The Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, in an interview with Bayo Akinloye of The Punch, said that the All Progressives Congress may have a hand in the postponed September 10 polls in Edo State. Read excerpts of the interesting interview after the break
How did you receive news of the postponement of Edo State governorship poll?
I am very sad that the Edo State governorship election slated for September 10 was postponed. We were prepared for the election. We were confident of winning but all of a sudden we got the news that the poll had been postponed with the authorities citing security challenges. The nature of the challenges we were not told; a new date for the poll had been fixed. It’s a long postponement with the election scheduled to hold on a week day and we were not even consulted. We see this development as a conspiracy by those who are scared (of losing in the poll) and are playing for time. But as law-abiding citizens, anything they want to do, we’ll be ready.
Similar thing happened during the Peoples Democratic Party rule with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan presiding over the country; the general elections were postponed. Don’t you think you should give the current government the benefit of the doubt?
I am sure you know that the reasons given then for the postponement of the polls were not in doubt – insurgency in the North-East was the main reason. The government wanted to ensure that the region was safe enough for people to exercise their civic right. So, the reason was clearly defined and we all knew what happened afterwards: the All Progressives Congress did very well (in that region). If you remove the votes recorded for the party in the North-East I doubt if the APC would have won the presidential election. Whether we like it or not those reasons were valid and the results were clear. But in Edo’s case, what are the reasons for postponing the governorship poll? What are the security challenges? The President (Muhammadu Buhari) was in Edo and two days after it was announced that election could no longer hold due to security challenges. But what are the security challenges? Policemen drafted from their formations to provide security during the poll were already on their way before the election was postponed. They were ordered to go back to their formations. If there had been security challenges would they have been drafted to Edo in the first place?
The truth is this: we are not accusing the president of complicity in this matter. But the postponement made us curious that the governor of the state (Adams Oshiomhole), who is the chief security officer, didn’t raise his voice when it was announced that the election had been postponed due to security challenges. Is that not an indictment on his government? A man who collects N500m monthly for security vote didn’t say a word about security challenges in the state being the reason for the poll postponement. Isn’t that an irony? There was no protest; there was no condemnation. Isn’t it strange for somebody like Oshiomhole not to protest and condemn such declaration?
But what if he’s privy to a security report that you and I are not aware of?
If he’s privy to a security report, is it not his responsibility to tell Edo people what is at stake? Does he want the people to live in fear? If there are security challenges shouldn’t we all know about it? When ex-President Jonathan decided to postpone the elections last year he gave us reasons. Where are the security challenges? Why is he keeping us in the dark?
But you are also on the ground; do you see any trace of security threat in the state?
I can assure you that the state is peaceful. Edo does not have a history of militant activities. We believe that the poll postponement was instigated by those who knew that they would lose the election if it had held on Saturday, September 10. They have been able to reach out to those in authorities to assist them in postponing the election. And you wonder why an election that is supposed to be held on a weekend is now slated for a weekday. Why? Isn’t that an attempt to disenfranchise many people in the state? It’s only a student who’s ill-prepared for an exam that won’t show eagerness when the time arrives for the exam.
Was there any agreement between political parties contesting in the poll and INEC in arriving at the new date – September 28, which is a Wednesday?
They didn’t speak to us about it. There was never a discussion about that date. We were never consulted. Just like you heard (about the postponement), so did we. It is curious that the slated rescheduled to a time when the new Oba of Benin would be coronated. Whatever their plan is to scuttle the people’s aspiration will not succeed.
So, are you and your party going to petition INEC about this?
Why did they choose September 28? I would think they should have chosen the nearest weekend (September 17 or 24). Even the governor said it in an interview on TV that he would have preferred an earlier date. We also agree (with him). INEC decided to choose September 28 knowing that the terminal date for the governorship election is October 12, which is few weeks to the swearing-in of whoever wins the election.
What do you make of the Nigeria Police’s statement that their security alert was only advisory – that INEC could have gone ahead with the poll if it wanted to?
The truth is that if you (the Nigeria Police) want to advise INEC about the security situation in Edo State, should the commission hear about your advice on TV? The INEC national chairman (Prof. Mahmood Yakubu) was in Benin in a meeting with various senior officers of the police and the Department of State Services and said everything was ready for the election; only to come out of that meeting to hear that the DSS and the police have advised INEC to postpone the election. And the man confessed to us that he just heard about the announcement and he was shocked and confused. That advice should have been followed up with concrete evidence of what is at stake. One thing is obvious: there were desperate efforts to scuttle the election. We are aware that in some quarters yesterday (Thursday) there were jubilations because the poll was postponed.
And you don’t think the President was involved in this alleged scheming?
Let me tell you what I think about the president; he’s a president who believes in a free and fair election and the outcome is not relevant to him. I also heard that when the INEC chairman heard about the security alert, he called the President and the President told him he wasn’t informed (about any security breach) and that INEC could go on with the election. But INEC couldn’t go ahead because the security agencies wouldn’t give them security cover. Even though he’s the President of the country, a cabal around him can decide to misuse its privileged position.
In financial terms, how much has the postponement cost you and your party?
That is why I said it is (poll postponement) a conspiracy to deliberately frustrate us. Coincidentally, some days ago, I met a couple of senior editors and told them about a ‘Plan B’ of the APC to look for how to reschedule the election if they were not sure they would win. If you ask your colleagues they will attest to the fact that I told them. But we are not the only one who has wasted money; the Federal Government had released a lot of money to ensure that the poll was held on Saturday. One can only imagine the amount of money that would have been wasted due to the postponement. Yet, nobody is telling us the nature of the security threat.
There is no love lost between you and Edo State incumbent governor. What went wrong with the rosy relationship both of you once had?
I left him when I saw the insincerity, the hypocrisy, corruption and a lack of direction. The truth is that he has desecrated that office. You’ll be shocked by the type of language he uses since election campaign kicked off. He is not the one contesting for the governorship poll but in the last few months, governance in the state has been suspended. If he goes to rallies he speaks for two hours and the APC governorship candidate speaks for two minutes. He (Oshiomhole) should know that I am not contesting against him – he’s an outgoing governor. I have no problem with him, though I don’t think he’s done well in the state.
Having expressed displeasure over Oshiomhole’s eight-year rule in Edo, will you probe his administration if you are elected as the next governor of the state?
You see, when you use the word ‘probe,’ it connotes the idea that one is being vindictive. If you ask me what will I do (if I succeed him), I’ll say I will study his handover note. He has a duty to prepare such a note before he leaves office. If there are grey areas in the note, we’ll invite him to shed light on those areas. We are not going to probe his administration. I am not coming into government with a vindictive mindset. We only believe that Edo people must get their due and every government must be accountable to the people.
With Oshiomhole allegedly speaking for two hours and Obaseki speaking for merely two minutes at rallies, shouldn’t Edo people be worried that the APC candidate may just be a puppet if he becomes the state governor?
His actions have made him more and more unattractive. Edo people are sophisticated; they are enlightened. They want to hear the man who is seeking for their votes. So, when they see a governorship candidate who cannot speak for himself, they are shocked. People in the state have called me to say, ‘Pastor, you’re the only one we can hear his voice. We’re going to support you.’ Even within the APC I can tell you that I enjoy overwhelming support. They cannot toy with the inevitable; election must be conducted and there must be a swearing-in on November 12 – and, by the grace of God I’ll emerge as the new governor.
Do you then think the APC governorship candidate is fit to rule the state?
It is left for Edo people to decide on that but quite honestly he has not done well for himself. He was invited to three debates but for some strange reasons he did not attend; other candidates came, he didn’t come. And, when he eventually turned up for a debate, his performance was obvious. At an interactive session with INEC, he couldn’t even pronounce well the name of his party: instead of saying ‘All Progressives Congress,’ he said, ‘All Peoples Congress.’ Apparently, he has given a good account of himself – a candidate who does not know the name of his party cannot be entrusted to rule Edo State.