By Simon Ebegbulem,
Benin-City- Saturday, April 30, 2016 was another tensed day in Edo State when the deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, visited delegates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Auchi, Etsako West Local Government Area. While the deputy governor was inside the party’s secretariat addressing party leaders, hoodlums allegedly unleashed mayhem outside. Seven persons, including a policeman and an operative of the Department of State Security, were said to have been injured during the incident.
The incident came a week after Sunday Vanguard exclusively reported an altercation between Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the deputy at a peace meeting initiated by party leaders in the state. In that meeting, the governor berated Odubu for allegedly contracting native doctors to kill him so that he (Odubu) can take over, a situation which will give the latter a smooth ride to Osadebey Avenue come 2016.
While Odubu, vehemently denied the allegation, he equally accused his boss of starving his office financially and alleged victimization of his supporters in the APC. After the meeting, a road map for peace was established between the duo and that was why the Saturday incident became worrisome to leaders of the party. Unfortunately, the tension has been heightening since the people of Benin Kingdom commenced the mourning of the revered Oba Erediauwa who joined his ancestors.
The announcement was made Friday while the Auchi incident occurred Saturday. Activities in the kingdom were paralysed following the announcement. As a matter of fact, one of the governorship aspirants, Godwin Obaseki, who was supposed to declare his intention to run the governorship race at the traditional Urhokpota Hall, Benin-City, suspended the event which later led to the rumour that he may have dropped out of the race. This actually elicited the attack from the League of Young Edo Professionals (LEYEP) against Odubu, whom they accused of embarking on campaign from the very day the demise of the Oba was announced. Secretary-General of the group, Dr Osatohamwen Nosakhare, in a statement, noted that while all other aspirants in the APC, including Engr Chris Ogiemwonyi, Obaseki, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor, Mr. Kenneth Imansuagbon, Chief Victor Atamah and Lady Tina Agbarha have since suspended their campaigns as a mark of respect for the late royal father, only Odubu, a Benin son, had continued to go about campaigning around Edo. But spokesman of the Odubu Campaign Organization, Mr Josef Omorotionmwan, said, “We were the first to show concern over the passage of the Oba of Benin; nobody expects he (Odubu) should mourn the way they mourn. We deeply respect the institution of the Oba of Benin Kingdom and more so the Oba just passed on. He was a nice father to all of us and we deeply regret his passage. Therefore, nobody should issue a template on how to mourn him”.
However, Sunday Vanguard gathered that hours before the Auchi incident, Oshiomhole and the deputy attended a function at Udaba, Etsako Central LGA, where a member of the state House of Assembly was burying his grand mother. At that function, Oshiomhole and Odubu danced with their host before the governor left the place for his village. Before Odubu arrived Udaba, he had visited Fugar and Agenebode, in Edo North where the governor hails from. The deputy governor, with his supporters, left for Auchi from Udaba where the unfortunate incident occurred. Addressing journalists, on Sunday, Odubu’s Campaign Organization, led by a former House of Representatives member, Samson Osagie, called on the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, and the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) to take measures to curtain the excesses of some powerful politicians within the party ahead of the gubernatorial election scheduled for September 10, 2016 or risk losing the state to the opposition PDP.
Osagie alleged that the incident was purely an assassination attempt on the life of the deputy governor and it was geared towards disrupting the aims of the campaign and attempt to coerce the deputy governor dumping his ambition. He said the attack was perpetrated by those who are averse to a free, fair and credible democratic process with a view to intimidate, harass and put pressure on Odubu to quit the governorship contest. According to him, a number of persons considered to be loyal to the governorship ambition of the deputy governor were illegally removed from office.
“We wish to notify the National Chairman and members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), that they must pay proper attention to the happenings in the Edo chapter of the party as we move closer to the governorship election on September 10, 2016. Edo being the only state in the South-South geo-political zone being controlled by the party must be jealously protected in order for the party to retain its foothold in the zone. This, to us, is the height of naked display of power of cruelty, animosity, intolerance and man inhumanity to man.” Osagie noted that seven persons, including an escort commander who is a State Security Service officer attached to the Deputy Governor, sustained serious gunshot injuries during the attack on Odubu.
But the Chairman of the APC in Etsako West LGA, Alhaji Abubakar Akokhia, who was said to be with Odubu inside the secretariat when the attack occurred, faulted Osagie’s account of the incident, saying it was not an assassination attempt on the deputy governor. Akokhia explained that he was with Odubu throughout the period the shooting lasted near the council secretariat and stated that the attack could not have been targeted at the deputy governor. He alleged that the attack was carried out by large army of supporters who accompanied Odubu to the place and admonished Odubu to reduce the number of supporters accompanying him on trips to avoid similar occurrence in future.
On his part, the state Commissioner for Information, Prince Kassim Afegbua, described the alleged attack on the deputy governor as false. He said: “While we condemn in very strong terms the ugly incident at Auchi, we note, however, that the conclusion of the Odubu Campaign Organisation of alleged assassination attempt appears hasty as preliminary reports suggest that the fracas at Auchi was caused by men loyal to the Odubu Campaign brought in two truck-loads to Auchi who attacked other party loyalists not sold to the deputy governor’s aspiration. It is instructive to note that the deputy governor was inside the secretariat building of the APC in the company of the Party Chairman in the Local Government, Alhaji Umoru Akokhia, addressing the delegates while men loyal to him, who had become unruly, fired gunshots at other APC loyalists who were outside protesting against his visit. We gathered authoritatively that the first shots were, in fact, fired by Odubu’s security details in an attempt to scare away the party faithful who were against the men brought to their domain by the Odubu Campaign Organisation, before the men loyal to him fired at the party’s loyalists.
It should be noted that among those who sustained injuries are APC loyalists who are presently receiving medical attention in the hospital. It is laughable that the Odubu Campaign Organisation will allege that the deputy governor, with full compliments of security details, was shot at yet no casualty was recorded on the other side and nobody apprehended. Given the above scenario, we find it lousy for anyone to impute assassination theory as propounded by the Odubu Campaign Organisation especially when investigations are ongoing and the police are yet to submit their findings on the fracas”.
However, any one following the politics of the state in the past two weeks will not be surprised at the allegations and counter-allegations on the Odubu alleged assassination story. Two scenarios may have played out. One is that the governor’s kinsmen may have masterminded the attack to teach Odubu a lesson that he could come to Oshiomhole’s domain and be comfortable, particularly when he is perceived of allegedly waging war against their son. Oshiomhole may not have been involved but his kinsmen who always accuse the governor of always giving his enemies so much space to rubbish him politically, could have instigated the attack to tell Odubu to stay off Edo North. And it was learnt that Odubu, who had earlier planned to sleep in Auchi that night so as to proceed to Owan axis the next day, had to order his entourage back to Benin that night because Auchi became too hot for him.
Another scenario which could have happened was that Odubu sympathisers could have arranged the attack in Oshiomhole’s back yard to make it look like an attempt on the deputy governor’s life particularly after his boss had accused him of allegedly paying native doctors to kill him. Odubu had been on the hot seat explaining to Catholic priests that he never did that. But Odubu’s supporters, who dismissed the allegation that the deputy governor’s sympathisers may have masterminded the attack to gain public sympathy for their principal, argued that they could not have shot their fellow supporters including Odubu’s aides if actually they were behind the attack.
But the APC Chairman in Etsako West, Akhokia, countered that claim, saying: “Three of our people at home here were equally injured including one woman who is a delegate. Odubu’s security aides created the confusion by shooting outside”. It is expected however that the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, who is an indigene of the state, will use his expertise to unravel the true perpetrators of the mayhem. The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Chris Ezike, who had earlier met with the deputy governor, disclosed, last Thursday, that the IGP had decided to take over the investigation of the matter and assured that the truth would be unravelled.