Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye
In what looks like a rehearse of what to expect in the electoral campaigns and the September 19 Edo State governorship election, thugs suspected to be loyal to the two main political parties in the election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, clashed at the entrance gate to the Palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, following the visit of the South South PDP governors to the palace.
The clash occurred immediately after the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, left the palace with other state governors, who paid a courtesy visit to the Oba of Benin ahead of the flag off of the party’s governorship campaign in Benin City.
The thugs were said to have engaged in singing pro solidarity and counter songs for and against governor Obaseki and pastor Osaigie Ize-Iyamu at the exit gate point of the palace when tempers went beyond control.
In the ensuing milee, the thugs resorted to free exchange of dangerous weapons including fire arms, cutlasses and others and in the process, several persons were reportedly injured while others scampered to safety, even as many cars parked at the front of the palace were badly damaged.
They shot sporadically into the air for minutes before they were dispersed by policemen keeping guards at the entrance to the palace.
Besides, poles bearing the PDP umbrellas and their logos lined up along the Airport road were torn to shred.
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 mobilized 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 organized 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”, the statement said.
Also reacting, the Edo State Government condemned the attack on its guests, notably governors and other Very Important Persons (VIPs), at the Oba’s Palace in Benin City,sequel to the flag-off of Governor Godwin Obaseki’s campaign for re-election.
In a statement, Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the thugs were sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (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.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, while speaking at the camppaign flag off at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, later, alleged that one of the APC’s billionaires hired the thugs to carry out the attack, adding “they want to scare us”.
He urged the PDP not to retaliate, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari is a law- abiding President.