By Gabriel Enogholase,
SENATOR Matthew Urhoghide is the Director General of the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organization, In this interview, Urhoghide says Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the PDP candidate in the September 10 governorship poll in Edo State, has all it takes to win the election.
It appears the Edo State governorship election will be a race between the candidate your party, the PDP, and that of the APC. How do you rate the chances of your candidate?
Nobody can deny the fact that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is the best candidate for the governorship election in Edo. What goes for him is experience. Another thing is that he has knowledge; he is intelligent. He is a man that belongs to the two worlds—the physical and spiritual. He is a man that has knowledge across the spectrum. He is knowledgeable in the things of God and governance because of the positions he had held. He is also a party man. In Edo today, PDP is the only party that has leadership; no one man or woman owns the PDP. This is the reason the PDP is in a better position to give the Edo people effective governance. I’m not saying this because I’m in the PDP.
The truth is that the PDP is in a hurry to tell Edo people that if the first outing they had between 1999 and 2007 and, by extension, 2008 was considered not good enough, the opportunity the Edo people will give us on September 10 will be properly utilized.
How do you rate the performance of the governor in critical sectors?
It beats my imagination that the only thing Oshiomhole flaunts is road. He even had the audacity some days ago to say that he built over 1,000 kilometres of roads. Ambrose Alli built over 20,000 kilometres of roads in four years in the then Bendel State. There was no year he had more than N250 million budget. Let us share 1,000 kilometres by eight years. That is about 125 kilometres of roads per year. Oshiomhole has never had a budget of anything less than N90 billion per year. If Oshiomhole’s capital expenditure was 80 per cent for road infrastructure, it simply means that you get about 125 kilometres of roads from N70 billion.
How good is the PDP to win the Edo election?
Edo people have no option than to vote for the PDP. The PDP is in a hurry to prove its mettle. The PDP is in hurry to prove that, “yes, if you (Edo people) were not satisfied with what we did before, we are going to beat your expectations”. I’m not grandstanding. I have looked at these people (APC) and I am certain the PDP government will be better for the Edo people. We will excel. The PDP has two of the three senators and five of the nine House of Representatives members from Edo. As I speak, there is no complementary role between those of us in the National Assembly in Edo and the state government. There is no synergy even between him and members of his own party that are in the National Assembly. How many times have we discussed issues affecting Edo with him?
Have you approached the governor on this?
I have approached him twice. First was when Chief Oyegun’s daughter got married in Lagos. It was in the presence of Senator Alimekhena. I told him, “Comrade, call us, you are the governor. There is a whole lot our people can gain from our synergy.” Our people don’t know PDP or APC. He said he would call us. The only time he spoke with me was when he was lobbying to secure the $75 million World Bank loan.
You were quite vociferous in your condemnation of the planned removal of constituency fund on the floor of the Senate. What is the position of government on the matter and why were you that vocal on the matter?
The president in the 2016 budget proposals suggested social intervention projects. We said we will share it to our constituencies while they (executive) execute the projects. How much is the project? In the whole of the Edo South, you have about N200 million. Every member of the House of Representatives has about N110million. N200 million distributed into 77 wards can only provide some basic things, a classroom here, a maternity here, a market there and so on. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation later said constituency project was not important and that it could not be funded. How much is N60 billion in a budget of N6 trillion? Only N60 billion was allocated to the six-geopolitical zones, meaning N10 billion for the six states of the South.
What we, three senators and nine House of Representatives members, are going to spend in the whole of Edo is N1.6 billion. I have suggested that we use the money to build classrooms in Ikhueniro, where pupils travel distances to get to school, build markets in Urhokhuosa, and maternity in Ehor, where women travel to Irrua to be delivered of babies. What he (SGF) said was anti-people. We brought him to parliament to defend the position of the Federal Government. The capital budget in this year’s budget is over N1.5 trillion. How much is N60 billion out of N1.6 trillion? O.3 per cent. What the SGF said was a reflection of the relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government. When he came to explain, I asked him if it was not as a result of the no love lost between the Presidency and the Senate over the election of Bukola Saraki as Senate President that the Presidency wanted to cancel constituency fund. We have, however, received assurance from concerned parties, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Budget and National Planning. We summoned them and they have gave assurances that it will not be removed.
Are you saying it will not be removed at the end of the day?
It can never be removed because not executing constituency project is a violation of the Appropriation Act, which is an impeachable offense. The president will face the consequences if he does not execute constituency projects. Agreed that one can prioritize, why is it that it is this one that is less than 0.3 per cent that will not get priority. The president cannot say no on constituency project, he has no right to say no. The issue of constituency project is clear and we are vehement about it. We are sure they will implement it. It is a stop gap thing and an interventionist effort.
What is the way out of the crisis in the National Assembly?
The war in the National Assembly is not that of PDP and APC, it is APC and APC. They have shown incompetence. We have seen a lot of infractions in the style of the administration of the president even though he is a former Head of State.
The executive – legislative face off, where is the president taking the country?
There is no face-off as long as the executive is willing to leave the legislative arm of government alone. For the very first time, we have seen that the legislative arm of government wants to be independent. Lawmakers want to be come out of the stranglehold of the executive. The executive, since the advent of the Fourth Republic, has always decided the leadership of the National Assembly. Did Tambuwal in the 7th Assembly not revolt against his party, the PDP, and carried on for four years? At that time, it suited them. When Saraki led 17 senators out of the PDP in the Senate to join them, it suited them.
When we now decided that the same Saraki is the person we preferred to lead us, they said no. The executive must understand that Nigeria’s democracy is defined by the existence of the legislative arm of government; otherwise our democracy will not be different from military dictatorship. For the legislative arm of government to free itself, we must go through this tortuous journey.
The journey has begun and it must arrive at a logical conclusion. The principal officers could be chosen by the parties, but the election of the presiding officers is the exclusive preserve of the lawmakers. Saraki can only be removed if 76 of us agree to remove him.
The Presidency or the executive arm of government does not have the right or the competence to come near any of us to solicit support to remove Saraki. President Buhari and the people in the APC, who are thinking of removing Saraki, should think of doing other things that can be of service to Nigerians.