Barring any last-minute development, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is expected to emerge as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for the Edo State September 19 gubernatorial election. The odds seem to favour him as he had earlier been chosen as a consensus aspirant by six other contestants after he came tops at the in-house screening exercise carried out by a faction of the Edo State chapter of the APC loyal to the suspended national chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole.
In an interview in Benin City, Edo state capital, Pastor Ize-Iyamu was upbeat and confident about winning both his party’s governorship primaries and the governorship election in the state. He also spoke about the state of affairs in Edo and his agenda for the state.
What is on your mind as the APC primary approaches on Monday?
I am relaxed and confident. My Campaign Organization has worked hard to engage and convince party members across the entire state to support my bid to represent the party in the governorship election in September and we have made tremendous progress.
Fortunately, for us, we have a lot of party leaders and members across the 192 wards, who have not only endorsed my candidacy but have also contributed to our effort through various means because they believe in me and know I can deliver on what I say. That has instilled a good level of confidence as we approach the election. I am in high spirits and hopeful of a victorious outcome.
Having emerged as the consensus candidate of the party before now, do you foresee any opposition on the day of the exercise?
The Screening Committee gave the nod to three aspirants – Pius Odubu, Osaro Obazee, and I – to contest in the primary election. Naturally, because only one candidate can emerge at the end of the day, we are all making our case to members of the party, though we share the same goal of ensuring that our party, the APC, wins in September.
Luckily, Osaro Obazee has stepped down and declared support for me ahead of the primary election. I am grateful to him because his endorsement, added to the many others we have received recently, are great boosts and will make a difference.
Ultimately, challenge or not, right now in the APC, we are united and focused, and I am hopeful that this will not change irrespective of the outcome on June 22. We will continue collaborations and collective actions premised on mutual respect and complete devotion to the will of the people through party supremacy.
The journey to this point for Edo APC was not without contentious issues. How are you going to manage all the tendencies after emerging as the official candidate?
These contentions are not unusual during election campaigns and processes. Nevertheless, there is a feeling of peculiarity with that of Edo State at this time due largely to desperation of the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, who was determined to impose himself on the party in ways that were undemocratic before his exit.
You saw how he attempted all kinds of tactics, including restricting membership of the party only to those who shared his view, making his wishes the law, and devoting resources into brewing confusion and chaos across all levels of the party’s leadership just to have his way.
However, as you know, he has now left the party, following his rightful disqualification. Many party members heaved a sigh of relief when he left and currently, we are closing ranks and unifying the party for the election. Should my party elect me at the primaries on June 22, all the issues you speak of will be resolved in no time because really, they are all political. As aforementioned, we are already reaching out to everyone involved now that the bad apple has voluntarily taken itself out of the bag.
Your entrance into the race raised the stakes. In fact, some still say the disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki was to pave an easy way for you. How do you react to that?
The disqualification of Governor Godwin Obaseki had nothing to do with my entrance or aspiration to represent the party in the election. He was disqualified because the Screening Committee of the APC, led by Professor Jonathan Ayuba, could not reconcile the inconsistencies in his academic credentials. Even he did not appear able to. We were all witnesses to how a similar situation cost the party dearly in Bayelsa State, and as they say, once bitten, twice shy.
The leadership of the party learned from the situation and insisted on a painstaking, objective screening of aspirants without any form of bias or prejudice. We reasonably were not willing to take risks, not least because of a man who was neck-deep in anti-party activities, is unpopular in the state, and nearly jeopardized the status of the party with his incompetence and intolerance.
I had and still have, no problems going up against Godwin Obaseki. On the contrary, he has been the one running away from a fair contest. Everyone saw what happened in December 2019 when the Edo state chapter of the APC organized a rally to welcome me back ceremoniously. You saw how Governor Obaseki abused the powers of his office, passed emergency laws banning rallies and other legal gatherings, and deployed both security agents and thugs to deny our members and followers access to the event. He tried to block my return because he was afraid.
Yet, if a person claims to have performed well, and is loved by all, as he believes, why does it scare him so much that another man is joining the party or aspiring to contest for the same office?
Whether in the APC or any other platform, as long as the contest will be determined by Edo people, I am confident of victory against him. If you drive around the state today and feel the pulse of the people, you will understand why I am that confident. The verdict is out on Obaseki’s term as governor and in summary, the people are tired of his problematic leadership, which has focused only on personal battles and needless confrontations.
The incumbent governor is likely to defect to another platform. In fact, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is touted as his likely destination. Should that be the case, chances are that the incumbency factor will play a major role at the polls. Are you bothered?
Governor Godwin Obaseki is free to pursue his ambition elsewhere. I am not bothered at all. As an incumbent, he is expected to run on his record – and that is where he is going to fail. Because he has no record to run with. His central promise of 200,000 jobs has turned out a complete joke and a con, and even though he has been manufacturing figures in the press to look good, our people at home know better and they will speak with their votes. All his flagship policies and programs have failed, some of them completely written out of his campaign even though they cost billions of public funds.
Governor Obaseki has been so consumed with his strange desire to transform the entire state into his fiefdom that he has not been able to get anything done. He has been trying to deflect from his failures by mischaracterizing the situation but we will force him to run on his records.
Nevertheless, what we are insisting on, as a people and party, is that we must have a free and fair contest. This Governor has blurred the line between the personal and official and he has shown, repeatedly, that he has no problem with abusing the powers of his office to have his way against the will of the majority. This is where we will be requiring the support of the press and civil society groups to ensure that all stakeholders maintain fairness and act in accordance with the law.
Are you comfortable being seen an ‘Oshiomhole man’ in some quarters?
I have a relationship with him that dates back to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, so it is understandable if some people think that, as a result, we may have a special relationship that gives me an edge. However, the truth is that Adams Oshiomhole is a man of process and systems. In addition, like me, the other aspirants have worked with him in the past. In light of these past relationships, many people can be called his men. Dr. Pius Odubu was his Deputy for eight years when he served as Governor and they maintain a cordial relationship to the best of my knowledge.
So far in the Edo Governorship race, Oshiomhole, working through the National Working Committee of the party, has been led by the APC constitution and the ultimate goal of ensuring that the party emerges victorious after the election. That is his main objective to the best of my understanding.
Edo is apparently on the edge. There is tension everywhere because of the way the governor has been treated. In fact, some people think Edo is already boiling ahead of the election. Do you entertain any fear?
When you say, “because of the way the governor has been treated”, you inadvertently make him out to be a victim in this when that is not truly the case. Don’t forget that we are speaking of a governor who infringed on the rights and freedoms of his predecessor, a two-term former governor, and the National Chairman of the party he wanted to contest on its platform, by banning him from stepping foot in the state and went ahead to hire thugs to block and harass him at the airport. He is the one who went and demolished people’s buildings. He is the same man who issued arbitrary bans of gatherings while permitting his allies to assemble, and used state agencies to intimidate perceived opponents while overlooking clear grievances and criminal actions of his supporters. Does that sound like the actions of a victim?
Earlier this year, we recorded a spate of bombings in Edo State, notably in the residences of Lawrence Okah, the state secretary of our party, and Barrister Henry Idahagbon, the immediate past Attorney General of Edo State. What these two persons have in common is that they have openly declared their opposition to the second-term agenda of Governor Obaseki. Disturbingly, the Edo state government neither condemned the bomb attacks nor call for an investigation aimed at arresting the perpetrators. One would be forgiven to think the governor is okay with violence meted out on those he considers his opponents, and that is unfortunate. To imagine again that he transferred that sort of behaviour to the legislature and the local governments.
Personally, I nurture no fear because our side of the divide has been disciplined, peaceful, and very organized. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Governor Obaseki and his people who are always in the press threatening fire and brimstone.
Don’t you think the exit of the governor and other APC political office holders, including local government chairmen could impact negatively?
Interestingly, only a handful of people are exiting the party with the governor. The majority of party members and leaders in Edo State are happy to see his back because he has been a major barrier to achieving peace and unity. He was going about suspending people, even local council officials, for not supporting him or adopting his combative stance. All of these people are excited he is out.
His voluntary exit has given room for talks and fence-mending in a conducive atmosphere. Therefore, I do not think it is going to have any negative impact at all. On the contrary, it has helped the party to sharpen its focus, put its house together, and rally loyal and committed members ahead of the election.
Source: The Sun
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