The alleged attack on Lagos monarch, Oba Riwan Akinolu, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, and other eminent personalities by suspected political thugs at Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s backyard is one too many in what appears a gradual return of thuggery to the heartbeat state ahead of its governorship poll billed for 2020. PATRICK AHANOR writes.
Tense atmosphere at maiden convocation
The gathering last Saturday was at Edo University maiden convocation ceremony, at Iyahmo, Estako West local government of Edo state. And as expected, the academic exercise hosted some very important personalities (VIPs) which included Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
Others were the state deputy governor, Phillip Shuaibu, Otaru of Auchi, HRH, Alhaji Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III and the chairman, Caverton Offshore Support Group, Dr Aderemi Makanjuola, who was being installed as the university’s chancellor, amongst others.
The atmosphere was tensed in and around the university community as thugs believed to be loyal to the political gladiators, Messrs Oshiomhole and Obaseki turned out in their numbers apparently in solidarity for or against the actors amidst growing rift between the duo.
Some supporters believed to be rooting for a second them ticket for Governor Godwin Obaseki and his deputy, Philip Shaibu, flaunted the 4+4 sigh with their fingers while others believed to be members of Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a group loyal to Oshiomhole, displayed 3 fingers + 1, signifying a single term for Governor Obaseki.
Military personnel and operatives of the Nigerian police who were on group to provide security at the convocation ceremony had a hectic time in repelling the hoodlums, who tried to force their way into the university premises on one hand, and also successfully restricted rival thugs to different ends of the Auchi-Okene highway to forestall a possible clash between them.
Oshiomhole calms frayed nerves
Nerves were temporarily calmed inside Aliko Dangote Hall, the venue of the convocation ceremony as Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of the state, spoke glowingly of Obaseki for sustaining his development legacies. Oshiomhole noted that Obaseki has done well in sustaining development of the Edo University Iyamho, as the institution is positioned to become a world-class ivory tower
The APC chairman also commended Governor Obaseki for the choice of a well accomplished Chancellor for the University, noting that Nigeria can be better if emphasis is placed on quality education.
Royal father lashes at politicians
On his part, Oba Rilwan Akiolu blamed politicians for increasing rate of unemployment in the country, adding that “the way we are going, the rate of unemployment is very worrisome and with due respect, it is you politicians that are causing it”. However, he noted that the era of government doing everything is almost gone and as such the youths should think of what they can do to make Nigeria great.
Oba Akiolu said: “the little money the politicians give to you (youths) and you start shouting for them is only temporary and you should know that salvation is in the hands of God and not anybody.
“When I was coming to this hall I saw young people shouting Obaseki, Oshiomole and all these young people not only doing this in Edo state but nearly everywhere in the country,” he stated.
Obaseki’s convoy attacked
However, moments after the ‘sermon’ the governor alongside Lagos Oba and other dignitaries were alleged to have been violently attacked by thugs at the Iyamho country residence of Oshiomhole and reportedly smashed some vehicles in the governor’s convoy. The guests were at the residence on the invitation of Oshiomhole for a lunch after the convocation ceremony.
Last month, some hoodlums reportedly laid siege at the Benin City residence of Oshiomhole chanting derogatory songs. The APC chairman had accused Obaseki of masterminding the attack on his Benin City home, an accusation the Edo governor denied.
Obaseki rails at attackers
Nonetheless, a visibly angry Obaseki, who spoke with reporters after Iyamho attack, took exception to the resort to violence, noting that it was shameful for such an attack to take place at the residence of the national chairman of the ruling party in the state and at the national level.
The governor said: “It is very unfortunate that we can’t feel safe in the house of our national chairman. I am not sure that if I visit the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that they will attack me the way they did in the house of the APC national chairman.”
“It is unfortunate that things have degenerated to this extent. But we will continue to sue for peace. We cannot afford to lose the gains of the last three years. We will continue to pursue peace,” he added.
Oshiomhole slams deputy governor
Oshiomhole in a swift reaction issued by his press secretary, Mr Simone Ebegbulem apologized to the governor, Oba Akiolu, other dignitaries and the university community even as he accused the state deputy governor, Phillip Shaibu, of importing thugs into the community.
The APC chairman stated that tension in the community begun last Friday when Shaibu imported thugs into the community with a view to intimidate political opponents adding that he left the convocation lecture on Thursday through the backdoor so as to avoid being attacked by the thugs who had laid siege at the entrance of the university.
The former governor of Edo said he and other guests were already in the hall when at about 11:30 am, the deputy governor stormed the university with over 200 Okada riders and thugs.
“Security operatives accosted them at the gate and refused them entrance. The thugs started threatening the security operatives who insisted the deputy governor can enter the venue but they will not allow the thugs to gain access.
“Following their threats the security operatives tear-gassed the thugs and the deputy governor. The thugs were dispersed while the deputy governor joined other dignitaries at the venue. This created tension already in the small community,” Oshiomhole stated.
Continuing, Oshiomhole said: “however, after the event, Oshiomhole invited the Oba of Lagos, the Chancellor and others for lunch at his country home which is right opposite the university. Consequently, he left instruction at the gate that he was expecting these respected leaders.
“So when the visitors came, the governor drove in a bus with other officials but following the incident that occurred earlier where thugs sponsored by the deputy governor invaded the university, Iyamho youths barricaded the gate of the national chairman with a view to protecting him against any harm.
“Unfortunately, these youths sighted Andrew Momodu, Osaigbovo Iyoha in the bus that conveyed the governor to Oshiomhole’s residence. They decided to stop them from entering the compound because these were the same people who led the thugs that attacked Oshiomhole’s residence in Benin City penultimate week,” the statement added.
Shuaibu exonerates self
As the controversy generated by the attack rages, the deputy governor has denied the accusations against him adding that “Oshiomhole’s accusation by itself was contradicting in the sense that it alluded to the rising reception that greeted Governor Godwin Obaseki by the youths of Etsako West on his arrival at Iyamho, the previous day on Friday, 1st November 2019.
Shaibu in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Musa Ebomhiana said he was nowhere near Iyamho that Friday as he was fully engaged in official matters in Benin.
The DG said: “it was a joyous reception, no violence nor negative incident occurred on that day as youths were only on ground to show solidarity with the government of Godwin Obaseki.
He stated he was himself a victim of the Saturday attack, “considering the fact that he was actually in the same bus with the Governor, Oba of Lagos and other dignitaries.
According to the statement, “the simple truth is that the national chairman felt offended and intimidated by the huge crowd of party youths that came out in solidarity with the governor. He then decided to teach the governor and his deputy a lesson by organising those misguided elements to take up arms against the state.
“It is a pity that our national chairman now sees Okada riders as thugs considering the fact that these were the same people who were in the vanguard of his struggle to reclaim his stolen mandate. He rode on their backs to judicial victory in 2007/2008.
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