In what is a worrying pointer to the Edo Governorship Election slated for September, supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) engaged in a bloody clash in front of the Oba palace in Benin City on Saturday afternoon as the convoy of the Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki made its way into the palace to pay a courtesy visit to the revered king.
The governor was being accompanied to the palace by dignitaries of the PDP, including serving state governors, after a colourful flagging off of his campaign for reelection when some suspected supporters of the APC candidate Osagie Ize Iyamu reportedly started booing the governor.
Things quickly got nasty as the governor’s security apparatus tried to restore law and order.
There were sporadic gunshots, heard loud and wide across the city.
Several persons sustained serious gunshots wounds.
Reacting to the incident, the Edo State Media Campaign Council of the APC for the governorship election, accused Governor Godwin Obaseki and his party, the PDP, of unleashing violence on the people in Benin City following a confrontation in which the Governor was booed and embarrassed while trying to gain entrance into the palace of the Oba of Benin.
The Chairman of the Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, in a statement said the Governor instructed his thugs to attack the people as retribution for their public booing of his arrival with various chants labeling him a thief and rejected candidate and for spurning his rally allegedly attended by tax-collectors and mobilised thugs.
He also accused the governor and his loyalists of destroying their own billboards at few locations in the state as a gimmick to deflect responsibility and get a reprieve for the alleged organised destruction of APC billboards after the party filed a petition with the Police and other relevant agencies.
”It is sad that Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the outgoing Governor of Edo State, has, today, Saturday, July 25, displayed the same traits of intolerance and penchant for violence that made the people of Edo State unanimously reject him.
”Booed by the people at the entrance of the Palace of our great Oba for handing the state to the PDP tax collectors who are unconscionably feasting on our collective patrimony, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, as an act of revenge, instructed the thugs and cultists he has spent the past few weeks recruiting in the state and beyond to attack the people with dangerous arms.
“This criminal and heartless action not only affirms our repeated warnings that Mr. Godwin Obaseki fully intends to prosecute the election with violence and thuggery, but it also shows his lack of empathy, conscience, and respect for the lives and dignity of the people he was elected to serve.
“His thugs have presently invaded the State Capital, unleashing mayhem to anyone perceived to be critical of the failed Governor or supportive of our party and candidate. After converging at the venue of the Governor’s campaign flag-off, they have poured into the streets, vandalizing properties and causing panic. We have heard unconfirmed reports of fatal injuries.
“Furthermore, as a way to avoid responsibility and expected sanction for the undemocratic and criminal destruction of our billboards, the Governor’s thugs are going around the city, deliberately pulling down their own billboards in an orchestrated gimmick meant to portray the false impression of “violence on both sides” when in truth, the desperate Governor, in cahoots with his PDP godfathers, are the ones threatening the peace of the state.
“”We condemn this action in totality and demand immediate intervention by the Police and other security agencies. Our party, the APC, has built an effective campaign on the strength of our documented manifesto. Tellingly, on the back of four years of no achievement, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has neither a plan nor record of office to show, hence the resort to violence and thuggery.
“We call on the Inspector General of Police and all well-meaning Nigerians to immediately rein in on Mr. Godwin Obaseki and begin the arrest of his recruited thugs who are committed to causing chaos and violence in a bid to prevent the people, who have already voiced their rejection of Obaseki, from participating in the election freely and without intimidation.”
However, in a statement, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the thugs were sponsored by APC, its candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the sacked National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who he said had in the past few days engaged thugs to cause mayhem in the state.
“We are appalled by the deployment of thugs to the sacred grounds of the Oba Palace by the APC, Ize-Iyamu and Oshiomhole to harass guests who are in the state for the flag-off of Governor Obaseki’s campaign and had visited the palace to pay obeisance to His Royal Majesty, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, the Oba of Benin.
“While we respect the boundaries of politics as it relates to the Palace, it is reprehensible that the APC, its candidate and their enablers would sponsor thugs to desecrate the palace, which is a clear case of desperation to score cheap points.
“This conduct is not a trait of Edo people and is condemned in the strongest possible terms, as we are courteous and welcoming to guests. It is obvious that these persons were mobilised for this task by those who have no regard for the palace nor want the progress and development of the state,” the statement said.