Edo State Coordinator of President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is very optimistic that President Goodluck Jonathan will not only win the March 28 presidential election but that he will also beat Major General Muhammadu Buhari in Edo State.
You seemed confident that President Goodluck Jonathan will win Edo State, what has he done for the people to merit their votes?
A lot has been done in the area of road construction. Major roads that lead to the state have been reconstructed. Within Benin, the state capital for instance, the rehabilitation of Ugbowo road is a major boost to the economy of the state. You know how long people used to be stranded on Lagos/ Benin road through Ugbowo for more than six to nine hours while traveling. Now, that pain is over. Construction of Benin /Abuja Express Road affects the three senatorial districts in the state as well. The dualisation of the express road from Lokoja, through Auchi, Ekpoma and Benin is also another major positive impact on the entire state also. The Benin Airport is being given complete facelift from what it used to be. He has also done much to encourage agriculture such that many of the dead companies in days of the Mid- West era are beginning to come up. Mr President wiped off what Benin people considered as reproach since the establishment of University of Benin by appointing our own indigene, Professor Oshodin, as Vice Chancellor. Through that, about of 5,000 people were given gainful employment that guaranteed promotion and career progression. They got pensionable jobs and not the N5, 000 casual employments Governor Adams Oshiohmole was giving to the people in the state. The president has shown love to the people. The VC did well and after his five-year tenure lapsed, another Benin man was also appointed VC. Not only that, a federal university was established at Uromi in Edo central. These universities enjoyed tremendous funding. In Edo North, the Minister of Works commissioned bridges and roads. Auchi Polytechnic is doing well courtesy of the federal government.
Let us put what you have said side by side with the score card of APC on Mr. President, they believe he has failed the nation, what are the responses you are getting from the electorate?
I think majority of our people are going to vote for President Jonathan. The truth is that many of his achievements in Edo State had been under reported in many instances such that the state government was taking credit for some of his projects. Take for instance the Ugbowo Road, the Edo State government was saying they were the ones doing it until a federal agency came up with fact that forced them to admit that they were working on only two lanes out of the six-lane road. Governor Oshiomhole gave the impression to the people of Edo State that he was constructing a six-lane road. He also deceived the people about rehabilitation of schools he tagged red roof project. 50% of the counterpart funding for the project was from the federal government. The federal government gave out the money without discrimination irrespective of party affiliation. What APC has to show in our state now is the demolition they carried out at the University of Benin and other places. UNIBEN staff quarters demolition attracted both local and international condemnation. The contribution of the university to the developments of Edo state is quite massive. The institution should not have been treated in such manner. Many of us graduated from that school. The behaviour of the governor sometimes lend credence to what people say about his educational background. People that attended university are always more refined in public office. What the governor did was callous and wicked to the extent that properties worth millions of naira were destroyed including the residence of the former VC of the school. The land in dispute was before the court, yet, the state government went ahead with the demolition. General Mohammadu Buhari was once a head of state. There was nothing anyone could point to as benefit to Edo State except that he imprisoned Professor Ambrose Alli and by the time the man was released, he died. There is no debate on who the Edo people will vote for other than Jonathan.
You are canvassing for votes for President Jonathan in a state where APC is the ruling party. Do you think it will be an easy ride?
Under normal circumstance, contesting against incumbent government could be difficult but we are in a democracy, this election is not about writing result elsewhere. APC government in Edo State is a disaster under Oshiomhole. They are busy repainting projects carried out in the first term of the governor. The governor has no new thing to show the people. Benin Airport Road was started in third month of his first term and completed before he was reelected. Because, he has nothing to do again in the sixth year of his administration, he commissioned it few weeks ago. Buhari and Bola Tinubu were in the state to commission roads that were completed during his first term as well. In Edo State House of Assembly today, Governor Oshiomhole pays only lawmakers elected on the platform of APC alone and leave out the ones from the PDP. What manner of discrimination is that? The headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) in South South is getting to completion stage. That building is being sited in Edo state by Mr. President. That will bring multi billion naira opportunity to the state soon.
So how has it been campaigning for President Jonathan in Edo State?
It has been very interesting, when you have a sellable product, you don’t labour too hard marketing the product. But when the product is bad it becomes extremely difficult. Edo people see the President as their own. They appreciate the challenges, they appreciate his achievements and they believe he deserves a second term. In many of the places we have gone to, the reception has been very good. A lot of times they have spent much time praying for him and of course counseled him, that in his second term there are issues he needs to tackle more, like the issue of insecurity and ensuring that the power sector, all the projects that are ongoing are completed so that before the end of his tenure, Nigerians will have uninterrupted supply. So I am very confident that when the election is done, the President will win overwhelmingly in Edo State.
You don’t think it will be difficult for him to win Edo since Governor Adams Oshiomhole has told the people his direction?
If the Governor had distanced himself from Buhari’s campaign, may be Buhari would have done better, but by identifying with Buhari and by even saying that a vote for Buhari is a vote for Adams Oshiomhole, he has helped my job considerably in winning Edo. The truth is that if there is one man that Edo people do not want to see, he is the governor. You will recall that in his first term he used to do road walks, what has happened, is it that he is no longer physically fit or he has become too comfortable. He cannot do it because he knows that he will be alone. So, Oshiomhole campaigning for Buhari is a minus because Edo people voted for him truly because they wanted change and the change he has shown them has brought a lot of hardship, deceit, propaganda into Edo State. His second term has been a disaster, all the roads we were all singing about in the first term what happened to them in the second term? The University he promised the people of Edo South, what has happened to it? And when government resorts to lies people cannot be impressed. Look at the recent one; just because election is around the corner, he went to Okpella and pretended to be flagging off a road project, which he also did in 2011. Meanwhile, the water project he said PDP embezzled N800million in Okpella was embezzled when General Buhari was head of PTF not the time of Goodluck Jonathan. It is part of the state project for PTF when General Buhari was the executive chairman.
What is your reaction to the allegation of campaign fund embezzlement leveled against you by PDP youths recently?
I’m happy that he came, because it was an opportunity to see for himself the love the people of the state have for him. What you saw at the stadium that day was totally unprecedented. I have been in APC and we have done so many rallies there before, we never had that kind of crowd, the whole place was filled to the brim, the seats, running tracks and outside the stadium were jam-parked and of course, Oshiomhole could not explain because when Buhari came he went to the 18 local governments to mobilise people. His reaction was to say that people were brought from Delta, Ondo and Anambra states. Later, they realised that the President also went to Delta State that same day, so it doesn’t make sense. They also realised that even the Anambra they mentioned is not a PDP state or are they saying we went to hire traders?
When that story didn’t quite work, the next thing was to incite our youth that N1. 5bn was given to me. I can tell you clearly that common sense will tell anybody that there is no way that you spend N1.5bn for a state rally, even if it is mother of all rallies that will climax the entire exercise, such an amount is ridiculous. But we traced this story to the doorsteps of Edo State government and the boys were provoked to the extent that they demonstrated to the PDP secretariat. Later they realised that there was no truth in that information. The state chairman told them that there was no such money.
So Governor Oshiomhole recently confirmed his involvement when he mentioned in an interview that I was dragging him into what happened; that we were supposed to give the youths N3, 000, but we gave them N500, so where is the balance? The question is, when did Oshiomhole become a PDP member? Who are the PDP people that told him they got N3, 000; where did he get the story?
It will interest you to know that in their plan to frustrate the rally, he instructed the ECT buses not to ply the road that day, thinking that it will deny those that want to go to the stadium the opportunity, but he failed. The same youths that went to protest have since come forward to say we are sorry. In any event, has PDP told anybody that money meant for PDP rally was mismanaged? Why is Oshiomhole now crying more than the bereaved? I am the coordinator of the Goodluck campaigns and every day we are winning more converts, the moment he knows somebody in government wants to come and join us he quickly terminates his appointment. I can tell you that there is no truth or controversy in the President’s visit. The visit only opened the eyes of those in government to the massive support the President enjoys here and that support cuts across.
So I have no doubt at all that PDP will win Edo. I am not God, but if elections are to be done today in Edo, honestly speaking, APC will struggle to get 25 per cent. It is not a boast, I have lived here all my life, I have played politics all my life, we have gone round and it is clear to us that APC will struggle, but that PDP will win Edo is not in doubt. You see our people are very sophisticated, there was a time they voted PDP and when they thought that PDP was taking them for granted and based on our appeal to them they said they will vote another party and that party has been in power for six and a half years and Edo people are asking themselves if things are any better.
What level is Mr President taking the nation to if he wins the election and if he loses on the other hand, how will you feel?
First, we are not desperate as democrats. President Jonathan is not like Buhari and APC who have said if they don’t win the election that they will form a parallel government and blood will flow. As far as President Jonathan is concerned, his reelection does not worth the blood of anybody. That is his word as statesman. In order word, he is saying nobody should die because of him. However, Nigeria will refuse to be blackmailed. We won’t allow the highest office in the country to be taken by force and propaganda. We should have some decency to accept election results as true sportsman. Whenever APC wins, democracy is at work, but whenever the party loses, it is rigging even when they lost in Ekiti State. On the next level Mr President is taking Nigeria to, there will be peace in the country after the presidential election is resolved.
Culled from The Independent and The Guardian