Tension is brewing in Benin City, the Edo State capital, over Friday’s planned rally to receive defectors into the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was gathered that the National Chairman of the APC Adams Oshiomhole is expected to welcome the former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his supporters into the party.
But Governor Godwin Obaseki, elected on the ticket of the party, but who is estranged with Oshiomhole, said on Tuesday he is not aware of any rally by his party on Friday. He warned against a breakdown of law and order, The Nation reports.
Obaseki on Tuesday travelled with President Muhammadu Buhari to Egypt on official assignment from which they will not return until Friday.
Ize-Iyamu contested the governorship poll on the platform of the PDP against Obaseki in 2016.
Jingles have been running on radio and television stations inviting members of the public to the rally.
Denied knowledge of any APC rally in the state after the security meeting with heads of security agencies in the state, Obaseki said he has checked with the state APC secretariat and the party had not announced officially that there would be a rally.
According to him, issues of public safety were reviewed at the security meeting, particularly in relation to the Yuletide season.
He said: “The issue of public safety is a major concern to us as a government and this being the last Security Council meeting for the year; we had to put up measures in place to tackle security challenges.”
Chairman of the APC in Edo, Anselm Ojezua, also said the party had directed its members to stay away from the rally.
Ojezua, who described the planned rally as “provocative and capable of disrupting the peace” in the state, said it was not the APC national body that should inform the state organs about any rally.
He said: “I am not aware of any rally in Edo. We don’t know anything about it. Is it not absurd that the governor of the state is not aware? We are not a party to it and it must not be held in our name.”
The party chairman said in a statement: “The attention of the party has been drawn to information being circulated by some unauthorised people to the effect that the APC in the state is receiving some new members on Friday, December 13, 2019, at Garrick Memorial School, Ekenwan Road, Benin City.
“Neither the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who is the leader of the APC in Edo State, nor other leaders of the party is aware of the purported declaration rally. It is, therefore, highly provocative and capable of creating breach of peace.
“We urge members of the APC in the state not to have anything to do with the event. The organisers of that event are sufficiently seasoned and experienced as politicians to know the proper procedure and tradition usually attendant to this sort of event.”
But the factional chairman of Edo APC, Col David Imuse, said Edo cannot have two chairmen as there can only be one party chairman in the state.
He said: “As at today, the chairman is Col. David Imuse (rtd). The next line of action is to strengthen the party for the challenges ahead and win future elections.
“We are not at a press war with anybody. The party leadership took a decision and the national headquarters affirmed that decision. So, whatever we do here is subject to ratification by Abuja; the party took a decision here and it was affirmed in Abuja.
“We had a NEC meeting, it was ratified and affirmed. We had the Southsouth leaders meeting it was affirmed and in the meeting of all the chairmen of APC nationwide, it was affirmed.”
“I don’t dwell on illegality. I am a highly focused person so right now the task before us is how to fortified party. Right now we are preparing for the reception of our brothers who are coming back home to strengthen the party.”
Also on Tuesday, the suspended secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Lawrence Okah, raised the alarm over alleged plans by the government to recruit thugs from Kogi and Ekiti states to disrupt the planned rally.
Okah claimed that “over 20,000 leaders of the PDP across the 18 local government areas in the state, led by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, would be received into the APC by Oshiomhole and other leaders of the APC across the country.”
He said: “We are raising this alarm so that the world will know that governor Obaseki intends to unleash mayhem on APC members in Edo state after he had perfected plans to join the PDP.
“We have informed him of the scheduled rally. His deputy has also been informed but they have vowed to disrupt any event that will boost the strength of the APC in Edo state. This claim that cultists are invading the state is arrant nonsense. We are holding APC rally and we have accordingly informed all relevant authorities.
“We appeal to the Inspector-General of Police, the Edo State Police Commissioner and the DSS to provide security to our members on that day. We use this opportunity to appeal to the governor to toe the path of peace and avoid violence because no blood of any Edo man is worth the ambition of any body.
“We urged security agents to be at alert because since the preparation for this rally, our members are being harassed while many are being threatened and beaten across the state.”
Special Adviser to Governor on Parliamentary Matters, Kabiru Adjoto, denied the allegation of plans to import thugs into to the state.
Adjoto said: “It is unfortunate that such statement will come from Chief Lawrence Okah who is somebody I respect so much and I will be shocked if he actually said so. I am a man of peace, I am a stakeholder in this state and the governor is committed to absolute peace in the state.
“He recently held a security meeting where he preached peace, especially in this Yuletide season for peace in the state and we are committed to that. I am a man of peace and throughout my time as Speaker in the state, we maintained the peace. If actually Chief Okah made this allegation against me, I will seek redress.”