By Monday Okpebholo
Every four years, Nigerians come together to choose leaders at different levels in a democratically organized system. There has been a decline in the effectiveness of many of those in leadership positions as they have not demonstrated that they are sufficiently prepared for the positions they occupy, neither have they displayed the qualities that we expect from them. Real leaders tend to talk less and do more, they under-promise and over-deliver.
Democracy in Nigeria allows parties to throw up potential leaders and select one through internal democracy. Being a leader means that you are someone the people and your party can trust. That is what the people of Edo state will go out to look for through party primaries and general election in the next few days and months ahead. In this case, the character of the governor in this 21st century should be one with ability to bring out the best in the people and the environment.
Some contenders are in the race to rule Edo state for ego reasons but there is one that is driven by fear of God and willingness to serve mankind using his mastery of his people to his advantage. Playing the roles of a clergy, politician, farmer, administrator, lawyer and evangelist, all rolled into one, is a big privilege to understand your community and people. My first encounter with the character was a few years ago when he came around like every ordinary person despite his larger than life image out there.
A native of Iguododo in Orhionmwon local government of Edo State, POI as he is fondly called, was born into the upper middle-class family of late Chief Robert Osayande Ize-Iyamu, the highly respected Benin chief with the reverend title of Esogban of Benin Kingdom and Mrs. Magdalene N. Ize-Iyamu (nee Obasohan) on 21 June 1962 as Pastor Andrew Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
He obtained his primary education at the Ebenezer Nursery and Primary School, secondary at the famous Edo College, and the University of Benin where he graduated with a degree in law. He was called to the bar in 1987. During his one year mandatory National Youth Service in Akure, Ondo State, he worked in the law firm of Jide Aladejana. His political skill started manifesting as a young boy when he contributed to the emergence of Lucky Nosakhare Igbinedion as Chairman of Oredo Local Government Council and he was appointed as Special Assistant.
POI established a law firm in 1990 with other associates as a principal partner. Being the homeboy, he ventured into agriculture and carved a niche for himself in produce and animal farming. He quickly saw an opportunity to touch the lives of ordinary people around him and went to establish I.O Farms Training Institute; a model farm settlement, to train young farmers in modern ways in agriculture. The farm institute has turned out hundreds of young farmers equipped with modern agricultural skills. It was a way of reducing unemployment, restiveness and crime. Many of those he has trained are scattered across the state and they have formed a strong support base for him across the state. In 1995, he had a ghastly motor accident and was unconscious for nine hours. The hope of his coming out alive was uncertain. Miraculously, God healed him at the National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi in Lagos and he gave his life to Christ as a born-again Christian.
It is said that behind every successful man, there is a woman. By the encouragement of his wife, he joined the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), and grew in knowledge, wisdom and church administration. To the amazement of his family, friends and foes, Ize-Iyamu’s spiritual life transformed beyond imagination as he became a minister in the Church and Pastor of the Upper Room Parish at Adesuwa road in Benin City. He raised the small parish (branch) to become the biggest RCCG Church in the state, mobilizing his numerous friends and associates to build for the Lord. Pastor Enoch Adeboye recognized this passion and appointed him as Area Pastor of the GRA Area Church, overseeing three parishes from his Upper Room parish.
The year 1999 brought another opportunity for him to serve when he was appointed as the Chief of Staff and later Secretary to the State Government under former Governor Lucky Igbinedion. He became the man to trust and the rallying point of energies and ideas. He engineered the smooth and peaceful relationship that the state enjoyed with pensioners and labour leaders in Edo State. His detribalized nature, bold footprints in partisan politics and deep understanding of the state have endeared him to all the governors since 1999 as they always sought his wise opinions. Today both the elderly and the young refer to him as “Leader.” Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has been Vice Chairman (South-South) of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Director General of former Governor Adams Oshiomhole Re-election Campaign Organization and Member, APC Constitution Drafting Committee.
His wife, Professor (Mrs) Idia Ize-Iyamu is a Consultant Orthodontist with the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, lecturer at the University of Benin and one of the finest medical doctors the country ever produced. She has won many laurels for her professional expertise and conduct. POI’s followership cuts across members of the Christian community, farmers and political groups. That is why he is perceived as leader of the ordinary peoples, the ‘talakawas.”
* Okpebholo writes from Abuja