The Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate in Edo State, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, was mostly on the offensive against the All Progressives Congress candidate, Godwin Obaseki, during the governorship debate on Sunday.
The debate was co-hosted by a non-governmental organization, Enough is Enough, EiE, and Channels Television.
It was Mr. Ize-Iyamu’s strategy to paint the current APC administration in the state, led by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, in bad light; and then tie Mr. Obaseki to it.
Although he appeared successful in pushing Mr. Obaseki to the defence, whether his performance in the debate would fetch him the needed votes to win the September 10 election is entirely a different thing.
For almost every question he was asked, Mr. Ize-Iyamu would first point out the areas he felt Mr. Oshiomhole’s administration wasn’t doing well, before providing his own answer. In some cases, he didn’t provide any.
“There’s no doubt that the Edo State ought to be the tourist destination in our nation. Where we should have been is where Cross River is, and the truth about it is that the present government has not invested in that sector,” Mr. Ize-Iyamu said when asked how he could tap on the tourism potentials to boost the state economy.
“Just look at the road to the palace – the Diamond Road – and you’ll see the dilapidated nature of it, that would tell you that if a place as important as the road to the palace is left like this, then what would you say of other places?”
The PDP candidate didn’t say what he would do to improve the sector if elected governor, apart from stating that “Our state has to be made attractive.” He quickly veered off the topic, and attacked the state government’s management of the local government administration.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu, a former secretary to the state government under Mr. Oshiomhole, said he was shocked of Mr. Obaseki’s claims that there was autonomy for local governments in the state.
“I know that the Edo State government fought vigorously to ensure that local government did not get autonomy.
“The local government ought to be in charge of signage, but the state government has taken it over. So, if the local government areas are impoverished, it is the state government that has caused it,” he said, drawing applause from the live audience.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu also diverted attention to his main opponent when he (Ize-Iyamu) was asked if the people could trust him with their money, after he was interrogated by the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission.
He said it was a “mere invitation” which he went to clear his name, unlike Obaseki whom he said preferred to go to court to stop the EFCC from questioning him.
“It would interest you to know that the present government and its officials have been invited by the EFCC for over 70 times,” he said.
The panelists asked Mr. Obaseki to respond to Ize-Iyamu’s allegations.
“I think the claims are hogwash and nonsensical,” Mr. Obaseki said, adding that in politics people should be able to separate facts from fiction.
Mr. Obaseki explained that what his opponent called “over 70” invitations from the EFCC was actually political victimization against the Oshiomhole’s administration by the PDP-led federal government which had control then over EFCC.
Mr. Obaseki, unlike Mr. Ize-Iyamu and the other two candidates, Onaiwu Osaro and Amos Areloegbe of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and Labour Party respectively, had the burden of answering questions thrown at him by the panelists. He also defended the Oshiomhole administration while responding to the attacks from the PDP candidate.
It was the APGA candidate, Mr. Osaro, and not Mr. Obaseki, who took on Mr. Ize-Iyamu on the moral justification he had to want to be governor after serving under the then PDP government of Lucky Igbinedion, and that of Mr. Oshiomhole.
The four aspirants also sparred on security in Edo State.
Mr. Ize-Iyamu accused Mr. Oshiomhole of taking out N500 million monthly as security vote and giving only N5 million monthly to the police to fight crime in the state. He said kidnapping was rampant in the state because of lack of tracking devices to fight crime.
The PDP candidate, however, wasn’t forthcoming when he was asked if he would support the scrapping of security votes for governors, if he wins the election.
“If the government wants to scrap security votes, I don’t have any objection. But if it must be used, it must be done transparently,” he responded, when one of the panelists put the question to him the second time.
Mr. Obaseki said kidnapping in the state was at its peak under the then PDP administration in the state, and that the current administration has done much to tackle it.
The APGA candidate, Mr. Osaro, said he would combat insecurity through the establishment of neighbourhood watch and the lighting up of the streets, if he wins.
“When you come into Benin at night, the city is always in total darkness,” he said.