By Dirisu Yakubu
The battle for Osadebe Avenue is seen by many as a two-horse race involving the incumbent governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Godwin Obaseki and his All Progressives Congress, APC, counterpart, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Having secured their respective parties’ ticket for the September 19 big test; the two are now walking the length and breadth of the state, marketing their blueprints ahead of the election.
For the PDP, the election is a referendum against the evils of godfatherism, a vice it says must be put to bed to gift the oil-producing stateroom to breathe with the air in its tank. Aware of what its candidate is up against, the national campaign council for the Edo State Governorship Election is leaving nothing to chance, propagating the Making Edo Working Again, MEGA, Obaseki’s manifesto across the 18 local government areas of the state.
Speaking exclusively to Vanguard, secretary of the council and national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan says the people know what Obaseki stands for and are only waiting to exercise their mandate and make their choice known.
“The PDP won’t join issues with anyone given that Edo is traditionally a PDP state. When Adam Oshiomhole was governor of the state; he credited his achievements to the economic wizardly and managerial efficiency of Godwin Obaseki. If today, he has chosen to jump in the bed with a man he once described in the worst of adjectives, we leave him to have a reckoning with his conscience.
“Governor Obaseki is ignoring their antics and rightly so because his eyes are on the ball. They’ve been causing chaos including the show of shame they exhibited at the sacred Palace of our highly respected monarch, the Oba of Benin.
“Our national campaign has already been made aware of plots by the APC to suppress the people of Edo state by using a certain group of thugs, who were seen on video being contracted by Ize-Iyamu, to orchestrate pockets of violent attacks in various parts of the state so as to scare the people, create an impression of security breakdown and pave way to truncate the wish of the people of Edo state.
“Already, the APC’s plot against the people of Edo has been exposed by their attack at the Oba Palace and the barefaced desecration of the values, which the people of Edo state hold in the highest esteem.
“While we understand that Oshiomhole and the APC candidate, Ize-Iyamu, are distraught because of their rejection by the Edo people, resorting to acts of violence just to embarrass the state and derail the election has worsened their case. We have made our position known and it is left for the security agencies to investigate and bring the perpetrators to book,” he said.
Beyond the mandate to galvanise support for Obaseki is the intricately interwoven web of betrayal and intrigues that have since pitched the governor against his predecessor in office. Not one to keep sealed lips at a time of danger, Obaseki manned up, spoke against the gradual crawling of godfatherism into Edo politics and damned the consequence. The price for his boldness has been translated erroneously as arrogance, to which those who claimed they owned Edo, have vowed to teach him a political lesson.
For the council’s publicity secretary, the PDP candidate has no enemy to fight, stressing that those who see Obaseki as a foe should go beyond bended knees to apologize “shamelessly in a manner fraught with distrust and ignominy.”
According to him, “the council is reminding Edolites not to forget what brought us to this dangerous bend. When the going was good, Obaseki was eulogised but when he demanded to be left to govern the people who elected him to office, he became their enemy overnight. For this reason, we are going the whole hog to do everything legitimate and constitutional to ensure that the people exercise their franchise without fear of intimidation and harassment.
“We’ve called them out to issue-based campaign. For us, Obaseki’s antecedents are there for all to see. Before his foray into partisan politics, he was a successful businessman, a manager of human and material resources. The man whose praises Oshiomhole is singing today is nothing close to our candidate. The challenge is simple: give the people what you have and allow them to make a choice. But brute force and manipulation of the electoral process, we shall resist.”
Reminded that the ruling party has also accused the PDP of instigating the crisis that left Obaseki and his entourage embarrassed, Ologbondiyan dismissed same, saying “it is part of the falsehood and denials by the APC for an action they took against the Peoples Democratic Party, against our governors, against our senators, against members of the House of Representatives, against Board of Trustee members on our way into the palace of the Oba of Benin. It was an attack and it is in the video which is being shown around by agents of the APC that they attacked our members.”
He continued: “Have you seen the trending video of thugs with their candidate presiding? Let me state this on behalf of the PDP that the only thing that would be acceptable to us is a free and fair election. Thugs cannot dictate for Edo people and as a party, we have continued in the political education of our members and supporters on the need for them to choose rightly. This is what we expect of them, not threats of setting the whole place ablaze if things don’t go their way.”
Ologbondiyan is not alone as the chairman, publicity sub-committee of the campaign council, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi also warned the APC not to think that violence would always deliver electoral fortune home at all times. Lamenting the shameful display of thuggery at the Oba’s Palace, Dokpesi insisted the PDP cannot be intimidated of possible repeat of similar vice, warning however that violence would only succeed in scaring people away from their polling units.
“The PDP is definitely is neither scared nor frightened by the act. You know that when you have these frequent attacks, there is bound to be apathy. People hate bound to be frightened. This is not the first time this is coming up,” he said, even as he maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to step in and give his party a democratic face, in the weeks before the election.
“I think it is only very clear and there is no gain saying about it that the APC must be called to order by the President himself and by the security agencies. Enough like the chairman of this campaign has said is enough. People are being intimidated, people are being shot at, if you look at the clip of what transpired, one of the leaders of APC clearly said that they came to the palace earlier on prepared and once the PDP governors, senators, leaders were approaching the palace, they opened fire on them, they started shooting.
“It would have been very easy to actually respond but we are law abiding in the Peoples Democratic Party. We are not cultists. Look at the clear records of the people in the PDP. They are men of distinction, men of honour, peace loving people and people ready to provide service to the people of Edo state,” he added.
Political parties are known for heating the polity especially in times leading to elections but the violence that desecrated the peaceful ambience at the Oba of Benin Palace must not be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Two weeks after this dastardly act, no report of arrest let alone investigation has hit the newswire. As the PDP claimed, the APC had no official business in the Edo state capital that fateful day; what then fuelled the attack? Who led the move for the damage done to the cars which brought the PDP governors that accompanied their Edo state counterpart to the Palace? And if the renowned monarch was aware of Obaseki’s visit with his entourage, is it possible that those who visited later were allotted the same time as the governor? These are some of the questions the security agencies would be finding answers to in the days or perhaps weeks ahead as the electorate look forward to moment of decision making on the tenancy of Osadebe Avenue.