Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was until recently, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State. He was the partys governorship candidate in 2016. His recent defection to the APC was seen by many as part of a grand plan to replace Governor Godwin Obaseki in 2020. But in this interview, Ize-Iyamu said he did not return to APC to escalate the current face-off between the leaders in the party, reports OTABOR OSAGIE
Why did you leave the PDP?
Some days ago you learnt I decided to move from the PDP to the APC; I thought it was something that will not generate controversy because what I was doing was nothing new. In the political landscape, people do it all the time. I thank the press for not escalating it. People have asked me whether there was any serious quarrel, I told them even if there was any quarrel, I will not talk about it. Sometimes you can decide to leave one newspaper for another. It is simply a matter of interest and what you want to achieve. The constitution gives us the right of association. I have my reasons for moving to the APC.
Moving to the party is like home coming for me because I am one of those who formed that party in this state and in this country. It is not as if I am going to a new place. I know the major players in and outside the state. I do other things apart from politics. There are times I want to focus on the work of the ministry. There are times I want to focus on family life. There are times I want to focus on public service. What I have done in the past few months is to pay attention to other priorities in my life. In the days ahead, you will hear all kinds of comments. Since I choose to make this move, the social media has been agog with all kinds of information. The place I left, there are some people who are not happy and are attempting to throw stones but I will not throw back. Where I am coming to, there are people who are apprehensive. They are also throwing stones. I do not intend to throw stones.
I am in a precarious situation. I am moving about peacefully and people are throwing stones at me. I dont want to retaliate. I will need the support of journalists. I have always lived in this state. I am passionate about things in this state. That is why when people will say why you dont take a walk; I have chosen to stay. I have a passion for this state and I have chosen to be part of those that will solve the problem of this place and make it more attractive and better for all of us. Some people have asked me if I were joining because of political office, I told them that they are being unnecessarily hasty. Before I decided to make this move, a lot of people have spoken to me. I left the APC in anger. Time is a healer of wounds and many people have spoken to me to come back. I would have made this move a lot earlier. I realised that why must I be scared in crisis. I decided that crisis should not deter me. I am not going to the APC to escalate any problem. I am going there to add value, to strengthen the party, ensure that the party is well connected to those at the grassroots. I will encourage government to do their best. That is one of the primary purposes why we are in politics.
Which of the factions, between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, is going to receive you into the APC?
I dont think the faction is as deep as some of you think. I have been in politics for a long time. For example, who are the two secretaries, who are the two publicity secretaries, who are the parallel chairmen in the different local government areas? Who are the parallel National Chairmen on the other side? You find out that it is not as deep. You might find disagreement in few areas. When you want to see factions, it goes down to the ward. My people have started integrating at the local level and there is no faction.
At the local level they see one APC. If at the state level you have crisis on who is the chairman, the national can receive me, anybody can receive me. The place to join a political party is at the ward level. What you do at the state is just ceremony. It is to show you have joined. The real place to get party cards is at the ward level. A lot of my people have gone to their various wards and the integration has been seamless. It is not as protracted as people think. There is disagreement at the top but at the bottom, it is still one APC.
Are you joining the APC to realise your burning desire?
There is no part of me that is burning. Passion is not the same thing as burning desire. I am not desperate for political office. Dont mistake passion, determination or focus as desperation. When I left APC, it was common knowledge that if there was anybody on the front role for governorship, I was the one. I left before primaries commenced. I did it to prove a point that I am not a slave to ambition. I cannot be tied to a particular place simply because I have an ambition to become something in that place.
I have my reasons for being in a political party. There are some people who look at political party as a place to interact, to meet people. They have no intention of contesting for political offices. They have no intention of accessing government. That is not the reason I joined politics. There are others who see politics as a place to make some money even if it means selling their own party. For me, the best place to make money is business.
The richest man in this country and in Africa is not a politician. The kind of money politician spend on a daily basis, you will pity them. Before I was 30, by the grace of God, I have made sufficient money through business. Everybody has a calling. In life, you are unfulfilled if you are not able to discover your real passion and calling. I have told people that if you are wealthy and those around you are poor, you are poor. For you to say you are wealthy, it means the environment you live in is wealthy. I desire good governance. I want to be in a party that can access government and that government will excel in delivery. Whatever praise you give to that government, will come to me. In 2007, people thought I wanted to contest but I didnt print any poster.
Oshiomhole was told he could not trust me but he took the risk. I told him if he do well it will rub off on me. It is not a burning desire but I really want to be in a party to access government for the purpose of using government effectively for the benefit of the people. If I belong to a place and I do not see that seriousness, I will take a walk because my objective is different. I do not want to play politics for too long. While I am still young, let me play what role I can play before I retire. When I have grandchildren, I should not think of how to look after them. I am passionate about developing Edo, having a party that will do very well.
People say you are a political business man. They allege that you want to widen the gulf between Oshiomhole and Obaseki.
APC is not a new place for me. Before you count three persons who contributed to the formation of that party, you will count Pastor Ize-Iyamu. If I left a place what is so surprising if I decide to come back? And if I came back and openly I could say I am not coming to join any faction. I am not short of courage. If I could come out easily and say I dont believe in faction, I respect constituted authority; I have not come to escalate the problems. Why do you doubt my words? There are people doubting me. That is their problem. What is the political businessman in going to a place that you built?
Are you contesting for the governorship?
That is not the issue for now. What I did in my house with friends and associates was resignation from the PDP. We didnt want to put anybody in suspense about where we are going to and we made it clear we are going to the APC. Our members have a right to move to where we have said. The real place to join a political party is at the Ward level. Some of them are going to join. Many of them have already moved. It is God that promote.
I am going to the APC with open mind. The first thing I want to do there is to contribute my quota. I am not going to refer to what I did in the past; that is over. What do I do there now? I want to see how I can add value. Next year, we will see how it goes. It is foolish to say I will do this or that next year.
There were many PDP that followed you with expectations. A lot of them are aggrieved. Are you leaving them in limbo?
Are you suggesting I should empty the PDP as I am leaving? When we were contemplating leaving the APC, we held several meetings and that was the decision. I will not tell you whether I have reservations. All the meetings we held, it was agreed. This decision to leave the PDP was not taken by me alone. Because of fund constrain, we used three national dailies to publish our letters of resignation. In that letter, at least, 10 leaders from the 18 local governments each signed that paper. That will be 180 leaders. There are some local governments where they said 10 were not enough.
We had 200 prominent members of the PDP resigning from the party. On the day of resignation, there were over 1000 PDP members. The day we will declare, you will know that it is not just Ize-Iyamu alone. PDP members from 192 wards are involved in this decision. I have been in politics for a long time and I am a very serious minded person. I dont act alone. The reason you have not seen mass exodus from the PDP is because I kept restraining people, begging them not to leave. If not, you would have seen mass exodus. We were lucky that APC were fighting. It got to a stage and they said they want to leave. My intention is not to empty the PDP.