He said he never knew this is the kind of person I am. The guy was even abandoned. Nobody came for his bail even though he was a Special Assistant SA to the governor. I took care of him. He still calls me father today. What I believe is that my brother, Godwin, actually thought I was going to run against him, so he set up a war room against Captain Hosa and when he knew I wasn’t running, he still needed to deploy it. So, I wrote an open letter to the President and the Edo people and I catalogued all my actions to everyone. And everything I said there, before my God, is the truth I wanted people to ask him what I’ve done to deserve this.
At least even the tomato seller or the beggar on the street has a right to choose who he wants to be and who he wants to support in politics. Up to this moment, the same man that came to me in 2016, begging me for support, hasn’t come to me to tell me that he was interested in a second term; no discussion. And I kept telling him that instead of him to read the letter and come to terms with the situation and find a way of brokering peace, on the same day, another libel was fired that I was gathering people, buying guns that I wanted to come and disrupt the election, and this was sent out on the Government letterhead. There is no way my business partners will take that lightly. I instructed my lawyers to take action immediately. We are in court and the whole thing escalated. Also, when it became obvious to my friends and my people that this guy was after me, his government started crumbling and people started resigning. That was what I wanted him to avoid. I called him and said all these statements you are writing and referring to me as billionaire, I don’t have money; what I have is goodwill which is more than money. I never place emphasis on money. I was brought up from a very humble background, my father was an educationalist and my mother a teacher. We were not rich but my father gave us good values and he was a man of truth. As a young man, I watched my father settle disputes in our home. They used to say if you wanted to hear the truth, go to Okunbor’s house. And rich men’s children were brought to our house for correction. My father treated all of us as one. He was a man of truth and in that truth, the light in me has come out. So, my values have never been money-oriented. In that same vein, throughout my life, though I never went to school in Benin, I have always related back to my roots. And in my own little way, I have blessed my people with whatever God has blessed me with. I sent words to him; we have built very strong goodwill in this environment, you were in Lagos; the money you are talking about, I don’t have because I can never compete with any government when you talk of resources. But we have goodwill.
I still consider Godwin my brother but I don’t consider him a leader because he doesn’t have the attributes of a good leader.”