By Ozioruva Aliu
BENIN CITY — A tumultuous crowd that gathered at the expansive residence of the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu when he and thousands of his supporters were formally received into the All Progressives Congress, APC, recently.
They were received by Col David Imuse, retd, the acting chairman of the faction of the party loyal to APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
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Anselm Ojezua, who is challenging his removal as Edo State APC chairman in court is loyal to the Governor Godwin Obaseki camp of the party.
The defection ended months of speculations and denials that Ize-Iyamu was leaving the PDP and returning to the APC) he helped to form.
Vanguard first gathered in October that Ize-Iyamu was considering leaving the PDP after he got information among other things that some leaders of the PDP were working against his governorship ambition, even then, he denied the rumour saying “maybe they think I have been quiet or they are looking for something to gossip about, I am not defecting” until the defection event confirmed the rumour.
The success of the reception was beclouded by obstacles placed on his path which recorded some fatalities as no fewer than 15 persons were injured in a clash between supporters of Obaseki who held violent protests against the rally and others who came to welcome Oshiomhole and members of his entourage on arrival at the Benin Airport.
An indication that the defection was not getting needed acceptance from the government played out a few days earlier when Obaseki said he was not aware of any planned rally by the APC.
Speaking shortly after a security meeting with heads of security agencies in the state, he said: “I have checked with the state APC secretariat and as far as I am concerned, the party has not announced officially that it will be having a rally.”
But two days to the rally, the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, in a letter addressed to Oshiomhole granted permission to Edo State APC to hold the rally.
The letter titled: “Re- Request for the deployment of police officers to provide security for the All Progressive Congress, APC rally at Garrick” and signed by Assistant Commissioner of Police, ACP Idowu Owohunwa, Principal Staff Officer to the IGP, said the IGP had approved the request.
Apparently reacting to the position of the governor that he was not aware of any rally, Osagie Ize-Iyamu also released an invitation letter he wrote to the governor informing him of his decision to defect to the APC after a telephone conversation.
Banning of rallies and protest
Barely a few hours after this, Benin City was on fire as protest greeted the planned rally and not less than 15 persons were injured as supporters of the two factions clashed. The victims were hospitalised at the new Central Hospital which is an indication that they may be supporters of the government.
There was heavy presence of suspected thugs and security at the state secretariat of the APC along Airport Road that night and Vanguard gathered that it was to prevent the taking over of the secretariat by Imuse.
The state government also directed that all private schools should be closed down due to a “disturbing security situation.”
A notice signed by the Commissioner for Education, Jimoh Ejegbai said the state government was “in receipt of very disturbing security information” concerning the use by some persons of some school premises for a political rally and therefore banned the schools from allowing such and threatened grave sanctions for any contrary action by any school.
Meanwhile, the protesting youths said to be members of the APC claimed they were from various wards across the state and alleged that the planned rally was to cause insecurity in the state which they said Babanguda they do not want.
They marched to Benin Airport road where they set bonfires on different parts of the road. Two vehicles, an Audi car and another were burnt. On account of the protest, the Inspector General of Police issued another letter addressed to the deputy governor cancelling the rally.
Oshiomhole, armed with the first letter of permission from the IG later that day called for calm among party faithful while he said he would assesses the true position of things whether the rally would hold or not.
Meanwhile, determined to go ahead with the rally, the organizers hurriedly moved the location to the private residence of Ize-Iyamu, which has a standard football pitch.
On the day of the rally, the deputy governor convened a strategic meeting with top government officials early in the morning and thereafter issued a statement signed by the Secretary to State Government (SSG), Osarodion Ogie, banning all manner of gatherings in any private residence and threatened to revoke the Certificate of Occupancy of any private residence used for such.
However, there was a meeting between Ize-Iyamu and the police on the planned reception in his house where a deal was struck that the event should be low-key and brief.
Not less than 15 patrol vehicles of the police were stationed in front of his residence but that did not deter thousands of persons who trooped into the compound.
Ize-Iyamu told his supporters that as a grounded politician he had already registered in his ward in Orhionmwon local government area and that the event in his house was just a reception.
He told the crowd that “for those of you who are in doubt, the moment I made up my mind to join the APC, I went to my ward and I am proud to say that I have registered in my ward. So for those who are wondering why Pastor wants to declare in Benin, let them be informed that I have registered in my Ugboko ward in Orhionmwon.
On why Oshiomhole did not attend he said: “I thank the national leadership led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and all those who came yesterday. Because of all the tension, we told them to relax, we don’t need anybody’s permission to join the political party of our choice. Those who think we are their enemies, we want to extend the hands of peace, we are not your enemies, we have not come to fight anybody; even if you slap us, we will turn the other cheek. We have come to be your brothers, we have come to be your friends and we beg you in the name of God, let peace reign because if there is peace in Edo, there will be development.”
Receiving him, Imuse said: “They have not only come to add value, but they also want to ensure we grow from strength to strength so that we will begin to win at all levels. You can see that APC is a party with a very large heart, there is nobody who can say he is the owner of APC we are all co-members and co-joiners. The national leadership of the party has assured us that in this party, there is no discrimination. Those who are still sitting on the fence, the time to come is now. What we are seeing today, is the total decapitation of the opposition party called PDP. We are not only receiving this tumultuous crowd, but we are also celebrating the obituary of PDP, those who are onlookers should come over and join us.
“We want to also use this opportunity to tell our party supporters to close ranks, set aside our personal grievances, for unity, and cohesion so that the party can grow from strength to strength.”
On his part, former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, said: “Pastor Ize-Iyamu is a man we are proud of, that is a man that is a political tactician. Pastor Ize-Iyamu is a foundation member of this party so we say, welcome home brother. We are looking forward to a robust engagement with him that will take Edo State and indeed our party in Edo to the next level. We all know Pastor is fearless, despite all obstacles today, we still had thousands of people here. My brother takes it home that from here, it is Osadebey Avenue.”
Receiving Ize-Iyamu in his house after the reception, Oshiomhole flanked by various leaders of the party including the Vice-Chairman South-South, Hon Hillard Eta; former National Legal Adviser of the PDP, Olusola Oke, and hundreds of others said it was wrong for the police to have issued a conflicting letter less than 24 hours cancelling the rally without even sending him a copy.
He counseled Shaibu to shun alleged violent tendencies and urged the governor to concentrate on winning voters and more members to the party rather than his second term ticket ambition.
”I hear that some people are panicking that the pastor is coming because he wants to pick a ticket. I become sick because of this suspicion. My former Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu was appointed a Director of one of the departments of Buhari’s Campaign Organisation and the governor alleged that that appointment means I am preparing him to take over from him and when he was appointed chairman of the NDDC and the governor said it is all part of the plot. Every APC meeting now, they send thugs to attack.
”We are happy that in spite of everything APC had a successful rally that was peaceful and achieved its purpose. As I stand here now, I am taller than I was just yesterday because we have harvested our people who were part of the foundation of APC, those who participated in the negotiation for the merger not only have they returned home, they have also used their connection in the other party that they were in to move people on that side to join us.”