Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) got more than he bargained for last week as he was barred from attending a planned rally organized by a faction of the APC loyal to him to receive some defectors from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, a grassroots politician who was the major challenger to the Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo state during the 2016 governorship election.
Though Oshiomhole, a former two-time governor of the state had arrived Benin, the Edo state capital for the rally, he was conspicuously absent when some leaders of the party formally welcomed the new members to their fold in a ceremony that took place at Ize- Iyamu’s residence.
Though credible sources said Oshiomhole was placed under technical house arrest and prevented from attending the event as his speech may trigger more violence, Oshiomhole denied the claim saying he deliberately stayed away from the event because those opposed to the rally planned to cause mayhem and then blame it on him.
Both Oshiomhole and his successor, Governor Obaseki have been engaged in supremacy battle over undisclosed reasons. Reports has it that to deal with the governor who is desirous of getting a second term ticket, Oshiomhole had lobbied Ize- Iyamu to join the APC, where he intends to use his influence as the national chairman of the party to give him the governorship ticket. Ize- Iyamu announced his defection to APC and a date was announced to formally welcomed him.
Friday 13th of December was chosen and dignitaries such as Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo, Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Senate President and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other key leaders of the party were announced as those who will join Oshiomhole in receiving Ize-Iyamu and his supporters while Garrick Memorial College, Ekenwan Road, Benin City was chosen as the venue.
Earlier, Oshiomhole had written the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu requesting police protection at the rally.
In a document that went viral, the IGP wrote to Oshiomhole assuring him of adequate police protection at the rally. In a letter from the IGP signed by his Principal Staff Officer, ACP Idowu Owohunwa dated 11th December and sighted by Daily Independent, the police boss said he is acknowledging Oshiomhole’s letter dated 10th.
The letter reads: Re: “Request For The Deployment Of Police Officers To Provide Security For The All Progressives Congress (APC) State Mega Rally At Garrick: I am directed by the Inspector-General of Police to extend his warm compliments and to 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”.
Edo Government Reacts
After the document was leaked, many Nigerians criticised Oshiomhole for usurping the role of the governor who aside being the party leader of the APC in Edo state is also the Chief Security Officer. The governor had also claimed that he was not aware of any rally being organized by the APC in the state.
In a chat with journalists after the security meeting with head of security agencies in the state at Government House, in Benin City, the Edo State capital, the governor 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.”
Our correspondent however sighted a letter written by Ize- Iyamu inviting Governor Obaseki to the rally. In the letter, Ize- Iyamu said despite several attempts to book an appointment with the governor to discuss his defection to APC, it did not yield the desired result.
He said he had to send a text to Obaseki concerning the date of the rally as it was impossible to reach him on phone.
The letter reads “Compliments of the season. You will kindly recall my phone conversations with you wherein I informed you of my decision to resign from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) alongside several others and return to the All Progressives Congress”.
“I had requested in those conversations for an appointment with you to discuss our formal declaration but unfortunately could not secure a date from you for the appointment. When the national chairman of the party Comrade Adams Oshiomole graciously gave us a convenient date to attend the declaration, I had to send you a text communicating the information since I could not reach you by phone”.
“Your Excellency, I hold you in the highest esteem and we are coming back to Apc to help strengthen the party.
I wish to formally invite you as the leader of the party in the state to our formal declaration on *Friday 13th December 2019 at Garrick Memorial School, Benin-City at 11am*. I will be most delighted and honored if you can attend this event”.
A day to the planned rally violence broke out in Benin Oshiomhole’s supporters clash with those loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki at the Airport Road in Benin City which left over 15 people injured.
Some protesting APC youths, who belong to Obaseki faction had converged at the Benin Airport, where they set bonfire on different parts of Airport Road, including the exit gate of the airport. They said they were from various wards across the state and did not want today’s rally to hold.
The protesting youths seen on the road and the airport, insisted that Oshiomhole must toe the path of peace by cancelling the rally. Spokesman for the protesters, Mr. Imafidon Utete, said they were protesting what he referred to as a plans to disrupt public peace under the guise of receiving PDP members. According to him, they would not tolerate plans by unscrupulous persons to cause chaos in the state.
“We the Edo APC youths and other persons will resist any attempt to disrupt the peaceful atmosphere in the state.We have been enjoying peace in the state and this has brought development to different sectors of the economy. How can somebody coming into a party be forcing himself in. The governor has said he is not aware of any rally and they want to come and cause crisis here. We will not allow them.”
IGP Suspends Rally
Following the violence, the IGP issued another letter announcing the suspension of the rally. In a letter addressed to the Edo State Deputy Governor, Rt. Hon. Philip Shaibu, signed by the Principal Staff Officer to the IGP, ACP Idowu Owohunwa, the Police 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.”
Following the IGP’s directive, hundreds of youths in Edo state moved to the venue of the rally and enforced the directive prompting the organisers to move to the residence of Ize- Iyamu at Ugbor GRA where he was received by a factional state chairman of the party, Col. David Imuse. It was gathered that the police barred Oshiomhole from leaving his house for the rally, placing him on technical house arrest.
An APC member said, “Hundreds of APC youths mobilised themselves as early as 6.00 a.m. and ensured that the directive of the IGP was not flouted in anyway. The OB Van [Outside Broadcast Van] of some television stations that were scheduled to transmit the rally live were left stranded”.
“Even the youths dispersed the little crowd who gathered under the erected white canopies and the artistes who were brought from outside the state left disappointed. It was observed that with the uncertainty and apprehension, some supporters of Oshiomhole took to the residence of Ize-Iyamu who was the PDP governorship candidate in 2016, where he briefly addressed the left-over crowd, symbolically defected to the APC in his compound and dispersed them”.
“The police kept surveillance on Oshiomhole’s residence all through on Friday morning to ensure that the IGP’s directive was not flouted” the source said.
However, Oshiomhole denied he was placed under house arrest. According to him, as the national chairman of his party, he had to pay the price by keeping away from the rally so as to prevent being framed for alleged planned killing of people.
He said, “They already planted a story from Government House, saying I was under house arrest. You can see the other ways they want to make me look like the proverbial he-goat that is sacrificed if a child is sick to make him healthy and which is also used for celebration.”
He also accused the IGP and the state police command of fueling the tension which gripped the state in the run-up to the rally, adding that he wrote a letter to the IGP notifying him of his intention to attend the rally only for him to withdraw the permit same day under curious circumstances.
“I am embarrassed as the national chairman that the IGP will write me a letter informing me of the strength of my application, in which I informed him of our intention to do a rally. We informed the police not for licence but so that they can justify their salary by coming to maintain peace.
“It is not for them to grant permission. I thought as national chairman, I should be formal. I delivered the letter which I signed myself and hand-delivered. The IGP said he directed the Edo police to provide security. What I do not understand is how the same police could be alleged to send a letter to deputy governor Shaibu that the rally would not hold.
“The state chapter invited me to attend the rally. I do not understand how the police IG will write me in the morning and write to another person without getting back to me to say that the rally would not hold. It is something I need to find out when I get back to Abuja.”
Speaking with a correspondent, a chieftain of the party, Festus Etokhana said Oshiomhole was economical with the truth.
“ You left your base in Abuja to Benin for the rally on Thursday night. On Friday morning, you now said you chose to stay away from the same rally. Definitely something is not adding up. Why go through the stress coming all the way from Abuja when you know you will not attend the event?” he asked.
Nigerians Hail IGP
Following the suspension, many Nigerians have commended the IGP for the bold move saying there would have been loss of lives and unquantifiable destruction of properties if the rally was allowed to go ahead.
The National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Edo state chapter said the IGP averted a bloodbath in the state by suspending the planned rally.
State Chairman of NURTW, Mr Odion Olaye, also called on the warring factions to embrace peace in the interest of the state.
Also speaking with our correspondent, a security expert, Adesola Abulude said “ Rather than criticizing the IGP, I think Oshiomhole should be patriotic and put the interest of the state first rather than his personal ego. If the police had allowed the rally to go ahead, we will be counting dead bodies now especially looking at what happened a day to the rally where many were injured”.