By SIMON EBEGBULEM AND GABRIEL ENOGHOLASE
BENIN CITY-BARELY 48 hours after President Goodluck Jonathan visited Benin City for the Presidential rally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), angry youths of the party yesterday staged a protest at the state secretariat of the party, accusing the leadership of the party and the state Coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo campaign organization, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of alleged diversion of N1.5billion presidential largess meant for party youths.
The youths under the aegis of Grassroot Youths Initiative (GYI) barricaded the gates of the party secretariat and vowed to unleash mayhem on the party leadership if the money is not made available to the youths.
The tension heightened before the arrival of the state Commissioner of Police, Folunso Adebanjo who pleaded with the youths to channel their grievances to the leadership of the party rather than embarking on a protest. His intervention saved the situation following earlier threats by the youths not to leave the secretariat.
But Pastor Ize-Iyamu in a swift reaction, described the allegation as arrant none sense, asserting that no such amount was given for the presidential rally. Also, the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih said the protest was unnecessary since no such money exist, alleging however that the crisis was being instigated by the state Government in order to destabilize the PDP which according to him is stronger in the state now.
However, the angry youths as early as 9:00am yesterday morning barricaded the Adesuwa junction leading to the party’s secretariat chanting “Ize Iyamu must go” while others carried placard with inscriptions such as ““Our mumu don reach” and “We want our money for mobilizing Youths for
Mr President”, threatening to take over the party’s secretariat until their demand is met.
Leader of the youths, Osagie Idahosa, who addressed newsmen at the party’s secretariat, said lamented that he used his personal money to mobilized thousands of youth to the stadium for the presidential rally stressing that Pastor Ize Iyamu had refused to pay him back his money
The hundreds of the angry youths paralysed movements along the ever busy Benin-Sapele road for several hours. Idahosa said the youths of the state have been defrauded by the party and vowed to work against the party if the money is not made available to them. “Enough is enough, we can no be used by these individuals. February 14 election is at hand and we will punish them if they fail to give us our money. The money was meant to be given to the youths and we need our money”.
Reacting to the allegations by the Youths, Ize-Iyamu said the youth’s claims are baseless and unfounded, saying that the allegation was being cooked by mischief makers in collaboration with the APC so “as to drag the PDP into crisis ahead the forthcoming elections”.
His words, “No such amount was realised for the presidential rally by President Goodluck Jonathan and the allegation is false and laughable. APC government in Edo state wanted to sabotage the rally by denying us the use of Comrade buses and they went to say we brought PDP people from Imo, Anambra and Delta states. The truth is that they could not explain the turn out.
“The next thing was that I was given N2.4 billion to organize the rally and that people were instigated to ask me what happened to the money. It is another lie from the APC. Even though I was not in charge I know that what came to Edo state for the rally was pittance. Unfortunately, our youths who heard about the money took to the street to ask for their own share. This was the same thing that
happened when lawmakers decamped. I want to tell Edo people and those that came that no money was given to us. Most of the mobilization came from different support groups”.
On his part, Chief Orbih said, “A lot has been said about the PDP presidential rally in Benin. It is now obvious that the massive turnout by Edo people to receive Mr.President is still something that is baffling the APC government in the state. Yesterday they came out to say we hired people from neighbouring states of Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra. Today it is another story of N1.5billion naira. It is an indication that the APC in the state is jittery”.