Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, speaks on the reasons he is in politics, his assessment of the incumbent government in the state and plans for Edo State if elected. BANJI ALUKO brings excerpts.
As a pastor of the Redeemed Church, many think you are not supposed to be involved in politics. Do you really think you should be on the podium campaigning for votes or the pulpit talking to the congregation?
The truth of it is that, for a long time, there have been quite some wrong teachings among us Christians. In the past, there was this wrong teaching about poverty, that rich men cannot make heaven and only poor people will make heaven. So, a lot of Christians will shun good jobs and say no, ‘if I take that job, I will not make heaven.’ Later, they realised that there was no scriptural basis at all for such belief. When Jesus talked about how hard it will be for a rich man to make heaven, he was referring to those who carry riches above the things of God, not that rich men cannot make heaven.
Rich men can make heaven if they use their wealth in a manner that will please God. In fact, your riches can actually guarantee you heaven if it is well used. So, that was one wrong teaching then.
It is the same thing with politics. You say Christians should not be involved in politics, but it is through politics that leaders emerge. Are you saying Christians should not be leaders and yet politics and the actions of the leaders affect our daily lives, then what are we talking about? It is true that in Nigeria, politics is seen to be very dirty. It is so because we have allowed the wrong people to be in it. When you have bad people in politics, the system will be bad. So basically, because good and decent people do not participate in politics, that is why we are facing what we are facing. It is time that we take the bull by the horns and be active in politics to reverse the system. As the Bible puts it, when the righteous rule, the people are happy.
I have garnered experience in politics and governance. I was a Chief of Staff and former Secretary to the Edo State government. I am a lawyer by profession and farmer.
Edo is blessed with solid minerals. What do you plan to do with these assets as governor?
Edo State is rich in mineral and agricultural resources. Edo North, for example, is one of the richest senatorial districts in terms of mineral deposits in the country with 18 known deposits, including gold, marble, limestone, phosphate and many others. Edo State ought to be a land of plenty, but we have in the last eight years had a government without vision. That is why I am appealing to every eligible voter in Edo that they have the power to effect a change on September 10, 2016. It is the power to ‘change the change.’ Under the APC government, what we have had is a daily cycle in which we struggle to make a living. Cost of living has gone up and the prices of fuel, kerosene, rice and tomatoes have all gone up. Our people are wondering what went wrong. I say now is their time to take the future. They must vote to change the direction in which APC is leading us as a country. This is our chance; we must seize the moment.
How would you rate the outgoing government in Edo state?
For the last eight years in this state, the government has never asked the people any question. I believe we must give the government back to the people. In Edo State, we are close to having a little boy, who was born in Benin, who attended primary school in Benin, who went to secondary school in Benin, who attended the University of Benin and worked in Benin as the governor. That is me. There is hunger in the land. There is chronic unemployment in the land. There is poverty in the land. When there is poverty in the land, our women bear the brunt. We must reverse this situation.
What are your plans if you get elected as governor?
My plan is simple and is contained in a brochure called the Simple Agenda. We cannot expect to build a safe and secure state when we have not taken steps to create jobs for our young men and women. In the past eight years, all the industries that used to provide jobs for our young men and women have been closed down by an insensitive government. Where is Edo Line? Where is Bendel Breweries? Where is Bendel Insurance? Where is Urhonigbe Rubber Factory? Where is Uromi Fertilizer Plant? Where is Ehor Fruit Juice Factory?
I strongly believe that government must first take care of its responsibility towards the people before it can have the moral right to ask the people to take care of their responsibility towards the government. To this end, I declare that we will review the excessive multiple taxation burden in this state and in consultation with the people, evolve a simple tax structure. I am prepared from Day One to work assiduously towards increasing opportunities to be skilled, to be equipped and to be empowered with a small business loan in the communities to give our people the power and be ready to prosper. All 192 wards in Edo will have a social welfare officer whose job it will be to be the first point of contact on issues of maternal mortality, infant mortality and balanced child nutrition up to the age of five. They will visit you in your homes to ask you how government can help you.
On infrastructure, we must resolve to build the infrastructure of the mind and soul where brother cares for brother and sister cares for sister and we all care for our senior citizens. We cannot allow our senior citizens retire into penury. On education infrastructure, we must first train our teachers to be the best so that they can change the way we reward them and the way they teach. We must equip every school with a computer laboratory to enable our children function and compete with their counterparts across the world. Every Edo student in tertiary institutions will be entitled to bursary award.
What about a critical infrastructure like road?
We plan to evolve a system that makes our six dry months work for us like 12 months by introducing double shifts in road construction contracts. On health infrastructure, we plan to build a healthcare system that is second to none in Nigeria. A figure of 17 per cent maternal and infant mortality is unacceptable and must be reversed. We will build well-equipped primary healthcare centres in every local government across the state to bring healthcare to the doorsteps of our beautiful mothers, wives and daughters. It is estimated that two out of every 25 women die of breast cancer every year in the state. Awareness is the key and catching it early makes it possible to get a cure. We must build cancer screening centres in every market across the state for early detection. We must protect our women.
On manpower development and training, we will equip the Edo youth to be the most productive youth in Nigeria. A society that trains its youth is a society that plans to succeed. Changes will be made to our educational curriculum such that every child would pick four different skills to learn from JSS1-JSS3. They would then be required to specialise in one skill from SS1 to SS3. When that child is ready to graduate from secondary school, they will have a WAEC certificate in one hand and a trade diploma in the other hand. For adult men and women who are unemployed and poor, we will provide them a way out of poverty. Every local government will operate a skill acquisition programme on one hand and a food programme to go along with it. It is cheaper to train people and guide them out of poverty than to buy guns and build prisons. When people see a pathway out of poverty, they are not likely to resort to crime.
How do you hope to make Edo attractive for foreign investors?
I plan to engage the private sector in the revitalisation of all neglected industries in Edo and in the establishment of new ones. We intend to build industrial clusters in each of the three senatorial zones with ready to go Certificate of Occupancy and a five-year tax holiday. Let the word go forth therefore to the four winds of Nigeria, North, South, East and West and beyond the shores of our great country that Edo is open and ready for business. We plan to lead from the front.
There is no better and faster way to create employment than through agriculture. We plan to build agricultural settlements in all three senatorial zones and bring back Commodity Marketing Boards to buy produce from farmers. We plan to put 500,000 hectares under cultivation in the first four years. Portions of land will be allocated to 100,000 young farmers who will employ up to 10 persons per hectare to address the scourge of unemployment, hunger and poverty in the land. In addition, we will establish microfinance companies in every local government to help empower small and medium scale business people.