By Peter Uzo, Benin City
Ahead the 2020 governorship election in Edo state, the crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo state is heightening and as it seems no solution is on sight. The crisis took another dimension October 5, 2019 when armed thugs allegedly attacked the GRA residence of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole in Benin City. Prior to that attack, the embattled governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki held a meeting with a section of the leaders of the party, where he proscribed the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a pressure group within the state APC opposed to his second term aspiration. He further directed all the Local Government Chairmen to ensure peace in their areas by not allowing them to hold meetings in their localities. But in that meeting, the APC chairman in Etsako Central Local Government Area of the state, Mr Suleiman Bagudu openly disagreed with the governor when he announced the proscription of EPM, reminding the governor that the people concerned were APC members therefore it would amount to ‘waging war against your fellow party men and women.’ Bagudu to the bewilderment of his colleague chairmen, further reminded the governor that he (Obaseki) and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu formed Obaseki/ Shaibu Solidarity Movement (OSM), therefore, if he decided to ban EPM he should start from OSM. Angered by his comment, governor Obaseki stood up to remind Bagudu about his status as governor of the state and berated him for attempting to test his might. But Bagudu remained dogged, insisting that the decisions of the governor to clamp down on fellow party members was capable of derailing the fortunes of the party in the coming governorship election.
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However, some of the chairmen and supporters of the governor went home with that directive that EPM members must not be allowed to hold meetings in the 18 Local Government Areas. That was how the political tension spread to nook and cranny of the state. To further heighten the tension, the state government sacked four elected Local Government Chairmen including that of Oshiomhole’s Local Government Yakubu Musa (Etsako West). Others included daughter of the former governor of old Bendel State, Eghe Ogbemudia (Egor), Patrick Aguinede (Esan West) and Aremiyau Momoh. Though the state government alleged that they were sacked over alleged misappropriation of funds the sacked chairmen dismissed that as untrue and an attempt to deceive the public. Followers of the current political development in the state are aware that the sacked chairmen were opposed to the the state government. Besides, they were said to be loyal to Oshiomhole. Beside the chairmen who were sacked, over 250 Special Assistants in the 18 LGAs were equally sacked. The state Secretary of the APC, Mr Lawrence Okah was equally suspended due to his alleged refusal to join forces with the governor against Oshiomhole. But Okah described his suspension as illegal, asserting that neither the governor nor the state chairman of the party, Anslem Ojezua had the powers to suspend him. He insisted he remained
the state secretary of the party. All these preceded the alleged attack at the Benin residence of Oshiomhole on the 5th of October. Oshiomhole was in Benin to attend a ceremony but while he was still at the event, thugs numbering more than 50 allegedly stormed his Okorotun residence in GRA Benin City to lay siege. The Chief Press Secretary to the National Chairman of the APC, Simon Ebegbulem, narrated thus: “The thugs numbering over 50 stormed the residence of the National Chairman at about 7:30pm singing war songs and throwing stones at his gate. Security men at the gate alerted policemen and other members of the APC and the police quickly mobilized to the place and chased the thugs away. We were lucky the national chairman did not run into them, only God knows what they could have done to him. It is obvious that the thugs were sponsored because we have been receiving threats in the past two weeks, that they perfected plans to attack APC members who are opposed to the governor”.
Curiously, the Edo state Police Commissioner Dan Mallam Muhammed who spoke to journalists at Government House Benin City, said the residence of the National chairman was not attacked.
He said,”To the best of my knowledge, no one had access to the house of the National Chairman. When he came into the State, we beefed up security around him, from his house to the Oba’s palace, from there to the airport before he left for Abuja”. Similarly, the state government reacted through a statement by Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, the government said, “We have no knowledge of the attack. We have also reached out to the Police, and they affirmed that they do not know about such an attack”. But Ebegbulem who expressed shock over the claim by both the police CP and the state government, asserted: “I don’t want to believe that the state Police Commissioner is trying to make himself available to some desperate politicians in Edo State who have been threatening day and night to malign the image of the national chairman of the APC due to their selfish interest. I don’t want to join issues with the police, I want to believe we have a super cop as CP in Edo. However, let us find out, who were the people that pursued the thugs who came to attack Oshiomhole? Of course the police got the information that the thugs had laid siege at the residence of Oshiomhole with a view to attack him. Ironically, the CP was far way in Enugu when the incident happened, I guess he was not patient to be briefed by his deputy who sent the policemen to restore calm before making that statement. If the CP claimed there was nothing how come he decided to beef up security around the national chairman ‘s residence? I even read where the police claimed the people who went there were protesters. Do you protest at 8pm at the residence of the national chairman of the ruling party? Do you protest at night? He added that “I know the state government is making frantic effort to use the statement of the police to cover their evil plot and the shame they have brought to themselves but that cannot fly. Will you wait for somebody to be killed before the CP will confirm that thugs invaded the residence of Comrade Oshiomhole or begin to act? Suppose the Comrade Chairman had run into those thugs without knowing about their presence, what do you think could have happened?
However, contrary to the claim of the Edo CP, seven persons allegedly involved in the attack at the residence of the APC National chairman were invited to the Police Headquarters in Abuja for interrogation. As at the time of filling this report, they were still being detained by the police. As a matter of fact, one of the suspects confessed to the police that he was allegedly detailed by agents of the state government to attack the residence of Oshiomhole. The crisis no doubt had polarized the party in the state. Violence and blood bath may not be ruled out as Obaseki forces battle those of his estranged god father, Comrade Oshiomhole. It was blood bath last Sunday in Ivbiaro community, Owan East LGA of the state when EPM members holding their meeting were attacked. Comrade Carlis Imolore who is the coordinator of the EPM in the local government was attacked with dangerous weapons while five others sustained serious injuries after the armed thugs stormed the place, shooting sporadically. Five vehicles were destroyed during the attack. Narrating their ordeal, a former member of the House of Representatives and former commissioner, Hon Abdul Oroh said that their attackers were known faces including some who were his personal aides while he was in government. Oroh said he became suspicious when one of the attackers started calling him apparently to know his whereabouts in the area few days before the Sunday attack.
“He called me to know if I were around and reminded me of his baby’s naming ceremony coming up on Monday. I later discovered that he was doing that to know whether I was around or not. We got a valid permission to hold the meeting but they came and disrupted the meeting”. He also alleged that the police may have been compromised with the way some of them acted during the incident. On his part, Barr. Ibrahim Bawa in whose residence the meeting was to hold said they had validly obtained permission from the Divisional Police Officer in Afuze and the Area Commander in Igarra where they were given the clearance to hold the meeting. “At about 1 pm, while we were waiting for more members to arrive from other parts of Edo north, we saw some people armed with machetes, axes and other dangerous weapons. They said there was an instruction from the state governor that any meeting apart from that of APC must not be allowed to hold and then pounced on us beating people mercilessly. They destroyed about 150 chairs out of the ones we arranged in my compound. They destroyed all the vehicles parked in front of my house owned by people who were coming for the meeting and injured one of us; the coordinator of EPM, Comrade Carlis Imolore who is right now in a private hospital in Auchi. Four others are still at the hospital.
There are fears that violence, leading to bloodbath may visit the state before and after the governorship election if the crisis between Oshiomhole and Obaseki is not resolved now. But there are no signs of peaceful resolution for now. Obaseki maintains that he is a peaceful man whose style of governance has differed from Oshiomhole’s and that such development should not pitch him against his predecessor. Oshiomhole’s camp maintains that Obaseki’s style has not augured well for the party and Edo people in general. The crisis lingers.
A chieftain of the APC in the state, Gen.Charles Airhiavbere, alleged that governor Obaseki may join another party if he does not get the party ticket for re-election, saying that from all indication, “their plan is to destroy the party and help another party win the election in the state.’
But the governor who addressed some youths, said he had no plans to leave APC.”If a handful of individuals start misbehaving and feel we will leave the party for them; they will be the ones to leave,”. He described the APC as a party for the youths and the next generation, hence his administration is focused on infrastructural and institutional reforms that would stand the test of time.