Soldiers and armed riot policemen were Tuesday deployed to major streets and roads in Benin City, the Edo State capital as hundreds of pro-government and aggrieved members of the opposition parties protest the outcome of the April 20 local government elections held in the state last weekend.
The soldiers and policemen attached to the state Operation Thunderstorm, were drafted to the popular King’s Square as the protesters stormed the area in the early hours of the day, making vehicular and human movement impossible for about five hours. The protesters also blocked all entry points in and out of the ancient city.
During their protest, members of the opposition parties accused the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)-led government of Adams Oshiomhole of electoral ambush and insensitivity, as against the spirit and letter of the ‘One-man, One-vote principle’, which he claims to be the pivot of his administration.
They vowed to resist any attempt to conduct the rescheduled council elections in Esan West and Esan North East today and those of Oredo and Ikpo Okha scheduled for tomorrow at all cost.
However, in a counter protest, the pro-government group led by Mr. Tony Kabaka, also staged their protest in solidarity for the ruling party for emerging victorious at the polls.
The pro-government group took its peaceful protest to the Government House.
But the situation nearly went awry but for the timely intervention of soldiers and anti-riot policemen, who dispersed them.
This led to hours of gridlock as motorists had to make a detour to other routes to beat the tensed situation.
As at the time of filing this report, the soldiers and policemen were still stationed at various strategic locations in readiness for any breach of public peace.
Besides, a Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP), yesterday urged the citizens of the state to cultivate the culture of accepting defeat and be good sportsmen in any contest.
Chairman of the CRPP, Dr. Samson Isibor, who stated this in a statement on the conduct of the council polls, said: “The election is adjudged to be the best local government election ever conducted in Edo State.”
Isibor, who is also the National Secretary of Accord Party (AP), said: “Although you cannot rule out human fault, the little hitches experienced was due to logistic problems devoid of electoral malpractices such as ballot box snatching, stuffing of ballot box, use of guns to scare away eligible voters.”
Speaking in the same vein, the state chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Godwin Erhahon, absolved Oshiomhole and Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) of any blame in the conduct of the election.
Instead, he appealed to the people of the state not to allow “PDP and their cohorts who have lost political value to incite them against the governor and government of Edo State.”
Also, the state Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, has denied media reports linking his convoy with the distribution of election materials during last Saturday’s elections in the state.
The deputy governor was reported to have said his vehicle conveying electoral materials was waylayed and vandalised by hoodlums suspected to be opposition party members in the ward headquarters.
But in a statement issued on behalf of his office by the Chief Press Secretary to Oshiomhole, Mr. Peter Okhiria, said: “The attention of Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, has been drawn to an erroneous report used by a section of the media after last Saturday’s council election in the state.
“To set the records straight, the state deputy governor, Odubu merely mentioned in the course of the interview, that the bus assigned to escort the vehicle conveying electoral materials to Urhonigbe North in Orhionwon Local Government Area to avert diversion was attacked and vandalised by miscreants whose intent was to cart away the materials for rigging purpose. And indeed, electoral materials meant for two booths were destroyed by hoodlums despite the security measures taken.
“It is pertinent to stress that Deputy Governor is not the state Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) Chairman whose duty it is to provide the necessary logistics for movement of electoral materials.”
He said: “For emphasis, what the Deputy Governor did was to assign some party agents to escort the vehicle bearing the electoral materials to the polling units. And the said vehicle was attacked on the way to the units ostensibly to cart away the materials for rigging.
“The deputy governor, therefore, considers it absurd and mischievous for anyone to suggest or conclude that his personal vehicle was used for conveying election materials.
The statement assured that “Security agencies are already on the trail of the hoodlums who vandalised the vehicle and destroyed the election materials.”