Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, talks to Sunday Punch about his emergence at the party’s primary, allegations against him ahead of the forthcoming governorship election, and his chances against Governor Godwin Obaseki at the next poll
Godwin Obaseki defeated you in 2016 to become Edo State Governor; now as governor, don’t you think he will have a more resounding victory this time round?
Honestly, if he had performed very well, there is no doubt that his performance would have aided him, but if we have to assess his performance, I believe it is going to be very difficult to get the electorate to vote for him. In the last two and a half years, the governor has abandoned governance for political infighting. It has been all about ‘second term is not negotiable’, ‘nobody can enter Edo State without my permission’, ‘I will demolish his house,’ and so on.
He has been so distracted from the core objective of governance that it is going to be difficult to convince people that he could not perform well because he was engrossed in party issues. If you look at all the core areas – agriculture, health, and education, they are nothing to write home about. How can you talk about education when there are no teachers? Go round the rural areas, you will discover that most schools have only one teacher who has to teach English, mathematics, and all other subjects, whether science or arts. There are no good hospitals or healthcare centres. Agriculture is not getting any serious attention. At the end of the day, the issue is: where has he excelled? So, if we have to look at his performance, I am sure the electorate will say it is time for him to take a bow and leave.
You asked the governor to return to the APC, why did you say that?
For me, it is the best thing to do. The fact that you disagreed with your party does not mean that you can just abandon them like that. Whether you like it or not, the APC brought him into political prominence. Before he joined the APC, nobody knew him and the APC more or less elevated him and made him a governor, even without any political history. So, there is no doubt that he is indebted to the party. Even the so-called disqualification he was quarrelling about, he had the opportunity to appeal the decision but he didn’t do that. So, just because your party had issues with you, you defected to another party. He won’t have it smooth in the party he just joined like he had in the APC. Sometimes, they say that until you marry a second wife, you will not appreciate your first wife. I am sorry to use that analogy because I am not a polygamist. So, I think he is going into a second marriage that will make him realise that the first one was made from heaven and that the second one is a disaster.
Sometime in the past, the suspended National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, called you a lot of unprintable names and said you were incapable of governing the state, how will you cope with such a man now as your godfather?
What do you mean by godfather? However, are we selecting what we should remember? What about the periods he paid glowing compliments to me? What about the period he praised me for all I did to support him to be in government. He made those statements during the period I was on the other side and was contesting to be the state governor and he (Oshiomhole) was determined to prevent that. What do you expect? Were you expecting him to praise me at that time when he did not want me to be governor?
So, when you look at the context in which he said those things, you will understand that he was just playing politics and he needed to de-market me so that his candidate would have an advantage. And after the election, that was the end of it. So, I do not think that we should dwell too much on what he said before the election. If you are saying that, we can also take you back to what he said about me before then. People are saying look at the bad things he said during the campaign. Why did they not look at the good things he said before the campaign? The truth is that he was only trying to de-market me so that Edo people would not vote for me, not that it was from his heart. Of course, the man (Oshiomhole) can speak for himself; he is not dead. We are all pretending not to know that in politics, you can say all kinds of things just to de-market your opponent.
Will it be right to say the former governor will be your godfather?
No. When you use that word, you miss it completely. Why will he be my godfather? First, am I a political novice? I am not someone that needs to be sold because I am not new to this game. I have told people that the only godfather I have is God. By the grace of God, I was the national vice chairman of the (defunct) Action Congress of Nigeria. I was director-general of the Adams Oshiomhole campaign committee for a second term. I was a member of the merger committee that created the APC. So, will it not be strange that someone with these credentials will have someone else as his godfather? If you are talking about godfather and godson, you should be talking about somebody new in the game, who needs someone else to nurture him. In this situation, you know that I have paid my dues and the only godfather I have is God. But Adams Oshiomhole is a national leader of the party and nobody can wish him away. Of course, it will be nice of him to tell people to vote for me because in many parts of Edo, he did well and many people are indebted to him, but that does not in any way mean that he will be my godfather.
Some people say if you are elected, your administration will be like a continuation of Oshiomhole’s administration. What do you think about that?
You are taking this too far because Oshiomhole has left the government. Though I supported his government, I was not part of it. If you are saying my emergence will be a continuation of the APC government, you are right because that is the party that holds us together and we cannot run away from it. Oshiomhole has not told me what to do in government. The only person who said he would follow Oshiomhole was Obaseki. Governor Obaseki’s campaign was built on continuity. He said he would build on everything that Oshiomhole did.
I am not going to take over from Oshiomhole. If I was, I would have been saying what I would do. Let me tell you this. I am not going to say because I will succeed Obaseki, I will reverse all the things he did; that will be foolish of me. If there are good things we identify, of course, we would continue with them. But if there are also bad policies that should not be continued, we would jettison them. We must have the political courage to do what is right. It is not all about saying because it is a new administration, everything must be reversed.
How would you react to statements made by some people that it was not morally right for you to have gone to the party that called you all sorts of names?
The APC is a national party. I have more rights than any other person because this is a party I helped to found. Are you saying that because of some people in the party, I should not come to a house I founded? That will be ridiculous. If you own a house and somebody abused you in that house, are you saying you should not go back to it? It is a silly logic that does not make sense. So, you should be telling me if it is not morally right for me to go back home.
Many people in the state still like the Peoples Democratic Party as the last presidential and National Assembly elections showed. How do you hope to win the election?
You forget that those who made such things happen at that time are now in the APC. I coordinated the campaign of the PDP that you are referring to. I was the DG of the state campaign committee and my job was to ensure that we won in the state. You also know that when I was returning to the APC, I did not go alone. I took formidable leaders from the 18 local government areas along. You should know that my coming back has changed the equation completely.
In any case, it was this present state government that weakened the APC because they alienated the leadership, which made the party to become weak. When the APC had a governor who was busy dealing with shepherds across the various LGAs, it was easy for the party to be in disarray and we capitalised on that. But we are coming back and we are going to offer a very strong leadership based on consultation and respect for party structure. Under that scenario, I can tell you that you are going to see overwhelming support and commitment from the party members. We are going to win in all the 18 LGAs of the state.
Many people are scared that there might be violence as the two biggest parties seem to be desperate to win this election, what can be done to prevent violence in the election?
The governor’s pronouncements in the last two years have not been helpful because if you have been listening to him, you will know he is fond of saying he will crush his opponents. When he also said we would not have our (APC) primary, we did not even exchange words with him. What we did was very mature. We read the laws carefully and used her lawyers. We said we would not fight with him, so we obeyed the law he had passed even though it was unreasonable. So, we told our people not to be more than 18 for the primary. We ensured they maintained social distancing and wore face masks.
We will do everything possible to ensure there will be no violence. Contrary to what some people think and the fears they have, by the grace of God, there will be no violence during the election.
You said during a televised programme that Obaseki should not make the same mistake you made when you defected to the PDP in anger. Do you think you lost the last election because you were in the PDP?
He (Obaseki) will lose because he is moving right now from pillar to post, begging. You know that he is supposed to be in Ward 4 in the Oredo Local Government Area. He was in Ward 4 when he was in the APC and that is what is in the record of the Independent National Electoral Commission. But after joining the PDP, he registered in Ward 3 because the Ward 4 chairman could not be found. That should tell you that he is going to be in ‘hot water’. Registration is about locating your residence. Ideally, he should have known that the PDP rejected him because his ward of residence rejected him. He was forced to go to Ward 3. That will tell you that the journey he is going into is not very safe. He is not my enemy and for posterity, I will like it to be on record that I tried to advise him. When I was joining the APC, I made overtures to him and he rebuffed them. He tried to make my return almost violent. My advice was that he should return to the APC before it would be too late. However, he has the right to do whatever he wants to do and I wish him well.
You insinuated that there is no hope for the governor in the PDP, are you implying that it is only the APC that can win elections in Edo State?
But I have just analysed what he is already experiencing there and how he had to get a new residential status because they were not ready to receive him. Of course, that is a sign. It shows that their hearts are not with you. I was a member of that party and I know those who left the party with me. Also, I know the strength of the party. I am not saying the party is not strong but I know its strengths and weaknesses.
The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, has said it is wrong to have a godfather in the state. What’s your reaction to this now that you have Oshiomhole behind you?
Of course, you know that the godfatherism syndrome has been bastardised. You cannot fault what the Oba of Benin has said.
Does it not bother you that you still have a case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission?
The fact that someone is accused of doing something doesn’t make them guilty. So, if they took me to court and made accusations, what does it mean? Have you looked at the case to see if anybody said Ize-Iyamu took N700m? No. If you look at the details of the case, you will see that nobody said I took N700m, all they are saying is that as the Director-General of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Campaign Committee in Edo State, some others and I signed when the money came to the state. The money did not come to my account. I did not take one kobo from the money. However, I cannot stop the EFCC from doing its job. So, if I was taken to court, what does it mean? Do you know the controversies that trailed Governor Obaseki at the stock exchange before he became Edo State governor? The reality is that I have an unblemished record.