The frequent use of improvised Explosive Device to settle political scores in Edo State calls for an organised intervention, writes Adibe Emenyonu
The political atmosphere in the heartbeat of Nigeria, Edo State is becoming scary by the day due to the uncommon devices politician in the state now use to settle political scores and ultimately ensure victory by all means possible in the June governorship primaries.
Ten days after an explosion occurred at the residence of Chief Francis Negbeneki in Benin City, capital of Edo State, another bomb exploded at the home of the factional State Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Lawrence Okah.
Following the late night inauguration of nine members out of the 24 members-elect of the state House of Assembly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State became sharply divided. While some pledged loyalty to Governor Godwin Obaseki, others pitched tents with the National Chairman of the party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The situation remained same with verbal wars, threats and occasional physical attacks until Saturday, February 1, when a hand grenade exploded at the house of Chief Inegbeneki, an ally of Oshiomhole.
Curiously, similar explosion, which must have been from an Improvised Explosive Device (EID) blew off ceiling and shattered the windows of Mr. Lawrence Okah, another ally of the APC National Chairman.
In the two incidents, fingers were pointed at the governor, because of his alleged public threat to those opposed to him particularly, Oshiomhole.
Speaking on the incident that occurred at his house, off Airport road in the state capital, Mr. Okah accused Governor Obaseki of being responsible for the explosion, because according to him, the governor has been plotting to kill him over his second term ambition.
Okah, who spoke while conducting journalists round his residence, where the bomb exploded said gunmen had last Tuesday fired at his bedroom. He alleged that Governor Obaseki had earlier threatened him and had carried out the threat with the attacks.
“On Tuesday, last week, I heard gunshots. They shot at my bedroom. The police came and picked 52 bullets here. Yesterday, at about 12:30, I heard a noise like boom. I called my security and they said it looked like a bomb. The one they threw at my bedroom did not detonate. If that one had detonated, you would not have seen me to talk to.
“The one that was targeted at my room. If it had exploded it would have been a different story. I just want to advise Mr. Governor. He has threatened me before and he has carried out the threat.
“By the grace of God, we are alive to speak to our people to let them know what is going on. We pray to God for those we help not to turn around against us. By the Grace of God I am one of those that helped this government to be and the Governor has turned now to kill my enemy,” he said.
Also, one of the governorship hopefuls, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was present at Okah’s residence alongside other personalities said Governor Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu must not kill to get second term.
Ize-Iyamu said they would arrest the perpetrators if the police failed to arrest them. He said the perpetrator do not have the capacity to sustain what they are doing, because if they pushed them to the wall, the consequences would be disastrous.
He said, “The man simply is in the forefront saying he will not support the governor, because he has not done well. Gunmen went to his office and opened fire. It is just the grace of God that nobody died in his office. They were shooting to kill.”
Ize-Iyamu also recalled the incident that happened at Inegbeneki’s house, off Boundary road saying: “They went to Chief Inegbeki house and threw bomb there,” arguing that no one would go and throw bomb in his own house, because he wanted to do some mischief.
He said Chief Inegbeneki’s offence was that he was coordinating a rally in his hometown in Irrua and that Lawrence Okah had been the subject of a lot of attack and attention.
He said some days ago, Okah had reported that gunmen shot at his house, pointing out that if not for the grace of God, the people living around there would all have been killed.
“And should such happen, will Godwin Obaseki and Philip Shaibu tell us everybody should go and mind their casualties. Enough is enough”, he warned, reminding the governor and his supporters that they are all strangers in Benin land and as such, should not take others for granted, because they don’t have the capacity to sustain what they are doing.
“If they push us to the wall, the consequences will be disastrous. We have been talking peace to our people but if they begin to think that immunity is a license to kill, they will be mistaken. They need to be very careful. This thing must stop. All these have been happening and the governor has pretended he is not aware.
“People are being shot and he does not condemn the act. This one has happened and the governor will be silent. What peace committee are we talking about when these people are throwing bombs in homes? Must they kill because they want a second term.
“People like us have tried to engage them. All we get are insults. Our desire for peace is not a sign for weakness. This rubbish must stop. They must call their people to order. This is not the work of robbers. Armed robbers cannot throw bomb and walk away. This was politically motivated. Lawrence Okah is Secretary of this party. You cannot force him to do your bidding. If you want him to work for you, you must submit yourself to the party.
“We will continue to call our people to maintain peace. If we want to retaliate, this city will be turned into a war zone. It is time the security agencies start to make arrest. The culprits will not be difficult to find. Who are the culprits? Who are encouraging them is obvious. They should not push us where by we look for these people and begin to arrest them.
“We can arrest them until the police do their work. We don’t want to take the laws into our hands. We appeal to the police not to wait for people to die before they realised this matter is serious. They have used guns now; they are using bombs. We don’t know what next they will use,” he said.
Responding, Governor Obaseki said the resort to violence was the stock-in-trade of Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole and their cohorts in the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM).
Obaseki, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the state chapter of the APC was peaceful until the EPM and its enablers commenced their nefarious activities across the state.
“We are quite flustered that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has not been able to rein in his people in the face of the reconstitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Reconciliation Committee, tasked to restore lasting peace in the party both in the state and across the country. We are committed to peace and would do right by the people of Edo State by continually supporting all credible means to arrive at a lasting peace in the state.
“At the same time, we want to state clearly that Ize-Iyamu, Comrade Oshiomhole and their cohorts are the common denominators of political violence in Edo State.
“On the 19th of October, 2014, this same Ize-Iyamu announced that his house along Dennis Osadebey Way, GRA, Benin City, where his wife carries out her dental practice was bombed and at that time, he pointedly stated that Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who was then governor of the state, was responsible for the attack.
“From that time till now, there has been a cessation of the use of explosives and other dangerous weapons in causing mayhem and heating up the political space in the state.
“It is therefore rather curious that with the same Ize-Iyamu coming back into the political space in the last three months, extreme political violence has resurfaced with bombs going off in parts of the state and gunmen attacking politically exposed persons.”
“We have stated before that the EPM, under the sponsorship of Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu and others, having lost out of the political power play in the state and failed repeatedly in their inordinate quest to seize power from Governor Godwin Obaseki through undemocratic means, have now resorted to violence to create a sense of a breakdown of law and order with the intent of forcing the declaration of a State of Emergency in the state.
Obaseki urged the Presidency and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to call Comrade Oshiomhole, Ize-Iyamu and their cohorts in the EPM to order so that the destructive descent to violence does not erode the good legacies that have been built over the years by the APC in Edo State
He also assured Edo people of government’s resolve to maintain law and order, and ensure that the peace and safety in the state is not threatened by whatever means.
The blame game however continued with a former Edo Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Henry Idahagbon describing the entire bomb blast as state-sponsored terrorism.
“As we speak, not one single arrest has been made even though we have a good idea about those behind this heinous crime. It is time the Presidency gets involved in the affairs of Edo State. They should not wait until all of us are killed before they intervene. There is a killer squad roaming the street of Bénin looking for us to kill. By the grace of God, we will see the end of this government.”
Also, immediate past deputy governor of the state, Dr. Pius Odubu said, “the recent spate of bomb attacks and other forms of violence against members of the APC in Edo State represents a brutal affront on the security of life and property”.
Odubu said, “Under normal circumstances no responsible government will tolerate in the least without the slightest concern the spate of attacks on political opponents within the ruling party, in a state that has hitherto enjoyed some modicum of peace.
“The situation in Edo State therefore behooves on the security agencies to rise up to the challenge of securing the lives and properties of helpless citizens from the hands of criminal elements, who have taken their insidious enterprise to an intolerable level.
“From the attack on Barrister Henry Idahagbon, a former Attorney General of the State to the bomb blasts in the respective residences of Chief Francis Inegbeniki, Comrade Osakpamwan Eriyo and the most recent, Engr Lawrence Okah, State APC Scribe, it is disheartening that no attempt has been made to provide some explanation as to the cause and characters behind these dastardly acts. “Bearing in mind that no meaningful development can occur in an atmosphere of chaos, it is therefore incumbent on government at every level to reassess the security situation in Edo State with a view to ensuring that lives and property are protected
“Whereas the primary purpose of Government is the security and welfare of the citizens, it would appear in Edo State that this basic constitutional responsibility of government has been totally abandoned with the blatant acquiescence of the authorities over the reckless and incessant attacks on officials and members of APC in Edo State”.
But the Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr. Paul Ohonbamu at a press briefing noted that, “in the past two weeks, the state and its people have been inundated with bomb explosions orchestrated by members of the EPM even though they point fingers at us”.
Ohonbamu, who traced the origin of the crisis rocking the state chapter of the APC to the inauguration of the 7th assembly of the Edo state House of assembly, stressed that Governor Obaseki did his constitutional duty by issuing a proclamation letter for the inauguration but that he was not the one to perform the actual exercise.
“The bombing is a smear campaign to say that Governor Obaseki is not doing well. They just want to remove the governor as they removed Ex-Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau. Obaseki does not believe in violence. EPM is the aggressive one. The governor cannot be removed by these elements,” he said.
This is why, with the level the situation has degenerated, there is a conscious need for an organised intervention except the party is willing to concede the state to another party.