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Obaseki did not manage assembly crisis well— Ize-Iyamu

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Says consultations on going whether
to contest governorship election
Expect more defections from PDP

By Ozioruva Aliu

Edo govt rallies parents to send pupils to school as academic activities pick up
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State.

Pastor Osagiue Ize-Iyamu is a founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state but left for the Peoples Democratic Party and contested the 2016 governorship election in Edo State. He recently returned to the APC ahead of 2020 governorship election in the state. In this interview, Pastor Ize-Iyamu disclosed what brought him back to the ruling party and his governorship ambition. He also spoke about the APC crisis in the state.Excerpts:

At the early stage of the APC, you left for the PDP and few weeks ago, you returned to the APC, what necessitated these movements?

You know that I am one of those who formed what is today the APC in Edo state, I also played a role at the formation at the national level and we succeeded in installing Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as governor for first and second term. We had some disagreements in our congresses and because of that, a lot of those who were close to me felt that they were being targeted and there was a lot of anger. So we left out of anger not because of any other matter even though a lot of attempts were made even by Adams Oshiomhole at the last minute to see how we could resolve our differences but it was already too late because we had committed ourselves to go to the other side so we had to go and we left. But that did not mean that the door was shut completely because we still had a lot of friends in the APC who did not like the fact that we were leaving and they kept appealing to us. At the national level, those who knew me were also not happy that we left and there have been consistent appeals that we should come back especially as they knew how passionate we were about good governance and having laboured so hard to put the government in place. It was something that we resisted at the beginning but over time, we had to discuss it extensively and the consensus was that we should return. That was what led to our coming back.

READ ALSO:‘Genuine Edo APC members reside at home not in Abuja’

Now that you are back, what new things are you bringing to the party?
I am very passionate in anything I do and I intend by the grace of God to add value to the APC. Good enough, we are already in government at all levels but as at today too, there are some crisis which had been blown out of proportion and many people even wonder why I should be coming in at a time like this. But I asked that, is it only when things are good that one can return home and when things are bad you abandon it? How are you sure God cannot use you to bring peace, to bring unity and stability. It will be difficult for me to see any major player in APC today that I will say I don’t know, so I believe that I am in a position to help strengthen the party and there are others who are sitting on the fence that my presence will also attract. So, we intend to help settle whatever misunderstanding that exists, we intend to bring in more people into the party, we also need to strengthen the structure of the party to the extent that some of the misunderstanding which we have right now should not happen again in the future. If you have people of character, people of depth, people who understand what party structure means, you will discover that some of these issues can be nipped in the bud. I also intend to share my wealth of experience and make them know that in a family, there will be issues but what makes a family to be unique and successful is the ability to deal with issues as they come and we are going to help make the party stronger than it is now.

Your coming back met some resistance, how are you warming yourself into the hearts of the members of the party?
We will continue to do our best but you must know too that it is also not too surprising. If you are going to a place, there are those who will be excited and there are those who will be apprehensive. It is like when you sign a football player, there are some players who will be very excited, of course the fans will be overjoyed but some other players will be worried and say this player that they just signed, will he not take my position? But if you continue to play well, your position is secured and sometimes, you can complement each other. So, there is really no reason for the apprehension to reach the level of the kind of reactions that somebody tried to put in place when I was coming in. These apprehensions can be there but they can also be discussed and there can be assurances. I have told people that my first preoccupation is to come to the party, integrate fully with all those that I came with and many more that will come later and add value. Any other thing that comes after is okay but I am not coming with a particular mindset of it is either this or it is not that, that is not it. To be honest, the party has survived without me in the past few years and if I drop dead tomorrow, the party will still survive, so I will just do what I can and those who are worried must understand that a political party is not a secret cult where people can be shut out. Politics is a game of numbers and if we really believe in democracy and one man one vote then we should be excited that somebody is coming in and nobody should lay claim to a particular position, even if you are the occupant. The only thing is that it gives you the advantage of being able to perform and show to people that you deserve to hold on to that position. Nobody can say because I am there, no other person should be there, no it doesn’t work that way. If that is how it is, then, once a man holds a position, until a given time nobody should go near there, but the given time is a first tenure which is four years. Nobody will aspire to push out a governor after two years but after four years the first tenure is over, then there is an optional second tenure. It is optional, it is not mandatory and even to get it depends on your performance and the acceptability of the people in the party and the people outside because they are two hurdles you must cross. So, what is key is performance. If you do well, a lot of times, your second tenure is a piece of cake.

Are you contesting in the 2020 governorship election in Edo state?
There is nothing wrong if I want to contest, there is nothing wrong about it at all but my ambition should not be a threat to anyone. Human beings are ambitious but if the truth must be told, before I even came into APC, was there not this problem? So nobody can accuse me that, oh you are coming in to cause crisis, so the crisis has been on and I think the crisis is more because people just believe that once a position is their own, no other person should aspire to go near that position, that is not democracy and anybody of substance that comes into the political space becomes a suspect. This is the same thing I have heard it said of Dr Pius Odubu, I have heard it said of General Charles Airhiavbere, I have heard it said of Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, so I am just a new entrant into those being accused. If we desire to contest, is anything wrong with that? No. To be honest, the more credible people we have who are offering themselves for service, the better for our democracy. So for me, I ran for governorship before, and it is only natural for people to believe that I will be interested again and I can tell you that I am consulting, I am watching. If my contesting will destroy the party or bring war, of course I can decide not to bother in the interest of my party but if at the same time I also believe that I can add value and there is a genuine desire for a competitive process I will offer myself.

The crisis in the APC came to limelight with the controversial inauguration of the State House of Assembly, could the governor have handled the issue differently and what is the way out of it?

Before now, I had refrained ever saying anything about the governor, when the campaigns ended in the Supreme Court, I congratulated him but I have kept quiet about his performance. But I can tell you that I really believed the governor did not handle the situation well. If you look back now, you will find out that for the past one year all we are hearing about is crisis and crisis. I have not seen any project being commissioned, I have not seen any serious thing being done. At any meeting, all they talk about are the problems that they have.

Nobody was elected to begin to lament about problems or to begin to issue threats. If your party was able to secure a hundred per cent in the House of Assembly, that is something that they should celebrate. Now, it becomes absurd that such a feat will turn to an albatross, to imagine that out of your 24 only a few number will now be inaugurated is sad. Let us really be honest with ourselves, inauguration is something that everybody looks forward to, the party looks forward to it because to them, it is an opportunity to savour their victory; the persons they elected are being sworn in and the person himself will want to bring in his family, will want to bring his friends and many of them after the ceremony they want to entertain their constituents. So, they come from various places and some of them might even be coming to Benin for the first time, they might be coming to the House of Assembly for the first time. Most of those members were robbed the opportunity of that kind of unique fellowship by the way it was done. Of course nobody has disputed the fact that even when they wanted to complain and held a press conference, they were attacked, they were beaten and that was what led to their moving to Abuja. Now, they have instituted series of court cases. What should have been done is that the governor knowing that we cannot run our democracy without the second arm of government should have initiated serious processes to unite the house. Even if it means meeting the people in Abuja to reassure them of their safety but from that time till now, we have never heard of any such meeting till it got to the extent where the Speaker just announced that he has declared their seats vacant. You are not doing this to people in the opposition party, you are doing this to your own members and this questions your popularity because you are saying that in the house of 24, you have declared 14 seats vacant, it means that it is even a minority that is holding sway in the house and you have driven away the majority. Out of that majority for example, Edo South Senatorial District where I come from that had ten people in the house before is now left with three, that is enough to make people protest, the area now has three representatives by the singular action of a member that was elected in his own constituency just like the others.

Apart from talking to them, if your children decide to run away from home, is it not your duty to go and look for them? The bible talked about the shepherd who, noticing that one sheep out of a hundred is missing, leaves the 99 to go and look for that until he brings it back. So if 14 of your members even decide to be absent, thank God they are not in Russia, they are not in Canada, they are in Abuja, you have an Edo house in Abuja, why can’t you attempt to dialogue with them so that the matter can be resolved? Even when our revered Oba went to meet the President, asking him to help resolve the crisis, for me that would have been a wake-up call to settle the matter but nothing like that was done. There were governors who came in and faced opposition in their houses of assembly, yet they were able to manage it and some turned the number in their favour. Those who were against them therefore became part of them, and it happened because the executive actually has the carrot. Even by doing projects in their constituencies, you can win them over not to talk about your own party men.

So, when I heard that the plan was to come in and impeach, I asked how it would be possible when they had not even been inaugurated. If they impeach you is it your deputy who is with you that they will put there or they plan to impeach the two of you? And if they do that, who are they planning to bring to replace you? Would they have gone for another election? So, it doesn’t add up, these are stories. Those who want to make money will blow up the crisis; the governor who is well grounded should be able to separate facts from fiction. I really believe that we need to do a lot of reflection. The only luck is that the opposition parties are themselves not organised because if it was a situation where we really had strong opposition, we cannot afford the luxury of this internal crisis lingering for too long because you will know that you stand the risk of being replaced.

I know why I left the PDP. With due respect, the PDP has not been able to put its acts together. It is not enough to be pointing to the speck in your neighbour’s eyes when you cannot see the log in your own eyes. There are already discordant tunes coming out of the PDP with respect to the congresses the party wants to hold. Some of their gubernatorial aspirants are already crying foul, even before INEC releases the timetable for the elections; they can already see a pattern emerging and at the end of the day, when you build a house on deceit, it will collapse. These comments are just grandstanding to give an impression that all is well. For me it is even better to admit that you have a problem and solve it than to pretend it is well, because at the most critical time, the problem manifests and you will collapse.

The APC has not hidden the fact that it has crisis. For me APC will solve its crisis, and I have no doubt that this will be before the elections. I pity those who pretend that all is well, by the time we move into elections, you will see even more mass decamping from the PDP.

Vanguard

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