The Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, speaks with Sola Shittu about his recent defection from the opposition PDP to the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state and the crisis rocking the two main parties including the feud between Governor Godwin Obaseki and his political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole
What informs your decision to leave the PDP for the APC, having been the torch bearer of the opposition party in the 2016 governorship election?
Well I used to be with the PDP since 1999; later we were deregistered because we had issues. We disagreed with certain pronouncements. Then we had a pressure group called the Grace Group and when the opportunity came to do the registration, some people felt that the best thing was to deregister many of us and we were deregistered. That led us to form what today has become the APC. So what we are actually coming to now, to be honest, is a house that we built-a party that we played a very large role in its registration and formation in Edo State and in our country. Of course, when we left in 2014 it was really not because of any ideological difference but we disagreed on certain things. We felt that some of our members were not well treated and we took a collective decision then to leave the party. That is what led us back to the PDP. We have been in the PDP for close to five years. During that period, I was the director-general of the former President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign. I was also the DG to our presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and also the governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2016 election. So, I have played a very important role in the PDP. I would not have wanted to leave but you must constantly ask yourself why you are in politics.
So, why are you in politics?
We are in politics principally to be able to represent our people in the political arena. We are in politics because we see it as an avenue to government and it is only through government that we can attract amenities to our people. We all pay taxes but it takes those in government to decide on where government resources will be channelled to. We want to be part of those who take that decision so that our communities and the people do not suffer for lack of representation and so when you are in a system that do not share your vision and your objectives, it becomes very frustrating and quite a number of our people were already frustrated with the attitude of many of those in the PDP. And then of course because we were in the APC before, there have been a lot of overtures at state and national levels that we should come back to the house that we helped to build. When we found out that many of those appeals were very genuine and coming from very highly placed persons, we went back to our communities and we also found out that our communities too were of the opinion that we should work with the APC. We have no choice but to take that decision and we have taken it without bitterness or malice. That is why we have told our people that we would not appreciate it if they begin to throw stones or abuse the party we were once in. No, that will be uncharitable. We don’t see them as enemies we are all partners in progress.
Is it true that you left the PDP because you could not have your way to remove the chairman of the party?
The chairman was elected and there is also a time when his tenure will elapse; so why would I want to remove him? I have never been interested in the position of the chairman; even when people were showing interest I didn’t have anybody as an aspirant or candidate. For me, the issue of chairman removal is not an issue.The Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, is my personal friend and we are brothers.
Are you not bothered that you are coming to the APC, a party enmeshed in crisis?
No, you cannot because of problems run away from the place your people desire you to be. How are you sure that our presence or going there will not bring peace and reconciliation? And whether you like it or not, they are in government at the state, federal and local government levels. Our intention is not to escalate the problem there or to be deterred by the problem. We know there are issues but the issues are not insurmountable. We believe that with sincerity, all can be resolved. All we need is to get people who can talk to the parties involved and everything will be reconciled. We have had this kind of political crisis in the past and they were resolved. It happened elsewhere and they were resolved. What is happening in Edo State for me is just a storm in the tea cup.
Some people are saying that your desire to realise your governorship ambition is your main purpose of defecting to the APC. How true is this?
You see, I find it funny when people just believe that anything we want to do has to do with one’s ambition. The first thing is: why do you want to go to a place? I want to go there because I believe that it is a platform that we built; it is a platform that our people believe can help us to actualise our dream. The issue of governorship is secondary, I have not entered there; I don’t know those who are interested in governorship. Of course, the governor naturally would desire a second term, I am also aware that there are some people who are saying that they will like to contest. As I am speaking, many more can still come. It is their legitimate right, no one can stop them. But for me and for now, it is to go into the party, integrate and see what value we can bring in. Then, we leave the rest to God.
How do you feel as a politician when the ruling party is embroiled in a crisis like this?
Well, it is not good. It distracts from the core mandate of governance and it also robs the state of the benefit that they would have been enjoying if there was a better relationship. You can imagine a situation where you are a governor and the chairman of the ruling party is also from your state. That can open up your state to a lot of amenities and development that other states would not enjoy. So to that extent, it is unfortunate. But it is also not unusual because in politics, like in business and families, there are times we experience crisis but what is important is the ability to be able to manage and settle it.
Oshiomhole recently said he was betrayed by some of his trusted men in the APC especially the deputy governor. Do you subscribe to that position by him?
Well, those statements were fallout of the crisis you mentioned. Of course when crisis happen, we tend to make all kinds of comments. The national chairman has his own view about what is playing out, the governor also has his own view but for somebody like me, to be honest I don’t know the details.
What gives you the confidence that you can make such an impact in a situation where intervention by Aliko Dangote and others have failed?
You must understand that I am from Edo State and I know many of these people very well. The fact that I was in the PDP does not change the fact that many of them are very close to me and we all work together before. I was the national vice chairman (south) of the Action Congress of Nigeria. Governor Godwin Obaseki is a family friend, Philip Shaibu the deputy governor is very close to me and David Imuse is very close. These are people that I know very intimately. They are not strangers to me. It is just that because we were in different political parties there was an artificial wall which of course has been broken. If there is one person that I believe can have access to all of them, I think I am the one. You don’t expect a busy man like Dangote from Kano State to come and solve problem in Edo State. If he was here, that would be a different thing. Don’t also forget that I am a man of God, I am a pastor. The Bible says blessed are the peace makers. So, for me, it is also part of my ministry and I will make a point of my duty to see how I can reconcile leaders of our state who are presiding over the ruling party. It is not in our best interest for the crisis to continue, the Bible enjoins us to pray for those in authorities. So how can we pray for them when they are at loggerheads themselves?
Did you speak with Obaseki and Oshiomole before you made the move to join the party?
Of course I spoke with them, that’s very important. You know I cannot be coming to a party where they are holding such key positions and you will think that we will just ignore them; that will be wrong. Who am I going to work with? I spoke to the two of them and to be honest, they are excited, they are happy that I am coming and they told me ‘you are coming back home.’ So there is no hostility and they deserve all our respect. So there is no problem.
Obaseki said the quarrel between Oshiomole and he had to do with his second term ambition and that he deserves it because he has worked for it. Do you subscribe to that position?
That is his view and we are all entitled to our views. He must have his reason why he said he deserved it and at the appropriate time he will meet the Edo people and explain why he deserves it. Others can also disagree and say no you don’t deserve it, that’s the beauty of democracy. Everyone will subject himself to the electorate. We are all tenants in government, we come and go. Oshiomhole was once in government but the moment he spent eight years he left and went. So whether you will be re-elected depends on the electorate. If you think you deserve it, talk to them; if they don’t agree that is the end of it. So for me, at the end of the day it is the electorate that has the final say.
But do you agree or disagree that he deserves a second term?
That is his opinion. Both of us have not spoken, he didn’t make those statements to me and I didn’t know who he made those statements to. I am also in Edo State, so if he wants to convince me that he deserves a second term, am I sure he will also speak to me? I personally believe that he is the Governor of Edo State and a time will come when the Independent National Electoral Commission will fix the timetable for politicking in the state. Then those who want to contest again and those who want to be re-elected will talk to the Edo people. It is what they say that we are going to analyse and determine whether they should or not. Let’s wait and see.
What is your opinion about people saying that ex-governor Lucky Igbinedion’s government was the most corrupt in the history of Edo State? You were in that government for eight years.
Let me tell you, Lucky’s government has come and gone. But the truth is that people are entitled to their opinion. You can’t expect me to tell you that the government I served in was corrupt. What many people do not understand is that when Lucky Igbinedion was convicted, he was convicted on the use of security votes. Many people don’t even know what they found him guilty of. The first one was that he had money in a particular bank which he did not put in his asset declaration form, and was not in his asset declaration and that none disclosure automatically attracts either imprisonment or fine. That was the major thing the man was guilty of then. Most of the other ones was issue of security votes which he was not required to give account of. Nobody was talking about road projects being inflated or others but you cannot erase people’s perception. You can only tell them your own view and they have the right to tell you that this is what we think and it depends on who you are talking to. But for me, what is important now is that successive government should move up the step of governance. We want to see a situation where every new government is better than the one that was there before.
Edo State used to be very peaceful, what do you think is responsible for the upsurge in insecurity in this case?
So many factors but you need to first and foremost find out from the governor and the commissioner of police. They are the best people to tell us what exactly is happening. We don’t know their challenges.