… APC, PDP prepare for showdown
Politicians in Edo State, across the different political divides, have understandably been gripped by the nerve-ending prickles of tension and anxiety, especially as the campaigns across the 192 wards in the state are heading towards the final stages, ahead of the September 19, 2020 governorship election.
It has been one tortuous journey of campaigns for the two major political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress, trying to outwit each other in the race to win supporters, gather sympathy and convince the Edo electorate ahead of the poll.
There have been rumours, allegations and counter-allegations, as well as incriminating petitions by members of one party against the other in the ongoing battle for the soul of Edo State
A Benin-based political affairs’ commentator, Solomon Edosomwan, in a chat with The Point, said, though it was naturally expected that politicians going into a major election, like the governorship election, would not “only be tensed up and anxious, but also jittery and panicky,” this was not sufficient to tolerate the invocation of violent acts capable of derailing the democratic process.
Edosomwan opined that “quite a number of these politicians and their parties have invested heavily in propaganda, outright falsehood and deliberate campaign of calumny and assassination of character,” which he said were “arcane developments that are obvious signs of tension, anxiety and palpable fear of possible defeat at the poll.”
While cautioning desperate party candidates and politicians against relying on such negative trends to try to garner votes from the electorate, Edosomwan maintained that “with commitment, tact and adherence to the democratic principles of fair play and decent marshaling of party manifestos, candidates and party supporters could still convince a majority of the electorate to vote for and stick with their parties.”
He expressed dismay at what he called “the noticeable ugly development in the state in which both the PDP and the APC had been trading allegations and counter-allegations that their members were engaging in gun-running activities, with the aim of not only attempting to rig the election, but to also instigate violence ahead of the September 19 governorship election.”
The political affairs’ commentator noted that it was not only “a derogatory, but a dangerous development, that would not augur well for our democratic experiment and political growth, as election should not be taken as a do-or-die affair.”
Only last week, the PDP, in a statement signed by its State Publicity Secretary, Chris Osa Nehikhare, accused a former Secretary to the Edo State Government and former House of Representatives member, Pally Iriase, of being the “Commander of the Lions and Tigers” which besieged the Owan East Local Government Area Command.
He accused the former honourable member of “importing the assassination squad arm of APC from Kogi” to allegedly unleash terror on the good people and targeting “the Council Chairman, Hon Andrew Osigwe, and his family.”
Nehikhare’s statement said, “These evil men returned to their target scene in a commando style and engaged the police in a fierce gun battle before they were repelled when they realised that the mission was not successful after the first attempt.
“Twenty four hours before this attack, Pally Iriase, without authorisation or approval, attempted to takeover a school ground, using thugs to forcefully and illegally set it up to be used as a campaign ground. The council resisted his impunity by standing on the side of the law. For demanding that the law must be obeyed, Pally Iriase felt slighted. He ranted about his discomfort and to show APC that he is a ‘hard man’ he ordered the hit on Hon. Andrew Osigwe and his family.
The statement called on the security agencies, especially the Police and the Department of State Services, to investigate and arrest Pally Iriase “who must produce the assassins he used for the operation. He was responsible for their logistics, the reconnaissance they carried out, provided cover for them as well as the weapons they used.”
While accusing Iriase of continually boasting that he was above the law and that he could not be touched because he had “the police in his very deep pocket,” Nehikhare stressed in the statement that “there exists a prima facie case against Pally Iriase,” saying the Police had a duty to reassure the law abiding people of Owan East that the former federal legislator was not above the law.
He said, “The Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State condemns this brazen, daredevil, desperation laden behaviour of Pally Iriase and his APC. It is totally unacceptable, dishonorable and reprehensible.
“We are aware of their Simple Agenda to create an atmosphere of fear, chaos and mayhem to scare the electorate and ultimately have the elections postponed. Edo people will not be intimidated. They have resolved to decimate the APC rubble rousers and shut them up permanently.
“We thank the good people of Owan East for the way and manner they behaved in the face of this unwarranted provocation. We assure them that Governor Obaseki and his government takes issues of illegal gun possession and assassination attempts very serious and are engaging the security agencies on how to solve this ugly trend.”
While insisting that the governorship election of September 19, 2020 was the focus of his party, Nehikhare challenged the people to bring out their PVCs and “put a final stop to the recalcitrant APC and their sponsors.”
On its part, the APC, last week, in the same vein, accused the Deputy Governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, of mobilising and arming thugs to occupy the venue of the APC rally in Jattu, Etsako West Local government Area, to scare away residents and other supporters of the party who were set for their rally that day, with gunshots.
Chairman, Edo APC Media Campaign Council, John Mayaki, who relied, according to him, on eye-witness reports, accused the Deputy Governor of masterminding the attack and invasion.
The APC Media spokesman maintained that the thugs had since been hired and lodged in hotels by Shaibu who, he said, preceded the carefully-planned attack on its party and leaders with a false petition to the Police to deflect attention from himself and blame the violence on others.
He said, “The PDP has continued its attack on our campaign with armed thugs, militias, and other groups. Yesterday (Wednesday August 26) in Owan East, thugs invaded all three venues of our campaign events, breaking chairs, and destroying facilities in the area.
“These thugs were driven to the event venues under heavy protection supplied by the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, who is the mastermind of the recent attacks. Today in Jattu, he has charged the thugs to ensure that no APC rally takes place because the sheer number of residents who are planning to attend will expose his rejection to the whole world and advertise his defenestration as a good-for-nothing liability on the PDP ticket.”
“From the start, his inclusion in the ticket was an afterthought as Obaseki was willing and ready to sell him out in his negotiations with the PDP. He had to force himself in and he continues to face internal resistance from members of the party over control of their stolen loot designated for the campaign.
“The shootings and violence ongoing in Jattu are happening at the behest of Mr. Philip Shaibu for the singular reason of repressing the voices of the same people he pretends to represent in government.
“We are also aware of the three hotels fully booked in Okpella where he is lodging another retinue of armed thugs to continue their attack on our campaign. We have called the Commissioner of Police and will follow that with a petition to the IGP for the investigation of Philip Shaibu’s activities in Edo North, especially his convoy which has now become nothing but an official transport service of thugs and illegal arms for violent attacks.”
Meanwhile, members of a political pressure group, Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy in Edo, also last week, were in some parts of Benin City, the state capital, to protest what they alleged were violent activities orchestrated by suspected political thugs sponsored by the PDP.
One of the spokespersons of the group, Felix Isere, while calling on the police to fish out the perpetrators and their sponsors, appealed to the police and the judiciary to ensure that those thugs already arrested and arraigned were diligently prosecuted and appropriately punished.
These arrows flying across the parties have been described by observers as pointers to what Edo State indigenes and Nigerians should expect in the forthcoming election.
In this regard, Nigerians and stakeholders have urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to provide a fair playing ground for all parties participating in the election.
The Inspector General of the Police has also been urged to ensure that everyone is protected.
But the disposition of do-or-die by the former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, the party’s candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and Governor Godwin Obaseki may make the work of these institutions very difficult, observers have said.