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Protest against JTF withdrawal cripples Benin

PROTEST: Peaceful protest over withdrawal of Army personnel from the Joint Task Force in Edo State by some residents of Benin yesterday. Photo by Barnabas Uzosike.

By  Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN — Protesters, crippled economic activities for over five hours in Benin, condemning the withdrawal of soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the state.

Meanwhile, Governor Adams Oshiomhole has urged Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan to address the issue in the interest of the people and sustenance of democracy in the country.

The protesters included the Nigeria  Labour Cong-ress, NLC; National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS; Trade Union Congress, TUC and market women.

They also stormed the palace of the Oba of Benin and the State House of Assembly. They demanded that the vice president should rescind the decision to avoid anarchy in the state.

Addressing the crowd at the Government House, Benin City, Governor  Oshiomhole, who vowed that he had staked his life to defend the principle of one man, one vote in the state, claimed that  the plot to remove the soldiers was masterminded by the Defence Minister, General Godwin Abbe and Chief Tony Anenih.

This, he said, was to allow PDP thugs ferry arms into Etsako Central local government area for this weekend’s re-run election.

He expressed fears on the sustenance of the nation’s democracy if some people could deliberately cause crisis in any part of the country unchallenged.

He warned that some PDP chieftains in the state might cause a revolution in the country that would never be forgotten in the nearest future, if the re-run election was allowed to be rigged by them.

He took time to explain to the crowd his conversations with the vice president on the issue, and expressed hope that the vice president would consider the security of the people of the state rather than the political interests of his Principal Secretary, Chief Mike Oghiadohme and Chief Anenih.

His words:   “This land belongs to all of us and nobody can be intimidated us.  In accepting to be governor of this state, I put everything to it, because we will not be allowing political miscreants in their 80s to continue to manipulate the system.

“If they like, let them bring police form South Africa, let them bring police from anywhere, including police from Anenih’s farm, we will not be captured again. We are ready, death cannot be avoided.

“The only way to avoid death is to avoid birth. Once you are born, we must die. We have the capacity to match them. I defeated them before and whether they like it or not, I am bigger than them now.

“The God, our creator, who brought me here in spite of their machine guns, that God that brought me here in spite of their control of the Arm Forces, that God that gave me victory and gave them defeat, that God is not on holiday. He will not abandon us.”

Oshiomhole asserted that “if they want a revolution, we are ready. If they make peaceful election impossible, they will be swept away by the impending revolution. I am still working and I will continue to work to persuade Abuja not to allow the political interest of Chief Anenih undermine national security. I will continue to persuade the vice-president and Godwin Abbe, the Minister of Defense.

“It does not matter how he became a minister, what is important is that as a minister, he has to be in charge of the whole of Nigeria, his own home of birth in particular. Minister will come and go, godfather will be born, godfather will come and go but what is permanent is our people.

“We will always be here. I want to reinstate that I am not persuaded by the argument that the military  being withdrawn is a general directive. The whole of Edo State is not going for election, it is only one council, what they should have done is that they should block the routes where these people will pass their arms through to Etsako.

“That is all we are saying, not that I said they should use the military to conduct the election.”


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