PDP waits in the wings as Edo APC rumbles
Barely one month into the administration of Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is reeking with internal squabbles threatening to tear it apart.
At the centre of the crisis is the State secretary of the party, Osaro Idah who is a palace chief in the Benin Kingdom, and the youth leader, Oskpamwan Eriyo who happens to be the state chairman of the Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN).
Eriyo allegedly threatened to kill Idah who is the Obazulu of Benin Kingdom, and assaulted an aide to the Governor
While that is yet to be resolved, the state executive suspended the publicity secretary of the party, Godwin Erahon over an interview he granted a national weekly magazine in which he misrepresented the state executive with personal opinions.
Although Erahon told The Guardian that he received the penalty as a democrat but some considered it ominous that could be counter-productive for the party.
The Eriyo/Idah face-off which started like normal disagreement in a party meeting degenerated to police action as Eriyo purported told Idah that he could be eliminated the way his father who was also a politician was eliminated many years ago.
Idah’s father, George Idah was chairman of Oredo local government area in 1992 when he was brutally murdered shortly after attending a political rally. The actors in the the current crisis; the governor, Idah, Eriyo and his co-accused Sunday Osagbona are all from Oredo local government area.
The Guardian gathered that the problem result from disagreement over who has the upper hand in the control of APC in Oredo. The leaders of the party in the council led by Idah had a list of the party executive while Eriyo who supported Obaseki before and after the APC primaries had a different list.
Just before Christmas, the leaders attended a meeting at Government House, Benin City at the instance of the Governor, but those loyal to Eriyo were allegedly locked out of the meeting. His supporters reportedly stormed Government in protest were they, led by Eriyo were said to have had another altercation this time with the security aide of the governor.
It was also learnt that the Christmas gifts meant for leaders in Oredo were diverted.
Eriyo, one of the dominant members of the party who allegedly made a fortune from collecting revenues from members of RTEAN and on behalf of the state government, have amassed much wealth with large followers of boys.
However, sources claimed that Eriyo may have played himself out with the altercation he had with Idah as well as the attack on the governor’s security aide, as the governor had been contemplating doing away with private individuals collecting revenue on behalf of the state government.
Some other individuals in Eriyo’s category have since gone under, while others see it as an opportunity for them to become lords with the vacuum that would be created.
“There are indications that the governor may have resolved to stop the making of thin gods in his New Year’s state-wide broadcast where he announced the ban all private tax collectors in the state,” an observer asserted.
The Governor said all taxes and levies would henceforth be paid to or collected by government officials.
“I must quickly mention that one issue that continues to agitate Edo people is the lawless activities of some individuals who persist in harassing and extorting innocent citizens under the guise of collecting taxes and levies. The laws of our country vests the responsibility for collecting taxes exclusively on the three tiers of government; Federal, State and local governments.
“Consequently, with effect from today, January 01 2017, only employees of government can collect taxes and levies in Edo state. All arrangements to collect taxes or levies entered into by any state or local government agency in Edo state, ceases to be valid with effect from today,’’ he stated during the broadcast.
It is obvious with this broadcast that it would no longer be business as usual but it remained to be seen how this would affect the needed cohesion in the party as some party members are already grumbling that such a move would impoverish party members and could lead to defections.
The governor’s action has received some knocks and applause from different people with APC members not comfortable with the likely backlash on the party’s cohesion and security in the state. But some argued that taking revenue collection from the individuals would make more money available to the government.
Government House sources affirmed that this played out recently when the party chieftains were in police custody with some persons believed to be working for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) sighted trying to arrange a political solution for the release of the suspects.
Former governor, Adams Oshiomhole was said to have intervened urging that a political solution be employed to resolve the issues, to no avail. Apparently, his intervention was responsible for the delay in the arraignment of the two major suspects (Eriyo and Osagbona).
Idah had petitioned the state Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu, alleging that Eriyo threatened to eliminate him “the way my father was killed,” during a meeting of the leaders of the party at Government House, and called for an investigation into the matter.
A drama ensued when the police invited Eriyo and detained him after his statement has been taken. His loyalists including nine ward leaders stormed the police command, urging the police to detain all of them if he would not be released. The Police promptly interned the loyalists to avoid chaos.
But it was a different ball game for the police when hundreds of the supporters and loyalists invaded command premises demanding the release of their leader.
Besides, Eriyo supposedly attempted suicide at the Police Command when he used a broken bottle to cut his body causing blood to spill all over him before the police caged him.
He was said to have accused the Governor of being responsible fro his travails.
Last Thursday, Eriyo and Osagbona were arraigned before the Oredo Magistrate Court, Benin City for alleged conspiracy and attempted murder of Idah.
The PDP in a statement issued by the Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikare criticized the arrest of Eriyo and others.
The party said it was alarmed that among those arrested were the entire Oredo APC executive, from ward 1,2,3,4,5,6,9,11 and 12, Oredo Women Leader, Oredo chairman and state youth leader (Eriyo). The party described the arrests as sad, saying “Our political history as party members now use threat of assassination to intimidate, cow, threaten and dehumanize fellow party members.”
Gwandu explained that the command was not interested in politics of the people but is concerned about the crime, which the suspects allegedly committed, hence the decision to take them to court.
The police were able to whisking the APC leaders away to the Magistrate court under heavy security and while in the court, the entire premises was sealed up prevent the supporters from overwhelming the courtroom.
Eriyo who was brought to court in handcuffs yelled openly, querying: “Why are you charging me for attempted murder, did I kill anybody, I am not a criminal, the governor is only trying to oppress me, I have not done anything”.
The Magistrate rejected the pleas by their counsel, Usunobun Evbayiro, that they be granted custody in the police cell due to health concerns. The presiding Magistrate, M.C Ojobo said that prison custody is the proper place to remand them since there are health facilities at the prisons. Also, she stated that she lacked the powers to entertain the matter and ordered the case file to be sent to the Department of Public Prosecution for legal advice.
Before now, Eriyo and Osagbona had dragged the Inspector General of Police, the State Commissioner of Police and Idah for the abridgment of their fundamental rights to personal liberty.
In the suit filed in a High Court in Benin City, by their counsel, Tom Oaikhinan, they demanded a compensation of N1billion for exemplary and aggravated damages, immediate release from detention as well as a public apology from the respondents for illegal and unconstitutional violation of their rights.