‘If Obaseki Thinks He Has Performed, He Should Prepare to Run Against Ize-Iyamu’

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John Mayaki

Adibe Emenyonu holds conversation with Mr. John Mayaki,  Director of Communication and Media to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation. Mayaki previously served as  ex-Chief Press Secretary to Governor Godwin Obaseki and  one of the media assistants to former Governor Adams Oshiomhole

What is your take on the controversy trailing the mode of primary that was  adopted by the APC in selecting the party’s flagbearer in the September 19 governorship election?

There is no controversy other than the fact that Governor Godwin Obaseki and his co-travelers have continued in their anti-party act of undermining the leadership of the All Progressives Congress. The National Working Committee, according to the constitution, is the body empowered to conduct and prescribe the mode of primaries. And they have decided that the more inclusive and democratic direct mode is what should be adopted in Edo State. But because Obaseki is desperate to hide from the assessment of party members he has badly treated since his emergence, he protested the decision, disguising concerns for his own personal political survival as a public health issue using COVID-19. If that’s the controversy you’re talking about, it is understandable.

Again, I have also listened to the Deputy Governor, Philip Shuaibu on television where he called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the governors to come conduct the primaries in the state and I was wondering if the deputy governor is unable to distinguish between internal party politics, democracy and governance especially in the conduct of party primaries which is the responsibility of the party’s National Working Committee.

The Governor too is also said to have sought the assistance of his fellow governors in the APC to help intervene, asking for indirect party primaries. That’s a man who claims to be fighting ‘godfatherism’, it is astonishing that Obaseki is now pleading for an ‘enthronement’ instead of a clearly defined democratic process based on popular choice.

I do not see any controversy because those whose responsibility it is to decide the type of primaries the party would conduct in Edo state have gone ahead to say so and we expect Obaseki and Philip Shaibu to prepare themselves for the exercise and stop fidgeting and setting the rules for an examination in which they are students.

Eighteen Local Government chairmen have said that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is not a member of the party in the state. Don’t you think their argument is valid?

Let’s not attach importance to the political theatre that these people are staging. How can you say an aspirant who got the endorsement of virtually all respected and capable leaders of the party in Edo State is not a member? As Vice-Chairman of the Committee that drafted the constitution of the APC at its founding stage when the likes of Obaseki were nowhere to be found, Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu has a clear, robust understanding of the party rules. When he made the decision to return home, he satisfied all conditions required to be a registered member and there is an abundance of evidence to back this. What those people did that day was orchestrated by the governor. We have it on good authority that they are not even local government chairmen, but chairmen of Obaseki-Shaibu Movement (OSM), a political pressure group within APC in the 18 council areas were all induced to sign the said statement and are even being pressured to proceed to court. This was Obaseki’s plan all along and that was why he tried to frustrate the return of Pastor through different means, including using state agencies and issuing arbitrary bans to block a ceremonious rally held by the party last year.

Let me quickly add this, do you need to bribe local government party chairmen or whoever they claim to be to deny a member of party membership? Or induce anyone to disclaim the membership of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and you begin to ask yourself, why this desperation? It is not in their place to determine the membership of anyone in the party; it is the national secretariat of the party that has the final say on the membership of anyone in the party and not a few hungry guys who sold their conscience to the governor just to clinch a second term ticket. For me, this is democracy and it is the more, the merrier. If the governor thinks he has performed, provided the 200,000 jobs he promised, and he is popular among the people, he should stop these shenanigans and prepare for the elections.

How will you react to the claim that only the NEC can grant  a waiver to Ize-Iyamu and not NWC?

Proponents of this claim are people who have a poor understanding of the party constitution and they keep exposing their ignorance with this ill-advised challenge of Pastor Ize Iyamu’s membership. To address this issue comprehensively, it must be stated that the National Working Committee has long been given the powers to draw up guidelines for party primaries and this includes the power to grant waivers where necessary to a person who is not ordinarily otherwise qualified to seek elective office on the party’s platform. In the case of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the waiver was just a political act meant to symbolize his reunion with his political family. As a duly registered member of the party, he is already, by party constitution, free to be nominated for elective post on its platform and this has been affirmed by the party leadership with a final say on the matter. Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is neither new to politics nor the rules of the APC. He was Vice-Chairman of the Committee that drafted the rules. So those making ignorant claims should come to him for guidance.

There’s nothing wrong if anyone wants to live in self delusion over this matter. If Governor Obaseki and Philip Shaibu think they can blackmail the leadership of the party to gain sympathy, they are joking. Obaseki cannot be governor of Edo state and at the same time attempt to be the National Chairman of the party by dictating how his own election should be conducted. It smacks of arrogance, party indiscipline and anti-party activities.

Some party chieftains such as Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Deputy National Chairman, Lawal Shuaibu claimed the primary was  biased with Oshiomhole as National chairman. What is your reaction to that?

Both leaders of APC you have mentioned are merely using the situation to voice their personal vendetta against the National Chairman for reasons best known to them. We know that the grouse of Chief Oyegun against Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is still not over; the fact that he lost his position even though under his leadership, the party was thrown into a cesspit of disorderliness, indiscipline, and was on the path of losing the general election but for the quick intervention of members who unanimously agreed that he should not recontest. The logic they are employing here is, to be blunt, not sound. If we stretch it further, can we also ask Obaseki to relinquish the powers of his office as Governor pending the completion of the election because he is also an active contender and should not have such an advantage? At least, in Obaseki’s case, there are clear proofs of him using the powers of state to tilt the balance in his favor. For all we know, the National Chairman has been fair in his dealings to all. The only person that has a problem with his fairness is Governor Godwin Obaseki who, like in 2016, wants him to use his personal influence to help him win.

In your honest opinion, do you think Governor Obaseki has performed creditably enough to get a second term?

I think the answer to that is obvious. Obaseki has spent the last three years and more trying to build a political dynasty of his own at the expense of governance. As we speak, 14 members-elect of Edo Assembly are denied the chance to represent their constituencies because the governor, in complete disregard of separation of powers and independence of the arms of government, wants a pliable assembly that exists only to approve his requests without checks. Resources of government are channeled to the illegal harassment of critical voices and those with different political opinions while important projects are abandoned or poorly executed. Obaseki’s actions for a week now is a good summary of his administration. He claims to care about the public health of the state, yet in the middle of the pandemic, he relocated to Abuja where he is pursuing a personal political agenda using state resources. Is that what a responsible governor should do?

He promised Gelegele seaport, we have not seen that. He promised 200,000 jobs, we are yet to see any. He promised one health centre in each of the local government areas, that is yet to come. He promised agri-millionaires when he invested over N600 million on Sobe farms but that was just another means of siphoning public funds. He promised N200 million industrial park, we are yet to see that and it’s about 4 months to the expiration of his administration. Obaseki promised mini-stadia in each of the local government area, Obaseki has failed in providing that. He promised to create model farms in the 18 local government areas 6 months into his administration, Obaseki has failed in this regard. Obaseki has signed over 23 MoUs, as we speak, these are still in the realm of planning and promises. It is 4 months to election, Obaseki is still promising, planning and campaigning rather than inviting President Muhammadu Buhari for project commissioning, Obaseki is inviting the President to come conduct party primaries. Rather than swear in elected members of the State House of Assembly, Obaseki is passing budgets and screaming commissioners with 10 members instead of 24. Obaseki has derailed and failed as a governor who has shutdown tertiary institutions in the state, the Governor who shutdown the 5-Star Central Hospital built by his benefactor whereas, Obaseki is yet to build a clinic or a six classroom block of school.

What will Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu bring to the table if elected as the governor of the state?

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has a simple agenda focused on Security and Social Welfare, Infrastructure Development and Urban renewal, Manpower development and Training, Public/Private Partnership, Leadership, and Employment creation and empowerment. At present, there is a lot of tension in the state arising from the Governor’s sad intolerance and scant regard for the rule of law. This has negatively impacted the state’s ability to attract investments. So high on the list of Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s agenda is to restore order through the improvement of security to put a stop to the ugly situation where sitting Commissioners are kidnapped in broad daylight. His goal is to win back the confidence of investors as that is crucial to revenue generation. As a man who shares deep roots with the people of the state, he is also deeply worried by the rising poverty, especially in rural communities where Obaseki has ordered a media blackout. Hence, he has prepared a draft of policy programmes that will open up these communities, empower the people, and provide gainful engagement that will serve the twin-purpose of eradicating poverty and building competence. Furthermore, you know Pastor Ize-Iyamu is a farmer, so he has clear and practical plans on how to grow the agriculture sector in the state, unlike the failed Agripreneur programme of Governor Obaseki. That programme cost the state billions, yet it failed so spectacularly, the governor cannot even campaign on it.

Some stakeholders are calling for President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention in this issue. What is your take on that?

I think it is important to clarify the nature of the ‘intervention’ they are calling for. What these stakeholders are asking is for the President to use the powers of his office to give them an unearned advantage in an election. This is a local election and it is sad that Governor Godwin Obaseki who won’t keep quiet about his supposed popularity is the same person sponsoring calls for due processes to be subverted and he be handed a ticket on a platter without the input of those he claims to have led well. President Muhammadu Buhari is a respecter of democracy and the will of the people. Not minding his widespread acceptance in the party, all the times he stood for election, President Buhari went through a primary process and legitimized his candidacy with an internal election that he contested and won. So if these people are calling for him to “intervene” when all they have been asked to do is to submit themselves to the assessment of the party and its members, what exactly do they want the President to do? Rig the process in their favour? It is an irresponsible clamour and honestly, they should all be called to order. They must show respect for the office of the President and stop being sources of distraction when the President’s full attention is required to deal with the complexity of the times we are in.

How best do you think the election can be managed so that it won’t witness widespread violence as being feared in some quarters?

The first step is in calling Obaseki and his henchmen to order. If you have followed the rhetoric of the governor since the turn of the year, it has been sadly inflammatory and inciting. From proclaiming that his ‘second-term is non-negotiable’, an irresponsible claim that mirrors the ‘do or die’ politics we left behind, to encouraging his followers at a gathering to ‘smoke out’ the opposition from their localities, Governor Obaseki has depicted what ought to be a simple democratic process as war just because he is afraid he is going to lose. In January, the governor assembled thugs in a room and was issuing menacing threats to ‘deal with Oshiomhole’. He even went as far as asking the former governor and National Chairman to obtain his permission before entering the state. This is clearly irresponsible and not what you will expect from a leader. So we have a situation where his thugs and loyalists hear these things and consider it a carte blanche to go on rampage, attacking people’s homes with dynamites and all manner of things. The first step in having a peaceful election lies in reining in on the governor and all stakeholders including INEC and other security officials must be involved in this. It’s an election, one that he can very well lose. Obaseki must admit this hard fact and change his attitude.