‘I am One of Those who Energised APC in Edo State’

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Osagie Ize-Iyamu

Adibe Emenyonu holds a discussion with Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu on his recent switch of political party allegiance from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress

With the outcome of the 2016 governorship election which you lost to the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, it was expected that you said bye-bye to partisan politics. What informed your return in this grand style?

I never said I have resigned from partisan politics. It is just that I chose to be quiet to allow the governor to work. I believe that there is time to politic and also time to govern. Having gone though the election processes, through Court processes up to the Supreme Court, I immediately congratulated the governor because I felt I should give him the opportunity to perform and that was why in the past three years, I deliberately didn’t make any comment so as not to be seen as interfering or even criticising the governor and his government.

But I never announced in any form that I have resigned from politics. If I want to do so, it will not be a secret matter. It will be made public. To be frank with you, I have not resigned from politics.

Talking in respect of the rally that became controversial between your Group and Edo State Government over the propriety or otherwise which eventually took place in your compound, there is this insinuation that your coming back to APC was a ploy by the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to bring you in and dump Governor Obaseki. Is that true?

You know the misunderstanding between the governor and the APC National Chairman was even there before I decided to join. So nobody can accuse me of of being the cause. It will also be wrong to say I am now the person to be used for any replacement.
The reality is that I am one of those who energised APC in Edo State. Even though I left, there are still persons within the group who wished I shouldn’t have left; and asked me to come back.

I am a Pastor. Time is a healer of wound. I must forgive those who offended me, in the same way those I have offended should forgive me overtime. So I looked at the appeals from here and there and most of my people were no longer too comfortable in the PDP. They felt it is not the best platform to realise their own objective. So I had a lot of pressure from within and outside that we should return back. That was what led to our eventual coming back to APC.

On the other hand, Adams Oshiomhole as the national chairman was glad to hear that my people and I are coming back which of course is a natural thing having been former members of APC.

Besides, most of the leaders in APC, I personally encouraged them to come into the party. There is no major player then in PDP as the dominant party that did not join especially when Oshiomhole was declared winner by the court through me.
Before then, we knew we needed a strong candidate and so we went appealing to those in PDP to come.
But this time around there, is a lot of apprehension, stories here and there but I think in any political party, the more members you have the better for you because it is a game of numbers and that is why it is better to welcome as many people as will want to join. To begin to refuse people and question the methodology and which means they are coming into the party is wrong.

Still talking about apprehension and motives for joining the party from government quarters, have you been able to reach out to the state governor to assuage his fears?

Well, I have sent out a ‘Thank You’ message which was repeatedly aired on radio and television stations and published in newspapers. In the message, I seriously assured him that I hold him and the office of the Governor of the state in high esteem; that I am not coming to APC to create problems, but coming to see how I can add value to the party itself. I needed to do that to reassure him that in spite of what played out, there is no bitterness, no anger. That I still see it as an apprehension and misunderstanding. I believe that with time, he will realise I mean no harm by coming back to APC. It is just that he did not create an avenue for us to talk. If he had created that avenue a lot of the fears raised would not have been there. But when you refuse to create such avenues and work on assumptions, it is very easy for tension to take over. I look forward to the governor inviting me to say, ‘Pastor, come let’s discuss’ and I will gladly oblige.

You know the security arrangement around a governor is not something you can just walk up to him except when invited. I respect the protocol around him. Anytime he wants me certainly I will make myself available.
By registering as a member of the party, any assignment or sacrifice I can do to salvage the image of the party, I am ready to do that.

Assuming the party says come and contest the primaries, won’t you oblige?

For now, you are working on assumption. However, I am not in politics to be docile. If in the past I could contest the governorship, honestly speaking, I see nothing wrong for me to contest again.
If the opportunity beckons, I will be hypocritical to say no. But at the same time, if the question should also be that if the party says someone else should be the party candidate, will Pastor move? The answer is no.

When I moved to PDP, people asked me saying, “assuming the party deny you ticket, what will you do?” I categorically told them I will stay. It is not a question of if you don’t get the party ticket. The truth is that I am in politics to be of service to my people. To be able to access government for the benefit of my people so whatever role I can play to achieve that I will not shy away because I have passed the stage of looking for political appointment having served as Chief of Staff, Secretary to State Government. If you ask me to take commissioner position I will rightly tell you no! But any other area I can be useful, I will gladly do that.

Is it true according to some school of thought that you left the PDP for APC to evade EFCC prosecution because you were fingered in the 2015 former President Jonathan alleged misappropriation of campaign fund?

If that be the case probably I would have left a long time ago but I didn’t do so. To be honest with you, even the trend today does not suggest that those who left the opposition party for APC have been shielded from prosecution. Look at the recent case of a Senator and former governor of a state that decamped from PDP to APC and today he is in jail. So, that you left the opposition for APC does not stop prosecution if your case has merit. I don’t think by joining the political party in government any case you have in court is closed. The issue is that I belonged to the party before, left and decided to come back.

People should understand that life is dynamic more so that I have a lot of friends in the ruling party who are telling me to come back, that Pastor shouldn’t have left. If you look back, there was ideological incompatibility though we are not talking about that now because then I left in anger and you know anyone who is angry, it takes time for the anger to evaporate. So, what has happened now is not strange and it depends on what the objective is.

Some people are trying to make so much noise as if moving from one party to another is a evil or strange. Mention any party that has not witnessed this kind of trend. There is no law that says if you belong to one political party, you cannot cross to another. The constitution allows freedom of association and the truth is that our political parties have not reached that level where you can say they are ideologically distinct from one another. Looking at any of them you cannot say this one is leftist, this one is rightist, socialist or welfarist in composition.

Basically, they are made up of individuals who come together to see how they can access government for the betterment of their people. A lot of time it depends on the ideology, the manifesto one has to determine where you will be.
I have come with a very good public intention and I have no doubt of chosing what I want to do or where I want to be.

Assuming you are a governor, how would you have handled the scenario that played out on Friday, December 13, 2019?

As a governor, I will dialogue and avoid too much confrontation that played out. There is nothing one cannot achieve through dialogue. If you look at the whole situation basically, the bottom line is whether or not the governor should be allowed to go for a second term. Now, nobody can stop him from contesting if he wants to contest. But whether he will enjoy the support of the party members depends on his relationship with them. It is not something you get by force.
I think because he enjoys some level of government support in this first term, that is why there is this apprehension and controversy now.

It appears that those who supported before are not willing to support him again.
But even at that, he cannot get their support by confrontation or force because it can only be achieved through dialogues, appeals and persuasions.
Just like he has the right to contest, the people have the right to support whoever they want to support. So I think he should do more of persuasive appeal and not this fighting he is doing.

Among all the players, he is the one who has the most responsibility to ensure there is peace in the state. All these distractions are not good for him and the state. Investors and strangers coming into the state will be alarmed about the political tension and that cannot augur well for him. One of his greatest selling points should be to ensure peace is achieved. Nobody will want to hear that in your first tenure, you were distracted and that was the reason you did not perform.

He has the right to fight or not to fight. If he chooses to fight, he should be ready to bear the consequences because for me, politics thrives in a peaceful atmosphere. So he must ensure there is peace in Edo State.

Some people indicated their interest to come to your party and before that, they made it clear that they are not coming to join any of the factions and those in government said no because those coming did not come through them and because of that, those coming should be stopped. I think that is what is lacking. They are busy beating the drums of war and not making any attempt to douse the tension and appeal to people.

If people are aggrieved, it is not enough to tell them to go. What should be done is to dialogue with them. As governor, he should continue to engage those who are aggrieved to ensure that whatever is the problem is solved. But when you avoid meetings and all you do is to read out press statements and many of which are very inflammatory accusations and counter accusations, it becomes counter productive.

As he is doing so, time is fast approaching. He is not going to postpone the primaries because before you know it will be staring him in the face. If this lack of understanding or misunderstanding continues, when primaries come, he will still find out that those people who are against him are still against him because there is no way at that time he can stop them. So the earlier he puts in place a mechanism to resolve all the issues the better.

Again, people who are coming to solve the problems should be embraced. He can say okay, for those who newly joined the party come and help me resolve this internal crisis some of us will help since we have said it from the word go that we are not coming to join any faction. Even if he won’t be there, he can delegate some of his trusted subordinates to cooperate and see how we can work out something good. You will be surprised that if he follows that system, there will be peace.

Once again, I advice that he should try to dialogue, make peace because I don’t see anything difficulty in doing that because in politics, there is bound to be disagreements. This is not the first time it is happening in our state or elsewhere but what is important is the ability to resolve them and move on. But that is lacking at the moment and I don’t know why.

It was surprise that stalwarts like former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Tom Ikimi who is one of your political allies was not at that rally that eventually held in your compound, what really happened?

Chief Tom Ikimi is a every strong leader in his own right. In any case, I never told anybody that he is my supporter. He is somebody I have great respect for who has his own convictions. So for anybody to think that if I am moving, he will automatically move with me is wrong. He has the right to look at the political situation to decide what is best for him.

If you recall when we left in 2014, he didn’t move immediately with us. But later, he had his own disagreement and later left. So, that he is not following us is nothing new. He has the right to remain where he is but we are still friends who have mutual respect for each other and we still relate. He understands why we have to do what we did by moving away from the PDP and why he still remains in the party. Politics is very dynamic and it is not compulsory that we must be on the same platform always.

QUOTE:

the bottom line is whether or not the governor should be allowed to go for a second term. Now, nobody can stop him from contesting if he wants to contest. But whether he will enjoy the support of the party members depends on his relationship with them. It is not something you get by force.

I think because he enjoys some level of government support in this first term, that is why there is this apprehension and controversy now.

It appears that those who supported before are not willing to support him again.