By John Mayaki
In the early hours of Friday, the 13th of December, Edo’s cyberspace and indeed the online media in the country was spooked by the release of a statement credited to the Secretary to the Edo State Government, Barrister Osarodion Ogie wherein he purportedly barred all political assembly and rallies in the state, with added threat of complete forfeiture and possible demolition of properties where any of such is perceived to be held.
It was the day Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, unarguably one of Edo State’s most influential political actors for a decade, was to tick the final box in his move from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress with a public presentation by the leadership of the party to other members at a mega rally already billed to host thousands and generate excitement as the party heads into another election year.
The shock and horror that heralded the statement were inspired by multiple factors. First, the hurriedly put together statement, worded with dictatorial tropes, was one of the many the state government had put out within the space of forty-eight hours, a deviation from its complacent silence even in the face of great tragedies.
Secondly, the ramification of the statement, that a state government could, on a whim, hide behind highfalutin jargons and contrived ‘security risk’ to deny people their constitutional rights to assembly and political choice was deeply troubling, especially in light of other atrocities and blatant violation of rights committed by the Edo State government since the emergence of Godwin Obaseki and when it became increasingly clear mid-year that he has been rejected by the populace.
By declaring the ban, Godwin Obaseki, the governor of Edo State was, without concealment, abusing Executive powers and using state agencies for self-serving purposes, primarily targeting Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu and his mega rally even though less than 24 hours prior, in his mendacity, he denied knowledge of the event.
Not long after Governor Obaseki denied complete knowledge of any mega rally, his government released a statement calling for the closure of schools, including the one scheduled to host the rally, due to fictitious security reports and concerns surrounding the political rally it supposedly had no knowledge before dispatching armed thugs to every nook and cranny of the city to foment trouble, beginning with the Airport where the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole arrived at the state.
Like a tyrant with poor knowledge of the clear limit of his powers as a Governor in a democracy, Godwin Obaseki wished to show strength by clamping down on Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, a man ironically joining his own party, but once again, he failed woefully and ended up revealing his fear, desperation and unpopularity.
For the majority of those who have previously mischaracterized the crisis in the state as a power struggle between Godwin Obaseki and his predecessor in office now see that the fight is actually between the Governor and the people of the state – including his partymen – who have grown tired of his highhandedness and damaging incompetence.
It didn’t take long for them to see that only an unpopular leader reacts with violence and threats to perceived threats, and only one who has failed the people uses force to stop them from finding respite in the arms of another.
In spite of the furore, Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, displaying the courage and resilience that propelled him to prominence in the 90s as Nigeria prepared to get on her feet with democratic leadership, proceeded with the rally although at his residence. Yet, the sheer numbers of those present, their energy and excitement, the unity of purpose evident in all the political leaders that attended, showed that there is something unique about the Pastor and this may be the beginning of something unprecedented.