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IZE-IYAMU: A Witch Hunt Turned Smear Campaign

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By Nosa Omorodion
Suddenly, although not unexpected, the political vampires are at it again in the sustained campaign to tarnish the image of the Reverend Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, with the concocted case of financial corruption. And like it has come to be, the circumstantial allegation of liability in the alleged misuse of a federal government fund for the prosecution of the President Goodluck Jonathan 2015 reelection campaign is the blackmail tool.
Ize-Iyamu’s involvement with the money in question (N700m), was in his capacity as the Edo State Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign. On the eve of the 2015 presidential election, he along with the State PDP Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih and other persons signed as recipients of the election fund from the PDP National Secretariat, on behalf of the state chapter of the party. They subsequently, as directed, distributed the money among relevant local government officials and others for election purposes such as payment of party agents on polling duties and other related activities.
Despite the transparency of the transaction, the EFCC says that the accused, including Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu are liable to financial offences, having taken delivery of money from a questionable source, and for distributing same without using the bank accounts of the designated recipients.
It is important to note that the charges do not include Ize-Iyamu taking the money for his personal use. The origin and the handling of the money are actually the issues and not taking money for personal aggrandizement.
However, as it was in 2016, in the run up to the Edo State Governorship Election in which Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was the PDP Governorship Candidate against APC’s Mr. Godwin Obaseki, so it is now that Ize-Iyamu has crossed over to the APC and perceived to be a threat to the chance of the incumbent governor getting the APC Governorship Ticket to contest in the general election.
While the supporters of the Governor are enraged over the threat Ize-Iyamu allegedly poses, they are joined in mutual vendetta by the agents of the PDP from which Ize-Iyamu recently decamped to the APC. Pursuant to executing their vendetta, they have resorted to using the Ize-Iyamu’s EFCC trial over the distribution of election money as if it portrayed a conviction. Ordinarily, the manner in which the fund in question was received and distributed is a normal practice by all political parties until the EFCC decided to make an issue of it, four years ago.
Since 2016, prior to the Edo State Governorship Election, the case has not been decided. It has rather become a sort of handy report for maligning Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu anytime his opponents want to attack his credibility. fact, it has  disingenuously been promoted as evidence of Ize-Iyamu’s corruption. The peculiar nature of the allegation is deliberately obfuscated so it would look like a case carried over from when Ize-Iyamu was a high official of Edo State Government between 1999 and 2007.
In the light of this, it is therefore pertinent to state that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has never been indicted, prosecuted or convicted of corruption for the eight years he served Edo State Government. Nevertheless, like most government officials, he has had to live with the stigma of being corrupt. This has been particularly so, given that he was a very influential member of the indicted Lucky Igbinedion administration. Some of his critics have tried to justify their perception of Ize-Iyamu’s alleged corruptibility on the ground of his being a man of great means.
However, it is fallacious to use his manifest acquisitions as indicators of involvement in financial impropriety while he held public office. That he took public office did not mean he lacked the capacity to grow his wealth or had stopped growing it with legitimate earnings. Definitely, among public officials are persons with the innate ability to grow wealth with legitimate earnings through investment in diverse businesses. Among such persons is Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who from his earnings while in public office, including fringe benefits and goodwill, grew and continues to grow his assets. It is instructive to note that prior to becoming a Chief of Staff to Governor in 1999, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu had engaged in sundry businesses that included, contracts and buying and selling. He continues to do these to date in addition to real estate business.
Without equivocation, I want to say that Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s characterization as a corrupt man by his opponents, with particular reference to the unrested EFCC case, is without basis in law and morality. He has only been a victim of a witch-hunt turned smear campaign.
Pursuant to understanding Ize-Iyamu’s peculiar circumstance, it is relevant to look at the dictionary meanings of these terms “witch-hunt” and “smear campaign”. According to Collins Dictionary, witch-hunt is “an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people who are being blamed for something, often simply because of their opinions and not because they have actually done anything wrong”.
If one may ask, what is Ize-Iyamu’s wrongdoing in taking delivery and signing for election money, along with others, on the instruction from their party’s national secretariat? How could Ize-Iyamu and others have known that the money sent to them was from a forbidden source, if really it was, when there was no accompanying document that indicated such?
It is obvious that some elements of the new administration, not necessarily President  Buhari, had wanted to quickly score a political point having rode on to power with the promise of jailing all looters of public fund. On this basis and in haste, the campaign funds for prosecuting the election by the party that was in power prior to the election looked like a fine proposition. Thus, Ize-Iyamu and many other chief actors across the nation became the scapegoats. That is not to say that there could not having been genuine instances of misappropriation by election funds by some handlers. However, the money received in Edo State was transparently and judiciously distributed by Ize-Iyamu and company. Nevertheless, his traducers would however want the public to perceive it otherwise.
Smear campaign, according to Collins Dictionary, is “a deliberate attack on somebody, by spreading an untrue and unpleasant rumour about them, or by making an accusation intended to damage their reputation”. That is exactly what Ize-Iyamu’s opponents, who are against his realizing his chance of becoming governor of Edo State have set out to do. They have even taken upon themselves the unofficial role of mouthpiece of the EFCC, advertising court dates for a case that will in the end amount to little or nothing.
Meanwhile, it should be noted that when this EFCC witch-hunt turned smear campaign first surfaced in 2016 as a ploy to frustrate Ize-Iyamu from winning the governorship election, it succeeded to the extent that some gullible electorate bought the lie. However, it could be said to have largely failed because it did not deny Ize-Iyamu of his overwhelming popularity among Edo people. As a demonstration of the confidence reposed in him, the electorate voted massively for Ize-Iyamu despite the shenanigans which saw his rival, Godwin Obaseki of the ruling party defeating him with a relatively small margin of approximately 50,000 votes. At any rate, it is popularly believed, even among Obaseki supporters, that Obaseki did not defeat Ize-Iyamu in the 2016 governorship election by the actual votes cast at the polls. Obaseki is believed to have won on the strength of massive compromise by electoral officials as well as unfair legal and judicial technicalities.
In spite of the above true narrative, the promoters of Governor Obaseki’s second term agenda and their allies in the PDP, are unrelenting in continuing with the distorted smear campaign. The sole objective, this time around, is to create a ground for forestalling the nomination of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the governorship candidate of the APC of which he is believed to be interested in although he is yet to declare his interest.
Finally, it must be emphasized that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s record of public service to Edo State Government for eight years remains unblemished. It is without a mention of any form of official misconduct, including financial impropriety. Those that were found culpable have been investigated and duly convicted. Ize-Iyamu is not one of them. And against the backdrop of the facts of the lingering EFCC election funds trial, it is clear that the case will not end up denting the unimpeachable character of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. However, pursuant to realizing the wickedness of their vain imagination, his devious opponents would rather want to hold up a misleading picture with the intention of deceiving as many as possible.

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Ex-CAN President Onaiyekan, Cleric Bag Honorary Degrees

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A former national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan and the Archbishop of Abuja catholic diocese, Ignatius Kaigama, will be honored with honorary doctorate degrees by an Abuja-based Catholic institution, Veritas University, on Saturday, December 3, 2022.

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Rev. Fr. Professor Hyacinth Ichoku, made this known in a briefing with selected journalists in Abuja.

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Speaking on Thursday ahead of the convocation ceremony of the university, the don also noted that four countries had indicated interest to send their students to Nigeria to study pontifical degrees in the theology of philosophy.

The development follows approval by the Congregation for Catholic Education in the Vertical City Rome, Italy, to Veritas University Abuja to establish Pontifical Faculty.

The countries are Burkina Faso, Mali, Ivory Coast and India.

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Professor Ichoku said only two countries including Nigeria and Nairobi run the pontifical degree which necessitated the influx of foreign students to Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Fielder Bags University Degree

“For the first time, the university will be honoring prominent Nigerians such as the former CAN president, cardinal John Onaiyekan and the archbishop of Abuja diocese, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama.

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‘’Veritas University has been granted the faculty to run Pontification degrees in theology and philosophy by the Congregation of Catholic Education in the Vertical City, Rome. That is in addition to National Universities Commission-approved programmes in theology and philosophy. As a Catholic University to be granted the power of the faculty to run these programmes is the height of our development and in Africa; there are just two granted such faculty, which are, the Catholic University of East Africa, Nairobi and Veritas University in Abuja. It is an exceptional privilege for us,’’ Professor Ichoku stated.

Professor Ichoku said the university would be awarding first-class degrees to 28 students who had distinguished themselves in character and learning.

He noted that the minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola would be delivering the convocation lecture.

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NACCIMA, Nigeria’s Road To Prosperity – SDP Presidential Candidate, Adebayo

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The presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Prince Adewole Adebayo, has said that the road to prosperity in Nigeria is through The Nigeria Association of Chambers and Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

Adebayo who spoke at the 4th quarterly meeting of NACCIMA in Enugu assured that the SDP, if elected into power, would not be a lawbreaker government but a law abiding.

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He added that one of the difficulties facing the industry is that government does not respect contracts.

READ ALSO: Be Apolitical, Prayerful, SDP Presidential Candidate, Adebayo, Urges Clerics

He posited that times have changed because in the past before government presents the country’s budget, captains of industries are always consulted, and the government doesn’t take decisions without considering the effects.

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Adebayo driving his point and acknowledging the importance of NACCIMA said ‘In the past when you see presidential candidate, governorship candidate, senatorial candidate, you in NACCIMA will say he’s my boy, he use to work for me, he’s a good boy.

He added that Nigeria must return to such lifestyle, because the road to prosperity in Nigeria is through NACCIMA.

 

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True Federalism: Expert Wants NULGE Join CSOs, Others For Constitutional Amendment

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Professor Festus Imuetinyan, federal Commissioner, Federal Character Commission, Abuja has called on the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) to join hands with other unions and civil society organizations working for the amendment of the nation’s constitution to make the constitution truly federal.

Imuetinyan made the call on Wednesday in Benin City at the Edo State chapter of NULGE 2022 week celebration with the theme,”Sustaining an autonomous local government as a catalyst for national development: The role of NULGE”.

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The university don opined that local governments will only become catalyst for national development when they are put in firm control over local affairs as well as encourage the emergency of local solutions to local problems.

He advocated that the local government matters must be removed from the national constitution and placed within the purview of the states to save them from the challenge of forced uniformity in the face of endemic diversity of local problems.

He added that NULGE, as the major trade union in the local government system in Nigeria, has a duty to ensure that the present unified local government system which is unwieldy is jettisoned.

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“Unfortunately, many local government staff are beneficiaries of the present system and do not see any urgent need for changes.

READ ALSO: Governors’ Domineering Treatment Of Local Govt Councils Unfair – Buhari

“Your members are the ones that are made sole administrators when elected council heads are illegally sacked by state governments. Many enjoy posting to areas that they are not conversant with the custom and tradition of the people whose problems they are called upon to solve.

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“Others are promoted in the face of inadequate utilization of available resources to manage waste and protect public utilities within their jurisdictions.

“It is often alleged that many of your members extort money from members of the public and that they enrich themselves at the expense of the development of the communities”, he said.

He further opined that the present local government system is not patterned to achieve any developmental goal rather than a smooth vehicle for the transfer of centrally collected funds to the pockets of States’ political elites.

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Imuetinyan emphasized that the 1999 Constitution makes it possible for state governments to cripple Local Government Councils financially by routing the amount of money standing to the credit of Local governments in the Federation Account (FA) through a joint State Local Government Account rather than directly to local councils.

He asserted that the arrangement adversely affects the fiscal autonomy and viability of most local governments.

According to him, some state governors make inexplicable deductions or unduly delay the release of funds from the joint accounts to local government chief executives.

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“Local government chairmen are bullied by state governors to surrender much of their statutory allocations under duress. When they fail; they find other ways to replace them with caretaker committees of selected loyalists.

“Expenditure and project discretion had become a thing of the past. Most states expect their Local governments to seek and obtain permission to embark on projects. Local government projects are inspected periodically by officials of state governments.

“More financial load has been placed on Local governments’ share of the Federation Account. For example, funds for primary school teachers’ salaries and pension charges are now charged centrally to the Local governments.

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READ ALSO: Why Passport Applicants Face Challenges – Aregbesola

“The central deductions at source of these charges and several other unfunded mandates in environmental and social spending by the State Governments tend to leave many Local Governments with little funds.

“And unfortunately, many Local governments especially those in the rural areas have limited access to productive tax bases”, he added.

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