Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu needs little or no introduction to politics in Edo State; he is a pastor and a practising politician.
He was a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo State Government under Governor Lucky Igbinedion. Little of his farming business and law practice is known.
He was the gubernatorial candidate of the Edo State Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the 2016 Edo State gubernatorial election when he ran against Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
He would later defect to APC before the 2020 gubernatorial election, where he also ran against the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, who defected to the PDP like an exchange rate. Ize-Iyamu is still a member of APC, and he is an aspirant who will be on the ballot for the APC primary election on February 17th, 2024.
His resumè is politics filled: He was the National Vice-Chairman, South-South Zone, of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He served as Director General of Adams Oshiomhole’s 2nd term Campaign Organisation in APC. He was also the Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign Organisation in Edo State in 2015 after he joined the PDP. So, there have been politics of mixed political parties.
The battle for who picks the Edo APC ticket has intensified with Pastor Ize-Iyamu not relenting after being initially screened out by the Ihonbhere-led Screening/Prunning Committee.
According to Hon. Kassim Afegbua, Senator Adams Oshiomole asked the aspirants five times if they were at home with the initiative of setting up the said committee and that nobody raised an objection.
He said he was surprised that after the report was made public, some of the aspirants started running different narratives about the composition of the report. This protest led the national leadership to open up the space for whoever wished to buy forms to contest the primary.
The idea behind the committee has been scrapped as it is only advisory, according to the Acting State Chairman, Hon. Jarret Tenebe, who had to address a press conference to explain how the committee came about.
Today, 12 persons have made the official list of the APC governorship aspirants, four from each of the senatorial districts. Edo South includes Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Gen. Charles Airiavbere, Hon Dennis Idahosa and His Excellency Lucky Imasuen.
Edo Central list consists of Sen. Monday Okpebholo, Sen. Oserhiemen Osunbor, Col David Imuse and Engr. Gideon Ikhine. In comparison, Edo North includes Mr Clement Agba, Hon Dankeri S. Aniemero, Mr Ernest Afolabi and Blessing Agbomere. Pastor Ize-Iyamu will take a huge political gamble as he enters this primary on the 17th.
I estimate it is a make-or-mar primary: He might go into political oblivion if he loses. His only not too-clear-cut chance is if he can win the primary under these favourable prevailing conditions.
But in politics, there are no certainties; who knows what ace he has up his sleeves? Without mincing words, the odds are against Ize-Iyamu going to this primary as the powers that be within the APC at the state and national levels are not likely in his favour, except there is a hidden agenda that can make him pull a stunt through the backdoor.
First, for some time now, he has been nursing a frosty relationship with Senator Adams Oshiomole. Rumours have it that it has to do with him trying to outsmart Oshiomole in terms of his relationship with President Tinubu before the 2023 presidential election. It was said that Oshiomole took it personally and has since been avoiding him.
Ize-Iyamu was conspicuously absent when APC stakeholders, including Oshiomole, came together in Benin to make His Excellency Pius Odubu the de facto leader of APC in the South Senatorial District last year. Some political analysts deduced that the idea was to discount the political influence of Ize-Iyamu within the district.
However, in a recent interview, he said whether Oshiomole supports him is his choice. If he can scale through the first primary huddle, I know he knows he cannot remove Oshiomole from the equation of winning the Edo State gubernatorial election.
There have been firefights from Ize-Iyamu’s camp and proxies against Oshiomole while the senator has studied muteness. He seems to be focused on delivering his preferred candidate to show the two-time contestant who is the master of the game within the party. Another major factor against Ize-Iyamu was his choice of presidential aspirant during the 2023 APC primary.
He supported Vice President Osinbajo, who came a distant 3rd during the primary. Ize-Iyamu was noticeably absent during most of Tinubu’s presidential campaigns held around the 36 states except that which was held in Edo State. Will the power that be at the national forget this past? Thirdly, Ize-Iyamu could not deliver to his immediate constituency in the recently held general election. It would be hasty to conclude it was deliberate as the Labour Party, LP, ran riot in the senatorial district using the Obedient Movement factor.
However, that was one of the yardsticks used to screen aspirants during the aborted exercise. Will the party gift the ticket to an aspirant not winning his constituency? The political logic in this would emerge on Saturday. Lastly, no doubt, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is a prevalent individual due to his relationships with people. However, that popularity within the political space is waning politically, having contested twice under PDP and APC without success.
When he left to join PDP, some members, due to their relationship with him, left with him in solidarity. Some also did when he suddenly left the same PDP under which he ran in 2016 to join APC. Usually, one would expect this cross-carpeting to take a toll on his support base. Today, he no longer commands the cult following he used to have.
Some members are routing for a younger aspirant away from the old politicians. And the bulk of voters generally are within the youth bracket. Pastor Ize-Iyamu is mainly viewed as not a political organizer except when he is contesting elections.
If he loses in this political gamble during the primary on Saturday, his larger-than-life political disposition will be badly hurt. He will be deflated measurably within APC, and his political survival after that would be determined by how lowly he can bow to the power in the state and national politics going forward.
Oluwabamidele Elempe, a Journalist and socio-political commentator, sent this piece from Abuja, Nigeria.