Chief Francis Inegbeniki’s house was recently bombed by suspected political thugs. He is among those that laboured to ensure Governor Godwin Obaseki’s success during the 2016 governorship elections in Edo State, but he is now a top member of the Edo Peoples Movement (EPM), a group that strongly believes that Obaseki does not deserve a second term in office. In this Interview, he spoke on the APC crisis and state of insecurity in Edo State. Excerpts…
Your house was recently attacked with explosives by some unindentified people Could you tell us about it?
The bombing that took place in my house occured on Saturday, February 1, 2020, about 3:30 in the morning. Some unknown persons threw Improvised Explosive Device (IED) into my compound. Really, I am still in shock, I am traumatised, my family is traumatised.
Do you think this action is politically motivated?
I saw a report where the Edo State Government gave me a lead. Its action was very swift; it was able to carry out investigation and from its intelligence report, it accused some politicians of throwing explosives into my compound. So, I am happy that the Edo State Government is working very hard to unravel those who threw these explosives.
This is a very frightening dimension, it’s very frightening. If that is the way they want to go about seeking peace, it is well and good.
Have you reported the incident to the appropriate authorities, and what are they doing about it?
Yes, the matter has been reported to the police and also to the Director of State Security Service. I understand that a team of police bomb disposal experts visited my house the next morning to remove the unexploded IEDs that were thrown into my compound. One exploded the second one did not explode. The one that exploded caused colossal damage to my building, the structure of the building, all the glass windows in the house were destroyed, one of my cars was badly damaged.
This is a very frightening dimension in Edo State politics. Frankly, I suspect that the attack was politically motivated, and I make bold to say that the attack was state sponsored attack.
Some people alleged that the pattern of attack has been targeted at people from the EPM camp. Do you suspect anybody?
It is state sponsored terrorism, which is against the law of Nigeria and the European convention. But because in Nigeria, governors enjoy immunity, we cannot prosecute a sitting governor, but I will be briefing my lawyer to file action in the European Court. My life is in danger. I am calling on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the DSS to investigate this series of attack.
Do you agree with those linking the attack to your hosting of party members, as a way of preventing you from hosting the rally?
Yes! It is likened to the adage in our local parlance that, ‘the witch cries in the night and the baby dies in the morning’. Let me explain the political situation in Edo State; the state government accused the EPM and also accused our national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. According to the state government, “Intelligence reports indicate that this is the next move by the suspended National Chairman of the APC and his cohorts in the EPM to create tension in this state with the intent of forcing the authorities to declare a state of emergency in Edo”.
I am one of the founding fathers of EPM. I couldn’t have thrown explosive into my own compound. For me, I believe that thugs loyal to Edo State Government masterminded this attack on my house. I verily believe so.
It is no longer news that APC is in crisis in Edo State, are we likely to see the end of this crisis before the election?
Let me tell you the truth, the crisis in Edo State is not between Oshiomhole and Obaseki. No! far from it. The crisis in Edo is between Obaseki and EPM. It is between us and Obaseki’s ambition to have a second term in office. Let me clarify here, that about 80 per cent of members and leaders of APC today in Edo State are in EPM, the other 20 per cent are the governor’s aides, who are enjoying political patronage, and they are inconsequential.
Why do you think that the state government is sponsoring attacks against you and other members of the EPM?
We in the EPM are against Obaseki coming back for a second term, I believe this is the reason my house and the houses of other members of EPM are beign attacked. If you look at the list of all the political attacks in the state since last year, you will confirm what I am saying. Let me take you through some attacks that had happened to EPM members in Edo State.The very first attack took place during the illegal inauguration of nine members of Edo State House of Assembly at nocturnal hours. You will recall that the next day after the nocturnal inauguration, thugs went to Old Excalibur Hotel and attacked House of Assembly members-elect.
They were beaten up mercilessly because they belong to the EPM group. One of them, Saidi Oshiomhole, was stripped naked. That was how and when the attacks started.The second one happened when they attacked Osarobo in Ikpoba Okha Local Government Area. His house was attacked simply because he is a member of EPM and properties worth millions destroyed. When they left that, they went to Owan East where Rt. Hon. Abdul Oroh, and his teaming supporters were holding a meeting. They were equally attacked, properties destroyed people were injured.
Are these few examples enough to justify your assertion?
They didn’t stop there. On the day we were to receive a very high profile politician into the APC family, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the venue we booked to receive pastor was attacked, all canopies and chairs, were destroyed, people were injured that day. I am giving you a chronology of all the attacks that had taken place in Benin City against our party members and EPM members. They didn’t stop there. They went to the national chairman’s house at Okoro Otun Avenue, thugs loyal to the state government went there. We thank God that the vigilant policemen on duty were able to repel them.
Few weeks ago again, our members were holding a meeting in Egoro Naoka in Esan West, they were equally attacked, people were injured. Now tell me, how long can we continue like this? Former Attorney- General of Edo state Barrister Henry Idaghagbon’s house was attacked, Hon. Chris Okaeben’s house was attacked. Then my house was attacked with explosives in the early morning of February 2nd. After my house, Comrade Osakpoma’s house was also attacked with explosives. In all these, you will agree with me that these attacks came from the other divide, being sponsored by the state against EPM members, I must say.
Is it true that your faction went against a directive not to hold rally?
If you had seen the government’s press release on February 2nd, it is there for you to read, the government released a warning that nobody must hold rally in the state and that they were aware that EPM members were planning to hold a rally in Edo Central. Yes, they were right, they were right that members of APC planned a rally to receive defectors, high profile members, and those defectors include men in PDP, Prince Tony Omoaghe, Chief Frank Erewele, former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ebea and we planned the rally for February 1 to receive them.
The state government got wind of it and came out with a press release and threatened that nobody should organise a rally. The government knew that I, as the leader of APC in Edo Central had already fixed that date to receive the defectors. If you had watched the press conference by the governor where he was spitting fire, threatening to deal with anybody who tries to organise rally, obviously, he was referring to me because I had already fixed February 1st to receive new members defecting to APC.
He threatened that he would deal with anybody who dares, and if you listen carefully, one voice inside that video said they would give the people ‘wake and see’ treatment. It’s clear English and I have the video which I will tender any day. They said they would give anybody who organise rally ‘wake and see’ treatment. He spoke in English, not Yoruba, not Swahili, not Latin. It is now a knowledge in the public domain that they gave the person ‘wake and see’ treatment.
They have given me the ‘wake and see’ treatment. I woke up on February 1st to see the treatment and that treatment was bomb explosion. So, who else should I suspect? I suspect the governor and the people that were with him inside that room where he made that announcement, that voice who said ‘wake and see treatment’. The governor will produce that person and the person will help us. So, I want to say that the attack on my house is connected to the rally which I organised on February 1st.
The governor alleged that those of you in EPM are fighting him because he refused to appropriate state resources for personal use. Is that true?
In Nigeria jurisprudence, it is clear that he who alleges will prove. If the governor has said so, which of course I have read, he should be bold and man enough to point to the EPM members or the politicians that demanded money from him. It is not true that EPM members demanded money from him because he wants a second term. Far from it. We, members of EPM, leaders of APC in Edo State today, know it as a fact that if you give Governor Obaseki ticket to run for a second term, APC will loose this state because he’s already an over ripe mango; ‘he don too ripe’, you can’t market it again. If you take it to the market, nobody will buy. So, we members know that giving Obaseki a second term ticket, APC will lose the state because he has failed Edo people woefully.
Many people won’t agree with you that Obaseki has failed because of his acclaimed giant strides.
I give them one thing; Obaseki and his government are good in propaganda, they are spending heavily on all these social media rats that are writing rubbish daily, trying to paint Obaseki as a saint, trying to paint him as a governor that is working. It is not true. If I open my mouth, people in Edo State will stone Obaseki on the streets of Benin.
Do you want me to mention the billions of naira he has received in Edo State since he became governor? Do you want me to mention the amount he has received as internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and ecological funds? All those loans he had collected are running into trillions. Where are the projects? We have been keeping quiet. Somebody like me, I have tried to hold myself not to hit him so hard, because if I hit him hard, the other party, the PDP, even though we have been able to demystify them now, they will have something to hold on to. Obaseki has not performed in the area of development, that is the reason we don’t want to give him ticket.
What if the national commiitte reconciles all factions, won’t your group support him?
We don’t want to support him again because if we support him and he gets the ticket, we will lose the governorship election. Don’t forget that Obaseki promised President Buhari during the presidential campaign at Garrick Memorial ground, that he will deliver the state for him.
I was there, when he was saying, “President, we will give you one million votes from Edo”. But what is the outcome? The governor lost his unit, he lost his ward, his state constituency, his federal constituency and also lost the Senate, that was a man who pronounced one million votes. Go and check the results and see if am making it up. A man who could not deliver and he wants a second tenure, no. That’s the cause of the problem between us, the EPM and Obaseki, its not anybody asking him for money.
What does these internal crises portend for your party?
The APC will become stronger after the primaries. Remember I told you that today in Edo State, the EPM members, who are the authentic APC, we constitute about 80 per cent of APC members, the other 20 per cent are just his workers . In the next few weeks, those ones will start to leave him one by one. They are still there because they’re benefiting, because we have nothing to give them. They are still there because of the political patronage they get from him now.
In the night they are with us. In the night, the remaining 20 per cent are with us but during the day they pretend and to go to work so that they can get their daily bread. The other few ones that are left are not from Edo. Those ones were imported from Lagos, some were imported from Asaba, Delta; those are the other few ones, we can count them on our finger tips. Those ones are inconsequential.
After this crisis, APC will come out stronger, the few bad elements will be weeded away, we don’t need them. They misled the governor to where he has found himself now, in a round box. We will come out stronger. My last word is that they should be prepared to dance to the Makossa drum they are beating now.