Former secretary to Edo State government and pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Osagie Ize-Iyamu is confident that he would defeat incumbent governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki to pick the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the forth coming party primary scheduled for June 22, 2020. Ize-Iyamu who on Tuesday night emerged the consensus aspirant of the faction of the party loyal to the national chairman, and immediate past governor of the state, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, said Obaseki would need “to be rigged in to be able to win”. He knocked the bottom off the governor’s argument that direct primary election which the National Working Committee of the party had adopted to select its flag bearer for the September 19, 2020 poll would further increase the infection rate of the coronavirus disease in the state and endanger the lives of party faithful.
Speaking on Channels Television programme, Politics Today Wednesday night, Ize-Iyamu wondered how Obaseki hoped to win the primary given the way he treated party members. According to him, “The truth about it is this. Primaries are done by political parties and those who vote are party members. So when you think party members are not important, when you think party members are not relevant, then the issue is who is going to vote for you? I listened to his telephone conversation just now; I’m happy that for a man who said his second term ticket is non-negotiable now realizes that there is God and that God has a say.
“But at the same time, he has spoken with disdain about men; no man can do anything but God has given men the privilege to vote for who they want. So, if you say men are not important, and men are irrelevant; just like he despised God at the beginning, and then you want them to vote for you, how are you going to win? Nomination will not be done in government house; nomination is not going to be done by government appointees. Nomination will be done by party members; the same party members that you have insulted, that you speak about with disdain, that you referred to as if they are criminals, people who voted for you? People who risked their lives for you, so, how are you going to win? So, he’s the one that needs to be rigged in to be able to win”. The former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2016 election that brought Obaseki to power insisted that “In a free and fair election, there is no way he can stand. There is no way. So, I am very confident that by the time we do the primaries, I will emerge as the candidate; there is no doubt about it”.
On the rejection by the governor’s camp of the direct mode of primary announced by the NWC of the party, Ize-Iyamu said the issue was beyond individual preference, as according to him, you cannot be contesting an election and want to determine what the rules would be. “You must subject yourself to the rules and the rules will come from the party. The constitution of the APC is quite clear. The National Working Committee, they are the ones to organize primaries. And of course they have three options. It could be consensus, which of course the governor has made impossible by his attitude. It could be direct, it could be indirect. For me, any of these options is acceptable”.
Deflating the governor’s argument about why indirect primary was more preferable and safer, Ize-Iyamu pooh-poohed his logic. He said ‘from what I read, the party in their wisdom, they have said they want direct primaries and I am surprised that the governor and some of his people are talking about indirect primaries. And what even makes it more shocking is the fact that they want to use COVID-19 as an excuse. If it is COVID-19 they want to talk about, then indirect primary is a no, no because indirect primaries mean bringing delegates, thousands of them to one place; that is dangerous. On the other hand, if you are doing direct primaries, it means you want to decentralize the process and move the numbers to their different wards in such a way that they become manageable. And by the time you follow social distancing and all the protocols, you will be able to do that effortlessly.
“But what they don’t even understand is that if we are able to do indirect primaries, you need to elect delegates. How do you elect delegates? You have to go and vote for them in the wards, which is the same thing as direct primaries. So, maybe they don’t understand what it means to do indirect primaries; to do indirect, that means you must first do direct”.
Reacting to the governor’s insistence that he ought to be given the right of first refusal as the incumbent governor according to convention, Ize-Iyamu said there was need to be guided by the constitution of the APC. He said “You talk about convention in the absence of a constitution. The constitution of the APC, which I was privileged to be one of those who drafted it, does not recognise what you call the right of first refusal. If you want to contest for an election, whether you’ve been there before, or you’ve not been there before, you must go through the process. If you are popular and you have a record, it gives you a good advantage to be able to win the race. But to expect that because you are an incumbent automatically others will step aside for you is not in the constitution of the APC. So, you cannot be talking about a convention when you have a written constitution”.
Ize-Iyamu, a lawyer, said “The constitution of the APC is quite clear and I’m sure you are not telling us that we should drop the constitution of the APC and begin to follow what you call a convention. And performance is subjective. I listened to the tape just now when the governor said Edo people think I am doing well. I am an Edo person. To be honest with you I don’t think so. And there are very many people like me who don’t think so. So, it’s natural for somebody to think he’s dancing well but a lot of times, you need to listen to those who are watching you and get the correct opinion. I can tell you very clearly and dispassionately that for majority of us he has not done well”.
He said members of the party had shied away from criticising the governor “because we are in the same party. If we were in opposite party, the criticisms would have been a lot louder. But because we don’t want to lose our state, it will be better for us to look for a way to quietly ease him out and that will happen by the time we do our primaries. So, there is nothing like offer of first refusal. If he’s very popular, if he thinks he has done well, then convince party members. If you convince them and they buy it, they will support you and there is nothing anybody can do about it. The primary is not going to be done by people from outside the state; it will be done by people in Edo State. So let them vote for you, let them support you and then you get the second term ticket and automatically, all of us will support you”.
The governorship hopeful posited that the choice before APC in the state was either losing the state to the opposition or changing the governor “and I think majority of the leaders are of the opinion that the state must not be lost to the opposition but rather the governor who does not believe that the party exists should give way to somebody that can carry the party along and at the same time govern the state well. I can tell you that in the past one, two years, the state has been shut down by unnecessary tension. And all this tension arises from the governor’s posture that his second term is not negotiable’. He said while Obaseki he had a right to run for second term, “but that should not be at the detriment of governance. Governance has taken a back seat; nothing is happening and all we see are thugs being mobilized either to the airport to scare away political opponents, or you are calling rallies and you are saying nobody can hold rallies, or you are bulldozing houses of people who are opposed to you. You can’t do such things and expect that investors will come to your state”.
Ize-Iyamu lamented that “World Bank projects in Edo State have come to a halt; nothing is happening. I’m ashamed to see the figures that the government is now recording for COVID-19. At the beginning, we all warned him lock down the state; he refused, and said the economy of the state is such that it cannot be locked down. Yet Lagos locked down, Delta locked down, Rivers locked down and he was talking about economy, an economy that is nonexistent because you’ve done nothing to encourage it; instead, your statements are scaring away potential investors. So, what he’s talking about is self-inflicted and it’s unfortunate”.
Speaking on the hitherto frosty relationship between him and Oshiomhole who called him unprintable names during the 2016 campaigns, Ize-Iyamu who was the director general of the former governor’s campaign during his first and second election, Ize-Iyamu said he didn’t have any problems supporting him in his first and second election. “The problems that led to my leaving the party had to do with the congresses that we did which had nothing to do with his coming in or going. And of course you know that disagreement is normal in politics. Even in families you disagree. That does not change who you are.
“So, the fact that I disagreed with comrade when I was contesting for election, and who was comrade supporting; the governor now who says that he’s a no body was the person he had to do everything to support. And of course I don’t feel bad because whatever he said about me was meant to ensure that I didn’t emerge; there is no way he would have allowed me, coming from another party, to come and take the governorship from his own party in the state. So, what he did to me was fair, it was fair in war and I hold no grudge about it. Whatever I said at that time either to defend myself or to attack him was said n the same spirit”.
Ize-Iyamu said as a party man to the core, he would support Obaseki if he picked the party’s ticket but was quick to add that there was no way he would win. “There is no way he can win because that’s why we were so many that wanted to run against him because we knew that beating him in a primary would be a piece of cake unless it’s not Edo people, unless it’s not APC people in Edo State who will come and vote during the primaries. If they are, please forget it; there is no way he can win”.