The Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Edo State, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu kicked off his campaign on Monday in the midst of many legal hurdles. Iyobosa Uwugiaren, who witnessed the event, reports
It was a different but elating experience for Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Edo State gubernatorial election fixed for September 10. But certainly, not for people, who had legitimate businesses to carry out on Monday, July 4.
Despite the good network of roads for easy flow of traffic in Benin City, as early as 7am, all the adjourning roads and streets in the ancient city were locked down with heavy traffic as thousands of people struggled to have access, from within and outside the state, to the Baptist Convention Ground, venue of the kick-off of the governorship campaign of Ize-Iyamu.
A large hall of 25,000-seater capacity, every space of the hall was occupied by fans and party supporters of the candidate. Outside the hall, the crowd was the same. All security agents deployed to the event: police, members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence and other para-military agents had a huge task controlling the excited crowd.
From the main gate of the convention ground to the hall – a distance of less than 100 meters – Ize-Iyamu spent nearly one hour, trying to access the venue of the event as fans and party supporters struggled to shake hands with him.
Perspiring profusely, the expression of the PDP candidate as he struggled to move to the hall with the help of many security agents was like: “I appreciate you all, but please let me get to the hall for the show to start”. He got there eventually to the thundering ovation of his supporters in the hall.
The ceremony was initially billed for the Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia Staduim, Benin City. But explaining why the PDP decided to use the Baptist Convention ground and not the Ogbemudia Stadium, as earlier announced, the state chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, said the party was denied the venue by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, who directed the management of the stadium to decline its request to use the stadium.
However, as if he was celebrating the governor’s decision, Orbih noted that Oshiomhole’s opposition to the use of the stadium became a blessing in disguise as the governor inadvertently pushed them to start the campaign in the “House of God” – the Baptist Church Convention ground.
Orbih’s announcement that a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had upheld the sack of the embattled former acting National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, further charged the audience.
In his judgment on the suit filed by the PDP against Senator Sheriff and others, Justice Liman had declared on the same day that the appointment of the caretaker committee of the PDP to oversee its affairs was legal and in line with the provisions of the PDP constitution.
Speaking at the event, an elated PDP candidate assured his crowd of supporters and party members that PDP would take over from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the coming election. He expressed gratitude to God and his party supporters for the opportunity given to him to fly the party’s ticket, saying the PDP was blessed with leaders who could change the fortune of the state.
Ize-Iyamu promised to improve on the welfare of the people and respect the traditional institutions as the custodians of Edo’s heritage. He said with almost all notable parties in the state lining up behind him, there was a joint resolve on the part of the PDP to stop the APC from having a “third successive stint” in the governorship.
The governorship candidate accused the APC-led government in Edo State of crippling the economic, educational and social activities in the state in almost eight years, assuring them that he had a blueprint to turn around the collapsed institutions.
He added: “When we were in government, Bendel Brewery Limited was working and contributing to the internal Generated Revenue (IGR); Edo State Courier was working and contributing to IGR, and several other companies. What happened has to all those companies? They have been crippled by the APC-led government.
“And somebody who said he was the Head of Economic Team, now want to be governor. We should ask him how he destroyed our industries in the state.”
The former Secretary to Edo State Government noted that the Edo State civil service had never had it this bad since the state was created, saying the service is totally depleted and is in dire need of new hands.
“It is very difficult to find anyone who has been recruited in the past eight years. That means that everybody in the civil service came in long before now. Many people have died and many have retired, while punitive dismissals have been carried out without regards to extant rules.
“In many places, a lot of directors have been summarily dismissed without even taking their cases to the Civil Service Commission. I know that before we left, we injected fresh blood into the system. Young professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers and town planners were employed.”
Ize-Iyamu also assured his fans that their votes would count during the election. “The leadership of the APC and the state government have been boasting that because they control all the security agencies in the federation, they will rig the election by all means.
“But I want to use this opportunity to put them on notice that the votes of the people of Edo State will surely count. Some of us are veterans in this game. We know their intrigues, tactics and their plan will not work. We will not be violent, even though we are not weak, but we will do everything to make sure our votes count.”
Both national and state leaders of the party, including the former chairman Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih; the Esama of Benin Kindom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion; former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi; a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Prof. Jerry Gana; Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State, many High Benin Chiefs, state governors’ representatives, market men/women, students, artisans and others attended the event.
Senator Odion Ugbesia, who represented the Caretaker Chairman of the party, Ahmed Makarfi, later presented the party’s flag to the candidate.
Earlier, Ikimi had said he was one of those, who formed the APC and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to allow a level playing field in the state during the election.
“I will campaign with our candidate in the 192 wards of the state, and I appeal to the president to provide a level playing field for this election because Godwin Obaseki (the APC candidate) has no business in this state,” Ikimi.
The former Foreign Affairs Minister knockedOshiomhole’s administration on its policies, saying all the governor’s assertions on performance were a sham.
On his part, Senator Ugbesia said the PDP was determined to take over the state. “This is a quick notice to Oshiomhole and other occupants of the Edo Government House. Today, we are going to change the keys to Osadebey Avenue; we have brought a new key which we shall hand over to Ize-Iyamu,” he stated.
In the same breath, Prof. Jerry Gana expressed optimism that Ize-Iyamu would bring victory for the PDP and urged the people of the state to support the party come September 10.
According to the PDP BoT member, “This man will work well; this man will govern well; this man is a Godly man. We must all support him,” assuring the people that their votes would count in the election.