Ize-Iyamu: It’s Game Over for Election Riggers


Lawyer and businessman, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, erstwhile Chief of Staff to former Edo State governor, Chief Lucky Igbinedion and later the Secretary to the Edo State Government, before flying the PDP governorship flag in 2016, is the Edo State PDP Director-General of the Atiku/Obi presidential campaign. In the interview with Iyobosa Uwugiaren, he addressed sundry national issues, especially the unfolding political events in the country. Excerpts:

As the DG of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Organisation in Edo State, what are the chances of PDP winning election in the state?
Our chances are very bright. Some months ago, people were worried that we were not doing much. But in the past few weeks, that has changed. We have been able to do rallies in the three senatorial districts and we have also gone round most of the local government headquarters. We are also doing ward rallies in some places and in some places we are doing house-to-house and street-to-street campaign.

Today, we played host to our Vice-Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, who had an interactive session with a lot of professionals and associations in the state. All these outings have been overwhelming in terms of turnout and in terms of support. The issue is very simple: the APC has to justify their election four years ago. Four years ago, they promised to turn the country around. They talked about change and how in some few months everything will change.

They told us in three months Boko Haram will be a thing of the past. They told us in six months the power problem will be fixed. They told us there was no need for subsidy, that it is a fraud. They told us they had the know-how to give Nigerians three million jobs annually. They told us the naira/dollar rate was ridiculous, that they would bring it down. They made so many promises: pump price was too high; and Nigerians were impressed and they won the election. But, four years has come and the question is, are you better off?

Of course, there is nothing they promised that they have been able to fulfill. But even beyond that, between the time that they vilified the PDP and now, which one is better? How much was a bag of rice now? Can you sleep now? Only today we heard that a former member of the Edo State House of Assembly, a good friend of mine and nice gentleman, who is contesting again for House of Assembly for APC, has been kidnapped, right in his own house, not on the road – not on highway.

So, the insecurity is now getting to our doorstep. It is no longer far because sometimes, they would say that part of the road is dangerous or that time of the day. But now, even your own house is not safe. I am sorry to be using it as an example but sometimes we must point to what is factual. We saw the governor of Borno State in tears recently. I didn’t see him in tears during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s time. I heard the governor of Zamfara State actually saying that they should declare a state of emergency in his state, because the situation has gotten out of hand. Yet, insecurity was a major point in their three-point agenda of APC.

But they still claim to have done so much in reducing insecurity in Nigeria compared to what happened before the 2015 general election. Isn’t that correct?
That is not true. If the country was bad as they tried to paint it, how come INEC was able to declare election results in the 36 state, especially in Borno State? INEC did not abandoned Borno and they did not abandoned Adamawa, they did not abandon Yobe and incidentally, these are states that the APC won! So, it would have been strategic for PDP to even use insecurity as a basis not to do election in those states.
But former President Jonathan asked for time to deal with the situations and they said they ordered for security equipment that they believed would assist to deal with that situation very quickly and really, the moment the equipment arrived, people saw the Boko Haram seriously being put on the defensive and before we knew it, the areas became safe enough to do elections and elections were done.
So, for anybody to say that the situation now is better than when we handed over is ridiculous, because by the time we handed over, Boko Haram had virtually been reduced to almost nothing. If you say it is not true, then how did you get the results you got? Is there any local government in Yobe, Borno or Adamawa states where results were not declared? I am not aware.

So, it means that President Goodluck Jonathan did a yeoman’s job – a great job. But today, we know there are states under the control of Boko Haram and this is a government that came out publicly to say that Boko Haram had been decimated. And later on when people started asking, they said that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated.” That is the new word. I don’t know the difference between ‘defeated’ and ‘technically defeated’.
May be what they meant was that theoretically, Boko Haram has been defeated but practically, they are still fighting them, because I am still trying to understand that word ‘technically defeated’. But, the reality is that Boko Haram is still very strong in our territories. Before they said they were looking for soft targets but we know they are still controlling territories.

The argument of the APC government at the federal level is that the administration has not been able to perform the way it expected or the way the government promised, because PDP government left virtually nothing for them in the treasury. Is that strong enough an excuse?
You know that is not true. The records are there. When they came in, the economy was not in recession. It is their policies and their statements that created the downturn that we experienced. And of course, the President’s statements about Nigerians, especially outside the country, have also not helped investments into Nigeria, because a President, who continues to make derogatory statements about their people cannot expect foreign investors to come in. And of course, their policies have been extremely inconsistent.

So, there is the capital flight – there is no inflow coming in. So, what do you expect? The reality is that they have not performed well. When you hear some of the amount they claim to have recovered, the billions they boast about, what are they keeping these monies for, when inflation is growing every day? Why are these monies not ploughed back into the system? All the monies they got back from Abacha, what have they spent them on?

They said they are spending it to feed children in schools. But, I have been trying to find a school in Edo State, where these meals are served that is costing the federal so much billions. I am yet to identify one school in Edo State that is benefitting from this kind of scheme. And I asked myself, is it that they now discriminate with our commonwealth? Edo is a principal contributor to that commonwealth. We are an oil-producing state. We have the highest gas reserves in this country. So, if they are feeding school children, Edo State should be among.

In any event, Edo cannot be among those he termed unfriendly states that should suffer, because they did not vote for him. At least, the governor is APC. One should have thought that if some states were to be favoured, Edo State too would be favoured more so, that the two chairmen that APC has had now in a row are from this state. But I don’t know the schools. The money that they have gotten, what are they using it for? Oil has had a good price per barrel for some time now, what have they done with the money?

If you look at the trillions of naira they have borrowed in the past two years for capital projects, you will be shocked. Where are these capital projects? Where are they? And is Edo State no longer among the 36 states in the federation that the federal government will borrow trillions of naira and Edo State will not benefit in terms of these projects? The biggest APC project that I know of in Edo State is the so-called five-star hospital former governor Adams Oshiomhole, who is their national chairman built, which President Buhari came to commission with fanfare.

But years after, the hospital is still not functional. The president came to commission a building that was called a hospital. A building that has no hospital equipment, a building that had no doctors, no nurses and yet, a president came to that building and commissioned it. That, again, tells you the inadequacies of the president, because a man who is competent and has capacity, will do a thorough inspection of a place your name is being associated with. But, the president came there, they capitalised on his ill-health, took him to the reception and one or two places and gave him the impression that everywhere was fully equipped and he commissioned it. Until today, the place is not functional.

What does Atiku/Obi Presidency mean to Nigeria?
It means hope; it means better education; it means job opportunities; it means restructuring; it means respect for the rule of law; it means peace and unity of Nigerians, and equal opportunity of Nigerians irrespective of tribe and religion or place of origin. The only way things can change in this country is for this change to happen, because there is a huge difference between where we are now and where we ought to be. I have the greatest respect for Pastor Osinbajo. We are both from the same church. He is a pastor, I am a pastor.

But the reality is that under the times we are in now and considering the fact a vice president is the chairman of the National Economic Council, we need somebody who is vast in economic matters – somebody that can turn the situation we are in now around. And even Osinbajo will agree that in the area of economics Peter Obi is head and shoulder above him. In the same way, there is no way he can compare Atiku and Buhari. Buhari is spent. With the greatest respect to him, Buhari should be enjoying retirement. Buhari has clearly shown that he is not fit and that he no longer has what it takes to rule a country like Nigeria.

He cannot even rule an organisation let alone a country as vast and as complex as Nigeria. Atiku is well-prepared for that job. He has been vice president of this country. He is a leading player in the private sector. Peter Obi had been governor for eight years. We are all aware of the economic miracle he performed in Anambra State – the prudence and smartness with which he managed the state’s finances. He is also a major player in the private industry. So, with these two men combine, there is no doubt that our economy will have a new lease of life and you know too that a lot of the things we suffer today, like insecurity are tied to the very bad economic situation.

In the midst of hopelessness arising from no jobs, our youths become easy targets for those who want to recruit for all kinds of terrorist and criminal activities. Atiku and Obi will get Nigeria working again, will engage our youth by creating jobs that will engage them. If these youths are working, you will find a drastic decline in some of the challenges we are facing right now with security.

The presidential election is a few weeks away. What in your opinion is this election about?
The choice is very serious. If we maintain the status quo, then this country is doomed. So, this election is about the survival of Nigeria. This election is about the survival of the rule of law; this election is about putting an end to tyranny and dictatorship; this election is about putting an end to deceit, lies and propaganda. This election is about ensuring freedom of worship; this election is all about ensuring that the principle of federal character is respected in our country, because what we have seen in the past three and a half years is terrifying.

The judiciary has been bastardised; the National Assembly has been humiliated; the press has been caged; political parties have been prosecuted and Nigerians are in captivity. So, this election is: do we want to continue in bondage or do we want freedom? I don’t think anybody who has opportunity will choose to remain in chains. Nigerians want to be free. Nigerians know that they have been deceived, and Nigerians see this election as the only legitimate way to remove the chains that is all over them.

But, going by what happened in the governorship polls in Edo, Ekiti and Osun States, is there hope for free, fair and credible elections?
You know when somebody continues to cheat you, oppress you, continues to steal from you, in a particular manner, after your initial lamentation you begin to think, assess, evaluate and strategise on what needs to be done. We took a lot of things for granted, we trusted INEC; we thought the rules will be honoured – free and fair. But, having realised that we are dealing with very unscrupulous elements that would do anything to remain in power, this election cannot be business as usual. In this election, we are mobilising our members to be extremely vigilant. In the election, Nigerians will resort to self-help if those in authority decide to pervert the law. Thank God the international communities have begun to issue warnings, realising that Nigeria is now in bondage, issuing warning to those in authorities and those entrusted with the task of doing the elections.

Their irregularity will not be tolerated. Manipulation will not be tolerated. Intimidation will not be tolerated. So, I can assure you that we are going to take steps to follow the process. There will be no breathing space for those who think they can manipulate the process. And I want to just advise them: money is sweet but money without life is useless. They may need to be careful not to go and endanger themselves, because Nigerians have had it and they should not go and allow Nigerians take laws into their own hands.

The best thing that can happen to all of us is to allow the genuine winner to emerge without attempting to change results. So, we are going to follow it. I’ve learnt a lot of things and we are not going to trust them – as we did in the past. We will not go home until the results are publicly announced and of course, we must have copies to take home, so that even when they want to change it, at least we have the original results. A lot of things were taken for granted in the past; I can assure you it won’t happen again.

What roles would you want your people to play here in ensuring free, free and credible elections?
The first thing is that they must go and collect their PVCs. It is not enough to say I registered but I have not bothered to collect my PVC. Please, don’t be too busy to leave your PVC with INEC.

If you leave it with INEC, you are giving opportunity for unscrupulous men and women to go and collect them. Two, you must come out to vote. There are some people trying to discourage Nigerians from coming out to vote. First, they tried to say elections will be violent. It will not be violent. God will take control. And if there would be violence at all, it will be those who perpetuate violence that will suffer the consequences of that action. Peace-loving people should not be afraid. They should come out and vote.

There are also those who will say “the result will not count, so, why go and waste your time.” No! It would count. Let us not give up on Nigeria, because if we stay back with the mindset that the result will not count, then, we are finished. It means that our democracy has become a sham. It means that our election is no longer necessary. It means that those who say we elected them are only laughing at us because there was no election. So, we must not believe that our votes will not count. Our votes will count. We must come out in large numbers.

Let me tell you this, rigging becomes almost impossible when people come out in large numbers. It is when you don’t come out that you allow people to manipulate the excess ballot papers that have not been used. If 500 people were registered in a place and only 40 turned out, so there are 460 sheets to play with, and by the time the result comes out, in spite of the fact that all the media announced that the turnout was very poor, the result will then show that there was 90 per cent turnout. Nobody queries this kind of things.

So, when you come out you make it impossible for dubious people to manipulate the elections. If we have 90 per cent turnout then, that means even if they are going to play any game at all it can only be with 10 per cent. With 90 per cent right there on the field how are you going to use that 10 per cent? It is impossible. So, Nigerians must come out. So, the first thing I want to beg our people is that they must come out in large numbers. And, that is one of the messages that we have been preaching in the churches, in the mosques and in the offices.

The National Chairman of APC is from Edo State. Recently, when they organised a rally here in Edo State, he was quoted as saying that once you join APC, your sins are forgiven. How did you situate his statement?

Well, he was saying the truth, an embarrassing truth, a shameful truth, a statement that is loaded and shows why the corruption fight is just a political statement, and of course, he is one of the beneficiaries. There is a huge volume of petition written against him at the EFCC and ICPC, and it is has been there since 2016. The moment he finished his office, the thing was submitted, listing his assets and atrocities and they refused to do anything. To the extent that the author of that petition had to go to court to compel EFCC to investigate that matter and they have been busy defending and saying they cannot be compelled.

He came to Benin City and God just opened his mouth to tell us the truth. The Bible says “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” So, he told you the truth. He came to Benin and told us the ‘reason nobody can arrest me’ but they can arrest the Chief Justice of Nigeria, they can arrest the Senate President, they can arrest Pastor Ize Iyamu, but the reason they cannot arrest Adams Oshiohmole is that I am in APC. I have not only told you I am in APC, I am also their National Chairman and once you are in APC, no criminal allegation against you can be investigated.

He said it and nobody, till now, including the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) has cautioned him to say that it is a reckless statesmen; it is not true. So, it is clear to us that what he said was a policy statement of the APC that as long as you join the party, one of the fundamental benefits of being an APC member, is that you are immune from criminal or civil prosecution in Nigeria. Nothing can happen to you. So, that is it.