There were accusations and counter-accusations over culpability as the secretary of the Edo State branch of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Lawrence Okah, narrowly escaped death yesterday.
The attack which occurred when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded at his residence is said not to be unconnected with the squabbles over the 2020 governorship election.
Before yesterday’s bombing, the Benin home of a leader of the party in Edo Central Senatorial District, Chief Francis Inegbeniki, had been attacked with explosives by perceived political opponents in the ruling APC.
Addressing journalists yesterday on the attack on his residence in Benin, Okah, who has been suspended by a faction of the APC loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki, said he was asleep at night when he heard a loud noise and woke up to see that it was a bomb that exploded in his house.
He said it was by luck that he and other members of his family survived the attack, noting that a second bomb that fell close to his bedroom failed to detonate, otherwise, it would have been more devastating.
Okah said that the members of the police anti-bomb squad who came to the scene removed the bomb that failed to detonate, shortly after the first bomb blast wreaked havoc on parts of his residence.
He alleged that the attack was politically motivated and targeted at him for not supporting the governor in his second term re-election bid.
A chieftain of the APC and governorship aspirant, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who visited the residence of Okah, alongside other aspirants, including a former deputy governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, condemned the incessant attacks and use of explosives on perceived political opponents ahead of the governorship election.
Ize-Iyamu, who also accused the state governor of being behind the political violence in the state, said the use of explosives to fight perceived political opponents was politics taken too far.
“Not too long ago, a former Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in the state, Henry Idahagbon, narrowly escaped assassination while at his law firm in Benin.
“This is a former chairman of Egor Local Government, who campaigned throughout the state for Governor Obaseki during the 2016 governorship election. Simply because he is at the forefront of those saying that they cannot support the governor for a second term because the governor didn’t perform, he was almost killed,” Ize-Iyamu said.
But in a swift reaction, the state government said the allegations by Ize-Iyamu, a former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over the rising cases of political violence in the state was his stock-in-trade and that of the allegedly suspended National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, as well as their cohorts in the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM).
In a statement yesterday, the Special Adviser to Governor Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said the state APC was peaceful until the EPM and its enablers commenced their alleged nefarious activities.
“We are quite flustered that Oshiomhole has not been able to rein in his people in the face of the reconstitution of the 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 continually support all credible means to arrive at lasting peace in the state.”
The state government described Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole and their alleged cohorts as 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 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 Obaseki through undemocratic means, have now resorted to violence to create a sense of breakdown of law and order with the intent of forcing the declaration of a state of emergency in Edo.”
The state government urged the presidency and the inspector general of police to call Oshiomhole and Ize-Iyamu 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.”
The statement also assured Edo people of government’s resolve to maintain law and order, and ensure that the peace and safety in the state were not threatened by whatever means.
The member representing Esan West Local Government Area in the House of Assembly, Marcus Onobun, described the crisis rocking the APC in the state as unfortunate and the resort to political violence culminating in the use of explosives by politicians as unacceptable.
“Politics is a game. We should not take it to the point of using machetes and woods, not to talk about explosives. I am very much ashamed that it is happening and issues are revolving around my party, the APC.
“It has never happened. I call on those who are involved for whatever is the intention, to desist from such behavior and dangerous act. We Edo are peaceful people. All over the country, we are known to be very hospitable. Why should we be using explosives to harass ourselves?” Marcus queried.