Opinion

Edo 2020 and youths as cannon fodder

Barely one month to the September 19, 2020 governorship election, Edo State is on edge, prompting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contemplate postponement of the poll or refuse to declare results in the face of obvious violence. The major campaigns of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have upped their charges of planned or actual disruption/ attacks of each other’s activities.

 

The ruling PDP in Edo, fielding Governor Godwin Obaseki for re-election, seems ahead of levelling allegations against the trio of the APC, its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and the party’s former National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

 

For instance, on Tuesday, August 11, the PDP, via its spokesman in Edo, Chris Nehikhare, alleged of plots by the opposition APC “to cause mayhem” in Uzairue, Etsako West local government area. Nehikhare said: “We have received information that leaders of the APC have decided to confront and attack members and supporters of the PDP in Etsako West, where former APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole hails from.”

 

But the APC spokesperson in Edo, Chris Azebamwan, dismissed the allegations, saying the APC didn’t breach a pact entered into for the campaigns to stage their rallies at different locations. “It is obvious that the PDP knows what will befall it on September 19th, and that is why they are bringing this kind of issue,” Azebanwan said.

 

But by Thursday, August 13, the PDP campaign posted to Facebook an alleged thugs’ attack on the convoy of Governor Obaseki, on its way to a rally at Ward 10, Apana, Etsako West. Quoting an eyewitness, the report said women in the ward resisted the armed thugs, who were later repelled by the “superior firepower” of security operatives after a five-minute exchange.

 

Obaseki’s spokesman, Crusoe Osagie, was to reinforce the said incident at Ward 10, Apana: That Oshiomhole sponsored the thugs, whose “gunshots were repelled by a combined team of security personnel and vigilante groups.”

 

Yet, the PDP, with its rapid response squad that files live events on the go, delayed posting of the “attack” that had no reported injuries or deaths, on both sides, and no Police report of arrests or attempts to arrest the “perpetrators” of the ambush. In the absence of a Police report, the PDP linked the assault to Comrade Oshiomhole, who hails from the Apana community in Uzairue, also the council area of Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu.

 

But Oshiomhole’s aide, Victor Oshioke, debunking the allegations, said Comrade Shaibu sponsored the “gunmen” who were reportedly in the convoy of Governor Obaseki. Oshioke said: “The attackers were actually in the governor’s convoy. They drove ahead of the convoy from Ayoguiri and when they got to the village, they started by destroying the billboards…

 

“Then they started shooting around, and people ran into the bushes… We ensured that our people did not retaliate so that it will not be reported that Obaseki was attacked in Oshiomhole’s ward, which we know was their intention.”

 

The veracity of these counter-claims of attack isn’t at issue here, but the bloody road politicians are ready to take, to acquire power, for the sole aim of having unfettered access to the treasury. Some would argue that political thugs are lone wolves, carrying out nefarious acts without prompting.

 

But aren’t politicians behind the scenes, directing, by proxy, the disruption of campaigns? Sadly, Nigerian youths, who constitute the bulk of the thuggeries, and pose the greater danger to the society, may not benefit directly from the politicians they stake their lives for.

 

Because they swim in ignorance and gullibility, the youth can’t ask the politicians these simple questions: “Where’re your children? Can they lead this dare-devil procession, please?” Of course, politicians’ children are far away from the theatre of war.

 

They aren’t domiciled in the ward, council, district, state or any part of the country. They reside overseas, enjoying the largesse meant to better the lives of the poor armed youths. The social media is awash with hate speeches by youthful party supporters and followers, who regard their relatives, friends and associates as enemies, for holding contrary political views.

 

This is the danger Edo State faces, such that there’s no longer respect for revered personages and sacred places that “ordinary mortals” used to dread disrespecting and treading.

 

The other day, armed thugs (youths) clashed with protesters at the hallowed grounds of the Palace of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Ukuakpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, in Benin City, resulting in several persons sustaining injuries, some severe.

 

Days later, on the strength of alleged plot by a faction of the Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA) to sack and replace the presiding officers, armed youths invaded the complex.

 

With government officials and security operatives on standby, some of the youth, with mason implements, removed the assembly’s roof and the mounted iconic Mace, even as tippers heaped sand at the entrance of the complex. Imagine the abuse of the Legislature! Were these events happenstance? No!

 

While Comrade Oshiomhole backs the 17 members of the House (14 of them not sworn in at the controversial inauguration in 2016), the remaining seven of the 24-member chamber have the support of Governor Obaseki.

 

The Edo Assembly is named after one of Nigeria’s finest nationalists and pro-democracy activists, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who, at barely 21, moved the motion for “self rule” (independence) for Nigeria in 1953. That politicians have turned this edifice into an arena of the absurd would make Chief Enahoro to summersault in his grave! External forces, especially the heads of National Campaign Councils of the PDP and APC for the September 19 poll, have also fuelled the heating up of the polity in Edo by acting as disrupters rather than galvanisers of supports for their candidates.

 

But in the name of all that’s decent in ‘The Heartbeat Of The Nation’, politicians should consider the passionate entreaties of Nigerians, including Edo traditional rulers, to play by the rules. On the imperative of a congenial environment for the election, Oba Ewuare II told visiting delegations of the PDP and APC that the palace was apolitical, and sued for peace ahead of poll.

 

The Omo N’Oba said the palace was “particularly concerned about the person who would have respect for the throne, traditional institutions and create employment for the people of Edo State…”

 

Similarly, the Otaru of Igarra, HRH Oba Adeche Saiki II, on behalf of traditional rulers of Akoko- Edo area that hosted the APC campaign and its candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, urged the political class to maintain peace for security and development. “As you go from here, you should drum it on our youths and party faithful to shun violence and thuggery.

 

We should all ensure peace, which is the mother of security and development,” Oba Saiki said. This ding-dong by politicians will continue till September. But the prayer of Edo people is for the political gladiators to avoid using the youth to set the state on fire over the 2020 election.

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