As a missionary in Nigeria’s politics, I have come to sweep it clean – Ize-Iyamu

 


Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the Edo State governorship election holding on Saturday. He spoke on his agenda for the state among other issues in this interview with ADEYINKA ADEDIPE

Your SIMPLE agenda, which is your manifesto, has been applauded and condemned at the same time, what is the main thrust of that document that it is attracting so much attention?

Well, it is my road map and manifesto on how I believe Edo State can be governed and developed. The ‘S’ means security and social welfare; the ‘I’ means infrastructural development and urban renewal; the ‘M’ stands for man power development; the ‘P’ stands for public/private partnership; the ‘L’ means leadership by example; and the ‘E’ is employment and empowerment scheme. So, this is what the SIMPLE agenda is all about.

Of course, it is much more detailed, but what I have is what we intend to handle and deal with by the time we get elected to office. The acceptance of the agenda has been overwhelming.

There are videos circulating on the social media in which former governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was attacking your person, will this not dent your chances of getting elected?

No, it will not dent my chances of getting elected because people know the context in which those statements were made and the man who said those things has now owned up to the fact that he said those things not because they were true, but because he was desperate to de-market a very formidable candidate. And the governor, who wants to be re-elected, rather than using those giant screens to showcase his achievements in office, he is busy playing tapes of where Pastor Ize-Iyamu was insulted. What are his achievements? What has he done? What projects has he completed? Those are the kind of things that one would have thought a governor seeking re-election should be doing. Instead, there is nothing to show. Everywhere one has gone, people have been without electricity for years, and they keep promising to do it after being re-elected.

Will the issue of the N700m, which you are being investigated for, not also affect your chances of getting elected?

There is nothing to that allegation. Yes, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission put up a charge about the matter, but it is clear to the whole world since nobody has refuted that the money was never paid to my account. They needed somebody to sign for the money, which I did. From the bank, the money was taken to the leader’s house and people signed for it. The EFCC is in receipt of their signatures. I didn’t get anything from the money, so I am not worried

The issue of security is a huge problem during the campaign for the forthcoming election. There have been accusations and counter accusations from the parties and this has heightened fear of violence on election day. What is your take on this?

The cry about violence is being deliberately orchestrated by the PDP leadership, because they want to create voter apathy and be able to manipulate figures on election day. What we are doing is preaching peace and telling people that it is a family matter and it is not for anyone to perpetuate violence. On election day, everybody should be calm and we are also calling on the security agencies to provide protection.

You have been going around selling your candidature to the people, telling them what you will do when you get elected, can you explain how gruelling the journey has been so far?

 It is normal for one to undertake this journey if you are running for the governor’s office. You must do all you can to cover the entire state. It will not be nice to neglect a section simply because you don’t have the strength for it. We know that we are popular in places we have campaigned in the past, but it is still important that for this election, we must go round. What is important and satisfying is that our people are coming out to welcome us. Going around has been tedious and gruelling, but the reception we get despite the COVID-19 restrictions strengthens us to move on.

It is also good to realise that people despite the years of bad governance and neglect, people are still enthusiastic to come. They see hope for change and they believe in us. Though it is impossible to cover everywhere, our party people in different localities are also taking charge of areas we can’t get to.

We have seen aspiring political office holders making so many promises without fulfilling them, what assurance are you giving that you will fulfil all that you are promising if elected?

The SIMPLE agenda, apart from its simplicity, is also a smart document. It is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. We didn’t come up with it just to win votes. They are doable, things that we have looked into seriously and we believe that with prudent management of our resources with visionary leadership and sincerity, these things can be done. So, I want to assure you that it is a workable document. That is also why we did not hesitate to put it into writing. Many people have failed to put promises into writing, because it becomes binding on them, and that is why they just make verbal promises rather than to commit themselves in writing.

The SIMPLE agenda is a covenant and a contract between us and the Edo people. Their part is to vote for us and our part is to implement what we have promised. So, I want to assure the people that we are sincere, we mean well and we will implement what we promised.

Politics is viewed as a dirty game in this part of the world, how do you balance your calling as a pastor and your political career?

There is no doubt that playing politics in Nigeria is difficult and quite challenging. In Nigerian politics, there is so much mudslinging, people are so desperate for political power and it is a do-or-die affair. We don’t want to look at issues. Candidates will rather blackmail their rivals, which scares a lot of people. People wonder what a pastor is doing in politics. But are we going to leave politics and governance in the hands of violent people simply because they threaten us? Are we going to leave it in the hands of miscreants simply because they throw insults at us? No, politics is too important because government is what controls our lives.

So, you can’t abandon it because some political actors have chosen to be violent and dirty. I keep telling people that I regard politics in Nigeria as a mission field. A mission field is a place that is difficult, a place in darkness and a place that needs to be swept with a broom. I am a missionary going into the Nigerian political space to see how the light of God can be brought in. And the Bible says, ‘When the light of God shineth, the darkness cannot comprehend’, and that is why we have been able to achieve. But we need more light, more Christians and decent Muslims to take charge rather than allowing it to become the monopoly of ungodly people, who don’t have the fear of God. The more decent people get in, the more you see sanity in the process and the more you begin to realise that the negative perception of politics will change. But if Nigeria must improve and be great, then we need quality people in politics.

Again, the issues of chieftaincy title and the ‘Lion and Tiger’ video have become controversial, can you shed more light on these?

I must tell you that those who put out the video are being mischievous. What I got in Auchi is honorary and not a chieftaincy title. There are procedures and rites to follow before you can get a chieftaincy title. But I didn’t do such things. I just went there for a campaign and the traditional ruler bestowed a title on me. The translation of the title means ‘This is our own’. There is nothing Islamic about it, but if you are also dealing with a Muslim, you don’t expect him to say a Christian prayer if he wants to pray for you. He has a right to say an Islamic prayer and I will not walk out of the meeting simply because he wants to pray according to his religion. That will be the height of religious intolerance.

What is important is that the Otaru of Auchi is a highly respected traditional ruler in our state; so, if I go to visit him and he confers on me a title, it is the height of honour. Of course, our opponents are so jealous and have tried to make mockery of it by saying a pastor has been turbaned and he has become a Muslim. No, I am still a pastor, who preached in church after the title was bestowed on me. So, that line of reasoning by our opponents does not make sense.

On the issue of ‘Lions and Tigers’, you will be surprised that the person who worked with them in the past to rig election, they have said it several times that the man used them and dumped them. I met a lot of people in the course of campaigning; some are aggrieved and everyday people on the other side are leaving to join us and they come with all kinds of stories.

On that tape, what they did was to edit what I said. They played the part I was saying you move from unit to unit and centre to centre. But they deliberately omitted where I said in the past you moved from unit to unit. So, it was very simple. And anybody can twist any statement out of context or doctor any video to suit their purpose. Why should I tell them that? I was advising them because they told me this man used and dumped us.

In the past these were people used against me. They destroyed my votes where they lost. So, I told them that what they were doing in the past should stop. I also realised that they were strong at mobilising and I told them to bring in many people on the election day. What I said was that if they were able to win their units, they also had the right to get the attention of the government.

Also, on the issue of motor park touts called agberos, the SIMPLE agenda, as far back as 2016, has made it very clear that we will not allow agberos to rule our parks because they are not the one that should be collecting government revenue. It is government officials dressed in government uniforms that should carry out such duties. The winner of the last election in the state collaborated with these people and they rigged the election. Now, he is saying Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu wants to bring them back because the people are aggrieved and came to me.

There are better ways to engage them. If Lagos could transform area boys and put them into other areas they can be useful, we can do the same thing. We cannot chase them away and let them go into crime; instead, let us teach them skills. In our agenda, there is manpower development; many of these people are not educated, they can’t get jobs and because they need to survive, they engage in whatever they can. So, when they get the opportunity to be in the park, they then start to extort money from people. But if you teach them skills, they won’t be involved in violence or crime.

Under security, we are going to maintain a vigilante system or community policing that can take about 10,000 people off the street. But what is interesting is that the governor is not saying the truth when he said that he had abolished agberos; they are still there. There are two notable people still extorting money from drivers at motor parks. But because people like Tony Kabaka left him because of political differences, he wants to sell the impression that he no longer patronises agberos.

Edo people must know that he is still patronising them and they are the ones being used for violence and thuggery right now, which they want to blame on the APC.

Those who are interested must have the prerequisite qualification before being employed. But we are not going to employ non-government workers to collect revenue and many of these people can function elsewhere. For example, our agricultural programme can accommodate some of these people.

Credit: Punchng.com


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