BY GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE, BENIN
PASTOR Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a former Secretary to the Edo State government during the Chief Lucky Igbinedion administration. He was in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) before defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after irreconcilable differences with Governor Adams Oshiomhole. Now a governorship aspirant in the July 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State, he speaks, in this interview, on the state politics.
What are your expectations as your party settles down to pick its governorship candidate?
As much as possible, we hope that it will be a family affair devoid of rancour and violence. It will also be an opportunity to show that we practice internal democracy, we follow party guidelines and INEC rules. We want to go about it in a manner that will make the public appreciate the reforms in our party and our desire to be the alternative party in our emerging democracy.
What are those things people like you are trying to change in the PDP as opposed to the past?
The mistakes we made at the party level include lack of internal democracy; trying to please certain persons. In that process, impunity became the order of the day and rules were ignored. The party did not also have a serious mechanism in place to monitor and supervise people that were elected under its platform. There should have been well-defined manifestos like we had during the UPN and NPN days. There should have been a committee in place in every state and area of control. So, there were gaps and these gaps created problems. When people started leaving the party when they felt they were not well accommodated, their genuine cries of marginalization were not addressed. Nobody made any serious effort to call them back because they thought there was no opposition. Those were some of the mistakes the PDP made. Because they say history has a way of repeating itself, even the APC that ought to have learnt from the mistakes of the PDP is also toeing the same path. They are even doing it in a more brazen manner. I think the Nigerian public is getting more and more enlightened. They are watching the unfolding scenario and every opportunity they have to vote, they will be able to vote with a lot of wisdom and enlightenment. I think it is good for our democracy.
Looking at your preparation for the election, a lot of people have said that the level of your preparedness goes a long time ago and that becoming a governor is something you have always been desirous of. Why are you so keen about becoming a governor?
Sometimes people tend to give the impression that it is a crime to have an ambition and prepare for an office. I think it is desirable that those, who aspire for an office, should not be those who were drafted in, had no plan and were not prepared for the office. It should not be a situation, whereby someone felt he could use them and conscript them into the race. Political offices are very challenging. Anyone aspiring to occupy political office must show proof that he is prepared for it. I have lived in this state all my life. What people call (political) structure is what I call goodwill. There is no part of the state, ward or local government that I do not have personal friends. I’m talking about people I could stay in their houses and eat based on long term relationships. So, when people talk about political structure, it does not necessarily mean control of political parties but being able to have credible men and women, who are close to you in all parts of the state. That, to me, is a credit. As for my ambition, I have had the opportunity of serving in government and I know the workings of government more than a lot of people. I also thank God for good education. I cannot see my state being misled and mismanaged and be indifferent. It is natural and patriotic to have an ambition under such circumstance.
When people say that I have held the ambition for a long time, I laugh. In 2007, they said I had the ambition but it will interest you to know that nobody can point to a single poster that I printed. Yes, I was in the forefront of the Grace Group and we were very visible talking about internal democracy. Common sense told me that the outgoing governor then came from my senatorial district and there was the need for some form of equilibrium in the political arrangement of the state. I too also was in the forefront of ensuring that someone from another senatorial district became governor. I believe I have paid my dues and my ambition now is propelled by the mismanagement of our commonwealth and the need to redirect the drift in our state.
What do you mean by mismanagement of the state’s commonwealth?
I see the past seven years as years of plenty. In the past seven years, Edo State received unprecedented revenue. This present government has received over a N1 trillion. No government has ever got that. I served in the Lucky Igbinedion government. For the eight years that he was there, if you add all the money that came from the 18 local governments, it was N196 billion. So, for a government that has received over N1 trillion, you will have expected that their investment will guarantee the future of our state. Rather than do that, they embarked on reckless spending as if the good times will never cease. They finished what was available and started to borrow. Not only have they wasted the resources of the present, they have mortgaged the future through reckless borrowing.
In these past seven years, we have a governor who said I never promised industry. Even if you never promised industry, seeing that the finances came, one will have expected that they would have grabbed that opportunity. Indeed, it was an opportunity to create economic legacy and change the perception of Edo State from a civil service state to an industrial state. (Chief Samuel) Ogbemudia laid a solid industrial foundation that was destroyed by the military. The seven years afforded an opportunity to re-enact that legacy, but we only hear of red roofs that the state contributed between 35 and 40 per cent to and roads, whose costs are unknown.
Despite being in opposition, the PDP won the presidential election in Edo State. How did the PDP manage to do that?
I mentioned that as long as the present governor was campaigning for General Buhari, it was going to be easy for us to win. If he had distanced himself, it could have been a bit more difficult. When he made the mistake of saying “a vote for me is a vote for Buhari” that was the end of it. The moment Edo people heard that, they said they must vote against Buhari. Honestly, Edo people now look up to the PDP. Edo PDP is not rigid to the extent of taking them for granted. When they felt the PDP did not appreciate their votes, they turned against the PDP at a time the whole country was PDP. That is to tell you that Edo is never afraid of being in opposition. One will have expected that the APC will have a sense of history and respond to the opinion of the people. So, our people are now saying if it is like this, then they need to look at the PDP again, especially now that the PDP has also changed in a positive way. In the governorship election this year, Edo people will turn out enmasse to vote for change, only that this change will not benefit the APC this time around.
How optimistic are you of picking the PDP ticket?
I’m not the only aspirant. At the last count, we were five. I think all the aspirants are all qualified. I will be willing and ready to support anyone that gets the ticket. I also hope that other aspirants will support me if I get the ticket as well. I have gone round the local government areas to see our party members and I can say that many of them see me as a very serious minded person, who knows what it takes to win and has an understanding of government. I want to belief that that confidence and knowledge will help me clinch the party’s ticket. Quite honestly, I’m interested in better governance in our state. If it is not me, then I will support whoever comes in but certainly not the person the present government is proposing because noting will change if they are allowed to continue.