Hon Pally Iriase is the Deputy Chief Whip of the House of Representatives and member representing Owan Federal Constituency of Edo State in the House. In this interview, he speaks on the chances of the other contestants in the September 10 election in Edo. Excerpts:
How prepared is the APC, ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State?
We are for Godwin Obaseki and I believe that he will win. It would be the best for Edo to have him as governor after Comrade Oshiomhole because Mr Governor has described Obaseki as the brain box of his government following his wonderful performance as Chairman of the Economic Team over the past seven and a half years. As SSG of the Oshiomhole administration, I know that the governor knows what he is talking about. I also know what Godwin brought to the table. The man is very cerebral and he has what it takes to make Edo a developed state.
On the other hand, Pastor Ize-Iyamu is my friend. We have come a long way and I believe he has his own positive aspect. He is a great mobiliser, but in terms of good governance, his pedigree and track record do not seem to score him very high. You will recall that at the advent of democratic governance in Edo in 1999, he was the Chief of Staff to Governor Lucky Igbinedion. In the second term of Igbinedion, he was elevated to the position of SSG. That he occupied those two powerful positions means that government relied very heavily on his person, but the PDP in ten years ran this state very poorly. There is no way anybody that influential will be exempted in the perception of the people.
PDP and the destruction of civil service
I heard Ize-Iyamu is accusing the Oshiomhole government of destroying the civil service. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the PDP government that nearly annihilated the civil in Edo. Another point he has made is that this government should be held responsible for running down the educational system. That is also a lie. Talking about the civil service, there is no way that we can forget that, in 2001, the PDP government, in which Ize-Iyamu was very influential, decided that the best way to handle paucity of funds and inability to pay salaries was not only to down size, but to also tinker with the Pension Act to reduce civil servants retirement age until recently when it was raised to 60 years. That happened in 2001 with a lot of us arguing against it because I led the House delegation, as the Deputy Speaker, to a meeting with Igbinedion and those involved know themselves. Ize-Iyamu was there too. We had come to complain that the planned compulsory retirement of several Edo people, under the new decision of retiring those who have done 53 years of age or 28 years in service, instead of 55 years of age or 35 years in service, was counter – productive. How can we forget? The PDP government sent people prematurely away from the civil service. My argument was that it was against the law. They said no. I said, secondly, it will be penny wise, pounds foolish because, at the end of it all, they will still have to pay gratuity and pension to the people that were being retired. They said ‘who told you we will?’ I was shocked. But that is what they did. And Ize-Iyamu was involved in all of all these against our people. So I know what I am saying. Those civil servants were retired without their gratuity and that was the beginning of this intractable problem of pensioners. So how can you now turn history and make it look as if the APC government did it.
And on the educational system, during the PDP administration, our schools were so dilapidated and were fit for only reptiles, rodents. Nobody can deny the fact that the Oshiomhole government has done so well in revamping and upgrading the infrastructural facilities in the educational system. If you talk about not having enough teachers, it is easily solvable, but the kind of money you need to fix schools the way Oshiomhole has done is more demanding. The PDP destroyed our education sector to the point that it was nothing to talk about until Oshiomhole came. And Edo College is exempted because it is the alma mater of some of the PDP leaders. What is going to determine the behaviour of the electorate is that they will remember that, in spite of the bad economy and the PDP- induced criminality in the Niger Delta, what do you find in Edo? The state is among the few states that are able to pay workers as and when due. I have been told that the contractor that is awarded the completion of Otuo General Hospital has been mobilized. You now wonder. What do the people want, what are their needs? All they need is just to have good governance and that is what APC has been doing. From Ring Road to Ugbowo, nobody is afraid anymore to pass through there. People will never forget where we are coming from and, I am sure, with their vote, they will say ‘we will never go back to Egypt’.
Another issue is this idea of attempting to divert the campaign away from issues and going personal and I will urge both sides to stop it. What the people want to hear is what you can do for them and that is where Obaseki has an edge over Ize-Iyamu. Obaseki scores very high because you have not heard him go personal in his campaign. He is only telling Edo people how he intends to develop the state through agriculture. He is telling them how he will create jobs, industrialise Edo. You don’t need to be told how PDP made a mess of industrialization in this state. The cassavita factory at Uromi never worked. How can we forget the solid minerals and fertilizer company that never worked in Edo North? How can we forget the fruit juice factory that never worked in Ehor? A party that was in government and saw to the liquidation of few semblance of industrial standing in the state cannot just come to say they want to industrialize the state. Okpella cement factory died in their hands, Bendel Breweries took the same path, Edo Line is dead. I am alive to tell the story of how PDP killed these industries. The reason I was suspended in December 1999 was that I attempted to stand against what I saw as sending Edo to economic doldrums by the PDP then. They borrowed capital to establish worthless ventures. You said you wanted to establish Edo City Transport Service. My take was that the best bet would have been to take Edo Line, recapitalize it and go ahead to have a kind of compartmentalization. You have inter-city and intra-city, running side by side; so why would you go into the expense of establishing new buildings, new garage. And then, the PDP went ahead to say they were going to import Kombi buses. I said Kombi buses were ‘not known in this town; can we have Memoradum of Understanding to enable us, as representatives of the people, know what you are putting in the agreement that will ensure continuous supplies of spares, importation of manpower that will teach our people on how to make the buses road worthy?’ They said I was asking too many questions and I was sent on illegal suspension. That happened because I told them that the buses will not last three years and certainly they did not last two years. There is no Kombi bus anywhere in Edo again and they killed Edo Line. There is no bank that is not established in Edo because they see the state as a thriving economy. Only recently Dangote Group went to lay the foundation stone for a giant cement factory in Edo. Who is going to work there? Edo indigenes. Obaseki is in the fore front of this. And there are going to be many more. Obaseki has the blue print on how to turn our economy around through the solid minerals that we have in abundance in Edo North. He also has the blue print on how to partner with world class investors to turn Edo into an agrarian state, a state that will not only feed the nation but also earn good revenue to keep our economy buoyant. I know this and won’t go into the sentiment of personal friendship of supporting Ize Iyamu to succeed Oshiomhole because God is watching us; we need the best for Edo and that best is Obaseki, not Ize-Iyamu.
Allegation of marginalizing Edo Central
Oshiomhole is not marginalizing Edo Central. Edo Central has had the highest number of ministers, Uromi in particular. The question is, what have they done for their people? There is no deliberate attempt on the part of Oshiomhole to marginalize Esan people. It is just that the demographics did not support our party at this time to pick an Esan governorship candidate. And if you want to be good for Esan people, you will rather encourage them to wait for the appropriate time so that we all will now join hands and give it to them. Under the PDP, Esan land was completely forgotten except for the rehabilitation of the road to Ilushi, and the road has gone bad again. But in contrast, under Oshiomhole’s government, Irua-Shugbenu-Ugbegu Road has been constructed to world standard and not a pot hole has developed there several years after. If you have ever been to Ugbegun-Ebudin road, people in that area were given the impression by the PDP that it was not possible to construct road for them. Today we have Ebudin-Ujogba-Igueben Road. As we speak, the road from Igueben through Ewatto to Ohodua to Emu, except for the bridge which contract has just been awarded, is a delight to the people of Esan land. All these are things in Esan land and there are various schools that have now been cleaned up. What about the world class hospital at Ewohimi? But one thing that the elite that tell lies will suffer at the polls, if there is no rigging machinery, is that they will be saying one thing and the electorate will be saying another with their vote. So, like I said earlier, Obaseki will beat Ize-Iyamu silly at the polls. All the propaganda PDP is doing will not work. We all know ourselves and you will see the result come September 10.