Chuks Okocha in Abuja, Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt, Martins Ifijeh in Lagos and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin
The two leading candidates in the upcoming September 19 governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday continued to trade blame over the mounting threat of violence in the state.
Speaking on The Morning Show, a programme of ARISE NEWS Channel, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Ize-Iyamu accused Obaseki of orchestrating violence in the build-up to the election, “because of his desperation for a second term.”
He said the governor was fuelling crisis to forestall his imminent defeat in the election.
However, Obaseki pushed back, saying only the APC will benefit from crisis because it knows that with 80 per cent of the Edo electorate behind him, the national ruling party has no chance to win in a free and fair election in the state.
But amid the recriminations between the two leading contenders, Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council in Edo State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has called on the federal government to stop the APC from perpetrating violence.
Ize-Iyamu said the violence had been a one-way traffic, alleging that PDP thugs were hell-bent on intimidating voters to vote for Obaseki.
He said: “APC is committed to a non-violent process. If you will recall, we applied to use the Sam Ogbemudia Stadium for our flag-off, but the governor ignored our letter. We had to use the University of Benin Sports Complex. We didn’t raise issues because we want peace. There was no issue of violence that day. We also toured the 18 local government areas and there was no single violence.
“The incident at the Oba’s palace has nothing to do with APC. The local people were there to celebrate the birth of a new prince when they saw the governor and his entourage driving in. This led to the booing because they obviously were displeased by his leadership. As a response, the governor’s people opened fire and injured several of these locals. “Anybody who holds public office and doesn’t deliver on promises must be ready to face displeasure from the people, and booing is one of the means of showing displeasure.”
The APC candidate added: “To have shot at the people is unfortunate. None of these people shot at the governor’s entourage. It was the other way. If you look at the bullets extracted from those wounded, you will see they were pellets, which means they were shot with pump action rifles, which are not normally assigned to the police. The shootings were from the governor’s thugs.”
Ize-Iyamu said the second incident, which occurred in Etsako West, was also caused by the PDP, adding that thugs invaded the communities when they realised residents did not come out for their rallies.
He accused the Deputy Governor, Hon. Phillip Shaibu, of orchestrating the violence at the rally, noting that at a point, he allegedly seized the phone of the police area commander videoing the incident.
“What Shaibu did not know was that, apart from the policewoman, other people at the rally also recorded. If they were the ones being shot at, they won’t prevent people from recording it because they would need evidence. We sent the videos to the police and we are glad they are investigating it. That recording exonerated APC.
“The desperation of the PDP even led to the arrest of seven thugs with arms. But we have told our supporters not to retaliate,” he stated.
He said the same violent tendencies of the PDP led to the crisis in the House of Assembly, adding that the newly “inaugurated” 17 lawmakers were almost prevented from being inaugurated by thugs allegedly brought in by the governor to cause a crisis as well as to vandalise the assembly complex.
He said: “The governor supervised the destruction of the complex because these 17 lawmakers were coming in for inauguration. How can a governor destroy an assembly building just to prevent lawmakers who were elected by the people and recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from sitting? We are happy they went somewhere else for the inauguration. The deputy clerk, the mace and the 14 elected lawmakers were all on the ground for the inauguration.
Now the governor is suddenly fighting 17 lawmakers. PDP has only seven lawmakers who can’t even form a quorum.”
On the different court cases against him, he said charges were frivolous and bogus, adding that the PDP is hell-bent on ensuring he doesn’t contest because it is anticipating defeat.
According to him, “The N700 million they said I took is laughable. I was never given any money. The PDP at the time wanted someone to verify that the money had come to the state. I and two other persons went to the leader’s house where the money was taken to. It was disbursed to the 18 chairmen who signed for it. Not a kobo entered my account. When I was chief of staff, no one indicted me for stealing. So I can’t take money that is not mine.
“The PDP also went to court through the Action Democratic Party (ADP) claiming my deputy has fake certificates. What it does not know is that we have learnt from the Bayelsa experience. We vetted our deputy. My lawyers also checked his results, and he was given a clean bill of health.”
On the allegation that APC was printing voter’s card, he said it was not in the character of the party to indulge in malpractices, adding that he has it on good authority that PDP was doing everything to hijack or buy voter’s cards.
On the rumours that he stole his SIMPLE manifesto from a former governorship aspirant, Dr. Don-Pedro Obaseki, he described it as laughable, adding that Don-Pedro is his younger cousin who used to come to him for political mentoring.
He added that along the line, he (Ize-Iyamu) told him about his SIMPLE agenda and how he intends to execute it in Edo.
“One day, a friend sent me a video that Don-Pedro was on air in London, saying he was interested in Edo governorship and that his road map was the SIMPLE agenda. I immediately called him and he apologised. I told him a PhD holder shouldn’t plagiarise other people’s work. I told him he must go back to the station, which is Ben TV, to put the record straight. To be fair, he went back and put the record straight, so I forgave him,” he explained.
Only APC Will Benefit from Crisis, Says Obaseki
Reacting to the claims by Ize-Iyamu and the 17 lawmakers, Obaseki, through his media aide, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said violence would benefit only the APC because it could not win in a free and fair election in the state.
“The 17 so-called lawmakers are not lawmakers. At a point, they were lawmakers-elect until their seats were declared vacant. So, whatever they are doing is inconsequential. Nobody is plotting to attack them because violence in any way does not help us as a government. We are poised to win the election. So, it is them that crisis will favour. They are plotting violence to disrupt the election,” he said.
PDP Alleges Plot to Arrest Members
Meanwhile, the National Campaign Council of the PDP for Edo Governorship Election has raised the alarm that its key members have been targeted for arrest ahead of the election.
The main opposition party alleged that during a discussion by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, and Oshiomhole, the former chairman of the ruling party called for the arrest of certain individuals ahead of the election.
PDP cited an alleged leaked video, where it claimed that Oshiomhole was heard asking Gambari, at the Presidential Villa, to order the arrests of certain individuals ahead of the governorship election.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, the Secretary of the council, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said: “Nigerians were alarmed by the video in which Oshiomhole was seen emphatically urging the Chief of Staff to Mr. President on the need to clampdown on certain unnamed Nigerians to achieve political suppression and submission ahead of the Edo election.
“Our national campaign holds that the presence and involvement of the Chief of Staff to the President and the fact that the discussion held within the precincts of the Presidential Villa have made the presidency complicit and place a huge burden on President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He said that there was anxiety in the public space that the discussion between Oshiomhole and Gambari as captured in the video is an extension of discussions that must have held behind closed doors in the Presidential Villa.
The video, he added, has validated earlier revelations of plots by Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu, to allegedly use security operatives to arrest innocent Nigerians, including traditional, faith-based and community leaders on trumped-up charges ahead of the Edo election.
Wike Asks FG to Take Threat of Violence Seriously
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Wike, has called on the federal government to stop the APC in Edo State from perpetrating violence in the state.
Wike said on a television programme monitored in Port Harcourt yesterday that Ize-Iyamu knew he was no match for Obaseki.
According to him, the Edo APC is plotting violence that would lead to a constitutional crisis and suspension of the election.
He said: “Who is in a position to cause violence? We have an advantage. We have a sitting governor who has done well and will continue to do well. So, why do we need to cause violence?
“They are so much desperate to take over power. Desperation can lead to violence. If you watch that video where Ize-Iyamu told those he called ‘lions and tigers’ of Edo to move from unit to unit, you will understand the level of violence they are planning.
“PDP is restraining itself. We want a free and fair electoral contest. But APC does not want the election because they know they will lose.”
Wike stated that character would determine who would be the next governor of Edo State.
According to him, “No progressive governor will support Ize-Iyamu because Adams Oshiomhole has already killed him with all the things he had said against him before, which have not been denied.
“That is why I say character is an issue in this election; no matter what they promise to do under the pretence of having a simple political agenda.
“The question to ask is, this man who says he will execute this, who is he? Is he the man I can believe?
“Oshiomhole has said people know him wherever he goes because he fought godfatherism. That is also why today people want to continue to fight godfatherism.
“Edo people are saying that after joining him to fight godfatherism yesterday, they will not allow him to become another godfather.”
17 Edo Lawmakers Allege Plots to Attack Them
The 17 factional lawmakers of Edo State House of Assembly yesterday held plenary in an unknown location and alleged that there were plots to attack them.
The lawmakers, who claimed to have sat amidst tight security, said they received two petitions.
The first petition was the alleged withdrawal of salaries and entitlements of elected councillors in the 18 local government areas over their refusal to defect to the PDP with Obaseki.
The second was the removal from office of the vice-chairman of Owan East LGA, which was referred to committees to investigate and report back in two weeks.
At the resumed sitting yesterday, which was held after an executive session, the lawmakers condemned the continued siege on the House of Assembly Complex by people they described as hoodlums.
They said the development had compelled them to meet in a rented hall.
At yesterday’s plenary, their speaker, Hon Victor Edoror, set up 17 committees, to help in the smooth running of the House.
The member representing Uhumwonde Constituency, Hon. Washington Osifo, who spoke on the outcome of the plenary, alleged that there were plots to attack the members.
“Mr. Speaker, similar information got to us on June 18 last year and we ignored it because we thought these were our party members and they cannot harm us but a few hours after, we were attacked by thugs.
“The information available to us, Mr. Speaker is that these same people are planning to again attack us and we must not take this for granted again,” he stated.
Reacting, the speaker condemned the plot, saying that “democracy is a game of numbers and we have an absolute majority. We call on our colleagues who are on the other side to trace their steps back and join us.”
Edoror added that the clerk of the assembly whom he accused of aiding the other seven lawmakers loyal to Obaseki to meet has been suspended and would be investigated.
The lawmakers adjourned plenary till August 25.