- Reveals part of IBB unknown to most people
- Says I don’t fly long distance because my nose oozes blood
Prince Kassim Afegbua, media spokesman to former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), and erstwhile Commissioner for Information and Orientation in Edo State, is one individual who courts controversy like honey does bees. Saying that the politician from the famous Afegbua royal family of Okpella, Edo State, has made more foes than friends in politics is stating the obvious, no thanks to his hard line stance on a lot of issues. In a no-holds-barred interview with FUNKE COLE, the chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shares memories of the annulled June 12 elections as revealed to him by Babangida, his relationship with the gap-toothed general from Minna, his regrets in politics and sundry issues. Excerpts:
As the media spokesman for General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), how do you feel about the annulment of the results of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which IBB was believed to have masterminded?
I will not divulge quite a number of things that I have learnt in the process because I’m already writing a book on it. But I can tell you for a fact that what happened in June 12 was purely an interplay of forces; a power game full of intrigues and manipulations. And power is not served a la carte; you have to grab the opportunity.
I have heard quite a lot from him (IBB) as I said, and besides, I have access to a lot of materials using IBB’s library. Whenever I’m engaging him, he tells me a lot about governance. I know he is solidly equipped to run any system. I find in IBB a man who is very brilliant, very articulate.
Don’t also forget he was once an instructor at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA). Till date, if you write a speech for him, he is going to mark it here and there and tell you why not use these words instead.
And you will be shocked at the efficacy of his words. He is a man, who by the time he rises very early in the morning has already finished reading all the newspapers’ headlines and will be calling me to say, ‘Go to so and so page of this newspaper. I saw a headline there, I want to have your facts on it.’ That’s just the IBB phenomenon. Nothing escapes him. So if you want to deal with him, you must always get your facts right.
How would you describe your experience in politics thus far?
For me, joining politics would rank as one of the worst decisions of my career. I found out that it is not for people of my orientation, but I am already in it. If I tell you half of what I have seen in politics, it will amaze you really. But I’m sure that I will be able to put it all out when I am writing my memoirs. I am a very honest person even if I have to say so myself.
I remember how the party ditched Donald Duke then. But if you try it here, they will say you are doing anti-party activity. I don’t like to swallow everything hook, line and sinker. And that’s why oftentimes I like to follow the dictates of my conscience, and most times it has led me aright. I’m not materialistic. One thing I have come to realise is that politics is not a vocation for people who are honest.
I have an attitude that I don’t like people telling me what to do. It offends me. If you give me a task, don’t give me a reminder. My brain works like the computer. I know dates of events from now till like a month’s time because I keep diary. My work capacity is 72 hours non-stop. I have hosted a lot of events, party events, even big events like Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda flag off campaign in 2010 and all of that.
I am self-motivated to work because I am scared of failure. I like excellence. I like to strive to be sure that yes, what I am doing, if a second or third party looks into it, there will be some credit for it. I am a man of distinction even in my clothing. I have a fashion outfit. I’m still running the style I have been wearing since 11 years ago, and I actually designed it myself. I just like paying attention to little details. I’m near perfection, but it’s only God that’s a perfectionist.
What makes your politics different?
I think it is my principle, because I keep telling people that I’m not the itinerant politician that tells lies just to gain favour or to pretend to belong. I don’t like short changing people. I am internally blunt to a fault. That is why they say those who are honest in politics are lonely men. I think I am a lonely man in politics. If I’m not going to support your aspiration for a particular position, I will tell you pointedly and will give you my reasons rather than pretending so that I can benefit from your largesse.
In Edo State where I come from, Godwin Obaseki, the current governor, was part of the cabinet where we served under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. When he was brought forward as a gubernatorial candidate, I publicly objected that I was not going to support him in 2016. In 2020, he left the APC for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where I belong, and I said no, that the party imposed him on us. I openly campaigned against him. But others would pretend and hide and benefit from the largesse that he’s bringing, I said no.
My own is that the morality of your coming is subject to questioning. Everyone knew I worked assiduously for the opposition party. For me, it’s about the state and not about individuals, and I believe very strongly that members have a role to play in keeping the philosophy and ideology of a political party. If there is an aspirant, and you brought someone because he’s a state governor with state funds to spend, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. So I said no.
I am consistent. I left the APC because of same issue in the past. You said you were going to do restructuring, create jobs and all of that, but since you came on board, the country has collapsed right under your feet. So that means you deceived Nigerians.
How is your life outside politics?
In the morning, by 7am, I drop off my kids in school. I choose not to involve my driver in taking my kids to school because I just feel it is a responsibility I have to do to bond with them, then I set to work.
I am the strict type when it comes to office management. I allow for some level of flexibility. I like to interact and converse with my staff in terms of arriving at solution. I don’t like to impose my whims on them. I like ideas to come from good heads so there will be a sense of responsibility on the part of all members of staff. When I say being strict, I just like things to be in place, rules to be obeyed. I also like to impose justice on anyone who is found wanting or has flouted orders.
My philosophy is for every member of my organisation to be a contributor to the ultimate goal and objective for which the organisation is set up. My philosophy is anchored on the point that it has to be shared vision and shared commitment so that in the final analysis, every member is able to gain knowledge and be able to live in his or her own way when they find themselves out of my organisation.
What has life taught you?
Well, I have gone through a lot of challenges. I have survived two assassination attempts on my life. Those scenarios were close shaves and I have scars all over my body to show for them. Oftentimes there are still threats because I criticise government for not doing the right thing. I have a heart for the ordinary person. I hate to see people suffer because I know what I went through before I got to this level.
And: IBB under fire for saying June 12 was annulled to save Abiola
In Sociology, they call people like me achieve status because I struggled from nowhere and I am somewhere. Life is also a teacher. It has taught me the act of tolerance, the act of also understanding the dynamics of nature. Individuals are wired in different ways. I have been privileged to serve as a commissioner in my state, special adviser. I have also been privileged
to lead a party. I rose to become acting national chairman, served as director-general of the headquarters of the National Democratic Party.
I have interacted with all manner of people. But you need patience, understanding, tolerance, fear of God, because with my anger, there are times that I would want to derive some powers to be able to strike down some idiots. In those times, IBB, my boss, would tell me, ‘Prince, life is not like that.’ Sometimes I would be angry with people who abuse IBB in the public and come to meet me for one favour or the other. He (IBB) would tell me, ‘How many people are you going to chase away every day? Consider it a bonus when you are not betrayed.’
I come from a wonderful family where we are very opinionated people. We don’t like cheating. We don’t like injustice. We try as much as possible to do what is right. I could recollect an experience I had with a lecturer who tried to score me so low because I wrote against him selling handout and plagiarizing someone’s book, which is unethical in the academic. So, I challenged him that he scored me low, it was remarked by Prof Ekundayo of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife.
What has your experience been managing men?
I prefer to micromanage people, because from my experience delegating responsibility sometimes does not give you the full spectrum of what you want to see in people. It is because of delegation that the present government has been one of very poor leadership because the President does not have time to see what is going on. It is what they come to tell the President that he sees. For instance, look at Nigeria roads. But when the President was talking about the roads, you would think that they are almost fixed. But there is a Minister of Works who understands that these roads are terribly bad.
For me, I would rather micromanage people so they can get the intellectual depth, and I will be able to underscore that staff A is good in this area, with little push, we can deliver results. At the workplace, it is not all about the outcome but the processes that bring about the outcome.
I like to be a team player. I love to play with a team that can measure up to my own level of reasoning, logic. I want a team where everyone is contributing ideas, knowledge towards ensuring the success of whatever we are engaging in.
What do you do besides politics?
I am a public relations person. I run the PKA Media outfit. I am a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relation (NIPR). I am a journalist and I love writing. I run a column with New Telegraph every weekend. It is called Stomach Democracy. I just love reading because it empowers me to interrogate nature, gives me self-confidence not to be found wanting when I’m in the midst of intellectual associations. I studied English in my first degree. I also did a post graduate diploma in Public Relations at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, and post graduate diploma in Good Governance and Corruption in the USA. I criticise processes and systems.
As an upwardly mobile executive, what exercise regimen do you follow to stay fit?
I walk 10,000 steps every evening inside my estate. I take a shower, listen to news. Oftentimes at the weekends, I watch films. But when the football season is at the corner, I am an avid supporter of Barcelona football club. I like Manchester City obviously because the coach was formerly in Barcelona. I watch football at weekends. I like detective movies that are action-packed, especially the pumping of adrenaline and all. I also like to sit beside the swimming pool just for fun. I also read a lot too. The book I’m reading now is The Rules of Life by Richard Templar. I am still reading it. The book is very interesting because it gives you an appraisal of the workplace. I would also recommend it to you. I love the use of syntax, the diction, the ideas he is espousing. In the final analysis, it tells about how you can utilise opportunities.
As a member of the privileged class, do you travel out for holidays?
It is only those who have money that can do that. I’m just an average Nigerian who is contented. I am from a very lovely royal home. I am guided by my father’s advice that we should be contented. I’m not too good at travelling because I have phobia for long distance flight. Blood drips from my nose when I do. As such, I try to limit my travelling. I explore more of Nigerian environment. I love the Ibom Resort, especially its scenery. I go to Ikogosi Warm Spring. I love Lagos; the beachside. Essentially, I love to be in my house.
What would you consider your best moments in life?
It was marrying my wife. As an orphan, I consider my wife as my mom, dad, friend and confidant. She knows I’m not wayward, I’m not flippant, I’m a serious-minded Nigerian. I like to celebrate her at every given opportunity.my wife has taught me a lot. My wife is teaching me how to cook bitter leaf soup. I alternate with my wife. I’ve been married 19 years now and we have a very beautiful home. I have a fantastic wife and two beautiful daughters. Fortunately for me, my wife tolerates my excesses (laughs).