By Emmanuel Aziken
After the yeoman job he did conducting one of the cleanest presidential primaries in the history of the country that saw the alleged candidate of the presidency lose massively, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was pained by the news report alleging rigging of the ballot.
“What you saw was a miscount and it was recounted correctly,” Ize-Iyamu told this correspondent in reference to a video story posted on GWG.NG alleging a skip in the numbers during the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential primaries in June 2022.
Ize-Iyamu’s rebuff of rigging is reflective of the Man of God regularly making the murky waters of politics around him clearer. Giving to Jesus what belongs to Jesus and to government what belongs to the government has been his motif in life since the early the mid-nineties when he made Jesus, The Christ his inspiration.
Before then it was not always so. Groomed and schooled at Edo College and subsequently at the University of Benin, Benin-City, his life had almost revolved around Edo State.
Indeed, even his accent would give him away as Benin homeboy. The only foreign content according to some is his unfading devotion to Chelsea FC.
Speaking in an interview session with this correspondent in early 2016, he said:
“Unlike many of you who have had the opportunity of moving from place to place, I have been localized. I was born in Benin. My primary school was in Benin. My secondary school was in Benin; my university was in Benin.
“If it were possible to have done law school in Benin, I would have done it, but it was not possible, so I had to come to Lagos, and so it was a miserable one year in law school and even when I was doing Youth Service in Ondo State because it was close to Edo, I could afford to visit Edo as often as possible.”
“I work in Edo, I live in Edo, and I have told my children, that is where I want to be buried. So you can understand my passion for the state,” he said.
Given his attachment to Edo State it is no surprise that he has been the recurring political factor in the politics of Edo State.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic he has been involved in all governorship elections in Edo State, either directly or remotely managed a campaign, and where not, as the last two governorship elections, been a candidate.
Pastor as he is popularly called was the brain behind the four successful governorship campaigns that produced the first two substantive governors of Edo State Chief Lucky Igbinedion and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Having served as Chief of Staff, then Secretary to the Government, SSG, in the Igbinedion government, Ize-Iyamu was the champion of the group termed GRACE group that revolted against the ascendancy of Chief Tony Anenih in the Edo State chapter of the PDP.
He was also instrumental to the drift of the state to the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN. There were whispers that he indirectly managed the Oshiomhole 2007 campaign through his cousin, Prof. Omo Omoruyi and in 2012 directly managed the re-election of the comrade governor.
While holding no office in the Oshiomhole government, he in the period the comrade governor was in office and perhaps against his preference for local politics, advanced towards the national terrain.
By 2012 he was national vice-chairman, South-South of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, a position that made him a person of reckoning in the formation of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
He was vice-chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee of the APC.
However, just before the party was formally launched, PDP leaders in Edo State in desperation reached out to him and he became their candidate for the 2016 governorship election.
So unsettled was the ruling party in Edo State at that time that the election was surreptitiously postponed over what were claimed as “Security reasons.”
Even at the end of voting as results trickled in, a senior PDP chief told this correspondent that the party was rolling to victory everywhere.
According to him they were monitoring the votes bumper to bumper.
However, by midnight of that election day of 28th September, 2016, the collation centres were surreptitiously shut down and by the following morning the trend of results dramatically altered against the joyful expectation that was in the Ize-Iyamu camp the night before.
Whatever happened, by 2020 following the faceoff between Oshiomhole and Governor Godwin Obaseki, the comrade governor who would have had an inkling as to what happened that night in 2016 when the collation centres were shutdown, reached out to his former campaign manager, Ize-Iyamu to help push Obaseki from power.
Again, Obaseki triumphed. However, it is reflective of the political agility of Ize-Iyamu, that political actors in Edo State have always resorted to him in pushing the odds against establishment forces.
It is grace that found him. Grace flowed from over his teenage years as he ruminated through the famous Second Field at Edo College, the youthful exuberance at UNIBEN and then grace finally plucked him after an automobile accident sometime in 1995.
After a nine-hour spell of unconsciousness following the accident that happened on the Lagos Benin expressway, and as he came to himself, Ize-Iyamu reached out to God.
Speaking on the issue in an interview with Saturday Vanguard he noted how his leg was nearly cut off at that time following the accident:
“The consultant came and they looked at the x-ray that showed that my hip was out of position, and then the Consultant said before they will perform the operation, let them do another x-ray just to know how it was.
“They did it and I saw them confused and arguing among themselves.
After that, the man came to me and said, look we don’t know what happened but your hips have gone back again. He said maybe when I shouted, the hip just went back and that they didn’t need to perform any operation again.
“That was when I knew that God has answered my prayers. I said well, if God answered my prayers, I must keep to the bargain and that was how I actually gave my life to God. When I announced it to people, they thought I was joking. They thought the trauma of the accident had affected me.”
Indeed, Ize-Iyamu who by his account drank and womanized as expected of a normal human being without the Christ, became a new person to the amazement of his erstwhile associates.
His transformed life has been so overreaching that Osagie as he was named now bears pastor as a moniker.
Today, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is the Assistant Pastor in Charge of Province (APICP), and Christian Social Responsibility (CSR) of The Redeemed Christian Church of God Edo Province 2 in Benin City.
Besides his pastoral grace, Ize-Iyamu has over the years found favour as a farmer and given back to society by grooming farmers in his extensive farm outside the fringes of Benin-City.
Happily married to Pastor (Prof.) Idia Ize-Iyamu, a Consultant Orthodontist with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and Professor in the University of Benin, they are blessed with four children.
Indeed, for the local man who made himself a reference for God’s grace, it is no surprise that as he clocks 60 on June 21, 2022 that he can also look back match grace to the love of God.
Emmanuel Aziken is editor-in-chief of gwg.ng