The mega rally of the Edo State All Progressives Congress (APC), scheduled for Garrick Memorial School, Benin City, did not hold Friday as planned, but a gathering eventually held at the home of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, amidst tight security, where he and his supporters were formally received into the party.
The botched rally was to welcome Ize-Iyamu, the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the last election, who decamped to the APC with his supporters.
The decision of the Edo APC was apparently in conformity with a letter of the Inspector General of Police, advising against the rally for security reasons.
Also yesterday, the Edo State Government placed a ban on all political rallies, demonstrations or procession in all parts of the state and directed all security agencies to deal firmly with all persons that breached the directive, no matter how highly placed.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole said he evaded the mega rally in the interest of peace.
But the acting Chairman of Edo APC, Col. David Imuse (rtd), was at Ize-Iyamu’s home on Ugbor, road, where he formally welcomed and presented him and his supporters with a broom, the APC party’s symbol.
Making the presentation, Imuse said the coming of Ize-Iyamu and his supporters from the 18 local government areas of the state to the APC was worthy of celebration and that it would add value to the party.
“We are here to celebrate the homecoming of our brothers and sisters from the PDP who have come to add value to our party. They are coming to make our party grow from strength to strength so that we can win at all levels.”
Receiving the broom from the APC chairman, Ize-Iyamu said that the notion that he was joining the APC in Benin City was wrong because he had already done so as required by party regulations at his Ugboko ward in Orhionnwon Local Government Area of the state.
Displaying his APC membership card, he said, “For those who are in doubt, the moment I made up my mind to join the APC, I went to my ward and am proud to say I have registered in Ugboko ward in Orhionmwon local government area.”
Ize-Iyamu thanked his supporters for coming to his residence for the event, saying he was confident his decision to return home to the APC would, “by the grace of God make APC grow in strength.”
Addressing party members at his residence when Ize-Iyamu came to thank him, Oshiomhole said he was not under any house arrest by the security agencies, as allegedly reported in some quarters.
He debunked the claim in his Okoron residence in Benin City when Ize-Iyamu was presented to him by the National Vice Chairman, (South-South), Hillard Etta.
Oshiomhole, said he chose not to attend the rally because he decided to toe the path of peace.
“You will have tension when local party members are fighting each other. But you can remain a party member for as long as you obey the rules of the party.
“There is a limit for being chairman, there is a limit for being governor, there is a limit of tenure for being president, but there is no limit for being a member.
“So, once our members are united, I am comfortable, but we will sustain the path of peace, and that was the only reason I opted not to attend the mega rally today. They have already planted a story today from the government house that I am under house arrest,” he said.
According to him, “We are happy that in spite of everything, APC had a successful rally that was peaceful and achieved its purpose. I am taller now than I was just yesterday because we have harvested into the party those who were foundation members of the party that took part when the merger was being negotiated.
“Not only have they returned home, but have also used their connections to move people to come and join us. As far as I am concern as National Chairman of the APC, our house is now a full house particularly if you remember that Pastor Ize-Iyamu was my Director General in 2012 and I won in all the 18 local government areas in the state. In 2015, the man turned against us and we managed to defeat him by over 50,000 votes. If he is coming on board, I am much more confident now of APC’s continuous hold on the governance of this state than ever before. The shame, however, is that those who have the responsibility to provide security decided to create security challenges.”
Oshiomhole continued: “I am embarrassed as the national chairman that the IGP will write me a letter, informing me on the strength of my application, through which I informed him of our intention to do a rally. We informed the police 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 was hand-delivered myself. The IG said that he directed the Edo police to provide security. What I do not understand is how the same police allegedly sent a letter to deputy governor Shaibu that the rally will 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 that I (can) hold a rally and write to another person, without getting back to me, to say that the rally will not hold. It is something I need to find out when I get back to Abuja.
“People burnt tires on Airport Road to intimidate me when they heard that I was flying in from Abuja. The police supervised this violence even when the IG gave me a letter.”
Addressing party faithful that followed him from the airport to his residence which took almost two hours, Oshiomhole said he was shocked that leaders of a party led by the governor would be resisting influx of members into the APC. He appealed to members of the party in the state to remain calm following the incident.
“We are getting conflicting report now, the IG ordered the Commissioner of Police to give us protection for our rally. But we are being told now that the same authority said it has been cancelled. But I am going to make calls and find out what the problem is, if the police are saying they cannot protect a political rally.
I will find out and let you people know. But even if they said we cannot hold it, please don’t fight anybody. I will meet them and find out when it will hold. But the rally will still hold some day. We have the right of association. This is not the first time we are seeing situations like this, but I can assure you it will not last forever.
“No condition is permanent. We must do everything to keep APC in Edo State no matter what the devil thinks. APC is our house so we must resist any temptation to fight back. We must remember that our President Muhammad Buhari is a peaceful man. We must remain peaceful and go home and tell everyone, we remain strong. Nobody can shake our spirit. We will receive our brothers into the party to fortify our party.
“The tension of an individual should not be confused to say that there is tension in Edo. The governor has consistently refused to attend an all-inclusive meeting. My advice to him is that he should not be worried about the ticket but the proper election. Shaibu is doing damage to his principal and his not able to see through the damage being done by his deputy. There will be peace. It is not in the hands of one man but such can only be attained when there is unity.”
Meanwhile, placing a ban on political rallies in all parts of the state, the Edo State Government said in a statement signed by Secretary to the Edo State Government, Barr. Osarodion Ogie that the government had made clear its position that the “plans by some identified mischief-makers to organise an unauthorised political rally in Benin City was capable of leading to breakdown of public peace and also danger to the persons and property of Edo citizens.”
The statement warned property owners that “any venue which is used for activities in breach of this order shall have its right of occupancy immediately revoked and forfeited to the state government.”
Ogie said the state government would not allow any persons turn the state into a battlefield. “The events of yesterday 12th December, 2019 were a scary prelude to the absolute mayhem which these irresponsible activities would generate if left unchecked.
“In defiance of the clear and publicised instruction of the Inspector General of Police, calling off the proposed rally owing to security implications, these desperate persons are presently shopping around for alternative venues to carry out their incendiary activities.”