The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC in the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu was upbeat on Saturday following the impressive turnout of governors of the party at the formal flag-off of his campaign at the Sports Complex of the University of Benin, Ugbowo campus. Hitherto, the major opposition party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP had in the last few days taunted Ize-Iyamu that 14 of the APC governors, notably the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, had withdrawn their support for him. The PDP also mocked the APC flag bearer that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, did not support his candidacy allegedly because of his pending law suit involving the EFCC hence the delay and difficulty in flagging off his campaign. Interestingly, Buhari was to formally present the party’s flag to Ize-Iyamu on Friday at the presidential villa at a ceremony witnessed by the party’s caretaker committee chairman, Mai Mala Buni, the chairman of the National Campaign Council, Abdullahi Ganduje, amongst other party chieftains.
Saturday’s colourful flag-off of the campaign which attracted the presence of 11 governors, and one deputy governor was however to send a strong signal to the opposition that the APC governors were very much behind the candidate of the party in the state and were ready to deliver him come September 19. In attendance were Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Rotimi Akeredolu, Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and Nasir El-Rufai of Lagos, Ondo, Osun, Kano, and Kaduna respectively. Also present were Hope Uzodimma, Abubakar Bagudu, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, and Sani Bello, governors of Imo, Kebbi,, Jigawa, and Niger States respectively. The governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni was present in dual capacities, being the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC. Edward David Onoja, the deputy governor of Kogi State, represented Yahaya Bello, the state governor.
The deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, the ministers of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi as well as the minister of state for mines and steel, Uche Ogah also attended the flag-off ceremony. However, conspicuously absence was the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, two former governors of the state who were named members of the National Campaign Council, John Odigie-Oyegun and Oserheimen Osunbor. Odigie-Oyegun is a former national chairman of the APC. The two former governors were sympathetic to the re-election of incumbent, Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the PDP and there had been speculation that they might not be enthusiastic to campaigning for Ize-Iyamu.
Addressing the mammoth crowd of party supporters, the APC National Campaign Council was optimistic that the candidate of the party would win the election. Buni boasted that they were in the state to take back the mandate given to the party in 2016. According to him, “As you are aware, the ritual of the flag presentation by the party to our candidate was conducted yesterday (On Ffriday) by no other person than our leader, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.
“You have seen the presidential endorsement yourselves. We are here to present to you our candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu. We are here to take back our mandate, to take back our state. Four years ago, we were here; you have voted for APC and we have no doubt in our minds you are going to vote for APC and return our mandate back in Edo State”.
Presenting Ize-Iyamu to the party faithful, Buni admonished party faithful not to be violent throughout the campaign processes and the election “because victory is ours. We are here to win and not to fight. But we must ensure that every vote must count. With these few remarks, let me use this opportunity to present to you our in-coming governor of Edo State, Pastor Ize-Iyamu”.
Kano State governor and chairman of the National Campaign Council, Abdullahi Ganduje said the Council had met several times and had completed arrangements for successful election and “Inisha Allah, we will win this election”. Ganduje said the responsibility of the Council was to create enabling environment for the mobilization of voters for the presentation of its candidate and his manifesto especially his SIMPLE agenda for the good people of Edo State.
The Kano State governor said the Council was impressed with the state council for the election. He also congratulated the state APC for the inauguration of the 12 members-elect of the state House of Assembly and the election of principal officers. “We are impressed with the performance of the election committee at the state level. We have seen elections and campaigns going on from hamlet to hamlet, from village to village, from town to town and within the metropolis of Benin.
“From the crowd we have seen, we have to conclude that this election will be won by the APC. Also, I have to congratulate you; listen to me. I have to congratulate you for the swearing in of 14 elected state Assembly members and also the election of the new principal officers of Edo State House of Assembly. We do congratulate you and we pray Almighty God to guide them for successful deliberations in Edo State House of Assembly.
“In fact, we were astonished, we were surprised, we were shocked that for 13 good months, 14 members were not sworn in. But now, we have succeeded. Three other legislators including the deputy speaker have now joined the successful 14. Now, they have 17. Seventeen is more than three quarters of 24 legislators. We have more than three quarters. We thank you for that”.
Also speaking, the immediate past national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, like Ize-Iyamu, was excited about the good showing by the party’s governors at the event. Appreciating the governors that came, Oshiomhole, in a veiled reference to how the opposition had mocked the party’s candidate, said “Your Excellencies, I believe Pastor understands what this means. When all the APC governors have chosen to devote today to identify with the great people of Edo State to ensure we have a governor who will return Edo to ‘eye-mark’ I don’t think we can thank them enough.So, Your Excellencies, we are very grateful for your presence”.
Speaking further, the immediate past governor of Edo State said “You can see the level of confidence. For the past two days, our governors have devoted their time in Abuja and in Edo State. Yesterday, (On Friday) I was excited when the Progressive Governors’ Forum Chairman and Chairman of the campaign presented our candidate (Ize-Iyamu) to the President and it is now in history as the only man who has gotten the flag from the President, right in the Villa. Can you now see the difference?”
Appealing to party faithful to eschew violence before and during the election, Oshiomhole said “When they want violence, say no. We have chosen peace. When they preach violence, preach peace. We rely on God. Every weapon of violence that is being fashioned by those who are about to lose election, shall not prosper. People that have come to provoke us, God will give us the strength to resist them. What we know is the weapon of PVC. Those who are looking for guns and bullets shall not prosper”.
According to the former Edo State governor, “I will tell you why the outgoing governor (Godwin Obaseki) is gone; why G.O (Godwin Obaseki) means go, and why Pastor Ize-Iyamu will come and rekindle, and re-energise, digitalise, consolidate, and advance and prosper Edo people”. He criticized Obaseki for shutting down some tertiary institutions like the College of Education, Ekiadolor, College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi, the State School of Nursing and Midwifery, and the five-star Special Hospital. Describing the Obaseki-government as “A government of closure and closure” Oshiomhole assured that “The next governor, Ize-Iyamu, from November 12, 2020, has the business of reopening and reopening”.
Insisting that Edo must return to “eye-mark” Oshiomhole posited that “We cannot accept that we spent Edo taxpayers’ money to build a five-star hospital (Edo Specialist Hospital, Benin) and it is equipped; and as we speak, that hospital is being managed by people who are not from Edo State and they are being paid money every day and it is only open to people who are rich. We did not build the hospital for the rich. We used the money of the motor mechanics, the market woman, the youths, the artisans, the bricklayers; it is their taxes that we used when I was governor to build that hospital. When Pastor comes to power, that hospital will be returned to the rich and the poor people of Edo State without discrimination”.
Ridiculing Obaseki over his poor WAEC result, Oshiomhole said “Never again should a governor who knows that he has only three credits – Religious Knowledge, History, Geography – and you tell us, the people of Edo State that these three credits took you to the University of Ibadan (UI); now we will dismiss him in court”.
Responding, the visibly ecstatic APC candidate was confident that he would win the election. With a sense of relief and gratitude for the solidarity by APC governors, Ize-Iyamu said “I want to thank the good people of Edo state, all the governors of APC present and not present but I am happy to say that almost all of them are here and the ones who are not here sent apologies”.
Speaking further, he said “My job is just to thank our national leaders for coming to identify with us. With the people you have seen with me today, can anybody say we are in opposition? No. Can anybody say that we will be intimidated? No. Who will win the election, Osagie Ize-Iyamu! I want to assure them that in this election, we will not only win; we will win the 18 local governments.
“And let me assure you never again will we have a governor that is an ingrate. We will have a governor that will respect Edo people, a governor that will develop our state; a governor that will empower our people. And by the grace of God, I will do it. Ize-Iyamu stated that from Monday, the party would begin to move from local government to local government to campaign, and encouraged the party members to go back to their units, stressing that “The operation is operation win your unit”.