By Isaac Asabor
There is no denying the fact that Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s wife, Professor Idia Ize-Iyamu, has by each passing day been on the soap box campaigning for her husband who is in the bid of occupying the number 1 political position in Edo State, and on that note unrelentingly widening his appeal as a gubernatorial candidate that is registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to participate in the oncoming September 19, 2020 gubernatorial election in the State under the auspices of the All Peoples Congress (APC).
Against the foregoing backdrop, the role of political spouses cannot in any way be undermined as they often play key roles in campaigns. For the women, they can push their husbands to the top of the political echelon, or undermine their candidacies if they so wish. In as much as the roles which political spouses have been playing over the years in Edo State cannot be dismissed with mere wave of the hands, there is no denying the fact that Idia Ize-Iyamu has in the ongoing political dispensation, particularly at this time of electioneering campaign, threw her weight behind her husband, so much so that she has been nicknamed “The Local Babe”. To many political observers, the appellation is apt, particularly when seen from the perspective of the legwork she has been carrying out for her husband, who is popularly called POI by his admirers.
The other day, I heard one of her husband’s calumniators insinuating that she ought not to be in the campaign. To my view, he merely expressed his ignorance about electioneering campaign. It may come as a surprise to him, but political spouses, in other climes, play key roles in political campaigns. Modern political history has proven that a political spouse can affect the vote; one way or the other. The problem is that some shy away from campaigning for their husbands as they ostensibly have something to hide about their lives, and also in order not to upset the voters. The foregoing is the main reason why some political spouses have to be careful. There is also a possibility that they will become a subject of attack ads, or in the modern world we live in today, attacks on social media and in the press.
However, for Idia Ize-Iyamu, she is not the kind of woman that will forgo any support for her husband by merely entertaining fear on what the people would say or what they would think. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as not only does she has an enviable pedigree, she is a pastor herself, and also a pastor’s wife. Besides, she is a professor of Orthodontics at University of Benin (UNIBEN), Consultant Orthodontist University of Benin Teaching hospital (UBTH), Commonwealth Fellow (Craniofacial Orthodontics) and Postgraduate coordinator, Department of Preventive Dentistry.
It would be recalled in this context that since electioneering campaign was flagged off in the State by INEC ahead of the September 19, 2020 gubernatorial election that she has solidly thrown her weight behind her husband’s candidacy, and has been interacting with women at the local level, or rather at the grassroots. In most of such visits she got insights into the challenges which women at that level were faced with. She has in that vein listened to women leaders across several local government areas and wards, and the women have in their turn lamented their experiences, and literarily cried on her shoulder over the pains they are going through under the ongoing political leadership in the State.
As gathered from her, the challenges the women are faced with include, and not limited to insecurity, lack of good infrastructure to lack of a conducive business environment. Some of the communities were discovered by her to be in total darkness as distribution of electricity to them has for long remained a mirage. Those at the grassroots across the 18 local government areas and 192 wards in the State have been crying to her hearing for onward report to her husband that they have been faced with the challenges of bad roads, dilapidated schools, nonfunctional health facilities and shortage of medical personnel to man the health facilities. Added to the foregoing, they have also been lamenting over the harassment from herdsmen who were constantly on destructive mission on their farmlands.
Idia Ize-Iyamu had in one of her campaigns being told that those living and trading in the riverine communities seemed to be worst hit by the hardship faced by the people in the local government area as they have to travel for about two hours on water before they access facilities such as healthcare.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it would not be wrong, from whichever way it is analyzed from, to opine that she is a campaigner extraordinaire and a crowd puller.
As observed, she has always been responding to the complaints of those at the grassroots as she has for the umpteenth time in her campaigns on behalf of her husband told them that “the answer to their problems has been well articulated in the Simple Agenda which Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu will implement to the letter when elected and sworn in as the next governor of Edo State.
In one of her testimonies on how far she has fared in her campaign, she said, “I urged them that the time to rise up and take their freedom through the polls has come. Now is the time to send this present government that has not favoured them packing. They can achieve this by massively voting and canvassing for votes for APC which has the Broom as its symbol.
To calumniators in the opposing political camps that are becoming restless over Idia Ize-Iyamu towering relevance in grassroots electioneering to which she has been named by her followers as “Local Babe”, it is better they are told about the role the Late Dr. (Mrs.) Maryam Babangida played in her lifetime, particularly towards the development of the local people that are at the grassroots level. The Better Life Program, which was primarily focused on the wellbeing of women, was the vehicle through which she used to bring to the fore and addressed issues that were related to women and children development on a national scale.
So glaring was the success of the Better Life Program in her leadership that globally renowned development organizations like UNICEF, partnered with the initiative; riding on the back of its national, regional and continental appeal, to engage Africa’s most rural (and urban slum) population dwellers in combating and successfully taming the 6 childhood killer diseases at the time!
Today, over a decade after her demise, The Better Life Program is still waxing strong and has been relaunched and revitalized by Her Excellency Dr. Aisha .I. Babangida (First daughter of Maryam and former 1st Lady, Zamfara State, Nigeria) and has attained greater gravitas in building upon the enduring legacy of the great work started by her beloved late mother; reaching a younger generation of Africans and scaling up the instituted thematic focus areas established by the Founder covering.
To me, Idia Ize-Iyamu, who I refer to as “Local Babe” in this context, will no doubt perform as the incoming first lady in Edo State in the next political dispensation, and this can only be realized when all Edolites who understand the importance of development of women in the rural areas vote for her husband come September 19.