From TONY OSAUZO, Benin
After an assessment of the country’s democratic dispensation in the past 13 years, former Secretary to Edo State Government and now South South Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, says the dividend of democracy is slow in coming, considering the country’s huge resources.
Though he acknowledged, that some states of the federation have done well, he blamed the slow pace of development of the country on the poor leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Pastor Ize-Iyamu reacted to a recent statement by President Goodluck Jonathan that the PDP will take over Edo State after the tenure of Governor Adams Oshiomhole, describing the statement as “mere fiction.”
“So, if Oshiomhole consolidates in the second term and takes Edo State to the next level, then what it means is that the PDP might not field a candidate in the next election. So, the thought of the boast that PDP could win this state after Oshiomhole is just mere fiction,” he said.
The ACN leader, who spoke on many issues, would not make a categorical statement about his future ambition, when asked if he nursed a governorship ambition.
“Well, there is nothing wrong for any of us having an ambition. There is nothing wrong at all. But every ambition has a turning,” he said, adding that the focus right now was for everyone to support Governor Oshiomhole to succeed in his second term.
Thirteen years of democracy in Nigeria, with the abundance of resources available, do you think the dividend of democracy has been delivered to Nigerians the way it ought to be?
Well, to be honest with you, when you consider the resources that we have, there is no doubt that we ought to have done much more. Nigeria is an oil producing country and in terms of human capital, Nigeria can also boast of some of the best brains in the world, but what you actually see is a total break-down in partially every sector. The dividend of democracy is very slow in coming.
Yes, some states have done well, but if we are to look at Nigeria as a whole the picture that we see is a very gloomy one, a picture that is very depressing and that is why today you still see the mass exodus of Nigerians abroad for greener pastures. They want to leave because there is no employment; there is no security; there are no infrastructure and I think the trend is worrisome.
President Goodluck Jonathan has said that after the tenure of Comrade Governor Adams Oshiomhole PDP will reclaim Edo State. How would you react to this?
Well, I have not come across that statement. If he did say so, I would, with all respect to him, call it a careless or a very boastful statement. Edo State is not a place to be captured, so when they use words like reclaim I think that they forget that we are in a democracy and the people are expected to choose who will lead them, and if that is so, what will be the basis for the people to now go back to Egypt ? Why would they now go back to PDP considering the unanimous manner that they have rejected PDP in this past election?
What would have changed? Is the president saying that Oshiomhole will not perform well in the second term? That to me cannot be correct. I see him even excelling more than what he did in the first term. So, if Oshiomhole consolidates in the second term and takes Edo State to the next level, what it means is that the PDP might not be able to field a candidate in the next election. So, the thought of the boast that PDP could win this state after Oshiomhole is just mere fiction.
The PDP has said that the planned ACN alliance with other progressive parties will fail. What do you think?
I think their statement is borne out of fright. Why would they not wait for the merger to materialise before beginning to predict that it would fail? If they are as powerful, as they say they are, why are they worried about what other parties are doing? For me, if you say this country is not faring well and you agree that the dividend of democracy has been slow in coming also that there is leadership failure, then the question you must ask yourself is who really has been in charge? Which party has been in charge? And Nigerians know that PDP has been there since 1999. So, if Nigeria is not moving forward it is simply because the party, PDP, has failed and if parties are coming together it is because they have realised that Nigerians are yearning for change.
Nigerians want an alternative and as long as we continue to fragment ourselves into small and regional parties, PDP will continue to have its way in elections, but if this merger, which is already making PDP panic, come to fruition, then Nigerians would have the benefit of a better alternative and then issues would dominate elections, instead of our past experiences. In the last elections, we were talking about where. This is not the issue. It’s not whether you are an incumbent or what part of the country you come from. The issue is what have you done with the mandate given to you? That is the issue. In terms of infrastructure, show us areas you have been able to perform or your party.
These are the issues. In terms of security, is Nigeria safe today? Those are the issues and I believe that if you create serious alternative, then our politics will become more issue-oriented and Nigerians would have the option of choosing who really they want to vote for.
Recently, President Jonathan said he had not taken decision whether to re-contest the presidency or not. Given what you said above, if he decides to run, do you think he would still have a landslide victory as he had before?
Well, when we talk about landslide victory, we need to be careful. You saw the American election. Of course, it was a lot of joy to people all over the world, especially the black community over the re-election of President Barack Obama. It wasn’t a landslide victory; it was keenly contested and at the end of the day a winner emerged and the loser congratulated him because the election could not be faulted. Many of the results that were announced in the last elections were quite bogus. Governors who could not win their states were bringing out almost 35 percent result in the presidential and yet they could not win their states. So, we need to be a bit more honest with elections in this country.
However, to be more specific I believe that rigging can only thrive when the opposition is weak. When the opposition is strong it’s difficult to rig. We have often said that you can only rig where you are strong. Where strength meets with strength it becomes impossible to rig. If you try, the repercussions will be great; you will see the reactions; it will be spontaneous. If these parties come together, I am talking about the opposition parties, you can imagine the scenario where ACN, CPC, ANPP and maybe Labour Party come together; if those parties were to come together then you will be talking about a very serious opposition.
I concede that today the biggest party in the country is PDP, but being the biggest party does not mean that it’s the party Nigerians love. So, let’s not think that because they are big, they have people all over the country, which means that automatically Nigerians love the party. On the contrary, it is the most hated party in Nigeria. PDP is the biggest because it has always been in power and power attracts people. Many people want to belong to the party in power. However, majority of Nigerians are not in any political party and so when they are looking at oppressors it is the ruling political party, which the PDP symbolises that they look at. So, there is a lot of hatred for the PDP. If a credible opposition should emerge, which is strongly positioned in every state it will be difficult to announce false results; it will be difficult to announce outrageous results. If it is attempted there will be serious repercussion and the election will be totally discredited.
Therefore, for me, the only way we can deal with the issue of false results is for us to have very strong opposition and we can be sure that elections will be truly competitive.