Raheem Akingbolu, Chinedu Eze in Lagos and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Ahead of this Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last night squared up in a debate to unfold their programmes to the people of Edo State.
They spoke on the areas of security, health, agriculture, education, and employment, among others.
The debate, which was monitored by THISDAY in Benin City, capital of Edo State, and Lagos, was an opportunity for the candidates to unveil their plans.
Kicking off the debate, Obaseki explained that in the last four years his administration had employed 157,000 persons and done well in all sectors.
But Pastor Ize-Iyamu disagreed, saying the figure of employment bandied by Obaseki was bogus, adding that schools and hospitals in the state were without teachers and doctors.
According to the moderator, the Human Development Index of the state in 2008 was 0.622 per cent and Edo State stands at 12th out of 36 states.
Also, in 2019, Edo State had a poverty headcount level of sixth out of the 36 states of the federation.
Responding, Obaseki said, “in terms of human capacity and employment, that is one area we believe we have accomplished quite a lot. On the onset, I promised I will raise a minimum of 200,000 jobs within a minimum of a four-year period. And just before COVID-19 pandemic hit, we had created directed and indirect jobs for Edo people – as much as 157,000 jobs.
“And where did the jobs come from? They came from the way the government decided to address the economy. The government’s role is creating an enabling environment for people to come and invest so that the economy can thrive.
But the APC candidate faulted the statistics given by the governor, saying he falsified the data.
According to Ize-Iyamu, “It is sad when the government that should be accurate with figures begins to falsify the figures. If it is true that we have been able to have the number of jobs that the Edo State governor claims, our IGR (internally generated revenue) will not be where it is; there will be a significant leap but I can tell you and they know, it has stagnated.”
Continuing, he said, “I hope the governor is not going to mistake the appointments he is making now as jobs because I know that in the past one month, he has appointed over 200 people as SSAs on social media and the rest of them. Those are not jobs.
“So, when you are talking about jobs, where are the jobs? Who did you give them to? It is sad when government that should be accurate with fact begins to feed our agencies with bogus statistics in an attempt to give an impression that we are doing well when we are not doing well.”
Reacting, Obaseki noted that the data he gave was verifiable, insisting that it was based on a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). According to him: “You can’t just come to a debate and roll out figures, forgetting that everything you say can be googled. When you talk in general terms, understand that people can just google and find out the facts.”
But Ize-Iyamu disagreed, saying, “I think that in the past four years, the economy of Edo has been mismanaged, plundered and all the huge amounts that we receive at the inception of this administration has practically left our state without any serious project to show for it.
“We had the opportunity to diversify our economy. The governor made what I might call a very lame attempt and he failed completely and we are in a very sorry state. During Christmas for example, people were going to Abakaliki to bring rice; they were going to Kebbi to bring rice because there is no rice mill in Edo State.”
On the issue of Obaseki dumping the APC for the PDP following his disqualification from participating in the APC primary that produced Ize-Iyamu as the candidate of the party, the APC candidate alleged that Obaseki’s disqualification bordered on discrepancies in his certificates.
Asked to comment on the matter, Obaseki said, “It is very ironic that someone who has no certificate can stand up and comment on someone whose certificate was issued by the premier university in Nigeria.
He said: “In 1976 when I gained admission into the University of Ibadan, there was no JAMB; you could either go into the university through prelim or through Direct Entry in your advanced level examination. I finished my O’ Level and my Advanced Level. So, I gained admission into the University of Ibadan in 1976.
“I don’t know what has happened but for the University of Ibadan, the standard is still very high and they have come out to say that I graduated from that university. How else do you want to make that clear?
“It is very sad that in a country like Nigeria, some people who do not have the qualifications, have the effrontery to challenge the qualifications of those who went to proper schools. It is sad.”
The APC candidate was also accused of pouring acid on a fellow student when he was an undergraduate at the University of Benin. Ize-Iyamu was also reportedly expelled from the university.
Asked to comment on the issue, Ize-Iyamu said, “I graduated from the University of Benin. I was very active in the students’ union and my records are clear. People have alleged that when you were in school, you did that but I think they should go to the university authorities and find out exactly what was the offence. If you do something very criminal, the university cannot even handle it. And I am proud that throughout my stay, I was not engaged in any criminal matter.”
Facing his rival, Ize-Iyamu fired, “We are not doubting your going to the university; that is not the issue. The issue is, you failed by your own records, you failed your school certificate examination. You had three credits – no English, no Maths, even to enter A’ Level would have been difficult. And if you got A’ Level, why is it that you’ve not been able to present the A Level; where is the result? That is a moral question. A lot of people are looking up to you as a governor and as a leader.
“The question is that you failed your A-Level and that is why you were disqualified and your disqualification arose from information from the PDP, your party now. The PDP, when I was contesting against you (in 2016) said you have no results. Why have you not answered the question? Where are your results?”
Ize-Iyamu also used the platform to score the incumbent low in many areas, including agriculture, security and health services, insisting that the increase in security vote did not translate to investment in security.
On the economic agenda, Obaseki said his predecessor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole borrowed recklessly and that the federal government had to restructure outstanding obligations to the state to the tune of N30 billion.
“My predecessor in office borrowed recklessly and the federal government had to restructure all the debts taken before I came into office. The federal government restructured outstanding obligations to Edo State to the tune of almost N30 billion and that is what was responsible for the debt stock, and not the borrowings from this administration,” he said.
The governor said Edo’s debt moved to N120 billion and that he had been able to reduce the debt stock.
But Ize-Iyamu countered Obaseki, saying that it is scandalous for him to attribute the huge debt to Oshiomhole when he was the Chief Economic Adviser.
“It is scandalous to attribute the huge debt to a predecessor that you were the Chief Economic Adviser to. “Sometimes you seem to forget the role you played in the past government,”Ize-Iyamu said.