Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the South-South vice chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He played a key role in its merger with other parties in forming the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in Edo State, however, dumped the APC for his old party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 2014. The man who was the coordinator of Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation in Edo State, speaks with BANJI ALUKO on various political issues. Excerpts:
You must have been taken aback by the defeat of your party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the national and state levels. What do you think led to the defeat?
We didn’t quite lose in Edo State. You will recall that the presidential and National Assembly elections came first before the governorship and state assembly elections. If you look at it, we had four elections in Edo State. We won the presidential, the senatorial and that of the House of Representatives, while we lost the House of Assembly election.
Overall, we lost the presidency, but in Edo, we recorded 58 per cent. I must tell you that it was not a bad result. Anyone who looks at the Edo election will agree with me that it was keenly contested. Don’t forget that the PDP was in the opposition. In fact, the leadership of the PDP in Abuja, in their own permutations, had thought that we would only be able to meet up with 25 per cent. They did not really believe that we will win. Out of the three senate seats, we won two. In the House of Representatives election, we won five out of nine.
Two weeks later, during the House of Assembly election, we were defeated as we were only able to win three seats out of 24. Of course, this was due to bandwagon effect; the disillusion and the disappointment arising from the loss of the presidency, which was unexpected.
So, in Edo State, it was not a bad result for the PDP. The disappointment came from the North and it is clear to me that the PDP underestimated the feeling in the North. The vote that came from the North showed grand conspiracy, but it also showed that it was not an issue of which party; it was a matter of getting power back by all means. The elections have come and gone, but there is a lot of lessons to draw from it.
It appears the PDP has not remained the same since the loss of the election. Do you think it can put its house in order between now and the next governorship election in Edo State next year?
There is no doubt that there is a lot of blame game going on. If we actually want to be candid, we cannot be too surprised about what happened. APC capitalised on the mistakes of the PDP. Apart from the fact that Nigerians simply wanted change, PDP committed a lot of blunders. How can you allow five governors to leave your party in one day? How can you allow National Assembly members to leave your party in one day? There was a lot of impunity during the primaries. Look at a state like Benue where a serving minister was denied the governorship ticket under questionable circumstances. The former national chairman of the party, Barnabas Gemade, was also denied a return ticket to Senate. APC gave tickets to them.
If you look around, you would see litany of these kinds of situation. There is also no doubt that the leadership of the party mismanaged a lot of events before the election. It is not enough to blame the president’s managers. Some of the things that happened were before the campaign. For example, those who wanted to contest against the president should have been allowed to do so. The party was already poised to allow the president to contest a second term, but why must we tell the whole world that we do not tolerate opposition within?
So, quite a lot of mistakes were made.
Therefore, when you lose election in that kind of disgraceful manner, you don’t need to announce that people should reason; people do. In England, you had a keenly contested election, but the Labour leader resigned. Even the Liberal Democrats’ leader, Nick Clegg, resigned. You don’t need anyone to force you to resign. I think we must learn to be a bit more civilised in our handling of issues. If you are given a position, you can enjoy the glamour while it lasts, but then, if you are not able to deliver on the expectations of the people who put you there, it is also honourable to give way for those who can do it.
What about the governorship ambition you had in the APC; did you bring it to the PDP?
The problem we have at all times is that we tend to put the cart before the horse. At a time when we should sit back to reflect on why we lost and start the rebuilding process, how can one begin to talk about ambition? The more we put ambition first, the more we push aside serious efforts.
It is good to have ambition but one must be wise enough to know the appropriate time to articulate it. For me, perhaps, because of my visibility, anywhere I go, people tend to talk about ambition, but I have not officially declared for any office. Certainly, nobody can describe me as a man without ambition; that will not be complimentary. I want to thank God that the ambition of Muhammadu Buhari has led him to where he is today. I think it is positive to be ambitious, but let us do things at the appropriate time. For me, for now, the real challenge is to build up PDP to a level where it will be able to go into election and win comfortably.
The rumour is rife in town that you are poised to return to the APC, the party you helped to build. It was even said that you have made overtures to the governor in that direction. How correct is that?
That is not true at all. The way we interpret political outcomes, given the impression that we are all interested in satisfying our stomach, is bad. For me, building a party must not necessarily be in terms of material gains. There is a satisfaction you derive in creating platforms. When I left PDP in 2007, the party was in government at the federal, state and local government levels. That same party gave me the position of chief of staff to the governor. That same party made me secretary to the state government. Before I left, the party was offering me a senatorial ticket or that of deputy governor. But I ignored them because I quarreled with the lack of internal democracy that existed then and I chose to go to the wilderness of opposition to start something afresh.
Again, when I left the APC in 2014, we had concluded a successful merger with big opposition political parties. It was already clear that the APC had the capacity to take on the PDP. Number two was that we had just won a second term election in this state. So, for those who see politics from the standpoint of dividends, the dividends of the reelection was about to begin to manifest when I left.
So, politics, for me, is not all about material reward. For some of us, there is an inner fulfillment in being able to create an enduring platform. In 2007, the PDP was more or less the only party in Edo State. As a result of that, the slogan was either you are loyal or you suffer. So, we needed to change that. In 2014, the same situation repeated itself at the federal and state level. At the federal level, the PDP appeared to be like the only party as there was no opposition. At the state level, the APC has also not consolidated on the reelection where it got 18 out of 18 councils. So, if you analyse my action, you see a man who is consistent in saying no to those who think they can monopolise power to the detriment of others. That has always been my driving force; creating a platform where everyone can participate effectively and not the dividends that come in form of appointments or contracts. I can tell you categorically that I’m not going back to the APC. I congratulate its members on their victory. I personally think it is good for our democracy because when opposition is able to win at the federal level, it means we no longer have the situations we had in the past, where elections were so predictable. Then, it was clear that once you are in government, you can rule forever. It is also my prayer that the political class will learn from the lessons of this change. You must understand that change is inevitable. What has happened is a good development. I want to appeal to many of the state governors who are yet to appreciate and recognise the independence the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has enjoyed. They should not make the electoral commissions in their state look like a government parastatal agency. They should have a rethink and begin to allow the process to come up with the candidate the people want. That is the only way development can take place at the local levels. As of today, a lot of those at the councils do not see themselves as being responsible to their people because in their thoughts, they were not elected; they were chosen by some people.
So, I congratulate the APC in Edo State for its success in the House of Assembly election and at the national level. However, that is where it stops. My job right now is to reorganise our party the way they have organised theirs to achieve victory. The good thing is that we do not need to wait for four years in Edo as it is just a year from now and four years at the federal level.
So, while they enjoy the spoils of war, we will quietly begin to put our house in order, identify where we made mistakes and correct them. We will do these things and we will be able to present ourselves in a more attractive and organised manner in the next election. Once again, I assure you that I have no intention of going back to the APC. Whatever I did in the APC should be something for the history books. I thank God for the opportunity to have done those things, but I have more challenges in the PDP, where I originally was and where I’m back to. So, whatever I have learnt, I want to put it into the PDP and help in making it a winning party.