Edo 2020: Count me Out of Violent Clash in Oba’s Palace – Okunbo

We will Take Strong Action against Perpetrators – Wike

As controversies rage between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Edo State over the violent clash that took place at the palace of the Oba of Benin Saturday July 25, Edo-born prominent business mogul, Idahosa Wells Okunbo who has been fingered by the opposition, PDP, as being complicit in the incident, has explained his presence at the palace of the Oba of Benin, Ewuare 11 on the fateful day which left many people seriously injured and several cars destroyed.

The state governor, Godwin Obaseki, who is seeking re-election on the platform of the PDP in the September 19 governorship poll, had led the National Campaign Council headed by, Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, to the palace on a courtesy call to intimate the Oba of their presence in his domain to flag off the party’s campaign. On the delegation were governors of Delta, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Sokoto, Oyo, and the national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, amongst other chieftains of the party.

All hell was however let loose when the chanting of abusive songs by rival supporters degenerated to physical attacks and shootings. The governor, in his response following the handing over of the PDP flag to him as its candidate by Secondus, had accused “one of the billionaire members of their party” of allegedly hiring thugs around the Oba’s palace whom he said were destroying cars with PDP flags. Since the ugly incident, both parties had been trading blames as to who was the real aggressor.

But debunking any link with the violence, the distraught business magnate, in a personally signed statement on Sunday, titled “Setting the Records Straight”, said “I am particularly pained that some ungodly insinuations in some quarters have linked me with the unfortunate saga”. He said those who made insinuations linking him with the ugly incident were just trying “to drag me into their politics and create the impression in certain quarters that I was responsible for their rejection by the people”.
He explained that he was invited to the Palace of the Oba of Benin “for a very private ceremony, which I did not even attend with my friends”.

The chairman of Ocean Marines Solutions stated that “the private ceremony, which had no bearing at all with politics, took place hours after the booing incident happened outside the Palace” and so “I was not privy to the ugly incident during which Governor Godwin Obaseki was reportedly booed”. The magazine gathered that the “very private ceremony” he referred to was the dedication of the new Prince born to the royal family a few months ago.

Okunbo asserted that as a responsible citizen and elder statesman who respects constituted authorities, he would not subscribe to any act that tends to disrespect or denigrate any constituted authority whether in Edo State or any other State in Nigeria. Dissociating himself from the activities of the unruly crowd, he said they could not therefore have been sent to the palace by him “to embarrass the PDP entourage, including the State Governor whom I respect as the number one citizen of the state”. He said he has equal measure of respect for other state governors who were on the entourage with Obaseki, “some of whom are my personal friends; and could not have encouraged any plot to boo or embarrass them”.

Frowning at the “brazen act of disrespect” for constituted authorities by the crowd of young men whom he stated “reportedly became unruly on sighting the entourage of the PDP National Campaign Council and Governor Godwin Obaseki at the palace of the Oba of Benin,” Okunbo vowed he would “never, ever be a party to any plan, plot, action or inaction to embarrass our most revered father, Oba Ewuare II, who is non-partisan; and who plays the role of a father to all sons and daughters of the great Benin Kingdom”. He said “for the records, our revered Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, will not, at all times, condone any act of indiscipline by the youths”.

Recalling how he had always preached to the hearing of everybody “that the ambition of any man is not worth the blood of any Edolite,” Okunbo called on all Edo people to join hands to ensure that they eschewed violence in the electioneering by the political parties and in the forthcoming September 19, 2020 governorship election’.

Also in a statement on Sunday by the national leadership of the PDP and its Campaign Council, the party took a swipe at the alleged sponsors of the violence. In the statement signed by its national publicity secretary, and Secretary of the Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan, titled “Edo Guber: PDP Campaign Condemn Attack At Oba of Benin Palace…Cautions That Those Who Sow the Wind Will Reap The Whirlwind,” Wike, chairman of the national campaign council, pointedly accused the APC of sponsoring the thugs who allegedly attacked the PDP entourage.

According to Ologbondiyan, Wike, who described the attack as despicable, said the Campaign had commenced investigation “into the roles played by certain individuals, including a businessman in the dastardly and desecrating act,” adding that “the campaign is also looking into the roles played by one Kabaka in the attack against our entourage. Furthermore, the candidate of the APC, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, also needs to understand clearly that there is a limit to intimidation and thuggery, particularly in this election”.

The Campaign Council posited that “It is highly irresponsible for anybody to attempt to harass, intimidate or cause harm to an assemblage of governors and leaders of the PDP, let alone at the palace of the highly revered Oba of Benin. We are already investigating this attempt and if we confirm the involvement of the said businessman, the APC gubernatorial candidate, or the said Kabaka, we will not hesitate to take a strong and very decisive action. Enough is Enough!”

Noting that the ancient seat of the Oba of Benin is respected and revered across the globe, Council said “As a mark of honor for the Oba of Benin, the governors and leaders of our party considered it imperative to pay a visit and honor the monarch. It is therefore reprehensible that any true Bini son or daughter will choose such an occasion to demean the monarch and his chiefs. While we leave this to the decision of the Oba and his council, we want to place on record that no motley group of political vagabonds will be allowed to embarrass us in this campaign”.

The PDP Campaign Council counselled “the said businessman, the APC gubernatorial candidate and the said Kabaka to desist from further plans to cause mayhem as those who sow a wind should be ready to reap the whirlwind”.

On its part, the APC Campaign Council alerted that the governor had concluded a sinister plan “to illegally strike what he deems the head and important political leaders of our party with the hopes of subverting the election” having, according to them, read the handwriting on the wall that he faces a monumental defeat and an electoral opprobrium on the 19th of September. Addressing the press on Sunday, Patrick Obahiagbon, Vice Chairman, Media and Publicity Committee, of the APC National Campaign Council, alleged that “Names of prominent leaders of the APC have been compiled to be dealt with, intimidated, harassed, terrorised, physically assaulted, and lacerated by state-sponsored goons”.

Raising the alarm of alleged plan to illegally detain some of its leaders, Obahiagbon stated that “a plan has been hatched by the Edo State Government to detain a former Governor of the State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, over trumped-up charges on the eve of the election and also set fire on the farm of billionaire businessman, Captain Hosa Okunbo, in continuation of the alleged assault on his reputation and businesses for refusing to back the second-term agenda of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

On Saturday’s violence at the Oba Palace, Obahiagbon accused the governor of setting conscripted thugs and cultists on protesters “who expressed their rejection of him and his alleged “invitation of tax-collectors who are feasting on the state’s treasury. Worse still, information have also reached us from sources in Obaseki’s government who are but disillusioned with his nefarious acts, that the governor has plotted and perfected a criminally appalling initiative aimed at subverting the will of the people.

“On the back of conscripting renowned cultists and providing them official cover and funding for wanton violence under the guise of aides appointments, Mr. Godwin Obaseki is planning to use COVID-19 as a ruse to neuter grassroots leaders of our party, the APC on the eve of the gubernatorial election by abducting and detaining them in isolation centers, this way, disenfranchising them and forestalling the political force they would deliver in pursuant of APC’s victory.

He appealed to the Police, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and other relevant stakeholders to prevail on the Governor and ensure that he allowed the rule of law and a level democratic playing field to hold supreme between now and the end of the Edo governorship elections.

Idahosa Wells Okunbo Photo
 Idahosa Wells Okunbo
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