Interview

 

A Peoples Democratic Party governorship aspirant in Edo State, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was in Lagos recently, where he bared his mind on the issues around the governorship election in the state. Shola Oyeyipo presents the excerpts:
 
What is your motivation for joining the Edo governorship race and why are you all out against the Oshiomhole administration, having been initially part of it?
Our state is not a poor state but the honest truth is that in terms of development, Edo State is very poor. When you look at the people, who live there today, they count among the poorest in Nigeria. But when you look at the resources we have and when you look at the past few years, the resources that have accrued to the state, the truth is that we have no business being where we are.
I believe I have the education, I have the experience and I have the knowledge to be able to make the difference. What our people want today is somebody that is sincere, somebody they can trust, somebody who is accessible, somebody who understands the problem of the state and I can tell you honestly, I fit those requirements. I have served in various capacities before. I have served at the local government level. I have also served at the state government level. So, I understand the workings of government.
But one thing that is obvious is that there is a lot of difference between being an appointee in government and being a chief executive. I have been Chief of Staff, I have been Secretary to the State Government and there is a world of difference between occupying these positions and being a chief executive.
I believe that if I am chief executive, I would be able to steer the ship of state in a better manner than it is being done now. In the past seven and a half years now, a lot of resources have accrued to our state. Sometimes people tell me why I was so critical of this present government, especially considering that I was one of those, who brought the government into the state and I also have a moral right to be very concerned about their performance.
In their first four years when they did well, I was in the fore-front of those applauding them. But in the second four years when I expected that they would finish strongly, what I have seen is a very strong disappointment. There are many critical areas in our state that have not been touched.
Industries have not been touched, agriculture has not been touched, sports has not been touched, tourism has not been touched, housing has not been touched and then a few others. And there is no way you can govern the state and neglect these areas. Even the areas that have been touched, the approach has been more cosmetic than anything else. So, for me, the past seven and a half years, they have not carried our state to the level I had hoped our state would get to, but a lot can still be done.
 
So, let’s talk about why are you running for office?
I am running for office believing that I have what it takes to be able to make the difference. I have not unveiled my agenda but I have a very simple agenda. I want something that our people can understand. One of the things that attracted me into politics was the 4-point cardinal programme of the UPN in 1978. It was very simple to understand and one could measure the achievements of that programme; free education, free health services, rural integrated development and employment for all.
These were the four programmes, so I wanted to think of something that our people could hold me to because the problem we have in this country is that we elect people on sentiments, on change and on all kinds of emotional factors, at the end of the day, we really cannot pin point what exactly he promised. So, I needed to come up with an agenda that would guide my performance, and that is why I have come up with what I call simple agenda.
The simple agenda is an acronym; the S is for security and social welfare, the I is for infrastructural development, the M is for manpower development, the P is public-private initiative, the L is the leadership by example and E is employment and empowerment. This acronym captures exactly what we intend to achieve.
 
You have been known to always change parties, is this not going to count against you?
Sometimes people complain about you leaving one party to the other. I also wonder why because apart from our constitution guaranteeing freedom of movement and association, are we to remain fixed to a place that has become oppressive; a place whose ideas and objectives have been totally hijacked simply because we are afraid of being stigmatised? I am a football fan. Jose Mourinho used to be our coach in Chelsea and he has just left for Man U. To use the Nigerian word, he has “decamped” from Chelsea to Man U.
So, for me, really, I think when somebody moves from a political party, what is important is, why did he do so? If he is doing so because the other party has just won an election, yes, it is something that can be condemned. But if the government is in power and he tries to leave because he believes they have derailed, I think he should be applauded rather than being condemned because for me, the two times that I have had to leave a political party, I left parties that were in government.
 
Do you worry when people assume you are desperate?
When I tell people I want to be governor but I am not desperate, they are shocked and I tell them that anyone, who truly wants to serve cannot be desperate. It is when you have an ulterior motive that you are desperate. I want to be governor, but it cannot be at any cost. I want to assure you that I mean well. The period that I was Chief of Staff and secretary to government opened my eyes to the workings of government, I am not a novice, I am not somebody that would need to learn the ropes and I don’t need months to understand how the government functions. I know what to do.
And now that we are going through very serious economic challenge, I think what we need is somebody that will know the priorities of our people, somebody that would prudently manage the resources. Somebody asked me a question and said with the very lean resource now, how are you going to cope? I told him that even with the lean resources that we are having now, we would be able to do more than the surplus resources we had in the past. One of my grouses as somebody who has always lived in Edo is that government’s money is squandered.
I’d give you a simple example. A new university has been built by the governor in his village. I was looking through and I stumbled on documents on the cost of a hostel for students – a 168-room hostel – and I found out that the cost was N1.6billion. That means that just one room for students cost Edo State government over N10 million to build. That to me is very expensive. You are going to find out that is the pattern.
You will see three to four classroom blocks costing N87 million. If those were your personal funds, will you even accept to pay N10 million for that kind of building? So, for me, the years of surplus were totally mismanaged. When I look at the cost of those projects, I don’t see any reason why anybody can tell me that even with these new resources we cannot cope. If these new resources are applied judiciously, I believe we can do more.
 
At what point did you part ways with the governor and what are the specifics of your disagreement?
My problem with Adams Oshiomhole – quite interestingly – I supported him to become governor.  The platform was our platform. We brought him to come and join us. I don’t want to use the word he decamped to come and join us, but we brought him to come and join us.
One, he came from a place that has never had a governor. We have three senatorial districts. I come from Edo South, and Lucky Igbinedion was governor of our state. He is from my senatorial district. Edo Central, even though recently they have not had governor, they once had Prof. Ambrose Ali. But Edo North that has six of the 18 local governments has never had a civilian governor, so I said to be able to lay a foundation in future, where you come from would no longer be an issue, it would be good if we once and for all balance out by giving Edo North somebody to be governor.
Number two, I was looking at his antecedents, I presumed that as former President of Nigeria Labour Congress, if such a person is governor of Edo State, the man is going to be in the forefront of making things happen. Workers would enjoy, industries would come, there would be agricultural loan and so, there were a lot of things that were at the back of my mind that such a person would really make a lot of change. I didn’t do any due diligence. I didn’t call former labour leaders to ask for their opinion. I didn’t call journalists to say please you guys know what we don’t know, who is this guy? I didn’t pray.
So in the first term, we managed him, but I was already seeing disturbing signs. He never liked any dissenting voice. A lot of things he did on the spur of the moment, he never consulted, so there were so many things I was seeing, but I kept telling myself the man is not that experienced. Maybe he was more interested in the labour activism, I saw that and I said maybe in his second term.
When he was about serving the second term, a lot of the guys, who supported said no, they would not support him and I said I would like to support him. One, I said I would like to support him. Two, I don’t also want it to be said that we didn’t allow Edo North to do two terms. Let him complete is second term. If you bring somebody else from Edo North now, that one too would want to do two terms and in any event, whatever lapses he had in the first term, in the second term he would be able to correct them.
It was a big mistake and like you just pointed out, sorry I didn’t pray. And so, I supported him again. The second term, I am sorry to say, is a disaster. If there is time, I would challenge any of you to tell me where this man has done well and I would just tell you a few words that he didn’t do well. I am not being malicious, even if I wasn’t running; I would be very strong in condemning him because I am disappointed.
Now, in the second term, he became uncontrollable. He became inaccessible, and he just launched a war-on-practically every sector. And the areas that were crying for attention, he was not ready to listen. His own senatorial district, for example, Edo North has been completely abandoned. A man, who said he is starting two new universities. Let’s be honest, at a time like this, when the economy is experiencing a kind of downturn, it is not even the time for any governor to say I want to start two new universities but he made the announcement and some of us knew that it was not reasonable.
Now you said you would give my place one, you will give your place one. My place already had a college of education; you said you are upgrading it. It was non-existing in your place at all, you finished the one in your place completely – a brand new university and it has opened. My place even one naira and I am not kidding, please go and check capital release, for what is called college of education, Ikeadolor, you will find out that in the past seven and a half years, even N10,000 capital release, the governor never gave.
Please check because these are things that you can easily verify. So by the time I saw all these it became impossible, and of course, I became his target. A lot of people he is now patronising were people who did not know how he came in.  So they could kneel down to great him or prostrate on the ground, but somebody like me that he knelt down to when he was looking for office, how can you expect me now to join the chorus and also begin to kneel down for him?
 
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It was a big mistake and like you just pointed out, sorry I didn’t pray. And so, I supported him again. The second term, I am sorry to say, is a disaster. If there is time, I would challenge any of you to tell me where this man has done well and I would just tell you a few words that he didn’t do well. I am not being malicious, even if I wasn’t running; I would be very strong in condemning him because I am disappointed