THE office of the First Lady in government has become a thing as quite a number of elected male leaders now yield soft power to their spouses. Understandably, many wives play active roles in their husbands’ campaigns, often mobilising on issues relating to women and children. Enter Professor Idia Ize Iyamu, a Consultant Orthodontist at the University of Benin.
Her husband, Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, is gunning for the office of the Edo State governor under the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the September 19 gubernatorial elections. His major opponent is the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, who is contesting under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). At the last elections in 2016, Ize Iyamu contested the same post under the PDP while Obaseki vied under the APC.
Appearing recently on Arise TV, Professor Idia shed light on her husband’s ambition and how she intends to harmonise her husband’s efforts in governing Edo should he emerge the next Edo governor. Already, Ize Iyamu’s campaign is on the thrust of SIMPLE, an acronym for – Security and Social Welfare; Infrastructural Development and Urban Renewal; Manpower Development and Training; Public Private Partnership; Leadership by Example; Employment Creation and Social Empowerment. According to Professor Idia, the SIMPLE agenda is the document that will characterise her husband’s administration in office. I expected to hear that. However, I was bowled over by the manner that Professor Idia spoke on primary healthcare, maternal mortality and women empowerment.
“Edo State is in a current state of disrepair and decay,” she said.
“The hospitals are broken down. The health centres are in a current state of disrepair. We have less than 200 doctors employed in the services of the Edo State government. And that is to take care of about 3.5 million people. So, the patient to doctor ratio is very very high. You have one doctor to see 17, 500 people. Most of the doctors are situated in the big cities, for example in Benin City. Many of them are not in the rural areas. Most of the hospitals in the rural areas do not have doctors.”
But there is also a dearth of nurses and other health workers too, according to Professor Idia. It is sad that the Edo State School of Nursing and Midwifery which has been shut down for years has not been reopened. All we have been hearing has been stories from the Obaseki-led administration about its re-opening and accreditation.
While Professor Idia is saddened at the dysfunctional healthcare system, however, in preparation for what could be a transition to a ‘First Lady’ role, she is advocating solutions.
“School of Nursing would be brought back in because it’s a system of train-the-trainers,” she said.
“You can’t have older nurses who are about to retire who have not trained younger nurses on the experiences and practicalities of nursing. We would also bring back School of Health Technology to train allied healthcare workers. Our social welfare system in Edo State is non-existent. The social workers are non-existent. There are no new ones being employed and these are very important part of the healthcare system.”
Beyond that, she said the SIMPLE agenda would ensure healthcare centres are accessible in the 192 Wards in the state and not mere fancy buildings without doctors or nurses. If Edo citizens are healthy, it infers they would be more productive. There would also be less mortality due to sickness or accidents.
Professor Idia also spoke on empowering women. According to her, some Edo women took to selling on walkways because the government has failed in its promise of providing them with small stalls as well as loans.
“The women have been side-lined,” she said. “I have gone round all the markets in Edo State. We’ve been talking to our women and we know their challenges, we know their problems. We have written it down. We have a direction. We have somebody who is passionate about it. We have somebody who is angry at the injustice the women have suffered these past four years.”
It would be recalled that Oba market, Ekiosa Market and Oliha Market were gutted by fire within a short space of time. She also accused the government of not rehabilitating traders at Ekiosa market with N100m as it promised.
“No new markets have been built. Our markets have burnt. Why is it that markets are burning in Edo State? No fire service. No palliatives.”
Professor Idia said that even existing markets are not being taken care of.
“There is a market at Egor – that is the worst market in Edo State,” she said. “No toilet, no water, no plan, no vision. And yet, we hear people say they’ve done this, they’ve done that. It’s very very upsetting.”
But she said the SIMPLE agenda would address that by building markets and giving women soft loans as well as empowerment training.
As the interview progressed, one could see her belief in her husband’s aspiration. Reacting to a question about whether Ize Iyamu will be a stooge of former governor Adams Oshiomhole, her voice rose in defence.
“No man can be a stooge to another man because God created man in his own image and likeness,” Professor Idia said. “And God gave Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu the SIMPLE agenda. This is an agenda which is a manifesto of hope. It’s something that he has written down that he is going to run with it. So, if a man has a manifesto and an agenda that he has sold to the people and the people have embraced and the people are going to run with it, how can you now say that person would be a stooge? That’s an insult.”
According to her, “Edo State can be better.” And to her, it is passion to serve that has propelled her husband to vie for governorship of Edo State.
In these parts, it is a common saying that the man is the head of the house. However, in recent times, the woman has been described as the neck. Surely, for the head to function effectively, it needs to rest on a good neck. Addressing what she’s bringing to the table, Professor Idia once again raised her concern about the state’s healthcare sector.
“The healthcare system is in shambles,” she said.
“I cannot sit and watch people die from simple things that should not kill them. Healthcare is number one. Healthcare must be taken care of so that the poorest of the poor can access health services. We’re talking about 35% inclusiveness for women. Women have been left out of the scheme of things. We’re talking about infrastructural developments in the hospitals.”
She also would like the challenges of physically challenged people to be addressed.
As a wife, Professor Idia likely engages in pillow talks with her husband. And from the interview, it is clear she is no push over. Well, to become a professor as well as Consultant in her field takes independence, discipline and focus. She sure knows how to get things done. And as she gets to share a bed with the next Edo governor should Ize Iyamu win at the polls, I can now see how the SIMPLE agenda will get not just a woman’s touch but also a sound mind to boot.