He cuts a familiar figure, and preaches a familiar message! Two-time governorship candidate of rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2016 and 2020, respectively, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, claims he’s a detribalised, pan-Edo politician, who sees Edo State as one family, and seeks simultaneous even development of all sections, as a panacea for the divisive issues of marginalisation and recourse to ethnicity.
Aspiring again to be governor in the September 21, 2024, election on the platform of main opposition APC in the state, Mr Ize-Iyamu, 61, says the agitation for zoning of the governorship stems from uneven development of the senatorial districts of Edo South, Edo North and Edo Central by successive governments, especially since democracy returned in Nigeria in 1999.
“Stemming from this, I am aware of the importance of electing a competent state chief executive who would stay focused in the discharge of his duties; who would see to the development of every nook and cranny of the three senatorial districts simultaneously,” Ize-Iyamu said on December 27, as reported by Concord News Online of his declaration for governor at the APC secretariat in Benin City, capital city of Edo State.
A minister of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Ize-Ize-Iyamu, waxing biblical, notes that in line with his upbringing and pastoral calling, each time he sees an Edo indigene, “I do not see a Benin, an Esan, an Etsako, an Owan, an Akoko-Edo, an Ika, an Ijaw or a Hausa, an Igbo or a Yoruba. What I see is an Edo person, whether an indigene or a resident.”
“It is impossible for me to discriminate on any basis because my motivation in politics is the admonition by Jesus Christ that, ‘Let your light so shine among men so they shall see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.’ So I endeavour my light to shine in the midst of darkness, and that light is not for some, but for all.”
Opposing “ethnicisation of Edo politics,” Ize-Iyamu declares – to the cheers of his teeming supporters at the carnival-like ceremony at the APC office on Airport Road in Benin City – that: “Edo needs a governor that has a roadmap for development and progress of the state, someone who understands the workings of government and not a total stranger.
“We want a governor that will see Edo as his own, develop the state, and not a governor with tribal sentiments. We want a governor that will relate with the party and have regular session with the party.”
To solidify his claim to being a true Edolite that believes in the oneness of Edo people, Ize-Iyamu, lawyer and farmer, recalls his days as a student leader in the University of Benin (UNIBEN), and the youth leader of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), actively supporting the late Prof. Ambrose Alli from Esanland of Edo Central, to become governor of old Bendel State (Delta and Edo States) from 1979 to 1983.
“Similarly, it is common knowledge my role in the election of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from Etsako, Edo North, in the 2007 and 2012 Governorship elections,” Ize-Iyamu said, with a call for the APC to give the ticket, and opportunity for governor to the best among the aspirants. (Ize-Iyamu’s Campaign Director-General for Oshiomhole’s re-election in 2012.)
The former Chief of Staff (1999-2003) and Secretary to the State Government (2003-2007) under Governor Lucky Igbinedion (1999-2007), and former National Vice Chairman (South-South) of Action Congess of Nigeria (ACN) – who touts his experience in politics and the workings of government as qualifying him as “the best amongst the APC aspirants” – commends the party for not zoning the governorship to any senatorial district, “as that is the best way for our great party to field its best for the election.”
“If I’m given the mandate, I promise to faithfully implement my rebrand ‘SIMPLE AGENDA,'” that aims for an even developmental road-map for entire Edo State,” he said.
The SIMPLE AGENDA, first launched for the 2016 election, and revised for the 2020 poll, focuses on six core areas of governance: Security and social welfare; Infrastructure development and urban renewal; Manpower development and training; Public/private partnerships; Leadership by example; and Employment creation and empowerment.
The APC didn’t zone the governorship to any senatorial district, thus sealing the hopes of Esan people of Edo Central, who’ve agitated for the position over marginalisation in the governance of the state since 1999. The state secretary of the APC, Mr Lawrence Okah, stated this on December 3 when the party received an aspirant, Prince Kassim Afegbua, a former Commissioner for Information, and spokesman to former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
Fielding questions on expectations of the APC from its numerous aspirants, Mr Okah told journalists that, “What we are looking for is capacity and the ability to deliver, and that is why we said there is no zoning; that is the message.”
That “message” is more likely to favour Ize-Iyamu, who – apart from being an old warhorse with bankable votes from two previous governorship contests – is from Edo South with the population and voting strength than Edo North and Edo Central combined.
The APC direct primary election for the governorship scheduled for February 17 – as adopted at an extended Edo State stakeholders meeting with the National Working Committee (NWC) at the national secretariat in Abuja on January 15 – has 29 contenders as of that day, majority from Edo Central, vying for the party ticket, as disclosed at the parley by Senator Oshiomhole – leader of the party in Edo North and Edo State – who vows APC’s return to power in Edo State in 2024.
For their political undoing, the APC aspirants in Edo Central are unable to close rank to pick “the best” among them – with many defying a screening that pruned the number to two aspirants of Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor (dubbed a former Governor for 17 months (2007-2008) before he’s sacked by the courts), and Mr Thomas Okosun (former Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly).
Politics isn’t a teaparty or a picnic for every Tayo, Dike, and Hassan – many who can’t win their polling booths in 2024, notwithstanding they’d won council or legislative elections. The Edo governorship is a battle royale of cold calculations of who’s the numbers, and from where those numbers will come for victory on September 21.
So, getting the party ticket has come down to the brass tacks of capability, capacity, competence, experience, and ability to turn in the numbers on Election Day. These criteria are devoid of emotions and sentiments about marginalisation, or payback for longevity in and loyalty to the party! And that’s where Ize-Iyamu and Edo South come into reckoning, as being in good stead to deliver Edo State from the seemingly fractured ruling PDP under Governor Godwin Obaseki, whose eight-year tenure ends in November 2024!
The questions for the 30 odd APC aspirants are: Have you the reach, the ground game, and the warchest to turn the tables against an Obaseki-backed PDP aspirant, Dr Asue Ighodalo, a Lagos-based billionaire lawyer-boardroom guru, or campaign-scarred, streetwise Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu, also a billionaire, who’s defied Obaseki’s aversion to his ambition?
Do you’ve the political armament to match the LP duo of Prof. Sunny Eboh Eromosele, billionaire oil and gas magnate, local pathfinder for solutions to technological-innovation problems in oil and gas and aviation sectors, and founder of Mudiame University, Irrua (MUI), and Mr Olumide Akpata, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and a most successful commercial lawyer, who’s donated scores of campaign vehicles to LP offices across Edo State?
For now, the odds look to favour Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the APC at the direct primary poll on February 17. He’s the only aspirant – across all political parties – to’ve confronted Obaseki in 2016 and 2020, even as Obaseki had the power of incumbency behind him on each occasion, and yet sweated to win. Except the calculations reveal otherwise, it’d be a gamble for the APC to overlook Ize-Iyamu for its governorship ticket!