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AKOKO EDO RERUN: Oshiomhole, Anenih in titanic clash

By Simon Ebegbulem, Benin City
THERE is fresh tension in Edo State following the Appeal Court decision annulling the election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House of Assembly candidate, in Akoko Edo constituency 1, Mr Anslem Agbabi.

Consequently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed tomorrow Saturday, as date for the rerun election. The battle for the soul of the constituency is actually between Governor Adams Oshiomohle and the Chairman of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Tony Anenih who will lead his foot soldiers to the area to ensure victory for the party. The people of the state are watching with keen interest to see how Chief Anenih who recently described Oshiomohle as his son after Oshiomohle called him “my leader”, at the commissioning of the home for the disable in Auchi, which was executed by the senator representing Edo North, Senator Yisa Braimoh, would slug it out.

At that occasion Governor Oshiomohle made it clear, however, that Chief Anenih is somebody he respects and is like a father to him but that when it comes to the internal politics of their parties, they will surely strategise to defeat each other. And all is now set for the contest. This would be the first political baptism of the Comrade Governor since he assumed office and the people are watching how he is going to outwit Chief Anenih who temporally relocated to the state in the past three weeks to ensure victory for his party in tomorrow’s election.

It would be recalled that the court had declared that there was no election in the area following the declaration by the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the 2007 elections in the state, that elections could not hold in the area as a result of violence perpetrated by political thugs. Ever since the Appeal Court declaration, there was a renewed political war between the Action Congress in the state and the PDP. Mr Kabiru Adjoto is the AC candidate in the area.

Those who have been monitoring the political situation in Edo state may not be surprise with the political tension the Appeal Court had created due to the importance of the election to both parties. On August 8, the former Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Anenih led an intimidating team to Akoko to kick off campaign for the election. And as it seems, the party jettisoned its factional crisis to confront the AC in the election.

Other leaders of the party in the state who were at the campaign included, PDP Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tunde Akogun, Professor Julius Ihonbvere, Senator Yisa Braimoh, Senator Odion Ugbesia, Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Zakawanu Garuba, Chairmen of the 18 local government councils, former Deputy Governor, Lucky Imasuen, Chief Dan Orbih, Principal Secretary to the Vice_President, Mike Oghiadohme, State Vice_Chairman PDP (Edo North), Mr Paschal Ugbome, Mr Matthew Iduoriyekenwen, Chief Francis Inegbeneki, Barr.Edward Sado and others.

One would be wondering why leaders of the party attached so much importance to the election, but the reasons are not far fetched. As it stands now, in the 24_member House, the PDP has 13 members in the state House of Assembly while the AC has 10 and for the party to continue to command majority in the House, it must win the election since there are still two more cases yet to be decided by the Court of Appeal; Akoko_Edo Constituency II and Etsako C
entral.

The AC/Labour are in-charge of the state Executive Council and the PDP wants to hold on to its leadership in the Assembly. And while addressing the party supporters at the campaign, Chief Anenih stressed the importance of the election and expressed optimism that the party would win. According to him, “I have relocated to the state temporally, I am not going back to Abuja until we get victory in the election. In Edo State we have 10/10 in the senate. House of Reps 10/10. I do not see how we cannot have 10/10 in the House of Assembly.

The ball is in your court. Go from house to house, do not sleep but do not cause violence. There is no need to fight, we have five wards out of several wards in the state. I am not going back to Abuja . We will go from house to house and do what we know best. Do not disappoint us, Ekhabafe (the deceased factional chairman of the party) is watching us do not disappoint him. Right now, we have AC in government House in Benin, it is a state that is PDP state, people get to offices by accident, we will get there by vote”.

He went on to urged the people to vote for the PDP candidate, Agbabi, adding that “lawmaking is a serious business, we cannot be teaching people everyday. If Agbabi wins, he will not start a fresh tenure, the journey he has started, we will make sure he goes there and complete his tenure. We don’t want newcomers, lawmaking is a serious business, we cannot be teaching people everyday, he has been there for years, so he is a specialist, he has the experience, I appeal to you to let him go back to complete his tenure”.

Also speaking at the rally, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Zakawanu Garuba, said no visible achievements in Edo North in the nine months reign of the AC led government in the state and urged the people not “ to be deceived with what they say” and vote for the PDP. According to him, “when the PDP administration was nine months in the state, it was able to construct the Ibilo_Matete_Osoro road. But since the past nine months that the AC government came into power nothing has been done in Edo North. So we must not be deceived about their lies let us be focused all the time”.

However, a week after the PDP rally in Ibillo, last Friday, to be precise, the AC led by Governor Oshiomohle, his Deputy, Dr Pius Odubu, leader of the party in the state, Senator Rowland Owie, Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Mr Charles Idahosa, state Party chairman, Tony Omoaghe, Senatorial leader, Dr Tunde Lakoju, Malik Afegbua and other members of the state Executive Council, stormed Ibillo with their brooms, to sweep PDP out of Akoko Edo. AC expressed optimism on victory and hoped that at the end of the legal tussles still pending, the party would have assumed majority of the House and government’s “programmes to alleviate the sufferings of the people will no longer be frustrated by the PDP dominated House.

Oshiomohle addressed the crowd: “As governor of Edo State, we will ensure one man, one vote, anybody, who is fooling himself, who thinks that Nigeria belongs to him, that we must remain the laughing stock of Africa and of the world, that we must remain a primitive country, where the citizens have no right to vote, they must be fought, and fought until we defeat them, there is no hiding place, we are resolved that we must have a democracy, a democracy that is based on genuine vote.

Anybody who is still living in the past, we will engage, we will fight them and we will defeat them and let me tell you this, when we were not in government, we fought them, we beat them, we disgraced them, we removed them from power. We are moved by a common desire to set our people free and the beginning of that freedom is that when Edo man, Edo woman, Edo youths go to vote, those votes must count. Nobody should be in government except at the pleasure of the people of Edo State and we will do everything possible to do that because
there will be no peace in the land if there is no genuine election and we are committed to that”.

On the need to ensure victory for the party, Oshiomohle asserted that “Nothing good comes easy but there is nothing we have asked for that God has not blessed us with but the lesson we have learnt is that the beginning of the journey must be that we believe it is right, it is proper and it will be done. Election riggers are dirty people so we must sweep them away. We need to have men and women in the House who will legislate for the good people of Edo State, today I want to repair schools but I can’t repair schools because the House will not approve of the board but if we had majority in the house, the board would have been approved. In voting for him, you are voting for good education, in voting for him, you are voting to give us power to tar these roads”.

Commenting also, Senator Owie, said that “the truth is that the PDP has never won election in Akoko Edo and I do not think it will start this time around. The AC is on ground as you can see the crowd that came for the campaign. This is a progressive area and the people are satisfied with the achievements of Governor Oshiomohle so far, therefore we have no fear at all. AC will beat PDP silly on Saturday in Akoko Edo”.

Also Political Adviser to the Governor, Mr Idahosa, asserted that “all is set for the election. The PDP has just been ranting because they know they have no base in Edo State any more. You only rig where you are popular, so, they cannot rig this one. We will monitor the elections properly as the Comrade Governor has said. We are only appealing to security agents to ensure that every thing is peaceful”.

However, tension heightened in the state, after the AC accused the PDP of alleged attack and destruction of the Mercedes car, belonging to the Vice_Chairman of the Action Congress (Edo North), Chief Bayo Adams by suspected thugs loyal to the PDP at his residence in Akoko Edo local government council.

The Action Congress (AC) through its spokesman in the state, Mr Reti Uzzi, alleged that thugs loyal to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state perpetrated the act and warned that if such violence repeats itself, loyalists of the party may be forced to retaliate as no one party has monopoly of violence. He added that it was part of the plots by the PDP to rig the forthcoming House of Assembly rerun election in Akoko Edo and vowed that the party would resist any attempt to rig the election.

But countering the allegation, Spokesman of the PDP, Chief Nosa Adams said it was untrue, saying that “we have been to his house and there was nothing like that. What happened was that we saw that the windscreen of his car was damaged and from our investigations, we discovered that the thing was arranged by Chief Bayo Adams himself. He just arranged it, to give the impression that the PDP candidate for the House of Assembly election in Akoko Edo is lawless.

We are law abiding people and we believe in a free and fair election. All these are being planned towards embarrassing the PDP. So I want to advise the AC to come out and campaign in Akoko Edo and prepare for the rerun election and stop their blackmail and unnecessary propaganda. We are glad that the police is already investigating the matter and in the next few days the truth will prevail”. The AC also alleged plans by the PDP to rig the election through the deployment of soldiers.

They also faulted the decision by INEC to shift the collation center from Ibillo to Aiyegunle, just as they alleged that the decision by INEC to conduct the election using the Electronic Voters Registers (EVR) was a ploy by the PDP to rig. But countering their allegations, the PDP in a press conference addressed at the residence of a Chieftain of the party in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, accused the AC of indulging in propaganda campaign “ when they are actually the ones planning to rig the election with their Government House conn
ection”.

Other leaders who were at the press conference were Senators Yisa Braimoh, Tunde Akogun, Edo South leader, Owere Dickson Omasogie, House of Representative member, Johnson Abulagbe, Henry Tenebe and Secretary of the party Felix Utubor, also described as untrue the allegation by the Action Congress (AC) in the state that it had perfected plans to rig the election through the EVR system, asserting that there was no need to rig since Akoko Edo was a PDP dominated area.

Chief Orbih accused the AC of planning to “import’ thugs into the area from Kogi and some states in West and called on police, State Security Service and “other security agencies to be vigilant and prevent this evil plan of the AC to cause havoc on the days leading to the election.

While we sympathize with the AC government in Edo State for not having anything to show the electorate since they came to power, we shall resist any attempt by them to subvert the will of the people as it affects the Akoko_Edo House of Assembly rerun election. We have received information that the leadership of AC have concluded plans to bring in thugs from Lokoja as well as from the South West and the plan will be perfected by government official vehicles to ferry some of these armed miscreants undetected. As a prelude to their rally, that held on August 14, their supporters stopped at Iruekpen shooting into the air and beat up some PDP supporters”.

He added that the PDP claimed that the lame, the deaf, blind and dumb, attended its rally, “ but we know that in the history of elections in Edo, this category of people that dominated the AC rally has never won elections in Edo hence the AC has resorted to the grand design to intimidate, disrupt and then rig. So we believe in a free and fair election and will resist any attempt to manipulate the election. We commend INEC for the arrangement so far and we plead with all security agencies in the state to be alert”, he stated.

Debunking the allegation that the PDP had perfected plans to bring in the army through the House leader, Tunde Akogun, Chief Orbih asserted that “how is that possible when they said they have the money and the power now. They have perfected plans to rig with their government vehicles and you know that Akogun whom they said is bringing in the army is not an army officer any more but retired and how can he bring the army without the approval of the President. This is part of their antics to curry sympathy but Edo people already know them as noise makers”.

However, all is set for the election. The police Command, through its spokesman in the state, ASP Peter Ogboi told Vanguard that “we have made arrangements that will ensure a successful election. But we are warning politicians to respect themselves because we will not tolerate any form of violence. Our men will be everywhere to monitor situations and anybody arrested for rigging or with arms will be dealt with no matter who is behind him”.

There is no doubt that tomorrow election will be an acid test for Governor Oshiomohle because he will be confronting the PDP forces head on including Chief Anenih. Though the PDP will be missing the deceased Ekhabafe, who was an expert in ensuring victory for the party in the area. However, the task is now left for the House Leader, Akogun, Orbih, Abulagba to outwit the fire power of the AC in the area led by Lakoju, Afegbua, Shagadi.

It is expected that former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Owie will also be on ground to ensure that the AC strategy for the election is executed to the letter, while Oshimohle and Anenih will supervise for their various parties and watch their men slug it out. It will surely be another clash of the titans tomorrow in Akoko Edo.


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