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•How I ‘ll restore Edo’s lost glory
•Oshiomhole abused me in 2016 because he had bad product
By Mike Ebonugwo & Clifford Ndujihe
Edo State Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, took his quest for the Edo top job to
Lagos, last week, and told reporters that he would not allow political opponents distract him as they did in 2016. Ize-Iyamu, who had earlier granted an interview to Vanguard, said with his SIMPLE Agenda, he will transform Edo, if elected
On the belief that some loyalists of Governor Godwin Obaseki, who did not defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with him, might play the role of moles in APC during the election
Yes, we know that there are moles within the party but I want to assure you that we will deal with that. I will not elaborate on our plan to deal with that, but we will deal with it.
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On rising tension in Edo and how violence can be averted before, during and after the poll
We have said that we want this election to be issue-based. We don’t even want to resort to name-calling, let us focus on our agenda. I can assure you that we as party will do everything possible to avoid violence during the election and we hope that the other parties, especially the PDP will do the same because of what is already playing out.
They have campaign billboards and posters across the state; in fact they started erecting such billboards before us but we approached the agency of government in-charge and asked about available spaces and the cost.
They told us and we paid only to find out that a top official of the government said ‘how can APC be allowed to have campaign billboards at strategic locations?’
The next thing that happened was that they began to remove our campaign billboards. We have petitioned the commissioner of Police in Edo State and the state Director of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Our campaign organization also addressed a press conference, where it made it clear that the PDP must be accommodating and tolerant as well as avoid anything that will trigger violence. We could have taken the law into our hands but we didn’t do that. From that time till now, they have not mentioned that one of their billboards was destroyed by our supporters.
So, I am assuring you that there will be no violence during the election as we will do our best and will cooperate with the security agents to make sure that the election is peaceful.
Have you been able to address those factors that worked against you in the 2016 governorship election?
If you had followed that election, you would have found out that despite the fact that I was coming from an opposition party in the state at that time, it was not easy for the ruling party. They had to postpone the election a day to it and brought it back after 18 days and when the result started coming out and I was leading, you saw the drama that ensued and announcement of the results had to be stopped.
By the time they came back, the whole thing had changed. But, when the Supreme Court says a particular person won, you don’t have to argue. However, I can assure you that everything that happened then have been addressed and this time is our time.
Former Governor Adams Oshiomhole said all sort of things about you during the last election, but you are working with him now. How do you react to that?
Yes, Oshiomhole threw punches at me in 2016, but people tend to have short memory. Oshiomole was at Ben Idahosa University, when I was being given a doctorate and he spent over one hour praising me for my contributions in his government and the role I am playing in the state.
Oshiomhole also came to my farm at one time, when I was graduating students and he listed the roles I was playing in the state. At my 50th birthday, there was no word he didn’t use to describe me including the fact that if he wants to mention those, who have helped him to succeed in government, there is no way my name will not be there.
So, if during the campaigns for the 2016 governorship election he was abusing me because I was on the other side, what do you expect?
Of course, he needed to abuse me, especially when he didn’t have a good product. You can imagine how Governor Obaseki started his campaign for the forthcoming election. They placed a big screen on Ring road in Benin, where everybody passes and one would have thought that all he would be playing on that kind of screen are achievements of his administration in the last four years. Instead of that, he is playing about the governor of Kano State.
It was when condemnation came from within and outside Nigeria that they had to stop it. What has the governor of Kano State got to do with the governorship election in Edo State apart from being the chairman of APC National Campaign Council? I am sure that those who had gone through campaigns before will tell you that people will call their opponents all sorts of names during electioneering campaigns, but if you allow those things to border you, they will distract you.
In fact, I confessed somewhere that they succeeded four years because I had my SIMPLE Agenda but I didn’t talk about it as I spent all the time replying their insults. Everyone knew that I had the SIMPLE Agenda but I didn’t talk about what I had, which they never had. This time I will not allow myself to be distracted; I will tell Edo people about my SIMPLE Agenda.
Are you going do to limit yourself to just one term in office if you win the election giving the clamour of Edo Central, which has never produced governor or deputy to produce the governor in 2024?
When you are elected; are you elected to serve for two terms? You serve one term at a time and one term is four years, not eight years. So, in terms of planning, don’t leave any of your projects to run for an eight-year period or 20 year-period.
If you want people to appreciate what you are doing or you want your agenda to be measurable and achievable, let it be within the period of your tenure. So, when I say four years, I am clearly conscious of the number of years a tenure is. Again, we are not God and nobody knows who will be alive tomorrow and death is not determined by age or position. So, why don’t we talk about what is on ground and leave the future to God?
What is your take on security votes and are you going to stop it?
I won’t say that I will stop security votes because what is important is what you use it for. I can’t make security a cardinal part of my agenda and there are no security votes; it is ridiculous.
How do you handle security matters without financial votes? But the money you put in will determine or reflect the seriousness you attach to that area. So, for me, part of the security votes apart from going to the security agencies should also go to vigilance groups.
They should not be working for gratis. How can communities raise people, who are guarding farmlands and rural roads and government will not send them anything as support?
Today, all the forests in Edo State have been taken over by criminals. If security votes were well managed by the present administration in the state, those forests would have been cleaned out. So, let use security votes judiciously and not see it as money for the governor.
On whether his jumping from APC to PDP, and back to APC in four years is stable and won’t affect his chances
It is not a question of instability. It is a question of being consistent with your goals and objectives. I have never hidden the fact that I am in politics to access government for the benefit of my people. And so if you find yourself in a political party that is not interested in winning election or that does not take seriously the issue of winning, of course a tree does not make a forest, you alone cannot do it. It will mean that you will have to have a rethink. When I left APC to join the PDP, of course we were angry with the way certain things were going on. The congresses then (party congresses) were being manipulated against many of our associates and we were not happy about it and we felt that there was a conspiracy of sort against us and it was better to move elsewhere. It was not because we felt that the APC manifesto or vision was not compatible with our own dreams. And since we left, a lot of people talked to us to return. We have done so much to see how we could revamp the PDP but we just realised that we were in the midst of strange bed fellows. Most of the people there did not share in our dreams and visions, so we met and discussed it. We came to a conclusion that it will be a lot better if we returned to the APC. No matter what you will say, the APC is quite purposeful, especially in terms of being in government; they take it seriously. We believe that whatever impact we want to make in the political arena can only be achieved when we get to government.
It has been rumoured that the main reason you joined the APC is to have the ticket for this year’s election. How true is this?
You must know that as human beings we have ambitions; but again, they say man proposes, God disposes. Any man who is wise will look at all the options available to him. In coming back to the APC, we came with an open mind. Open mind number one: you can’t run away from the fact that there is already a governor who is from the APC and who of course will desire a second term. So, we came in knowing that there could be a consensus in this direction, it was possible. No matter the difference that was brewing, it was possible that reconciliation could come and the governor could get a consensus affirmation. If that happened, we were not going to take a walk and leave the party. So that option was available to us. We knew that it was there and we told ourselves if that happens it simply means that we would ensure that we push for areas to be considered in the developmental plans of the governor as a condition for supporting and making his election easy, that was one. Another option was that the party in its wisdom could choose a new person. And again, if that happened, were we going to walk away? No! We said the important thing is that we are in a party that would be in government and we would use our presence there to ensure that we are able to push for development for our people and our constituents, and that again was an option. And there was a third option that said look Pastor you were in this party before, you are one of the founders of this party. It is also possible that some of those who have been urging you to return and all your old friends there might say, look Pastor, why don’t you run for governorship. I said if that is also possible, why not? It will give us the opportunity to implement our SIMPLE AGENDA which we believe is all encompassing and something that is a veritable roadmap for the development of our state.
So those options were there. It is not as if one went with one mindset, it would have been foolish to just say you are going there only for governorship.
Assuming it doesn’t work and you know with the level of enlightenment in our state, no matter the promises, there are still lots of setbacks; so you can’t go with just one mindset that, oh you have to get governorship. So we actually came with that mindset of anything could happen but the important thing is let’s go there in strength, number and add value but we met a very hostile governor who despite our previous relationship and offers to work to make the party stronger was not receptive.
So, automatically, his attitude to us and to most party leaders has even reduced the option of him becoming the candidate. And then, there are other aspirants and to the glory of God, the leadership of the party said Pastor you have been one of us, nobody is going to discriminate against you because you left and came back and many of us still appreciate you and even when you campaigned in the other side, we were very impressed by the way you carried your campaign and the support you gathered and the manifesto which you presented and we urge you to also join and let us see how it goes. Recently, I had the privilege of playing host to APC leaders, quite a number of them from the 18 local government areas. At that meeting I was urged to contest for the governorship and a motion was moved by no less a person than a former speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. David Iyoha who is from Edo Central Senatorial District and it was seconded by Hon. Washington Osifo who is one of the members-elect in the House of Assembly from Uhunmwode and Hajia Mariam, a former commissioner in the state under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and also a former commissioner in this present government from Edo North, and everybody stood up and said Pastor you must contest. It was a very humbling experience and with that kind of reassuring confidence in me, it is difficult to say I wouldn’t contest and so far so good I seriously believe that that option is viable and is something that I should pursue for the good of our people. I am working towards it.
On re-working his SIMPLE Agenda in view of changing dynamics of politics, security and other crises that have evolved beyond what he imagined
There’s no doubt that things have changed. Insecurity, especially violence, like we have now is greater than what was prevailing then. To be fair to Adams Oshiomhole’s government when he was governor, there was a lot of political tolerance. Opponents were not being dealt with in the very brutal manner that you see now. When you play back, the only time bomb exploded was during my election and when you look at that incident and what is playing out now, it is very easy to now pin-point where that bomb that exploded in my wife’s clinic came from. It is clear because even the Comrade has himself admitted that when he was in government, he warned some people about their excessive resort to violence that that was not the way to go. Apparently, they didn’t listen to him and they are still not listening to him now. In fact, he has become a target of their violence and it is only that when he was in government he was more or less in charge and he didn’t give them the kind of encouragement and funding they now have where it has become very rampant. Even on the political security side, there is more emphasis on security because people were not scared to come to our state. You get to the airport, you will see Marijuana-smoking thugs without shirts, chanting war songs and for first time visitors in the state, you can imagine the apprehension and the many negative opinion that they will have of our state and these are state-sponsored.
On N700 million court case against him and potential effect on his chances
I am not deterred, I am not worried because that case started in 2015 and that case didn’t stop me from contesting the election and the issues are quite clear. Nobody has accused me of stealing any money. The money in question did not come to me personally, it did not come to my account. The only thing is that the party wanted some of us to ascertain that the money came, which we did. All those who signed and collected the money are known and are not hiding the fact. Recently we noticed that the same case was dismissed in Yobe. Election money, people signed for it and EFCC took them to court and by the time the EFCC closed their case, a no case submission was raised. One, The money in question did not come from government coffers, did not show that the money was raised from government coffers. I can tell you for free that the money that was sent to Edo was not money from Dasukigate, it was not money from NNPC or from Deziani. It is clear because those who lodged that money in the bank are from the private sector and we have been able to see their statements which they volunteered that they made contributions. So, the money was not government funds, neither did it come from illegal sources. That itself destroys the ingredient of money laundering because to be talking about money laundering it means that the funds in question came from an illegal source
Two, was there any personal benefit? Did you get this money for yourself? There was no personal enrichment. No personal benefit. Nobody can say that out of the N700 million, Pastor Ize-Iyamu took one naira from it. All the people signed and their statements are with the EFCC.