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Deaths and politics in Edo State

EDO State was recently in the forefront of national news as a result of several fatal incidents which occurred in the State.

The first to hit the news was the death of three journalists in an accident involving the convoy of the Governor of the State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

The second was the unfortunate murder of his Principal Private Secretary, PPS, Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde, while the third was the death of one person in a protest march against the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, led by the Governor himself. These incidents have generated considerable acrimony and attracted national attention.

The two major political parties in Edo State, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, have engaged themselves in a vicious blame-game. Without preliminary police investigation, the two sides have traded accusations of culpability in these deaths. Governor Oshiomhole and his supporters have virtually been unambiguous in their belief that elements of the PDP have a hand in these incidents.

Indeed, one of the functionaries of the Edo State Government went as far as suggesting that a national leader of the PDP might  be the brain behind these deaths. The insinuation here is that the politics of the forthcoming governorship election of July 14, 2012, and the desperation of the opposition party are the underlying factors behind the blood-letting occurring in  the State.

The PDP, on the other hand, has repeatedly denied involvement in any sinister plot to kill or cause mayhem in Edo State.  The party has always attempted to persuade the general public to see that the Governor’s convoy accident involved a lorry owned and driven by accredited ACN members, while the death of one person in a protest march was the result of the violence unleashed by hoodlums led by the Governor to the INEC office in Benin City.  In the same way, the party has vigorously affirmed its innocence in the murder of Oshiomhole’s PPS.

There can be no doubt that the tragic incidents in the State are being used as a tool of electioneering, especially by the ACN which seems to have been taking undue  advantage and rambunctiously  using them to blackmail the PDP.  On its own part, the PDP, apart from steadfastly denying any wrongdoing, has also advertised the view that in searching for the killers of the PPS, Oshiomhole and the ACN should look within their fold.

However, it is possible to see the incidents beyond the blinkered views of the two political parties.  One other way to understand what has happened in Edo State is to see the incidents as being fortuitous and unrelated.  It is plausible to argue that they are not the products of any conspiracy and, therefore, ought not to be elevated into one.

There is yet another way to look at the incidents, and that is to locate them in a larger historical context.  To do so is to enter into a world of amazing possibilities.  It is interesting to note that since the governorship election of April 2007, there have been several political deaths in Edo State:

In a protest led by Gov. Oshiomhole against the results of the 2007 Governorship election, two people lost their lives.

Almost immediately after he became Governor in 2008, his Personal Assistant, Mr. Greg Aruma and his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Chris Nwachukwu, died in a motor accident.

In the same year, a group of young girls allegedly returning from a party in Oshiomhole’s country home in Iyamho, reportedly died in an accident involving Honourable Phillip Shaibu’s official car. And more recently, in 2012, three journalists died in an accident involving Oshiomhole’s convoy. And his Principal Private Secretary was killed by unknown gunmen.

One person died in a protest march led by Governor Oshiomhole to the INEC office to protest alleged plan by the Commission and the PDP to manipulate the now suspended continuous voters registration.

It might not be totally out of place to also point out that the human rights activist, Chima Ubani, died in a fatal accident in 2005 while travelling in Oshiomhole’s official car on his way from Maiduguri. Oshiomhole’s opponents have also produced different perspectives on the murder of his PPS, speculating that it might not be unconnected to developments within the Governor’s inner caucus.

Many others have speculated that the aspiration of the PPS to be the next President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC and the attendant internal acrimony might also provide a possible clue to his murder.  Anyway, the PPS, not being from Edo State, was of little or no political relevance in the State.

What appears obvious is that there is a pattern to the deaths in Edo State which cannot be explained by reference to any conspiracy on the part of third parties.  The fact is that they have all occurred around Oshiomhole, and most of the persons involved were his very loyal aides.  The Governor must begin to look for explanation.

Mr.  JONATHAN ASEMOTA, a political analyst, wrote from Lagos.



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