Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, last week dragged the governors of neighbouring Rivers and Delta states into the ongoing battle for the Edo Government House. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the governors have not taken it lightly. Group Politics Editor, TAIWO ADISA, chronicles the strange find in the annals of political campaigns.
EDO State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, is a man with the gift of the garb. He had mesmerised the nation with that gift when he led the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during the administration of a tough customer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and that apparently shored up his acceptance by the Edo people when he signified his intention to run for governorship seat, despite what was seen as his limited experience on the political turf at the time.
Despite his propensity to speak often in the public, he has refrained from committing what is usually referred to as class suicide over the years. He has kept faith with his relationship with the labour unions and ensured cordial relationship with his fellow governors, irrespective of party affiliations. He has however attacked any other force in sight which he thinks could stand between him and entrenching his politics. For instance, he has called PDP leaders ‘unprintable’ names and, at a time, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of siding with the opposition ahead of the 2012 election, which he eventually won.
But Oshiomhole appeared to have enlarged the coast of the ‘victims’ of his oratorical prowess lately, as he broke the ranks on September 9 and hit his colleagues in the South-South hard. In his expose, the governor indicted his brother governors from Delta and Rivers states of attempting to sponsor violence in Edo by recruiting militants for the purpose of influencing the election now fixed for September 28.
Before now, Oshiomhole had spiritedly led the campaign of his All Progressives Congress (APC), candidate, Godwin Obaseki. He appears more like the challenger to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. No one however expected the governor to openly accuse his brothers in the South South: Governor’s Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Nyesom Wike of Rivers, of allegedly sponsoring violence in Edo without crosschecking any such intelligence report at his disposal.
Oshiomhole raised eyebrows when he claimed that some governors in the zone were importing about 8,000 militants to rig the September 28 governorship election in the state. Speaking while receiving the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, at the Government House last week, Oshiomhole said that the objective of the militant-sponsoring governors was to “make peaceful election impossible.”
He said: “In line with my tradition, I have always tried to speak out on any matter that I am worried about. I first raised this alarm on the eve of INEC Continuous Voter Registration exercise, an exercise that has been designed to register those who have become 18 between the last registration and the current one. But these criminals who are determined to perpetrate violence and deny us the beauty of a peaceful election, unable to find local participants have chosen to import these militants with the support of two or so of my brothers. When I say brothers, I mean brother governors. It does not matter if I disagree with them. They are my brothers.”
The declaration by the governor raises some basic questions about the workings of the Nigerian intelligence network and the operation of the State Security Committee, which regularly reviews domestic security. Many, who listened to the statement had indicated that it was a strange find in the sense that the governor, not being a member of the nation’s security and intelligence network, was the one informing the chief police officer of the country, whose business was to police the election, about the presence of thugs and alleged militants.
Again, the governor had decided to make the information public rather than a piece of intelligence which the police and the security agencies could process. The veracity of that would easily raise questions about the capability of the police and intelligence networks which could watch helplessly as some persons allegedly deploy some 8,000 militants to take over a state.
The IGP however attempted to restate the readiness of his men and officers, when he told the governor of the police’s commitment to holding a peaceful election. He said: “This governorship election, I think is the first, apart from the Rivers election, which has been postponed that we are going to carry out. So, we are very serious about this election. The men (policemen deployed in the state for the election) are going to report about three days to the election date and this will enable them to take care of most of the flash points in the state. We expect that on Election Day we are not going to record any problem.”
But politicians on both sides of the divide, the APC and the PDP, are sure not to take the message lightly. The PDP in Edo immediately picked up the allegation and turned it against the accuser. The state chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, immediately retorted: “It is unfortunate that we have an outgoing governor of the state who has decided to state a lie just to achieve his political purpose. We know very well that what the governor was telling the IG is not true.
“I find it disgusting that the governor could indict security agencies in the manner he has just done. I mean it is a serious indictment on the security agencies to say that 8,000 militants could quietly walk into Edo from Port Harcourt and Delta State without being detected.
“What the governor is saying is not true. He has gone further to accuse governors of Rivers and Delta states of providing N2 billion donation. He is talking as if he is talking to a gathering of illiterates.
“N2 billion is not N2 million nor N20, 000. Nobody can carry N2 billion in a briefcase. The only way to do that is through electronic transfer. As far as I know, our accounts are there for everyone to see. We have not received any contribution of even N2 million from any governor. I challenge him to show evidence of his claims because each time I accuse him of fraud, I always come out with government vouchers signed by him to substantiate whatever I said.”
Rivers State governor, Wike, and his Delta state counterpart, Okowa, angrily reacted to the Oshiomhole allegations, restating their innocence of the charges. Wike, in a statement, denied ever sending about N2 billion to Edo for the purpose of influencing the election or recruiting militants to disrupt the polls. The Rivers governor declared that Oshiomhole must have made the allegation “out of panic over the rejection of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state,” adding it was untrue that he and Senator Okowa mobilised militants to the state.
The governor stated that the allegations were shocking to him, especially as he met and embraced the Edo governor at the Benin Airport on the day the PDP had its governorship campaign in the state. He said: “Oshiomhole even cornered me and said ‘don’t mind these people, they don’t know that we meet and talk. If Oshiomhole has lost the confidence of his people, he should not blame me. He brought the president and 10 APC governors and he was not satisfied. Only because two PDP governors visited Edo State, Oshiomhole is panicking.”
The statement further read: “This was the same man who praised former President Goodluck Jonathan for promoting free and fair election, one man, one vote which saw Oshiomhole win a second term.Anywhere Oshiomhole goes, he insults the former president. When President Buhari leaves office, Oshiomole will do the same to him.”
Also reacting, Okowa, in a statement by his Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah, said Oshiomhole’s allegation was reckless, childish and unfounded, insisting that the governor of Delta does not own or sponsor militants or thugs. He said: “We reject this accusation as alarmist in conception, reckless in delivery, puerile in content and false in facts, and so fit only for kindergarten’s tales by moonlight.”
Okowa recalled that Oshiomhole had raised a similar alarm in 2012, when he accused INEC of trying to rig the election against him only for the allegation to turn out a hoax. Okowa said: “It turned out to be a hoax, as he won his re-election bid. He was to later childishly explain his gaffe as just being proactive.
“Ordinarily, we are weary of joining issues with, not just a next door neighbour governor, but also of a state which together with Delta, has shared such a long and enviable social, political and economic history from the old days Mid-West Region to that of the now defunct Bendel State.
“Oshiomhole is known for making wide, unsubstantiated and curious allegations and this is something of a trademark peculiar to him. If a man is gifted with the power of oratory, he must be careful to avoid a descent into suffering from diarrhoea of the mouth.
“It beats one hollow that Oshiomhole would, in his wide imagination, come up with such a curious allegation that a state in this country will just dole out N1 billion Naira in cash and to imagine the other logistics of embarking on ‘exporting militants’ to another state.
“Much as Governor Okowa, as a faithful party member, will support the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he certainly has better things to channel N1 billion into. And just for the record, Governor Okowa does not owe salaries. We wish to warn that the good people of Edo and Delta have come a very long way. Oshiomhole should not in the name of politics sow a seed of discord, suspicion and bitterness in their minds before leaving office. “He now has 18 more days to work for his candidate and party, we advise he faces it squarely and stop this impolitic of mudslinging and campaign of calumny.”
While the information released by Oshiomhole is for the Police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to investigate and ascertain the truth, the fact however remains that the governor has opened a gulf between his state and the South-South neighbours, a measure of which could define the relationships going forward.