The Edo State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2016 election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, is the current Edo State Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation. The former Secretary to the Edo State Government speaks with HENDRIX OLIOMOGBE on the chances of the PDP presidential candidate in the February 16 election.
YOU are the Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation in Edo State; why do you think the people of Edo State currently under the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will vote for your candidate?
President Muhammadu Buhari has not performed. Edo people have tried him; after over three and a half years, there is nothing to show in the state. He came to campaign here and he spoke for less than three minutes and all he simply did was to remind us of the earlier promises he made, which have not come to pass. He talked about corruption but nothing has changed. In fact, to make mockery of his corruption talk, his national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said on the same ground at that rally that day that once you join the All Progressives Congress (APC), all your sins are forgiven. It means that whether you are a murderer, embezzler, hired assassin or a kidnapper, the moment you become an APC member, you have immunity from prosecution.
On the issue of security, nothing has changed; the place is as volatile as ever. Only this week, we heard that five towns in Adamawa State had been taken over by Boko Haram. If you look at it, you ask yourself what has changed. We have never had power supply so bad and Governor Godwin Obaseki mentioned it that day that the power situation in Edo State is pathetic. Trying to shift blame will not work, because he has been there now for almost three and a half years. Why is there no light? They have failed completely. You will recall that the only time President Buhari came to Edo after he was sworn-in was to come and commission the Central Hospital in Benin, the so-called five star hospital built by Oshiomhole. It will interest you today that the hospital is not functioning. People are disillusioned and so there is nothing to make them vote APC again. People are suffering, there is corruption and unemployment. It is very clear that we have a very incompetent government in place. So, there is no way Edo people will vote for them.
It will be very difficult for me to give him 10 per cent pass mark. What has he done to improve the economy of our state? What has he done to improve the health facility in our state? There is nothing on the ground. The projects you keep hearing about are not in Edo State; our airport, UBTH are still the way they were. No new investment has come to the state.
How about the Azura power plant?
The governor, Godwin Obaseki, talked about the fact that Azura Power Plant is privately driven. He said that about $20 million bribe was demanded by the PDP before the project could go on. If that is true, he should call the person’s name or shut up. If it is true that so and so person demanded a bribe, he should report the person and give the name so that the person can be arrested and prosecuted. So, to just say that they demanded so and so bribe doesn’t add up. Who demanded for the bribe? What was the money going to be used for? For me, that is completely out of the question. The issue for me now is what has the Federal Government done in Edo State? I can tell you straight away that there is absolutely nothing to show.
Before you accuse Buhari of not doing anything in Edo, during the PDP days, a prominent Edo man, Chief Tony Anenih, was Minister of Works, what can you say were his legacies in the state?
Today, the greatest and most strategic road that we have in this part of the country, the bypass, is in Benin. The Benin bye pass was planned, started and completed by the PDP. That is the road that takes you from Benin to Ekpoma to Auchi to Asaba to the eastern part of the country to Orhionmwon to Sapele to Warri and Port Harcourt. It is a broad network that is able to take traffic away from the city itself and distribute it. In the past, during festive seasons like Christmas, Benin was a nightmare with endless traffic inside the city. But now, they can by-pass the city and still go to where they are going. It is a wonderful concept that has attracted industries. A lot of Chinese industries going to the bypass; because as a gateway, once you are located there, marketing your goods to the rest of the country becomes easy. If you are going to the North, East and the heart of the Niger Delta, it becomes very easy. That is a PDP achievement and it is the most significant road in the state for years.
Again, if you will recall, it was during Chief Anenih’s time that the federal secretariat was commissioned. It was when Senator Ben Bruce was in charge under a PDP government that Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Benin was refurbished, rehabilitated and expanded. Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the University of Benin Teaching Hospital was renovated and reequipped. So, when actually compared, you will find out that the difference is wide. Benin to Agbor and Benin to Warri roads were all done by the PDP, but they [APC] came and tried to rubbish us.
They said that the exchange rate was too high and they would try and bring it down. They promised to reduce the price of petrol but instead increased it from N87 to N145.They promised uninterrupted power supply and the employment of three million Nigerians annually but canceled all the promises. The question now is which one do you prefer? Everybody said it is PDP in spite of all the complaints. It was driven by more competent people with a clear vision. APC government is run by corrupt people with no plan for the country; they only like whipping up unnecessary sentiments. We have never been so divided and it is because of their divisive politics. The country is in a mess.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo was in the state recently to distribute Tradermoni and to kick-off the school feeding programme. Suddenly, a few bulldozers were deployed to the Benin-Auchi, Uromi-Agbo roads. What do you make of all these coming few weeks to the election?
Our people are used to this gimmick. When elections are near, they will beg the contractor to just mobilise to site with few equipment to give the people the impression that they are working in areas where they have not worked so that the people can vote for them. People are aware that these are all deceit. Must you wait for a month to election before you go dump machines in a place and pretend to work, only for them to be withdrawn immediately after the election? Nobody is deceived.
The Tradermoni Scheme is outright vote buying. These are traders that they didn’t bother about all these years and were driven from the market with no alternative arrangement. All of a sudden, they are now interested in the welfare of these traders. This is a government that talks of money laundering and that we need to reduce the amount of cash that we play with. That money should be expended through financial institutions. If the initiative of trying to give money to the poor was well-thought-out, are they saying that we don’t have micro finance and community banks that can do it on behalf of the government? The government is now on its own through the vice-president himself moving from states to states distributing money to traders. The message is clear. The money is tied to their voting. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government, in its desperation to remain in power, is now capitalising on the poverty it inflicted on the people by doling out N10,000 to them and put them in further bondage. The government has done nothing to improve the economy and the prices of foodstuffs have remained high. The people are impoverished, yet you want to bribe them with N10,000. But it will not work. It will fail.
Why do you think Edo people should vote Atiku?
Atiku Abubakar, by all standards, is a far better candidate. He more enlightened, more knowledgeable, competent and more successful in what he has done in the past. This is a man who has run businesses and organisations and succeeded unlike the person we have there now who has no track record in performance. People are saying that he [Atiku] is rich, why is the other man not very rich? Is it something to be proud of to that you are poor? Which business has Buhari run and yet we know the kind of places he stays and the schools his children attended. But what has he been able to do successfully? Atiku has a clear vision and is prepared for the office medically. We don’t want a president who for three to four months will be in a foreign hospital but a president who is fit to sit on the desk and is able to rule the country. We also want a president who is not a religious bigot, a tribalist; a president who will see Nigeria as one country and one people and not a man who will discriminate on the basis of religion and tribe, which is exactly what is happening now. We want a president who, even after election, will see everybody as his own and not one who will say I can only favour those who voted for me and punish those who did not vote for me. We want a president who has respect for the rule of law and not a man who can throw the law aside simply because he has an agenda to pursue. Atiku is far more qualified and competent than Buhari.
Are you optimistic of your party’s victory in Edo State?
Definitely; there is nowhere you will go in Edo that people will not tell you that they prefer Atiku to Buhari. Buhari presidency has been a curse to our people; we have suffered. There is nothing we have seen that will make us want to vote for APC. They talked about the feeding programme for school children and said that they have done it in 24 states. If the Federal Government wants to do a programme, why do you do it in selected states? You’re using tax payers money mainly derived from oil and Edo State is oil producting. I don’t know if Edo State is among the 24 states benefitting from their so-called school feeding programme; Osinbajo was in Edo State to kick it off but it was just one school.
There are so many public schools that I know and have friends and relations and I ask whether their children are fed there. The answer is no. That is billions of money down the drain. The only thing we can talk about is that the vice-president came to town and gave market women some money. But then the market women are complaining that the money they got was not the amount promised and that they were surcharged. What is the number of beneficiaries? The reality is that there is nothing we can point to on the ground. There is no amount of money they can say they have spent that will make the people want to clap for them and support them. We win overwhelmingly but we are aware of their plans to rig.
For example, we know that a lot of ad hoc staff recruitment who will act as the returning officers have been compromised. We have it on good authority that the list that is supposed to have come from the higher institutions was manipulated by the APC. That list is now dominated by APC members and thugs. Our party, the PDP, has issued a statement and call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INC) to jettison the list. I want to assure you that no matter the game they play, we are going to mark them bumper by bumper. This election, we will win overwhelmingly.