Edo poll and Ize-Iyamu’s burden
Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the September 19 Edo State governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu is haunted by past comments made against him, four years ago, by former National Chairman of his party, Adams Oshiomhole, whom he helped to win re-election in 2012. It is a burden Ize-Iyamu has to contend with as he goes into the election, writes ONYEKACHI EZE
The political firmament in Edo State is once again charged. In the next two months, Edo electorate will be playing hosts to politicians who will be seeking their votes for the September 19 governorship.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said 14 political parties are fielding candidates in the election. Among the parties are the two traditional rivals, the now ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition, party All Progressives Congress (APC).
Incidentally, the candidates of the two parties have swapped positions. In the 2016 governorship election, the incumbent, Godwin Obasaki, who is now PDP’s candidate, was the APC’s candidate, while Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, who now flies the APC flag, was PDP candidate.
Four years ago, former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole who is the immediate past Edo governor, played an active role in the election. Apart from being the outgoing governor then, Oshiomhole’s comments, especially on the two candidates have been trending on social media.
Some of these comments might rub off on the candidate of his party, Pastor Ize-Iyamu whom he spared no effort to de-market. The former governor, who is known for throwing mud at the political opponents, did everything possible to bring Ize-Iyamu down.
Despite the fact that Ize-Iyamu was the Director General of his re-election 2012 campaign, Oshiomhole, in 2016, did not see anything good in him, and told Edo people that Ize-Iyamu could not be trusted.
Oshiomhole said his former campaign DG was rusticated for two years from the university; “his father begged and the school allowed him to do ‘patchpatch’ examination, but could not beg them in Lagos to admit him to the Nigerian Law School.
That’s why, although he read law, he is not a barrister. “It is true we found ourselves in the region of politics working together, but I never gave him government job; I never gave him government job, but other people that I trusted. “I kept him busy holding meetings which he is used to. It is not a mistake. He begged me to make him the director- general of my campaign.
“Now, ask him, since he was the DG, why didn’t I appoint him to government? Cunning man dies, cunning man bury am. I didn’t want to spend my time watching his files; so, I kept him busy; let him be holding midnight meetings where he can tell lies, as many lies as he can; while he is telling lies, I am busy running government.”
Ize-Iyamu was Secretary to State Government (SSG) under Lucky Igbenedion, but Oshiomhole alleged that he sabotaged the administration, and that was why he refused to make him part of his government. “Because, if I did not do that, he could have done to me what he did to Lucky.
But when he came to me, we kept him away, no access to public funds, and that is how we were able to channel our resources the way that we have done, that today Edo, whether you like it or not, it can’t be like before; it can only get better.
“Look at the road to his house. In our books, was a dual-carriage way. They took the money, they constructed the road near his house, they stopped.
Can you imagine that? Just to the foot of his gate, the road stopped. Is that the kind of man who wants to lead Edo State?” the former APC National Chairman asked.
While he alleged that Ize-Iyamu was rusticated from the university, for dousing someone with acid, on the other hand, the former governor showered praises on Governor Godwin Obaseki, and said he went to school.
“He finished his secondary school; he went to the University of Ibadan, he finished; there were no issues, he finished in flying colours.
“He went to the US, he did his Masters; he came back home, started helping people to set up businesses. He helped to manage businesses; he helped to set up many banks, including several second-generation banks. “I don’t care if Obaseki betrays me at the end of the day; Obaseki’s allegiance should be to the people and not me.
Obaseki had been part of the tradition, he knows the vision; he knows the mission; he knows the target; he knows where we are; he knows the challenges and he knows how to overcome them.
“He sits in the Office of the Economic Team which he built using his network of friends inside the heart of Government House without demanding one naira. I know my limit; he knows his limit.
Godwin Obaseki has worked for seven-and-half years for the people of Edo State, using his brain, creativity, quietly, not making noise.
“A man like Obaseki who will not ask me to give him contracts, but will promise me, Comrade, you just do the thinking, we will create the means to actualise your thoughts.
“And to his credit today, check the books of Edo State, we did not build new structures in Government House with government money. That economic team office was built through Godwin’s network.
Today, it remains a permanent asset of the state government,” Oshiomhole said.
Since he emerged APC candidate, Ize- Iyamu and his supporters are having sleepless nights on how to handle the negative effect that Oshiomhole’s comments might have on him during the electioneering.
He reportedly approached a high court to stop radio and television stations from playing the video clips of the 2016 campaign where the former National Chairman maligned his character.
This was rejected by the court, which described the comments as “own goal” by APC and not “off side.” Ize-Iyamu also put spirited effort to defend the comments. He said in an interview that Oshiomhole was playing politics when he made those comments against him.
According to him, those statements were not from his heart, and were made when he was on the other side and was contesting to be the governor while Oshiomhole was determined to prevent that. “What do you expect? Were you expecting him to praise me at that time when he did not want me to be governor?
“So, when you look at the context in which he said those things, you will understand that he was just playing politics and he needed to de-market me so that his candidate would have an advantage. And after the election, that was the end of it.
So, I do not think that we should dwell too much on what he said before the election. “If you are saying that, we can also take you back to what he said about me before then. People are saying ‘look at the bad things he said during the campaign’.
Why did they not look at the good things he said before the campaign? “The truth is that he was only trying to demarket me so that Edo people would not vote for me, not that it was from his heart.
“Of course, the man (Oshiomhole) can speak for himself; he is not dead. We are all pretending not to know that in politics, you can say all kinds of things just to de-market your opponent,” he defended.
There is no denying the fact that these comments will be an albatross on the APC candidate in this year’s election, an image problem.
Unfortunately, Nigerian politics is not issue based; it is characterised by character assassination, mudslinging and hate speech. And because nobody has gone to court to seek redress, it is accepted as a norm.
Oshiomhole, in 2016, dared Ize-Iyamu to sue him to court if he felt he has maligned his person, offering to waive his immunity as a governor to enable him do so. Unfortunately, the APC candidate did not take the challenge even after Oshiomhole has left office. PDP said it was surprised its former candidate did not sue Oshiomhole in court for defamation of character.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, regretted that Ize-Iyamu did not pursue “any defamation case to disprove the former governor,” even when Oshiomhole said he would bear full responsibility for the statements he made against him.
Ize-Iyamu, in an online television interview, defended his rustication by the authorities of the University of Benin, but said it was not for cultism or acid attack on a student.
He admitted that he was a member of the Pyrates Confraternity, which at that time, was not regarded as a cult group. He said: “We had this very confrontational group and one evening, somebody reported to us that they beat up a final year student who was also close to us, and they mentioned the names of those involved, and we said no, this is bad.
“So, myself and some persons who heard about this complaint said let’s go and see the people concerned and talk to them. “We went there and met with the people concerned.
They opened the door for us and we were discussing the matter under a very cordial atmosphere only for some people to come in and before we knew it, there was smoke in the whole place and somebody shouted acid and was screaming.
“It was then I realised that somebody has poured acid on somebody and I quickly rushed to the security post. I brought them in and we took the young man to get first aid treatment.”
Of course, the school set up an inquiry, and the person that was affected admitted that I was the one who brought security agents, and that I was able to take him in for medical attention. I asked who poured it and he said he didn’t know.
“He said he knew the face but didn’t know his name and nobody appeared to know the name and the university said since you people don’t want to mention the name, we are going to sanction all of you. Before we knew it, they expelled us. “The reason they gave was that they expelled us for belonging to a proscribed organisation.
But the long and short of it is that we were on it for two years till 1986 when the Senate held a meeting and said these guys have been punished enough, that if you look at the records, they were not the one that committed what happened, so, we were called back, graduated and then went to the Law School.”
His media aide, John Myaki, however, said it was not a recent interview. “It was a 2015 interview. Pastor did not grant any interview … I wonder how they would present an old interview as a recent one,” he defended.
Oshiomhole now said he is committed to ensuring that Ize-Iyamu is elected as next governor of Edo State. Last week at a reception in his honour at his country home, Iyamho, he described the APC candidate as “a servant of God,” obviously to correct his uncharitable remarks he made against his religious calling in 2016.
The fact is that the APC candidate will be doing more defense that campaigning, due to the damaging comments against him during the last election by Adams Oshiomhole.
Many people are waiting to see how the former governor would mount the podium to campaign for Pastor Ize-Iyamu without offering apology for what he said against him in 2016.
And even if he does that, how would he erase from the peoples’ minds, the bad things he said against the APC candidate?
Some have said that the situation of APC in Edo State is a lesson to Nigerian politicians, namely, that is extremely difficult to amend the havoc and damage caused by hate speech.
There will always be tomorrow, and political foes today may be allies tomorrow. After all, as it is usually said, in politics, there is no permanent enemy or permanent friend but permanent interest!