By Gabriel Enogholase, Benin-City
AHEAD of the Edo State governorship election holding on Saturday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in this interview, explains why he is in politics despite being a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and his plans for the state if elected into office.
As a pastor of the Redeemed Church, many people think you are not supposed to be involved in politics. Do you think you should be on the podium campaigning for votes or the pulpit talking to the congregation?
The truth is that for a long time, there have been wrong teachings among us Christians. In the past, there was this teaching that rich men cannot make heaven and only poor will make it. So many Christians will shun good jobs and say no, ‘if I take that job, I will not make heaven.’ Later, they realized that there was no scriptural basis for such belief. When Jesus talked about how hard it will be for a rich man to make heaven, he was referring to those who value riches above the things of God, not that rich men cannot make heaven.
Rich men can make heaven if they use their wealth in a manner that will please God. In fact, your riches can guarantee you heaven if well utilised. That was one wrong teaching then and it is also wrong with politics. You say, no, Christians should not be involved in politics but it is through politics that leaders emerge. Are you saying Christians should not be leaders and yet politics and the actions of the leaders affect our daily lives? It is true that in Nigeria, politics is viewed as a dirty game. It is so because we have allowed the wrong people to be in it. When you have bad people in politics, the system will be bad. So, basically, it is because good and decent people do not participate in politics that we are facing what we are facing today. It is time we took the bull by the horn and be active in politics to reverse the trend. As the Bible says, when the righteous rule, the people are happy. I have experience in politics and governance. I was Chief of Staff and former Secretary to Edo State Government. I am a lawyer and a farmer. I have been honored with a Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) by the Benson Idahosa University, Benin-City.
Edo is blessed with solid minerals. What do you plan to do with these assets as governor?
Edo is rich in mineral and agricultural resources. Edo North, for example, is one of the richest senatorial districts in terms of mineral deposits in the country with 18 deposits including gold, marble, limestone, phosphate and many others. Edo State ought to be a land of plenty, but not much has been done to tap these resources. That is why I am appealing to eligible voters in Edo that they have the power to vote me on September 10.
What are your plans if you are elected as governor?
My plans are contained in a brochure called the Simple Agenda. We cannot build a safe and secure state when we have not taken steps to create jobs for our young men and women. I believe government must take care of its responsibility the people before it can have the moral right to ask the people to take care of their responsibility to government. To this end, we will review current tax policies in this state and, in consultation with the people, evolve a simple tax structure. I am prepared from day one to work towards increasing the opportunities for youths to be skilled, to be equipped and to be empowered with small business loans to enhance their ability to prosper. Each of the 192 wards in Edo will have a social welfare officer, who it will the first point of contact on issues of maternal mortality, infant mortality and balanced child nutrition up to the age of five. The officer will visit the people to know how government can help. On infrastructure, we must resolve to build the infrastructure of the mind and soul where brother cares for brother and sister cares for sister and we all care for our senior citizens. We cannot allow our senior citizens retire into penury. On education, we must train our teachers to be the best so that they can change the way they teach. We must equip every school with a computer laboratory to enable our children function and compete with their counterparts across the world. Every Edo student in tertiary institution will be entitled to bursary award.
What about a critical sector like road construction?
We plan to evolve a system that makes our six dry months work for us like 12 months by introducing double shifts in road construction. On health, we will build a healthcare system that is second to none in Nigeria. The 17 per cent maternal and infant mortality rate is not acceptable and must be reversed. We will build and equip primary healthcare centres in every local government across Edo to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of our people. It is estimated that two of every 25 women die of breast cancer every year in the state. Awareness is the key here and early detection makes cure easier. We will build cancer screening centres in every market across the state for early detection. We must protect our women. On manpower development, we will train and equip Edo youths to be the most productive youths in Nigeria. A society that trains its youths is a society that plans to succeed. Changes will be made to our educational curriculum such that every child would pick four different skills to learn from JSS1-JSS3. They would then be required to specialize in one skill from SS1 to SS3. When the child is ready to graduate from secondary school, he will have a WAEC certificate in one hand and a trade diploma in the other. For the unemployed adult and the poor, we will provide a means of livelihood, operate a skill acquisition programme, and a food programme to go along with it.
How do you intend to make Edo attractive to foreign investors?
I plan to engage the private sector in the revitalization of all neglected industries in Edo and in the establishment of new ones. We intend to build industrial clusters in each of the three senatorial zones with ready to go Certificate of Occupancy and a five-year tax holiday. Let it be said in the North, South, East and West and beyond that Edo is open and ready for business. We plan to lead from the front.
There is no better and faster way to create employment than through agriculture. We plan to build agricultural settlements in all three senatorial zones and bring back Commodity Marketing Boards to buy produce from farmers. We plan to put 500,000 hectares under cultivation in the first four years and establish micro-finance companies in every local government in the state