Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State coming up on September 28, 2016. In this interview, with AGENE GODWIN, he says categorically, that he is optimistic of victory, just as he faults the impression in certain quarters that he should restrict himself to the pulpit as a clergyman. He explains the content of his manifesto which he says is his ‘Covenant with Edo people,’ and which known all over Edo State as the SIMPLE AGENGA.
Who exactly is Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu?
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the PDP governorship candidate in the September 28, 2016 governorship elections. I was Chief of Staff and a former Secretary to the Edo State Government. I am an ordained Pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God. By the grace of God, I am a lawyer by profession, a farmer, a husband and a father. I am also happy to let you know that I have been honored with the Doctorate Degree (Honoris Causa) by the Benson Idahosa University, Benin City.
As a Pastor some people say you should limit yourself to the pulpit rather than getting involved in ‘dirty’ politics. What do have to say about this?
The truth of it is that for a long time, there have been quite some wrong teachings among us Christians. In the past, there was this wrong teaching about poverty, that rich men cannot make heaven, that only poor people will. So a lot of Christians will shun good jobs and say no, if I take that job, I will not make heaven. But later, they realized that there was no scriptural basis at all for such belief. When Jesus talked about how hard it will be for a rich man to make heaven, he was just referring to those who carry riches above the things of God, not that rich men cannot make heaven. Rich men can make heaven if they use their wealth in a manner that will please God. In fact, your riches can actually guarantee you heaven if it is well used. So, that was one wrong teaching then. It is the same thing with politics. You say, ah, no, Christians should not be involved in politics but it is through politics that leaders emerge. Are you saying Christians should not be leaders and yet politics and the actions of leaders affect our daily lives, then what are we talking about? It is true that in Nigeria, politics is seen to be very dirty. It is so because we have allowed the wrong people to be in it. When you have bad people in politics, the system will be bad. So basically, because good and decent people do not participate in politics, that is why we are facing what we are facing. It is time that we take the bull by the horn and be active in politics to reverse the system. As the Bible puts it, ‘when the righteous rule, the people are happy.’
How would you rate the outgoing government in Edo state, which you so enthusiastically helped to instal first in 2007 and again in 2012?
For the last eight years in this State, the government has never asked the people any question. They believe they know what you want. I believe that we must give the government back to the people. Giving the people the government will be in fulfillment of the dream by Abraham Lincoln when he declared at Gettysburg in the heat of the American Civil war, as brother killed brother—–that ‘we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’
As far away as we may be from the United States of America; as far back as 1863 when Abraham Lincoln spoke those words; he was speaking to a day, when a little boy born in Benin City; who went to Primary School in Benin City; who went to Secondary school in Benin City; who went to University in Benin City; who worked in Benin City—–would grow up to aspire to lead his people with hope, with courage, with vision and with a plan. That is me. There is hunger in the land. There is chronic unemployment in the land. There is poverty in the land. When there is poverty in the land, our women bear the brunt. We must reverse this situation.
You were recently quoted in the media as saying that you will make a better Governor of Edo State than even the outgoing governor, Adams Oshiomhole. Why do you say so? Is it because you are a Pastor?
One does not want to contest because one is a Pastor. In Edo state people are mourning. Poverty has not been as established as we see it today. There is no time in our state that cultism has been promoted than in the last seven and a half years. A lot of things are wrong with our state. Things are wrong spiritually. Things are wrong physically. The Scripture says that ‘my people perish for lack of knowledge’ and ‘where there is no vision the people perish.’ In seven years and three months, the outgoing government received well over N1.45trillion. Recently the government paid a contractor the sum of N86million to paint the Airport road, a 6km road the cost of construction which till date he has refused to tell Edo people. And we have seen that it is only in Edo that the government will claim to have constructed a 3-classroom block with N87million. For the rehabilitation of Imaguero College which is not a new school, the government said it spent N300million to change the roof, fix aluminum windows, put tiles on the floors and repaint its walls. So you see there are a lot of reasons to intervene and save our state. Moreover, I was born in Edo state. I schooled in Edo state. I worked in Edo state. I married from Edo state. My business is in Edo state. In fact, I have lived all my life in Edo state. To me this means that I am completely committed to the prosperity of Edo state. I believe that we can make Edo better and greater than it is presently, so that our children can agree to live here and in turn help in contributing their own quota to the growth and development of our state. Also, you must understand that I ventured into politics because I am concerned about the situation of our state and the condition of our people. And that is because no matter the much you do as an individual you can only scratch the surface. The only institution that has the capacity to contribute meaningfully to the welfare of many is the government. Government is the custodian of our commonwealth. So anybody with such passion like mine must be in government so that our commonwealth is used for the good of more people. Let me say that I believe that we can make Edo better and greater than it is presently, so that our children can agree to live here and in turn help in contributing their own quota to the growth and development of our state.
What are your plans if you get elected as Governor?
My plan is simple. It is called the S I M P L E agenda.
S—– Social Welfare and Security
We cannot expect to build a safe and secure State when we have not taken steps to create jobs for our young men and women. In the past eight years, all the industries that used to provide jobs for our young men and women have been shut down by an insensitive government. Where is Edo Line? Where is Bendel Breweries? Where is Bendel Insurance? Where is Urhonigbe Rubber Factory? Where is Uromi Fertilizer Plant? Where is Ehor Fruit Juice Factory?
I believe and strongly so —-that Government must first take care of its responsibility towards the people before it can have the moral right to ask the people to take care of their responsibility towards the government.
To this end, I hereby declare that we will review the excessive multiple taxation burden in this State and in consultation with the people, evolve a simple tax structure.
I am prepared from day one to work assiduously toward increasing your opportunities to be skilled, to be equipped and to be empowered with a small business loan in your community to give you the power, ready to prosper doing an honest day’s work. All 192 wards in the State will have a Social Welfare Officer whose job it will be, to be the first point of contact on issues of Maternal mortality, Infant mortality and balanced Child nutrition up till age 5. They will visit you in your homes to ask you how the government can help you.
First, we must resolve to build the infrastructure of the mind and soul where brother cares for brother and sister cares for sister and we all care for our senior citizens. We cannot allow our senior citizens retire into penury.
On education infrastructure, first, we must train our teachers to be the best that they can be and then we must change the way we reward them so that they can change the way they teach. We must equip every school with a computer laboratory to enable our children function and compete with their counterparts across the world. Every Edo Student in tertiary institutions will be entitled to Bursary award.
On road construction, we plan to evolve a system that makes our six dry months work for us like 12 months by introducing double shifts in road construction contracts.
On health infrastructure, we plan to build a healthcare system that is second to none in Nigeria.
A statistic of 17% maternal and infant mortality is unacceptable and must be reversed. We will build well equipped Primary Health Care centers in every local government across the State to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of our beautiful mothers, wives and daughters. It is estimated that two out of every 25 women will die of breast cancer disease every year in Edo State. Awareness is the key and catching it early makes it possible to get a cure. We must build cancer screening centers in every market across the State for early detection. We must protect our women.
M—-Manpower development and training
We will equip the Edo youth to be the most productive youth in Nigeria. A society that trains its youth is a society that plans to succeed. Changes will be made to our educational curriculum such that every child would pick four different skills to learn from JSS1-JSS3. They would then be required to specialize in one skill from SS1 to SS3. When that child is ready to graduate from secondary school, they will have a WAEC certificate in one hand and a Trade Diploma in the other hand.
For adult men and women who are unemployed and poor, we would provide them a way out of poverty. Every Local government will operate a skills Acquisition program on one hand and a Food program to go along with it. It is cheaper to train people and guide them out of poverty than to buy guns and build prisons. When people see a pathway out of poverty, they are not likely to resort to crime.
P—–Public Private Partnerships (PPP)
To the business community, I say, you do not have a better friend. I plan to engage the private sector in the revitalization of all neglected industries in Edo State and in the establishment of new ones. We intend to build Industrial Clusters in each of the three Senatorial zones with ready to go Certificate of Occupancy and a Five year tax holiday. Let the word go forth therefore to the four winds of Nigeria, North, South, East and West and beyond the shores of our great country—-that Edo State is open and ready for business.
L—–Leadership by example
We plan to lead from the front. We will first do before we ask you to do.
E—-Employment Creation and Empowerment Scheme
There is no better, faster way to create employment than through agriculture. We plan to build Agricultural Settlements in all three Senatorial zones and bring back Commodity Marketing Boards to buy produce from farmers. We plan to put 500,000 hectares under cultivation in the first four years which will be allocated to 100,000 young farmers who will employ up to 10 people per hectare to address the scourge of unemployment, hunger and poverty in the land.
In addition, we would establish Microfinance companies in every local government to help empower small and medium scale business people.#
Edo people appear to have suffered from multiple taxes. Some say taxed collected go to thugs and not government coffers, so what do you plan to do differently?
We will avoid multiple and oppressive taxation which will bring pains and sufferings to our people. When Oshiomhole came, he promised that there will be no ticketing, But today, the sachet water seller, bread hawker, akara hawker, garri seller, the taxi and bus drivers etc. etc are forced to pay all forms of levies through government agents who beat them up if they cannot pay. When the economy of a state is good, tax revenue is high. The present government has done nothing tangible to assist, stimulate or improve the business environment. Government which obviously is the highest spender, does not patronize local businesses or contractors thereby encouraging capital flight and making our state unattractive for local entrepreneurs. The application for Certificate of Occupancy needed for land documentation, loans and business transactions have been abandoned by their owners in the state because of the prohibitive charges that government has imposed on its acquisition. Taxes must have a human face and that is our plan.
How do you intend to tackle the issue of Local Governments in Edo – inability to pay salaries, some for over a year?
Local government councils in Edo State cannot pay salaries of their workers because the state government tampers with their allocations. I am assuring you that if I am elected governor, I will not touch allocations meant for local governments and I will ensure that they enjoy autonomy so that they can function. It is only a wicked, insensitive and irresponsible governor that will deny the workers their salaries, especially when Oshiomhole donated N120 million to some selected market women at the Dr. Osaigbovo Ogbemudia Staduim, Benin-City, thanking them for supporting his administration. How did he spend the $225 million loan he took from the World Bank, which he said would improve the investment climate and increase the internally generated revenue of the state? How can the governor justify the N18m he pays to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Channels Television at every rally for live coverage – when workers are being owed salaries? Is it right and just for Oshiomhole to be giving each local government council N18m anytime he goes for campaign, spends millions of naira hiring touts and hoodlums and yet, the welfare of government workers means nothing to him? If you look at my agenda, you will find that we are concerned about leadership at the local government level. Therefore, we intend to ensure strict supervision of council resources and expenditure. We shall, however, encourage financial autonomy for local government councils and create local government development areas to fast-track the development of these areas. We would also give freedom to local government councils to function in accordance with their mandate and protect local council chairmen from executive intimidation, constant harassment and unwarranted removal. Council chairmen are elected just like the governor. But today, they live in fear. Their tenure can be brought to an end by the governor announcing that he has removed them. How can you remove a man that was elected by his people? It is an abuse of executive powers. These councils have been castrated; they cannot function anymore. In this era of transparency, the state government and supervisors of local governments should publish what these local governments bring in as IGR. We will empower the councils and encourage them to explore all their revenue sources; a lot of them have been hijacked by political touts. Money meant for the councils cannot be kept in the house of political touts; it must be returned. I will not make promises that I cannot keep. Whatever we promise, we will do. For Egor local government council workers, I want to assure them that I will pay the salary arrears owed them. The constitution empowers the State government to supervise local government councils. The truth is that in Edo state local governments are practically dead. They owe arrears of salaries and they cannot do anything and the reason is simple-the State/ local government joint account has been thoroughly abused by the state government. We intend to give local government councils in the state their full autonomy and we will also give to them the ten percent of the state’s internally generated revenue. In addition we will set targets for them in terms of schools, agriculture and markets development.
Before the elections were postponed you complained about plans by your opponents to rig the elections. What exactly was your fear?
We were bothered about the shift in the date for the election, because we were not consulted; all we heard was a shift in date. We are still in the dark about the real reasons for postponing the elections. However before the shift and we still feel it is their plan, we were told that APC leaders warned their members that the election results at polling units must not be allowed to be read by the INEC Presiding Officers should PDP win in any unit in the state. They were told to tear the result sheet or cause chaos so the result is not entered into the appropriate INEC form.
We know that the APC had finally given up any hope of winning the election, and they are now planning crude measures to rig the election, including making their party members INEC ad-hoc staff. They have also mapped out many local government councils of the state, where they will disrupt election results and make the election inconclusive. Our evidence is very strong. We know for sure that the APC is also planning with their collaborators to withhold sensitive INEC electoral materials like results sheets from all the areas in Edo State where the PDP has clear voting majority. But we are not threatened because we know that Edo people are vigilant and will resist any evil plot to subvert their will at any point. #