In quick succession, two governorship aspirants of the All Progressives Congress were attacked during their campaign tours to meet party delegates ahead of the party’s primary election. Adibe Emenyonu, in Benin City, examines the scenarios
First, it was the deputy governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu. Odubu had on April 29 kicked off his campaign ahead of the party’s primary election slated for June 18. Few days after his declaration, some political thugs, allegedly, attacked him and his entourage in Auchi, headquarters of Etsako West local government.
Five persons were, reportedly, injured during the attack. The number two citizen of the state was first said to have been denied access to APC secretariat in Fugar, headquarters of Etsako Central local government on the alleged instructions of a deputy director of protocol at Government House who is from the area.
Odubu was scheduled to meet with party delegates from the area but met the gate of the secretariat under lock and key, a situation that was said to have angered some delegates who forced the gate open to enable the deputy governor meet with them outside the secretariat.
From Fugar, Odubu was said to have left for Auchi and was meeting with delegates when thugs, allegedly, appeared, firing gunshots and destroying canopies. “We ran for our dear lives. They injured a policeman, an SSS operative and three civilians and destroyed canopies,” a source close to the venue said.
Immediately after the attack, the director of strategic research and planning of the Odubu campaign organisation and two-time member representing Uhumwonde federal constituency, Samson Osagie, who spoke on behalf of the group, blamed some persons at the corridors of power in the state. He enumerated instances where a number of persons considered to be loyal to the governorship ambition of the deputy governor were illegally suspended and removed from office adding, “This to us is the height of naked display of power of cruelty, animosity, intolerance and man’s inhumanity to man.”
He said five persons, including the State Security Service officer and the escort police attached to the deputy governor, were severely injured during the attack on Odubu who went on a meet-the- delegates tour of the three local government areas of Etsako West, Etsako Central and Etsako East.
Osagie claimed they had identified three persons who masterminded the attack.
However, investigation by THISDAY revealed that the overzealousness of the security details attached to the deputy governor might have triggered the Auchi incident. His visits to other Etsako local governments, such as Agenebode and Fugar, went without incident.
Trouble was said to have begun when delegates in other areas came out en masse to receive the deputy governor and his entourage. It was in the midst of the pushing and shoving to enter the hall that a policeman attached to the convoy of Odubu fired some gunshots, apparently, to scare people away.
As this went on, according to an APC leader from the area, Malam Yakubu Momodu, “One of the shots hit a party member who came for the meeting, which resulted in pandemonium. It was in the cause of the confusion that I heard sporadic shooting. That is all I can say because I also had to run away for my dear life.”
Against this backdrop, Governor Adams Oshiomhole directed the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the incident in Auchi and make culprits to face the full wrath of the law. A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Kassim Afegbua, noted that while it should be understood that democracy was all about inclusive participation and contestation of ideas, and not rule of the gun, every gubernatorial aspirant must live by the rules of the game and not the size of his guns and political thugs. “Campaigns are generally a very interesting aspect of democracy; hence, it must not be reduced to bloodletting,” Afegbua said.
Just as the police were set to swing into action following the takeover of the investigation by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, another attempt was, allegedly, made on the life of one of the aspirants, Godwin Obaseki, at Sobe, Owan West local government.
Youths from the area were said to have pursued the suspected thugs, which led to their arrested with their guns and hand over to the police. The Commissioner for Arts and Culture, Mcdonald Obasuki, confirmed the incident shortly after it happened. He said he saw a man who went inside a vehicle and brought out a gun which he shot at the venue where Obaseki was about to address APC delegates.
According to Obasuke, “While we were still expecting delegates, Obaseki was already inside with the party leaders when this boy, who pretended he was with us, went inside the car and brought out a gun and fired at our direction.
“We were lucky to dodge the bullet. So we immediately mobilised our boys and pursued them because it seems they came to disrupt the event. We caught them and handed them over to the police. It was really shocking, we thank God nobody was hurt. However, Obaseki could not address the delegates because of the shooting.”
Speaking to journalists, Obaseki said, “I called off the meeting with the delegates because I had to be whisked off by my security men. No one was hurt though. I cannot be intimidated, whoever did this has failed because we will continue our campaign.” He said election was about exchange of ideas and not about war.
For Peaceful Elections
Obaseki spoke in Benin at his campaign office when he played host to Mr. Innocent Idibia (aka Tuface). The music icon was recently conferred with an honorary Master of Art in music by the Igbinedion University Okada, Edo State.
Tuface said for the past two years he had being at the vanguard of the “Vote not Fight, Election no be War” campaign, meant to sensitise Nigerians on the need for peaceful elections. Obaseki pleaded with the political class in Edo State to eschew violence and embrace peace for the betterment of all.
“The whole idea of politics is to expand the space, to show the younger generation that different types of people, who are from the corporate world, can come and play politics, that politics is not about ruffian corruption, but an honourable thing to do, which is about service.”
Battle for Delegates
THISDAY, however, gathered that the reported attacks on Odubu and Obaseki were only the manifestation of a battle between the former council chairman, Jimoh Ijegbai, and Obasuki for control of the delegates in Sobe ward II of Owan West local government.
The supporters of Obasuki, who also hails from Sobe, were said to have clashed with those loyal to Reginald Okunbor over the control of delegates in the council. Okunbor was said to be working for Ijegbai.
Obasuki told newsmen, “We were in my ward in Sobe waiting for Godwin Obaseki. In the process, some leaders and some boys came and they wanted to enter the hall, which is a small place that can host 12 delegates. We asked them not to enter, including the former Owan east chairman, Barrister Jimoh Ijegbai. In the process, I saw one boy, Ige, enter one car and brought out a cut-to-size double barrel and I was very lucky as I just left the place when he shot. The sign is still at the wall there
“This boy was the one Reginald took on bail. He stabbed people at Iyamoh. The case is still at the state police CID. My place is not where you can do such a thing and go free, so those guys ran into one L300 Mitstibushi bus and that bus belongs to Reginald and these are Reginald’s boys and we know them. So one of my persons entered his 190 Mercedes car and chased them, guess what they saw, it was Reginald at Iron axis.
“These boys had to return because they were not armed. I was surprised that the Commissioner of Police was aware and invited me yesterday (Sunday evening) after the incident and I was with him in the sitting room. I played the whole story to him and he has asked them to luck them up. As I speak to you now they are at the police station.”
Obasuki who acknowledged that he and Reginald belonged to the Obaseki project, however, said, “One of the Reginald boys is the Ward 9 coordinator for Ogiemwonyi. Reginald is playing hide and seek game in this Obaseki project. He is not committed to it.”But the immediate past Owan East council chairman, Ijegbai, has refuted the allegation that the disruption of Obaseki’s campaign at Sobe was because of him. Ijegbai said those involved should own up to what led to the attack at Sobe. According to him, “Those saying the shooting or thugs attack on Obaseki campaign at Sobe was because of me should tell the real reason why such a sad incident occurred. My take on this is that what happened was just an issue of supremacy over who controls the delegates at Sobe. Reginald and Obasuki are both supporters of Obaseki and Obasuki is from Sobe, ward 11 where the incident happened.
We had already successfully visited all other 10 wards in the council area same day before we got to Sobe.”