Conversations Around Ize-Iyamu’s Ambition

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu

As the campaign for the September 19 Edo State governorship election heats up, there are boiling conversations around the All Progressives Congress candidate, Pastor Osagie –Ize-Iyamu’s ambition, writes Iyobosa Uwugiaren

For those very close to him, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu didn’t return to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November last year with the sole purpose of running for the Edo State governorship election.

“Let me say straightway that it was Governor Godwin Obaseki’s confrontational style, arrogant posturing, fastened with intimidation, pompousness and holier-than-thou attitudes that forced many leaders of the party in the state to put suffocating pressure on Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to present himself as an alternative to the governor in the September 19 election,” Barrister Odion Obazuaye, a close ally of Ize-Iyamu stated.

The Edo State APC governorship hopeful in the September 19 election was a foundation member of PDP since 1999, before he, along with some members of the party, were deregistered ahead of the 2007 general election, because of what insiders attributed to “political disagreement with some forces” within the party.

While in PDP between 1999 and 2007, Ize-Iyamu headed a powerful pressure group known as the “Grace Group”, and when the opportunity came for PDP to do registration, some forces felt that the best way to reduce the influence of the group was to deregister many of its leaders, and Ize-Iyamu and others became victims of PDP’s interminable squabble.

That seeming injustice melted out to Ize-Iyamu and others, according to some political analysts, forced them to work for the formation of what is today known as the APC.
In a way, many political watchers in the state see his return to APC late last year as “returning to a house he helped to build”, because of a very strategic role he played in the APC registration and formation in Edo State and in the country.

And when again in 2014, he left APC, along with his huge followers, it may not necessary because of any ideological difference but also on certain political disagreement. They might have felt that some of their members were not well treated, and consequently, took a collective decision to leave the party.
While in PDP, Ize-Iyamu played strategic roles for the party, especially in many of the elections conducted. He was the Director-General of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Campaign Organisation in the 2015 general election. And in spite of the fact that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was then APC incumbent governor in Edo State and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun national Chairman of the party, he delivered Edo State to PDP with nearly 60 % votes.

Again, Ize-Iyamu played a similar tactical role in the 2019 presidential election, when he was appointed the Director-General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in Edo State. And, despite the fact that Obaseki was Edo State APC incumbent governor and Oshiomhole national chairman of the ruling party, Ize-Iyamu delivered Edo State to PDP with nearly 70% votes. He ensured that Governor Obaseki lost his polling unit in the Edo South Senatorial district.

For Ize-Iyamu, politics is essentially being able to represent people in the political arena, and an avenue for government with strong belief that it is only through government that a true public office holder can hugely attract social amenities to the people and empowered them.
To be sure, the former Secretary to Edo State Government had consistently told those who cared to listen him that his ambition, as a “responsible and responsive politician”, is to be part of those who take decision so that communities and the people do not suffer for lack of true representation.

However, day after day, while Ize-Iyamu remained in PDP, his suspicious that the party no longer shared his vision and objectives swelled. “It was becoming very frustrating and quite a number of my followers were already frustrated with the attitude of many of those in the PDP,” he stated recently.
And because he was a foundation leader of the APC, there were a lot of overtures both at the state and national levels that he should come back to “the house that he helped to build.” Going by the process that led to his return to APC, last year, Ize-Iyamu did not take that decision without consulting his followers. Perhaps, that is why thousands of PDP members followed him back to APC in November last year.

Arguably, Ize-Iyamu returned to APC along with his followers at a time Governor Obaseki was “waging political war” with his perceived enemies and many leaders of APC in the state. And many political observers had wondered why he contemplated joining a party that was enveloped in crisis.
“No, you cannot because of problems run away from the place your people desire you to be. How are you sure that our presence or going there will not bring peace and reconciliation? And whether you like it or not, they are in government at the state, federal and local government levels,” Ize-Iyamu explained.

Since his intention, according to those very close to him, was not to escalate the problem Obaseki was having with the state party leaders, he was not deterred. He perhaps, knew there were issues, and said the issues were not insurmountable. His argument was that with sincerity, all the challenges could be resolved, while stating that all that is needed, is to get people who can talk to the parties involved and everything will be reconciled.

He might have been encouraged by the fact that no party is perfect – believing that what is happening in Edo State is just a storm in the teacup.
“I want to go there with those who believe in me, because I believe that it is a platform that we built; it is a platform that our people believe can help us to actualise our dream. The issue of governorship is secondary; I have not entered there; I don’t know those who are interested in governorship,” he told journalists last year.
He added: “For me and for now, it is to go into the party, integrate and see what value we can bring in. Then, we leave the rest to God.”

However, the timing of Ize-Iyamu’s return to APC might have created huge apprehension among Obaseki’s loyalists. Ize-Iyamu returned to APC at a time the governor was waging needless political war against his political godfather, Oshiomhole and key leaders of the party in the state. The war became intense that all efforts by well-meaning Nigerians, including the revered Oba of Benin, to make Obaseki see reason for reconciliation were allegedly turned down by Obaseki.

At a point a respected traditional ruler in the Benin Palace, said that the “arrogant governor” stopped picking Oba Ewuare II’s phone calls. For sons and daughters of Edo State, Obaseki’s action was sacrilegious. This forced the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’ Edo, Ewuare II, to plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly intervene in the feud between Obaseki and Oshiomhole.

“Mr President, we as traditional rulers in Edo State are concerned about the crisis between Oshiomhole, APC National Chairman and Governor Obaseki of Edo State, and Edo State House of Assembly.
“If this crisis is not resolved now with immediate effect, it may jeopardise the progress of the state. On behalf of the good people of Edo State, we kindly appeal to Mr President to use your good offices to intervene and stop this crisis”, the Oba stated, when he led a delegation of traditional rulers to the Villa last year.
While Oba Ewuare II was seriously concerned about peace and unity in Edo State, many sons and daughters of the state saw it as an attempt to demystify the well-respected Benin Palace.

“Why would Governor Obaseki force our respected Oba to plead with the President to intervene in his war against APC leaders? It shows Obaseki’s disrespect for our Oba. There is no crisis or dispute that is too enormous for our Oba to resolve. It shows Obaseki is not a true son of Benin,” a university scholar, Dr. Ogieva Osarodion lamented.

While Obaseki may have his reasons for biffing Oshiomhole and some other APC leaders in the state, not many political observers doubt that but for the maturity displayed by Oshiomhole, “the governor’s intimidation, pompousness and holier-than-thou attitudes” would have created uncontrollable crisis in the state.
Already, apart from the huge opposition that is confronting him in the state, Obaseki’s seemingly snobbishness is already instigating interminable squabble within his party – as the September 19 election draws nearer.
One of the spokesmen of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in the 2019 general election, Prince Kassim Afegbua, in a recent statement gave reasons why the candidate of his party, Governor Obaseki, will not enjoy his support.

“Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s comportment and diligence at delivering responsibilities, sense of organisation and marksmanship, are direct opposite of Governor Obaseki’s combative style, laced with blackmail, pretentiousness and over sanctimonious.
“Democracy talks about constructive engagement and collective bargaining. It preaches inclusion not exclusion. It reinforces participation, involvement and collectiveness. Governor Obaseki is the opposite of what an ideal democratic situation should be. His politics is destructive, exclusive, and demonising”, he stated.

In the statement titled “Obaseki Remains A Bad Omen For PDP”, Afegbua, who served in the same cabinet with Obaseki during Adams Oshiomhole-led Edo State government, accused Governor Obaseki of demolishing his political opponents’ houses, terrorising the populace, intimidating opponents and radicalising the youths as a mark of magisterial presence.

The former commissioner of information in Edo State added: “Governor Obaseki dishes out ingratitude in place of gratitude, a simple thank you becomes abominable in his elocution, as he gleefully spends tax-payers money to fight imaginary wars. Such a candidate cannot enjoy my support.”

However, there are those who believe that the manner, in which a “sitting governor” was denied a ticket and forced out of APC, might have attracted sympathy for Obaseki in the state. Some people interviewed in state said that their support for the governor was based on the way Oshiomhole treated him.

“Ordinarily, I don’t have anything against Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu; he is a good man. But I am voting Obaseki in the coming election, because of the way Oshiomhole treated Governor Godwin Obaseki. You cannot humiliate a sitting governor like that”, a University of Benin student, Idemudia Osayuware stated.
One thing is obvious in the coming election, the contest is between Oshiomhole and the governor; it is a contest between two sons of Edo State – from the same South senatorial district.