Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu said that former National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is not the face of his campaign, noting that it is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that is dragging the former Edo governor into the fray.
This is even as he has accused the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shuiabu for the rising political tension in the state, beating the drum of war, saying that as one who does not have immunity, he will not make trouble because “I don’t want to go to jail.”
He also alleged that plans by the deputy governor, to use student union leaders to disrupt Saturday’s campaign flag off have been uncovered and reported to the Director of Department of State Services.
Ize-Iyamu spoke after he was endorsed by President Buhari, for the September 19 Governorship elections in the state.
The Chairman of the APC National Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Committee and Governor of Yobe state, Mai Mala Buni, led the delegation to the State House, Abuja.
The APC candidate while responding to a question on why Oshiomhole, is the face of his campaign despite the claim that he is a grass-root politician, said: “Let me first inform you that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is not the face of the campaign. As you rightly know, I am the gubernatorial candidate and Mallam Gani Audu is the deputy.
“It is the PDP that keeps mentioning his name, talking about him and playing tapes as if he is the candidate. But I want to inform you that I am very well known in Edo. I have lived there all my life, I have been chief of staff, secretary to the state government and we also have a local Director-General of the campaign, Gen. Cecil Esekhaigbe (retd.) from a Edo Central, who is well respected. And of course the national have also established a local council headed by no less a person than the governor of Kano. So we are very strong and we are doing well.
“Of course, Adams Oshiomhole comes from Edo, he is an APC member and it is natural for him to campaign for our party but certainly he is not the face. Unlike what happened four years ago where maybe, the candidate could not speak and somebody had to speak for him. But anyone will tell you that everywhere I have gone, I have been the one speaking. So that statement is not correct.”
Also speaking, Ize-Iyamu, denied hosting the state assembly members who purportedly impeached the speaker and deputy speaker and elect a new one on Thursday.
He said: “Let me debunk the statement that 17 members of the State House of Assembly sat in my sitting room, it is not true.”
On concerns by INEC about the possible conduct of that election given the signs of violence from both camps, Ize-Iyamu said: “On the issue of violence that you mentioned, if you ask your correspondents in Edo, it is the governor that has been beating the war drums. My billboards are being vandalized, nobody has touched their own. We wrote petitions to the commissioner of police, the Director DSS and they will attest to the fact that on a regular basis they are destroying our Billboards. They are the ones that want to make the state ungovernable and I am sure you heard the governor say that himself and his deputy have immunity and so they can deal with anybody.
I don’t have immunity, I don’t want to go to jail and it is not in my character to deal with anyone. They did their flag off at the stadium, nobody molested them. This morning I placed a call to the DSS director to tell him that I am aware that the deputy governor has sent money to the student union leaders, appealing to them to come and demonstrate at Ugbowo, which is the route we are taking to our flag off tomorrow (Saturday). Of course the boys were just looking at him and informed us.
So we are not beating any war drum, we believe in peace, our president believes in peace, our party leaders believe in peace and we cannot disappoint them.
So I can assure you that on our part, we will conduct ourselves in a peaceful manner, our campaign will be done peacefully, the elections by the grace of God will be done peaceful. We are only appealing to the PDP and the governor to do the same.”
He also said that there was no truth in the insinuations that President Buhari did not want to see him, alleging that it was a falsehood being spread by the opposition, the PDP.
He described his endorsement by Buhari as unprecedented and born out of love for him.
Ize-Iyamu said: “I want to express my gratitude to the party leadership and of course Mr. President for the reception I got this morning, very warm, very fatherly. And let me also use this opportunity to debunk the story that has been going in the past one week from the opposition that Mr. President did not want to see me. There is no truth in it. Our party is very organized and from day one, the leadership told me before the flag off we will take you to see the president. And it was only some days ago they told me, you will see the president on Friday since the flag off is on Saturday.
“There was no appointment that was arranged before that did not work. They arranged it when they wanted to arrange it and I am very satisfied with all the arrangement they have put in place.
“The cooperation I have received is unprecedented, all the governors are practically calling and seeing how they can support and I am happy to belong to the progressive family. And I want to assure you that we will win overwhelmingly. The president gave me this flag and like I said, today is a very rare privilege because under normal circumstances, it is the national chairman that gives the flag but I think the president wanted to demonstrate his love for me and because of that he decided to personally take the flag from the national chairman and gave it to me. So please, help me thank the president.”
Meanwhile, the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) has described embattled Governor Godwin Obaseki as a colossal failure and liability to the people of Edo state, hence does not deserve a second term.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State and the national leader of APC campaign team in Edo election said, described Obaseki, candidate of the PDP, as a liability to be dispensed with.
He urged the people to come out a mass to vote for Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the election as the Obaseki-led administration has performed woefully in all ramifications.
Ganduje who dismissed the argument that incumbency factor could swing votes in favour of the sitting Governor said, “Your question is, that we are contesting against a serving governor in Edo State. Yes, that is a very important question at this material time. It could have been a big problem if the governor performs well while governing his state. He could have been an asset to PDP.
“But, I assure you that the governor is a liability. In fact, it’s even better for us that we are contesting with a serving governor who failed woefully. He failed woefully in the area of human development. He failed woefully in the area of providing infrastructural facilities to the good people of Edo State, who failed most woefully in the execution of constitutional provision in the state, especially pertaining to the legislature.
“14 members were out of the legislature for 13 good months. When we calculated, we saw those 14 legislators are representing 60 per cent of the population. All their constituents are unhappy that elected legislators were not given the chance to participate in the legislations in that state. In fact, all the legislations made should be considered as illegal. So, we are ready to fight somebody who has failed and it’s an advantage to us.”
Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the decision of his APC counterparts to endorse Ize-Iyamu was predicated on widespread consultations by all the party stakeholders.
“The question has been asked whether all APC governors are in full support of our candidate and the simple answer is yes. It is laughable to suggest otherwise.
“Progressive Governors forum was solidly behind our party in the resolutions that was reached on June 25, that saw the emergence of the caretaker committee that saw the ratification of the candidature of Pastor Ize – Iyamu and we have consulted with the chairman of the caretaker committee in putting in place the campaign committee which is ably chaired by the Governor of Kano State and supported by other governors and since the candidate emerged. Since the ratification, all the APC governors have been working in different ways to ensure the success of our party. And let me just remind some of you, this is not different from what we have done before.
“Four years ago we were in the same Edo state in very difficult election and we supported the incumbent governor then, Adams Oshiomole to campaign for the party which saw the emergence of Godwin Obaseki as governor, what we are doing today is not different.
“For the progressive governors forum the defining thing is continuity of All Progressives Congress in governance at the the federal and across Nigeria and we will support our party any day. Our president has made it very clear about his expectations as to deliver our party in any elections and that is what we are going to do.”
Buni, on his part told Journalists that Buhari gave his blessings to the candidate.
He said: “We are here to present our candidate for Edo election and by the grace of God, the next Governor of Edo State, Pastor Ize-Iyamu to the President and leader of the party for his blessings.
“As you are all aware, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is not a greenhorn in Edo politics, he is a grassroot politician, loved by his people and he has gone through the transparent process that produced him and the President has endorsed him and the party too has endorsed him so the President is impressed with his performance so far.”