By Kingsley Omonobi & Gbenga Olarinoye
TheÂ Police today grantedÂ Engr Rauf Â Aregbesola bail, 24 hours after he was arrested and taken to Abuja for interrogation. He was released at 6 p.m. Aregbesola was arrested on Friday at his Lagos residence in connection with alleged forgery of a police report on the 2007 governorship election in Osun State. He flew the flag of the Action Congress, AC, in that election which was won by Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
Aregbesola is currently contesting the validity of that election in court. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial of his election petition citing the rejection of the contentious police report by the first tribunal that handled the matter. Engineer Aregbesola was released on bail for the sum of N5 million and two sureties – Messrs Oyeyemi Adedeji and Morufu Akindele Fatai, both of them members of the House of Representatives from Osun State.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that Aregbesola during interrogation insisted that the content of the disputed police report was correct and declared that he was not under obligation to say how it came about. He was asked to report at the Force Headquarters tomorrow. Prior to his release yesterday, tension mounted in Osun State over his arrest. Policemen were seen moving round the streets of Osogbo and other major towns in the state to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
The 11 AC lawmakers in Osun State House of Assembly at a news conference in Osogbo condemned the arrest while former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, demanded his release. The lawmakers, however, cautioned the inspector general of Police (IGP), Ogbonaya Onovo, that their gubernatorial candidate must not be allowed to die in detention. The lawmakers called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the police to ensure adequate protection of his life, adding that if anything happened to him, the police should be held responsible.
They said that his arrest was political and a ploy to snuff life out of him because he contested the April 14, 2007 governorship election. The minority leader of the House, Hon. Timothy Owoeye, accompanied by ten others, said that the arrest was another ploy by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in connivance with police to ensure that justice is perverted over the governorship election.
Atiku, yesterday, asked the police to reach out to Nigerians to fight crime and not to waste their energy fighting opposition politicians like Aregbesola. In a statement from his media office in Abuja, he urged the police to respect Aregbesolaâ€™s human rights by freeing him immediately and without pre-conditions,in order not to compromise the the free and conducive environment that is required for an impartial retrial of the Osun State gubernatorial election petition.
Meanwhile, an Austrian based AC chieftain, Biodun Oladejo, criticised Aregbesolaâ€™s arrest, saying he should be released. Oladejo, in a statement, yesterday, said the arrest of the Osun AC gubernatorial candidate in the 2007 general elections amounted to an attempt to intimidate him into abandoning his quest to reclaim his â€œstolen mandateâ€ at the tribunal. He warned that the ruling PDP wanted to silence Aregbesola at all costs, saying the reactionary forces should not be allowed to kill the gubernatorial candidate like they did to Chef MKO Abiola.