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In this interview with JAMES AZANIA, the National Vice Chairman, South-South of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, speaks on party politics and the chances of the yet-to-be-registered All Progressives Congress, among other issues
What is your brand of politics?
My politics is people-oriented; my politics is geared towards development. I believe that those are the two major things we should be looking at. I believe in politics that will bring development to our locality, to our state and to our country. Politics that will empower our people, give them a sense of fulfilment, a sense of liberty, a sense of freedom; so, I am a progressive politician. I don’t believe in power just for the sake of it. I believe that politics must be used to pursue the interest of the majority of our people, politics should be used to bring greater development to our state and to our country; so, the politics that is self-serving, the politics that is oppressive, the politics that is autocratic, I remove myself from such tendencies. I believe that politics is all about the people; I now try to situate myself where the majority of our people are.
As a politician, have you ever been indicted for corruption?
No. But that’s a very good question. In fact, because of the kind of posture I took when I was in government, you will recall that I was one of those that were not happy with the leadership style of the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State and I fought against it. Rather than try to talk to us or look at our point of view, they felt that the best thing to do was to de-register us, which they did and that made us to form alternative platforms and of course because of this, the obvious weapon was, let us intimidate him, let us persecute him and let us mess him up. So, petitions were written by different persons to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, accusing me of all kinds of things and I was invited on many occasions, but to the glory of God, nothing was found against me, because throughout my stay in government, I was very conscious of the need to maintain my integrity. My father never went to jail and I had no intention of going to jail. My father was secretary of the council in the old Benin Province and he served without a blemish. I am also by the grace of God, a pastor. So, everything I did, I tried to ensure that I followed the due process; I tried to ensure that whatever was not correct or controversial, I didn’t get involved in it, so when they did all their investigations they found nothing. To really answer your question, no, I have never been indicted for corruption, I have never seriously been accused of any wrong doing, apart from these faceless petitions that were written and which had no merit.
What’s your take on the growing level of intolerance, which has led to an increase in the number of cases of electoral violence and even assassinations?
I think that our people are too desperate for political office and that’s why they can do anything to deal with so-called political opponents. For me, if the real reason we are in politics is to serve, then why are we desperate? How can a man be desperate to serve?
If you really want to serve and your people say no, because all you wanted to do was to serve, then you accept the ‘no’ in good faith and move on. So, for me, politics has never been do-or-die. I see politics as just an opportunity to serve and if that opportunity is not there, I move on, and what stops me from even assisting those who the people have now mandated to serve them? So, if you look at it in that context, there will be a lot of accommodation, there will be a lot of tolerance, there will be a lot of brotherliness, not the enmity that we
find, where people can go to any length to destroy you, simply because you dared to contest against them. And quite honestly, I also think that political offices should be made less attractive. I think in Nigeria, it (political office) is too attractive; the unlimited allowances, the unlimited power are what create the desperation.
By the time we begin to limit and reduce the pecks of office, you will find out that many people will lose their interest in politics and those that will remain are those who genuinely want to serve. Abroad, you don’t see the kind of desperation that we have in Nigeria, simply because the political office has not been made to be as attractive as it is in Nigeria; a political office holder can practically do anything, he can get away with anything. It shouldn’t be so. So, for me, if it is possible to seriously reduce the pecks and benefits in political office, I think that should be done so that people will no longer see political office as an avenue to get rich and become the most powerful person in the land. They may need to see it as a thankless assignment, a place where you will not even make money, a place where all you will do is render service; so, if you don’t want to render any service, you go elsewhere. If it is money you want to make, perhaps you should focus on a private business than a political office. I think if all that is done, you will find out that the enmity, the desperation, the killings that we sometimes see in our politicking, will be gone.
From your assessment, what are the prospects of your party (APC) in the South-South?
I believe that with the coming on board of the All Progressives Congress, which we all hope in a matter of weeks will be registered, that there is going to be a serious coalition of progressive forces going even beyond party lines. During the last (general) election, our people voted on the basis of sentiments, we felt that that we should support our own, but again, you know that there have been disappointments here and there and this time, I do not believe that sentiments will be the major factor. What people will be asking for now is what have you been able to do in our state? And of course, every state has its own story; so, in the different states in the South-South, those who want votes must be able to convince the electorate that what they have done is sufficient to get the votes of the people. I don’t think it will be sufficient to say you are from that zone, I don’t think that in itself will be a major factor. The truth about it is that there is a serious cry for a change; people believe that things have to change for the better; so, I believe that with the kind of coalition that is coming up, APC stands a very good chance in the South-South and of course you know the South-South has always been a progressive region. I believe strongly that by the time we begin to speak on our programmes, on our manifesto, on our policies, it would be difficult to ignore the APC.
Don’t you see the emergence of the African Peoples Congress and All Progressives Congress of Nigeria as a threat to the registration prospects of the merging opposition parties?
I think that they are actually making the APC more popular. The party registration issue, the way they are doing it right now will make Nigerians take an extra interest in the formation of that party. Without
knowing, I think they have helped us by drawing a lot of very positive attention to us. It is clear that they are fronting for other parties, if not, what are they so desperate about in our party, in its name or its acronym? If truly they want to be registered, there are a thousand names that they can use, why did they have to wait until we announced the coming together of parties to form the APC before they rushed to the Independent National Electoral Commision to say that they also want to be APC? It was certainly a very mischievous adventure and INEC saw through it all before refusing their registration. So, for them to still be threatening fire and brimstone, I think what they are just doing is telling the public that they are scared of this new party, they are scared that this new party can take over the control of our country and so, they want to see how they can kill it before it is born, but I don’t think that they will succeed, I think that God has been with us and I see us being able to go through the last hurdles. The major ones of course we have passed through, which were the conventions of the three major parties.