The two major political parties in the Edo State governorship election slated for September 19, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP, on Tuesday tackled each other over alleged plans to scuttle the ward-to-ward campaign in Owan East Local Government Area (LGA) of the state.
A chieftain of the APC in the state and former deputy chief whip of the House of Representatives, Pally Iriase, raised the alarm over acts of violence and intimidation allegedly masterminded by the state government and its agents to scuttle the ward-to-ward rallies scheduled for Tuesday in the council.
Mr Iriase called on security agencies to help Edo State maintain democratic values during the forthcoming governorship election.
He specifically accused the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, and the chairman of Owan East LGA, Andrew Osigwe, of embarking on violent acts since Monday, designed to disrupt the planned ward rallies in the local government area.
Mr Iriase alleged that Mr Osigwe led hoodlums to destroy the APC campaign podium, chairs, and canopies meant for a political rally at Ihievbe community.
But reacting swiftly to the claims, Mr Osigwe said both Mr Obaseki and himself are law-abiding citizens of the state and the country and therefore cannot be involved in such violent acts.
The council chairman charged the APC to make room for a peaceful, free and fair governorship polls in the state.
Mr Osigwe said, “my governor and I are law-abiding citizens, we will never do such a thing. Even when they came to Afuze and they did their local government rally, they did not apply for the stadium yet I allowed them to use it. Why didn’t I send people to go and scatter the event? If they have an internal crisis among themselves they should go and sort it out. They should stop bringing Godwin Obaseki and myself into it.
“Confirm what I just told you now; when they came, the public field that they used, they did not apply for it, but I allowed them to use it. I only told them to go and pay N5,000 on the very day they came for the rally.
“What do I know about that (destruction of campaign podium, chairs, and canopies)? Tell them not to put my name in connection with anything violent. The vice-chairman that they removed, was he not the one that gave him the gun with which they used to come to scatter the council after he (Vice-chairman) was impeached?
“Everything we have done throughout the campaigns in this election is to maintain peace; we have never carried out an act of aggression. Let them leave me alone, they should mobilize their people, let me mobilize my people too. That is what election is supposed to be.”
However, Mr Iriase pointed out that at Ihievbe, “APC leaders in the area had avoided public school fields and paid for the foreground of the Catholic Church as the venue, yet Obaseki’s agents went on the orgy of destruction in that church premises.”
According to the former whip, “the governor and his agents led by the council chairman of Owan East LGA have since yesterday (Monday) embarked on violent acts of brigandage and intimidation to scuttle the scheduled ward to ward rallies in Owan East Local Government Area today, (Tuesday).
“At Otuo, APC sought to use the same primary school field that Obaseki and the PDP used for their rally over a week ago but the governor’s alleged hoodlums led by the council chairman came to disrupt preparations, chanting war songs in the process.
“Also, at Arokho, the same gang of hoodlums chased away the workers preparing the campaign podium in the same school field used by Obaseki and the PDP barely a week ago.”
Meanwhile, a political pressure group; Joint Forces for the Defence of Democracy in Edo (JFDDE) on Tuesday staged a protest in Benin City accusing the PDP of sponsoring violence ahead of the governorship election.
They said the arraignment and subsequent remand of seven persons over possession of firearms during the recent crisis involving the state House of Assembly complex was an indication that the PDP was behind the violence.
A Benin City High Court on Monday remanded seven persons nabbed by the police with suspected illegal firearms during the invasion of the Edo State House of Assembly on August 6.
The protesting group went to the High Court premises and the state police command armed with placards with inscriptions such as “Election nor be war”, “Put an end to election violence”, and “Edo election must be violence-free”, among others.
A spokesperson for the group, Felix Isere said, “We are here to let the police know that the people involved in the criminal acts are high-powered PDP members who are sponsoring them.”
In his response, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikhare, dispelled the allegation.
“Members of the group should look inwards and towards the APC who are known for hiring thugs and procurement of arms. The PDP and its candidate are known for peace and have been preaching peace since the campaigns; we cannot indulge in any acts of hiring thugs for violence or procurement of arms,” Mr Nehikhare said.
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