In spite of police ban, spate of violence evidently orchestrated by Edo State government, and its last-ditch desperate attempts to use state powers to frustrate the much-advertised rally slated for Friday, December 13 by the Adams Oshiomhole-led faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress to formally welcome its erstwhile vice-chairman, South-south zone, Osagie Ize-Iyamu back into the fold, the reception still took place as planned albeit at a different venue. It was a game of wits and intrigues as the resolute APC members circumvented the well-orchestrated plot by the state government, with the tacit support of the police, to deny them the opportunity of staging the rally. The original venue of the planned rally was the Garrick Memorial Secondary School ground on Ekenwan Road. In a seeming cat and mouse game, the organizers, however, outsmarted their traducers by shifting the venue to Ize-Iyamu’s residence which equally has an expansive field. The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu had, in a curious and not so tidy manner, reversed himself on his earlier endorsement of the rally in a letter addressed to the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu signed by his principal staff officer, Idowu Owohunwa, assistant commissioner of police, ACP. In the letter, Owohunwa said “in cognizance of the security consequences of the proposed Mega Rally, I am to confirm that the Inspector General of Police has directed the Commissioner of Police, Edo State Command to emplace appropriate security framework that is directed at suspending the rally until further notice. He has also been directed to summon a meeting of all parties involved in the political development with a view to engaging them towards giving effect to his directives in overriding internal security interests”. The IG’s seeming summersault was without reverting to the earlier arrangement with the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole via a letter dated December 11. Titled, “Re-Request for the deployment of police officers to provide security for the All Progressives Congress, APC, rally at Garrick” and signed by the same Owohunwa, the letter read: “I am directed by the Inspector General of Police to extend his warm compliments and acknowledge receipt of your Excellency’s letter of 10th December, 2019 on the above underlined subject. I am to respectfully inform your Excellency that the Inspector General of Police has approved the request and has directed the commissioner of police Edo State Command to provide adequate security for the event as requested”.
It was, therefore, a visibly angry Oshiomhole who indicted and tongue-lashed the top echelon of the Nigeria Police Force for its perceived ignoble role in the mayhem unleashed on the state capital a day to the planned rally by suspected government-sponsored thugs who set bonfires along Airport Road, harassed and attacked innocent citizens. Oshiomhole spoke to journalists when Ize-Iyamu visited him at his Benin home after a successful event at his residence where thousands of party faithful and supporters converged to receive him.
Though excited that the APC had “a successful rally that was peaceful and it achieved its purpose”, the national chairman said “the shame, however, is that those who have responsibility to provide security decided to create security challenges. I am embarrassed as the national chairman that the Inspector-General of Police will write me a letter, informing me on the strength of my application in which I informed him of our intention to do a rally in Edo to receive people into the party; and this is something that happens every other day in different parts of the country. We informed the police not for license; we informed the police so that they can justify their salary for maintaining law and order. It is not for them to grant permission. And I thought as National Chairman, I should be formal. I signed that letter by myself; I didn’t ask my P.A or S.A to sign it. And I hand-delivered this letter to the IG; I did not send the P.A or S.A to deliver it so that there can be no possible communication gap. Because we are the governing party, we have responsibility amongst other things, for peace and security and so, I must share as national chairman in that responsibility for peace and security. That was why I took those steps. And he conveyed to me in a letter that I am sure you all have, that he had directed the CP in Edo to provide full security so that the exercise can go smoothly. He told me he himself knows Pastor Ize-Iyamu because he was once AIG in Edo State. So, he knows who is who. He knows the political value of his joining us. What I am not able to understand is how the same police, the same IG, could be alleged, I use the word alleged because he has not written to me; I have not sighted any letter, he sent a letter to Philip Shaibu, the deputy governor, that the rally will not hold. The party is not run by the government; the party is run by the party. The business of people joining us is the responsibility of the state chapter who invited me and other members of the NWC to join them to receive Pastor. I am from here, you can’t deny that and I have also worked with Pastor; it’s a fact of history for which I am proud. So, how police IG can ask me in the morning go ahead and do a rally, and then without getting back to me, write to another person to say no, that rally should not hold is something I will still need to find out when I get to Abuja”.
Accusing the police of complicity in the violence that engulfed the state capital Thursday in which no fewer than 15 persons were severely injured and hospitalised, the immediate past governor of the state said “for me, it’s a shame on Edo Police Command that people, broad daylight yesterday; (Thursday) nothing was scheduled for yesterday other than I was expected to arrive. And because people thought they can intimidate me from arriving, they burnt tires on the Airport Road; you don’t need to be a civil engineer to know that when you burn tires on asphalt road, you have destroyed that part of the road. Over time, it will begin to fail. And the police supervised this violence; they superintended over this violence. Even as the IG has given me a letter, and as at that time, no letter had been issued to Philip Shaibu. For police to claim they are unable to secure the Airport Road; as reporters, I ask you in the name of God to explain what Edo people went through yesterday. Benin was locked down because the police blocked the roads just to oblige the deputy governor or the government of Edo State”. Reacting to the propaganda by the state government that he was placed under house arrest, Oshiomhole pooh-poohed the claim. Positing that the leadership qualities of a man are tested under excessive provocations, he stated that “if it was my old self, I will not only go there today, I will make sure I make a militant speech that by now the battle line is drawn. But as national chairman, I have to pay the price by abstaining from going there so that I deny the IG and the Edo police command any excuse to go and kill people and blame it on me. As you can see, in spite of the police, we had a good outing”.
Like other party members, the former governor was miffed that the state government could be resisting people coming to join its party. “How on this planet earth, a game that is about numbers, somebody wants to come and join you, you say you don’t want. How? So, I am quite embarrassed by what has happened but I am more than compensated by the fact that the rally took place. I’m sure you were there; you could see those numbers”. The government had taken several desperate measures to frustrate the event. Before procuring police ban on the rally, the first step by the state government was to deprive the organizers the use of the venue which had already been paid for and prepared for the event. On Thursday, the government ordered the closure of all schools, public and private, over what it described as “disturbing security report concerning the use of school premises for a political rally.”
This was immediatelyfollowed by announcement of a ban on all political activities in the state. Accordingto a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, alawyer, on Friday, the day of the planned event “the Government of Edo Statehas, over the past few days, made clear its position that the plans by someidentified mischief-makers to organise an unauthorised political rally in BeninCity, was capable of leading to a breakdown of public peace and also a dangerto the persons and property of Edo citizens. The events of yesterday, 12th December,2019, were a scary prelude to the absolute mayhem which these irresponsibleactivities would generate if left unchecked. In defiance of the clear andpublicised instruction of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), calling offthe proposed rally owing to the security implications, these desperate personsare presently shopping around for alternative venues to carry out theirincendiary activities”.
Noting that the primary purpose of government is the protection of life and property, Ogie said: “the government of Edo State has placed a total and complete ban on all political rallies, demonstrations and/or processions in any part of Edo State”. Reading out the riot act, Ogie said: “the Government has further directed all security agencies to deal firmly with all persons (no matter how highly placed), who act in breach of this directive”. The state government also warned parents and guardians to advise their children and wards not to allow themselves to be used as cannon-fodder “in aid of the misguided political ambition and ego of people whose own children reside and school abroad”.
And when it became obvious that the Oshiomhole faction which has as its chairman, David Imuse, a retired army colonel would not be cowed to submission, truckloads of policemen were deployed to the Ugbor Road area by the state police command to forestall a likely clash between some suspected state-sponsored thugs who had stormed the area, and those loyal to the other faction who were also out to resist any attempt to invade the new venue. The protesting youths loyal to the governor had taken their brigandage to the vicinity of the rally, making bonfires and harassing innocent passers-by and motorists. A popular comedian, Picolo, was one of the victims of the irate thugs who vandalized his SUV.
Addressing themammoth and enthusiastic crowd of supporters, Ize-Iyamu announced that he had promisedthe deputy commissioner of police that “we will not make it too long; it willbe brief, and there will be no violence”. The magazine gathered that the CP haddispatched the deputy commissioner of police to Ize-Iyamu’s house with theinstruction that the event should not be called a rally and should not lastmore than 10 minutes which he adhered strictly to. Immediate past deputygovernor of the state and chairman of the board of NDDC, Pius Odubu, representedOshiomhole at the event which was beamed live on the Nigerian TelevisionAuthority, NTA. Imuse who formally welcome Ize-Iyamu to the party, presentedhim and his supporters with a broom, which is the symbol of the APC.
Imuse said “weare here to celebrate the home-coming of our brothers and sisters in PDP whohave decided to come and add value to our party. They have not only come to addvalue they want to ensure we grow from strength to strength so that we begin towin at all levels”. Performing the sameduty at the home of the national chairman of the party where Ize Iyamu wasformally handed over to Oshiomhole, Imuse remarked that the defection ofIze-Iyamu and his supporters from the 18 local government areas of the state tothe APC was a “home-coming worthy of celebration” adding that as the candidateof the PDP in the 2016 governorship election, he would add value to the APC. Receivingthe broom from the state chairman, Ize-Iyamu disclosed that for those in doubt,he had since registered as a card-carrying member of the party at his Ugbokoward in Orhionmwon Local Government Area. Contrary to the claim by the governorthat he was not aware of the rally, Ize-Iyamu explained how efforts to reachhim were rebuffed. He also spoke of his desire to reconcile him and Oshiomhole.
According to him,“I want to thank the national chairman of the party for the way he welcomed meto the party because I have had the privilege of working with him. All of usplayed a serious role in putting this party together and I want to thank Godfor the way he welcomed me when he heard I was coming back home and told me hewould be around to honour me. He didn’t need to come. As a national chairman,he has many duties, but because I had worked with him before, I was theDirector-General of the campaign for his re-election in 2012. I called theGovernor and spoke with him. I requested for audience, he avoided it. I senthim a text requesting a date. I also wrote to him about the date for this rally.
Ize-Iyamudescribed as unfortunate all the efforts the governor had made to stop therally “because I told him when I was coming that I was not coming to createproblems within the party; I am coming to a house I partook in building. To me,it’s a thing of joy that the national chairman of our party is from our stateand when you are privileged to have the governor and the national chairman,more can be done for our state. I told him that I didn’t want to be here orthere. I would like a situation where I can even help bring the two of youtogether. Unfortunately, all attempts to reach him failed.”
That members of the APC were happy to have Ize-Iyamu return to the party is an understatement. Many of them were all over the moon. A visibly excited Washington Osifo, one of the 14 lawmakers-elect of the Statehouse of Assembly mischievously excluded from inauguration, told the magazine that “today is a day of joy. Every responsible and reasonable person should be happy when a newborn is added to the family. So, politics is a game of number, and for APC, this is plus one; and this is not just one, but one in numerous ways. You can see very many persons who in thousands that came here. APC has grown in leaps and bounds and in persons”. Osifo described Ize-Iyamu as a man of the people, a politician, and one who is accessible, humble, and knowledgeable. “That is why people just want to be with him. For everything you do, there is a reward. This is the reward for relationship, and that is exactly what he’s getting today”. Contrary to the position of the state government that the rally flopped, Osifo asserted that it was a huge success. “As you can see, this is not frustration; they couldn‘t frustrate us. This is triumphant entry. I have seen rallies that they held, those in government with all the resources; I have not seen persons of quality, good heads like this. So, what it means is that everybody that had been kept away from active politics today, they are converging; it’s an opportunity for all the family to come together. You could see it’s like a carnival. This is how a political party is supposed to be”.
Samson Osagie, former minority whip inthe House of Representatives said “today, you saw a mammoth crowd across thestate made up of former members of the PDP joining the APC formally. Ize-Iyamuhas formally joined the APC. There is no stopping the train that is moving”. Onthe tension created by activities of political thugs, Osagie, executivedirector, marketing business development, Nigerian Communications Satellite Ltd(NigComSat) said “it is important to state that what we are witnessing in EdoState today is pure fascism aided and abetted by those who should understandthat governance is about liberty, about freedom for the citizens. But however,we believe that when the people are resolved to take their destinies in theirown hands, there is usually no stopping it and the power of the people isusually greater than the people that are in power. So, today is a great day andI am particularly excited about it. Don’t bother by all the shenanigans by thegovernment side to try to stop this event. It has come, it has happened and itis over”.
On his part, Thomas Okosun, one-timespeaker of the state House of Assembly, described the rally as impressive,adding that he was “heavily elated”. “I am elated because our party is beingstrengthened once again and in preparation for 2020. If you recall in 2016, wenarrowly won that election by about 50,000 votes and the man who almost took usto the cleaners today is joining our party coming back to the home that hehelped to build, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. I think this of one of my happiestdays in the political terrain to have him back home to join us and strengthenour resolve to retain Edo State for APC”. On the spirited attempt by the governmentto frustrate the event, Okosun, a member of the national governing council of theNew Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) – Africa Union DevelopmentAgency (AUDA) who not too long ago resigned from Obaseki’s government as pro-chancellorand chairman of the governing council of Tayo Akpata University of Education(former College of Education) Ekiadolor, said “ideally, I don’t see why aperson at all in APC who ought to be celebrating would now say he doesn’t wantpeople to join the party. That simply tells you that he’s a political impostorin our party”.