Penultimate Friday, the people of Edo State were fed with the story that one of the security aides in the convoy of Governor Adams Oshiomhole beat up a Rev. Father identified as Peter Udoh at Ujogba in Edo Central senatorial district of the state.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state started celebrating after the Independent Television (ITV), owned by the Esama of Benin Kingdom, and chieftain of the PDP, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, reported the matter.
The situation was likened to the incident in Imo State in 2011, when the then Governor Ikedi Ohakim was accused of beating up a Rev. Father weeks to the elections. But, in this case, the originators of the news, the ITV, reversed itself on the report because the governor was not at Ujogba that Friday.
Rather, Oshiomhole and Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State went to commission the Amadioha-Ugboha Road after which they left for Uromi where the Edo governor attended a burial ceremony and from there he went to Auchi in his convoy at about 4pm without any problem with anybody. Sources close to the governor said he had on several occasions reprimanded drivers in his convoy against intimidating members of the public and it was as a result of that, that he decided not to use siren.
As a matter of fact, sometime last year at Ring Road, Oshiomhole had cause to stop his convoy when he observed that one of the drivers was intimidating somebody”, one of the sources said. “The governor came down from his vehicle and collected the driver’s key and asked him to go back to the office. Another driver had to continue the trip”. So it was not surprising how the state government reacted to the ITV report terminating every relationship it has with the TV station. The incident has renewed another round of crisis between the state government and Igbinedion, as the governor described the report as deliberate ploy to discredit his administration in the eyes of the Christian community.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that after the commissioning the Amadioha-Ugboha Road, APC stalwarts, who attended the event, started going back to their respective areas. However, at about 5pm, a convoy of buses heading towards Ekpoma from Ugboha had issues with a Rev Father. An eye witness said trouble started when the Rev. Father, who was not happy with the movement of the buses over took them and blocked the buses.
He narrated: “It was when everybody came down wondering why the Rev. Father blocked the vehicles that we knew that one of the passengers spat on his face when he over took the buses. At this point, the occupants of the buses never knew he was a Rev.Father because he wore Jeans and jacket. You will not even know that he was a Rev. Father, it was later that everybody knew he was a Rev. Father and they started tendering apologies. The Rev. Father was not beaten by anybody apart from the spit”. It was gathered that after the incident, the Rev. Father visited a politician in the area where he blessed the food they all ate.
The eye witness narrated: “We were all together with the Father in this politician’s place, where he said he had cursed the person who spat on him. Infact everybody started begging him to forgive. He now prayed and said he had forgiven the man that spat on his face. Everybody was happy and we all went back home after that. Infact when we started hearing that he said he was beaten up, we jokingly asked him which hospital he was treated and that was it”.
Oshiomhole and Fashola, who were in Auchi when the news was aired by ITV, could not believe it. Journalists travelled to Esan to verify the incident but the Catholic Diocese debunked the report that the governor’s aide beat up their Rev.Father. When journalists put a call across to the Bishop of Auchi Diocese, Bishop Gabriel Dunia, he said, “I am not aware of any priest beaten by the governor’s aide, there is no report like that”.
Reacting also, a Catholic cleric, Reverend Father Andrew Obinyan, dismissed the report. Giving his homily at a mass on Tuesday, Obinyan, the Parish Priest of St Albert’s Catholic Church, University of Benin, said: “I heard in the news a report that a Catholic priest in Esan Central of Edo State was grievously oppressed and beaten to a state of coma by aides of Governor Adams Oshiomhole. If I am sure of anything about Governor Oshiomhole, it is his reverential fear and respect for all ordained ministers especially bishops, priests, and religious of the Catholic Church to which he proudly belongs. Governor Oshiomhole has maintained a very cordial relationship with Catholic Bishops, Priests and Laity beyond Benin City. As a priest, I have an obligation, in conscience, based on privileged information, to let the public know that neither the Governor nor any of his aides was involved in such incident as reported. It was a tale concocted to drag the Holy Catholic Church into the fray of politics.”
The state government, reacting on the saga, said the report was not only callous, malicious and wicked, but also clearly portrayed ITV and its proprietor as inclined to denigrating the Oshiomhole administration. It added, “While the state that the governor was never at Ujogba as reported by the TV station, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole is known to be proudly Catholic and has boasted about his faith at many fora. The State Deputy Governor, Rt Hon Pius Odubu is also a practicing Catholic as well as the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Rt Hon Uyi Igbe.
“We use this medium to call on ITV to retract the said offensive report and tender an unreserved apology to the governor, through the same station for dragging the Governor’s name into a matter totally unconnected to him”.
Edo State government also withdrew the accreditation of the correspondent and cameraman of ITV attached to the Government House, Benin-City.
In a letter to the General Manager, ITV, Special Adviser to the Governor, Prince Kassim Afegbua, said: “You will recall our earlier discussion with you on the series of fabricated and adversarial reportage of issues in the state which has continued to misinform, misrepresent and confuse the people of the state. As you know, these deliberate false reports which have become your editorial policy offend the ethics of broadcast journalism and the code of conduct spelt out by the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC]. In view of the above, we are withdrawing the accreditation of your correspondent earlier attached to Government House with immediate effect.”
Angered by the report, the state government, on Wednesday, terminated an agreement to train medical students of the Igbinedion University, Okada over alleged debt of N350million. The state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Loius Odion, said: “The said university had not paid anything to the government since the agreement was entered into on September 1, 2006. In view of the failure of the management of Igbinedion University to honour the terms of a Memoradum of Understanding (MOU) entered into with the state government, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has approved the termination of same with immediate effect. The MOU in question was entered into on September 1, 2006 under the Lucky Igbinedion administration to enable the Igbinedion University enjoy the use of the state-owned Central Hospital Benin and Stella Obasanjo Hospital for the practicals of her medical students. It was part of the condition precedent demanded by the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to grant the Igbinedion University accreditation to train medical students in the clinical specialties”.