There was palpable tension in Edo State when the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the September governorship election Governor Godwin Obaseki formally launched the campaign for his re-election.
Political thugs were on rampage as over 10 residents were wounded in an exchange of gunshots between the camps of Obaseki and his main challenger in the September 19 election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The violence started when Obaseki in company of some PDP bigwigs arrived the Oba’s Palace for a courtesy visit. By the time the PDP delegation got there, supporters of both parties had gathered at the entrance of the palace, armed with guns, cudgels, broken bottles and other dangerous weapons.
Cars, some of them exotic, campaign billboards and other valuables were damaged in the mayhem near the palace of the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare 11.
At the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium venue of the rally, Obaseki accused the APC of instigating the violence but asked his supporters to shun thuggery. He said he left the APC because of the lawlessness in the party.
Obaseki promised to transform Edo State, adding that such transformation would lead to the transformation of the country. The governor said the PDP considered him worthy of the governorship ticket as reward for his record of performance in the past four years.
He said his decision to put the people first, above any other interests, cost him the governorship ticket of the APC, saying that his getting the PDP ticket to run the race was a miracle.
The governor promised to unveil his reelection programme, Make Edo Great Again (MEGA), in the coming days.
According to him, “The opposition party in Edo State has now resorted to violence. Do not retaliate,” he said.
“Members of the opposition party want to scare us ahead of the September 19 election, but we have a good President. I am urging President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure peaceful, free and fair governorship election in Edo State.”
“We left them because of their lawlessness. We will not, no matter how provoked, resort to the same lawlessness. I want to thank you and assure you that God has given us the victory,” he said.”
In attendance at the campaign rally were Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), who is the Chairman of the National Campaign Council; Douye Diri (Bayelsa); Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Bala Mohammed (Bauchi); Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Agboola Ajayi.
Also present were PDP chieftain, Chief Tom Ikimi; the party’s National Vice Chairman in the Southsouth zone, Chief Dan Orbih; Edo Chairman of PDP, Dr. Tony Aziegbemi: the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe and Senator Dino Melaye.
Meanwhile, in its own account, the State Media Campaign Council of the All Progressives Congress has accused Obaseki and the PDP of unleashing violence on people in Benin and its environs.
A statement by the Chairman of the Media Campaign Council, John Mayaki, said: “It is sad that Obaseki, the outgoing governor of Edo State, on July 25, 2020, displayed the same traits of intolerance and penchant for violence that made the people of Edo State to unanimously reject him.
“Booed by the people at the entrance of the palace of our great Oba of Benin for handing Edo State over to PDP tax collectors who are unconscionably feasting on our collective patrimony, Obaseki, as an act of revenge, instructed the thugs and cultists in the state and beyond to attack the people with dangerous arms.
“The criminal and heartless action not only affirms our repeated warnings that Obaseki fully intends to prosecute the September 19 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.
“Obaseki’s thugs invaded Edo State capital, unleashing mayhem on anyone perceived to be critical of the failed governor or supportive of our party (APC) and candidate (Ize-Iyamu).
“After converging on the venue of the governor’s campaign kick-off, they poured into the streets, vandalising property and causing panic. We heard unconfirmed reports of fatal injuries.
“As a way to avoid responsibility and expected sanction for the undemocratic and criminal destruction of our billboards, Edo governor’s thugs went round Benin City and its environs, 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 Obaseki, in cahoots with his PDP godfathers, are the ones threatening the peace of Edo State.
“We condemn the 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, the SIMPLE agenda.
“Tellingly, on the back of four years of no achievement, 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 (IGP) and all well-meaning Nigerians to immediately rein in 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 Edo governor from participating in the election freely and without intimidation.”
The media campaign council of Edo APC also mocked PDP leaders for staging a deserted and insignificant event to mark the kick-off of Obaseki’s campaigns.
It described the kick-off as complete failure, with the venue deserted by PDP members who it said remained aggrieved at Obaseki’s imposition, behind a deceitful claim that it reduced crowd to comply with COVID-19 regulations.