Amidst fear of balance of terror over security threat
There is palpable apprehension and unease amongst members of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Edo State loyal to the deeply embattled state governor, Godwin Obaseki as finishing touches are being put to a planned grand rally Friday to formally welcome Osagie Ize-Iyamu, erstwhile South-south vice-chairman of the party back into the fold. Ize-Iyamu, a pastor of the Redeemed Church of God, had left the party in anger in 2014 to rejoin the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and went ahead to clinch the party’s governorship ticket to challenge Obaseki in the controversial 2016 governorship poll. But a few weeks ago, the former secretary to the state government also called it quits with the PDP to return to the APC where he was a founding member. His latest political move has however been ruffling feathers in the polity in view of his suspected governorship ambition which is bound to alter permutations in the two frontline political parties. Already, some elements within the party appear to be jittery and indeed threatened by the planned rally such that there are ominous signs of likely violence.
In the last few months, Obaseki had been locked in a bitter feud with his predecessor and benefactor, Adams Oshiomhole, and a large number of members of the party over the governor’s style of governance. The intra-party crisis is posing a big threat to the governor’s second term ambition as his opponents within, acting under the aegis of the now rested Edo People’ Movement, EPM, vowed to ensure he does not pick the party’s ticket. That is why the planned celebration of Ize-Iyamu’s return to the ruling party appears to be sending jitters down the spines of the governor and his handlers because they believe that he is being positioned to fly the party’s flag in the 2020 governorship election. This feeling of discomfiture was betrayed when on Tuesday the governor and his faction of the party claimed not to be aware of any planned rally to receive Ize-Iyamu and his teeming followers though the news had been in public domain for over two weeks. In a chat with journalists after a security meeting with heads of security agencies in the state at Government House, Obaseki said, “I have checked with the state APC secretariat and as far as I am concerned, the party has not announced officially that they will be having a rally”. Anselm Ojezua, the ousted state chairman of the party, who echoed the governor’s voice, described the planned rally as “highly provocative and capable of creating breach of peace” since neither Obaseki “who is the leader of the APC in Edo State, nor other leaders of the party, is aware of the purported declaration rally”. While he urged members of the APC in the state to discountenance the event, Ojezua opined that “the organisers of that event are sufficiently seasoned and experienced as politicians to know the proper procedure and tradition usually attendant to this sort of event”.
But contrary to the claim by the governor, a statement by the state secretary of the party, Lawrence Okah posited that both Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, were informed of the event. A source who should know corroborated this, hinting the magazine that not only did Ize-Iyamu formally write to the governor to inform him of the event, he also sent him text messages. Accusing the governor of being economical with the truth, the source wondered why “he is so apprehensive and childish”. According to him, there are evidences to prove this if need be. Ize-Iyamu had stated clearly when he resigned from the PDP that he was not going into APC to join any faction but to help reposition the party for good governance.
The planned controversial rally, however, took a new twist following the alarm raised by the Oshiomhole camp that the governor had perfected plans to unleash mayhem on those who would attend. Okah, the state secretary of the party, alleged in a press statement Tuesday that the state government was planning to recruit thugs from two neighbouring states to disrupt the Friday rally where over 20,000 leaders of the PDP across the 18 LGAs in the state led by Ize-Iyamu would be received into the APC by Oshiomhole and other leaders of the party across the country.