All parts of Edo neglected under Obaseki – Ize-iyamu

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All parts of Edo neglected under Obaseki – Ize-iyamu

PUNCHNG: Pastor Osagie Ize-iyamu, who is aspiring to become Edo State governor for the third time on the platform of the All Progressives Congress speaks about his ambition and other issues in this interview with ADEYINKA ADEDIPE

Do you think the crowded race with many aspirants is good for the polity in the state?

There is no time we don’t have a multiplicity of aspirants. I think there is nothing new, nothing unusual, Even in the PDP, I don’t think that there is only one person that is there. At least, I have heard the deputy governor who is a PDP member talk about his ambition and I have also seen his billboards in some parts of the state. I have also seen that of the former Chairman of APC who joined the PDP, Anslem Ojezua. So, I went to Esan last week and I saw the billboard of Senator Odia and another aspirant.

Some PDP aspirants have left the race making things more manageable for the party, what’s your take on this?

I don’t know about that. But, I think the reason there are a lot of people in the APC is the general belief that Governor Godwin Obaseki has not done too well. When that belief is there, everybody wants to aspire for the number one seat. I also know that some of us who are ready to come and help, for some reason, chose to take our time and that could also explain why there are so many aspirants. Aspirants are not known until they go and take the expression of interest form. So, what you have been seeing since is just social media noise including what I am doing now. Because, if you want to contest under a party, you will go and take the expression of interest form. That will now give you the right to go for the nomination form. When you have done these two things, you become an aspirant, not a candidate. The candidate can only emerge when you have done a nomination and your party select you or vote for you.

 

So how will you navigate your way to nomination?

Well, I know my people and my people know me. I am not a stranger. So, if there is one thing that gives me an advantage, it is the fact that I have name recognition. I don’t need to introduce myself. I don’t even need to sell myself. What is important is that I am available and I am ready to contest. I have paid my dues. The people and my party know what I stand for. My agenda is clear. So, I have confidence that, despite the number, it will still work in my favour. I have been to the local government areas in the state to see my people. When I went to the state secretariat to see the party executives, it was supposed to be a small event, but it turned out to be a carnival with thousands of people trooping out. Everybody will tell you that no other aspirant has been able to bring such a crowd to the secretariat. It was unbelievable. I have toured Edo North, I have toured Edo Central, and have started a tour of Edo South and the reception was overwhelming. So, I am very confident that I will get the ticket.

Do you think you will be third time lucky considering that a lot has changed since the last time you contested in 2020?

Life is a learning process and every time you fall, you learn something new. I have matured and I have been able to reflect on where we also made some mistakes and what we could have done better. So, I am confident that, this time I will not just be a candidate. I will win the election. I believe that I still have a very wide support base coupled with those I intend to bring in. I am confident that this time, I will win the election.

What is your take on the clamour to zone the ticket to Edo Central despite parties throwing tickets open?

They have a legitimate and genuine right to want to produce a governor. It is a constitutional right. The Esan people who have been at the forefront of that agitation feel that in this present dispensation from 1999 down to 2024 the only time they have a governor was briefly in 2007 to 2008 during Prof. Oserhimen Osunbor’s tenure. So, they feel that that period was not long enough. They should be given a chance and It is not something that we can wish away. They are an integral part of the state with very enlightened and industrious people. I have toured the zone. I also told them that because of their agitation, I had to stay back to watch because I had a lot of friends from there. Some actually came to me to ask me if I could support them. What I told them then is that I am not against supporting anybody. Governorship is not my birthright. Whatever ideas that I have, I can also transfer to any candidate of our party. But, I advised them that, it is not enough to talk about Esan agenda. What is key is to know if the person that they are presenting is marketable. If the person is, there is nothing wrong in dropping our ambition to support the person. I waited for over three to four months and I saw more names coming up every day. I also told them this loud agitation for governorship is born out of perceived marginalization. People believe that if they do not have a governor, they are neglected and marginalised and I also conceive that the Edo Central like other parts of the state are underdeveloped and I also told them that. If you want to look at underdevelopment as a basis for asking for governorship, Orhiomwon where I come and Ohunmwonde are the least developed part of the state. We have never had a minister or a senator and these are the people that can bring development. Esan people have produced the governor twice. We should not pretend that Bendel was also not part of our history. Professor Ambrose Alli was governor from 1979-1983 and he did a wonderful job. But, the Esan, in terms of ministerial appointments, have had over five ministers in a row and those ministers did a lot in development. We have not been this fortunate in Orhionmwon. So, we have been backward and there is agitation from us too. Orhionmwon started this agitation to produce the governor as far back as of 2005. The area has the largest landmass, oil, and other natural resources, still, they can’t produce the number one citizen in the state. This agitation is all over the place and I have also said even the Owan have never had a governor. People think Edo South is all about Oredo but other rural areas in Edo South can produce the governor. Some people will tell you because of this agitation for governor in Esan land should be restricted to Agbazilo because the other parts produced Alli and Osunbor. The agitation will always be there but, the party is wise to say there is no zoning because there is no part of the state that does not feel marginalised and wants to produce the governor. What is more important is, we want a candidate that the state can rally around. A candidate who sees himself as more of an Edo man than a senatorial representative.

What led to your loss in 2020?

Edo State election in 2020 was shortly after the presidential election. The first thing that affected us as a state was the unwarranted and unceremonious removal of our leader, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. You know too that nobody accused him of any wrongdoing. We just heard that six persons in his ward out of 27 met and suspended him as the national chairman of the party. Even an ordinary person deserves to be heard. He was not even heard, he was not even called and the powers that be upheld it, and you can imagine what that did to the morale of our people. Number two, we had 14 members who won the House of Assembly seat and they refused to swear them in. Fourteen is an overwhelming majority in the House and our party at the federal level did nothing to ensure that these people were sworn in. That occurrence is the worst attack on our democracy. It is not as if the court said they didn’t win the election. INEC declared them a winner. They were given a certificate of return but in Edo, the governor said otherwise. So the majority of the constituencies were not represented. Also on election day, to our surprise, we found out that we were in opposition. A serving House of Representatives candidate was targeted, beaten by the security agencies, handcuffed, and taken away. All they see is what happened on the surface. But, going forward, we believe that we are going to win this election.

How would you rate the governor in terms of infrastructure and security considering what is happening in the country?

I have deliberately restrained myself from criticising the government. My thinking is that, if I criticise them people will see me as a bad and bitter loser. And of course, if you praise him too, people will say you have been bought. So, I just kept quiet. Let me give you an example, recently, I was coming from Edo Central and the state of the road is inexcusable because the same governor received from the Federal Government N18bn as reimbursement for what his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole spent on federal roads. So, it is not as if when you spend money like that, it goes down the drain, and in any event, this part of the road you are calling federal road, where is the road domiciled? Is it not in Edo? Ditto for Ambrose Alli University where professors supported Obaseki to emerge governor. But, today the university is almost dead. I was in Sobe, and I thought the people would tell me the agriculture project that Obaseki spent N2bn has multiplied and people are beginning to enjoy so much from his investment but they told me it was a fluke. The truth is that if you go around the state, you will see a very sad picture; the picture of total neglect. So, the disillusion is visible. It is something you can feel. What I am saying has nothing to do with politics.

How soon do you think you can turn things around if you get the opportunity to rule Edo looking at the current economic realities?

That is a very serious question. Apart from the fact that the world is going through serious economic challenges, Nigeria too is facing its fair share of these challenges. Edo State is in serious debt. In terms of external loans, what we are owing is staggering and further compounded by the high exchange rate. If you look at that alone, the external debt, we are owing around N365bn. We need to be very prudent in our expenditure. We need to cut down on wastage.

The Bible says where there is no vision, people perish. For example, the first thing on the SIMPLE agenda is key security. If Edo is well secured, you will be amazed at what can be achieved. I was in Auchi the day and I noticed the development coming and immediately I realised that this development was tied to the success of their local vigilante. So, if you get security right then you can market your state to anybody.

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