•Promises to diversify economy
•Obaseki fails to show up at conversation despite written invitation, due processes
By Emma Okonji, Eromosele Abiodun, Nosa Alekhuogie, Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos, Adedayo Akinwale, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, yesterday disclosed that his plans for Edo State as encapsulated in his SIMPLE Agenda will transform all sectors of the state’s economy with a focus on security, health, infrastructure and job creation.
Ize-Iyamu, who is the main challenger to the governor of Edo State and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Godwin Obaseki, stated this when he appeared on a special edition of The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers.
The special programme, which was designed as a series of dialogue among the 14 competing candidates, by ARISE NEWS Channel with the support of EiE, a group of individuals and organisations committed to institute a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria through active citizenship, was scheduled to feature Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu yesterday.
But the Edo State governor refused to show up despite a written invitation and assurances from him that he would participate in the dialogue.
However, a statement by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, said Obaseki boycotted the conversation because he learnt at the last minute that it was going to be a debate.
“Governor Obaseki was preparing to depart for the venue of the programme early this morning when information came that the event was no longer a conversation but a debate,” he claimed, adding: “The banner headline on the invitation card to the event reads, Edo Governorship: The Conversation. This information is available online and can be verified. How a conversation turned to a debate is a question only organisers of the eve can explain.”
But from the invitation letter dated September 9, 2020, and signed by ARISE NEWS Managing Director, Ms. Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, (see a copy on page 8) the party chieftain’s explanation for his candidate’s no show would appear to be an afterthought as it was made very clear that the engagement would be a dialogue between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu.
The letter read in part: “There are 14 candidates in the Edo governorship election and we are inviting all candidates to participate in the dialogues. You will be hosted with the APC candidate, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, while the other twelve candidates will be split into two groups of six candidates each in separate sessions.
“The dialogue would be for two hours during The Morning Show, our flagship programme with the highest number of viewers nationwide and The Diaspora. It will focus on topics: (1) education, (2) healthcare, (3) job creation, and (4) the economy.”
Not only did the governor during private conversations with the station’s managing director agree to participate in the dialogue, he also paid for advertisements, which were aired throughout the programme.
In a press statement from the Chairman of Edo APC Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, while reacting to the governor’s refusal to attend the conversation said, “the governor’s cowardice is legendary, shameless, and unbecoming of someone who hopes to lead the fearless people of Edo State.
This is the third time that Obaseki will flee from a debate. What is he running away from? From accountability and transparency? This tells you that the Channels TV Interview was arranged. It is sad that someone that campaigned on accountability and said Edo would be the envy of the western world in terms of transparency is now running away from giving account of what he has done and what he hopes to do”.
The APC spokesman disclosed that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was always ready to serve no matter the obstacles, without giving excuses.
He said, “This tells you that we are ready to serve. You saw how the governor planted his people in the studio for channels television and they yelled thuggishly, making such a fracas with the sole aim of turning a debate into a campaign rally. It was an elaborate setup by the governor Obaseki-led government to hoodwink the nation and the people of Edo State, but those in the state know what is going on.”
He added that although Obaseki had paid for adverts on Arise TV “just the same way he paid for adverts on Channels Television,” it meant nothing to the governor to run away from the debate after wasting Edo people’s money on advertisements’.
He disclosed that, “With this dodgy attitude of Obaseki, Edo people cannot have confidence in him. He has consistently failed promises made to workers, traders and farmers in Edo State. Now, he has taken his unreliability to the media three times and the one time he appeared in the media, he knows how much he spent to present a good image. No one trusts him”.
He therefore urged Edo people, “ to come out en masse and vote out tyranny, cowardice, oppression and dishonesty”. Ize-Iyamu during the conversation accused Obaseki of financial recklessness in managing state resources.
According to him, “I have a comprehensive document on how I believe we can reverse the fortune of our state, and make it better. I believe sincerely that without good security, we would not be able to position our state in where we want it to be. Investors will not come, Tourists will not come, even our own indigenes abroad would be reluctant to come back home if we continue to suffer the level of insecurity that we have.
“In the same way, without serious infrastructure, it is going to be very difficult to attract any serious industry or business to our state. Our people too must be trained and retrained so they can have the necessary skills to compete at any level. So, the agenda has been well thought out, and in terms of implementation, of course, we would be looking at funds. The state is blessed, I just believe that our money has not been prudently utilised in the past.”
If elected, he said, he intends to set up an economic management team that would ensure that the monies of the state are well utilised.
He said: “In terms of immediate implementation, it depends on what we have in the coffers of the state. If our state is not in the red, then there are so many things we can jumpstart and begin to do. If, however, we find out that our state is in the red, there is nothing wrong with accessing the capital market to see how we can get some short-term facility to be able to kick-start what we want to do.
“But we sincerely believe that by the time we begin to implement our programmes, the structures of our state will change. By the time people see our sincerity, our focus and priorities, we also believe that so many donor agencies and so many people would be willing to come to our aid and to assist our state.
“So, we are not too much afraid about how we want to implement our project, we just want to win first, get in, and then you would see a serious implementation of the agenda we have set for ourselves.”
Ize-Iyamu, who decried the high level of unemployment in Edo State said the state government could have done much more to reverse the situation if appropriate plans were put in place.
“I believe the current statistics are worse. The statistics you have right now are based on the data that was received, and mainly from the Edo State government. But I have told people in another forum that most of those statistics are wrong. The bogus claims that 151,000 jobs have been created are not true. The unemployment rate is a lot higher.
“To be able to reverse the trend, we believe that with the SIMPLE agenda, a lot of things would change.
“For example, by the time we make our state more secured, a lot of businesses are going to come, the existing ones are going to expand and increase their scope, and that would help a lot in creating more jobs,” he said.
On the high level of insecurity in Edo State, he said the high rate of unemployment in the state was responsible, promising that he will reverse the trend by engaging the unemployed youths.
According to Ize-Iyamu, “This government has wasted so many resources in Edo State. For instance, the farm projects that the present government embarked upon, actually flopped and it was a complete waste of resources of Edo State people. The farm projects were not well thought out and they did not bring in the right professionals to handle it. In one of the farm projects, the government wasted close to N2 billion on that project because it failed. The rice project in Aghenegbode, where the government claimed it invested over N5 billion, also was a big failure and a complete waste of resources. Those projects failed because the government refused to consult the required experts to handle the projects.
If voted into power, I will consult with the right professionals and ensure that projects are successfully implemented in the state.”
He said a lot of businesses are going to come, and the existing ones are going to expand and increase in scope, which would help a lot in creating more jobs.
“The security aspect of our SIMPLE Agenda is also intended to get many of our young ones employed. We intend to do community policing whereby we identify the local vigilante group all over the state, organise them and make them more functional and ensure that on a monthly basis, we pay them some stipend for keeping our state safe and complementing the police,” he added.
In the area of agriculture, Ize-Iyamu said Edo State government should be able to invest in agriculture in the areas such as rubber, cocoa and cassava, explaining that when he was secretary to the government of the state, the government deliberately established a Cassava Factory at Uromi with support from Brazil.
He also spoke on the state’s capacity for generating internal revenue, saying statistics showed that the state had not been doing very well in IGR in the past three years of the Obaseki administration.
“The statistics on IGR in the state for the past three years shows slow growth in IGR because the government is not generating enough money; rather, it has relied so much on federal government allocation and taxes from within the state. A serious government should be able to think outside of the box to attract foreign investments that will drive IGR,” he said, pledging: “If voted into power, what I will do is to diversify the Edo economy and ensure that the economy is stronger with short term return on investments. I will increase the IGR of the state and increase employment for our youths. We will stimulate the economy of Edo State through public-private partnerships that will further raise the IGR of the state.”
On insecurity and poor infrastructural development in the state, Ize-Iyamu said: “My SIMPLE Agenda will bring about investments in security and infrastructure. In the area of security, we intend to use technology to deal with crimes in the state.
“We will employ the services of drones to monitor most of our localities in order to fish out kidnappers and armed robbers from their hiding places. We will purchase trackers to trace and track kidnappers. We will invest in infrastructure in the areas of health, agriculture and ensure that we use modern technology tools to drive processes in those areas in order to give real support to the citizens. People should have access to quality equipment in schools and hospitals.”
He added that if voted into power, he would run a very serious security outfit and bring in all security agencies in the state to fight crimes at all levels.
Fielding questions about the educational situation of the state, Ize-Iyamu said: “We will invest in education, using technology to drive digital education through e-learning. With COVID-19, we need to change from our traditional way of education to a digital way of offering educational services. We intend to resuscitate the Benin Technical College, which has been abandoned by the present government.
If that college was resuscitated by the present government, it would have been a centre for manpower development in the state, where technical skills will be developed for the state.”
According to the APC governorship aspirant: “When I become governor of Edo State, I will build a disease control centre in the state, well equipped with the latest medical tools and medical professionals. We will provide healthcare centres in all local government areas. Hospitals, where serious health issues are addressed, are the responsibility of state government, and that should be an area of priority for us if voted into power.
“We have 34 government hospitals in Edo State, but they are all in a deplorable state, which we plan to renovate and rebuild.”