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BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, Benin City
All had not been well between the Esama of Benin Kingdom, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state and the last Saturday Local Government election in the state, has deepened the crisis between the duo.
Also at war path with Oshiomhole, is the Minister of Works, Arch. Mike Onolemenmen who is from Uromi, Esan North East Local Government Council of the state, like the Chairman Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih.
When Oshiomhole came in as governor of the state many were waiting to see how he will manage political leaders such as Dr Samuel Ogbemudia, Chief Anenih and Chief Igbinedion due to his back ground as a no nonsense labour leader.
Before the coming of Oshiomhole, the trio who are members of the PDP decided the political fate of the people of the state including the late Alhaji Inu Umoru. And shortly after he was sworn in as Governor there was a clash between him and Dr Ogbemudia when
the latter was asked to return vehicles belonging to the state government in his possession, by the Asset Verification Committee set up then by Oshiomhole.
But Oshiomhole later returned the vehicles to him, as a matter of fact bought better ones for the two-time former governor of the old Bendel State who is well respected today in Edo and Delta states. The matter was resolved amicably and since then the duo has enjoyed cordial relationship.
Saturday Vanguard recalled that Anenih caught the wrath of Oshiomhole when the Iyasele of Esan land during a PDP campaign declared that all the Oshiomhole’s administration had achieved in his first one year was planting of flowers at Ring Road. Oshiomhole declared war on Anenih and it lasted till after the July 14, 2012 governorship election.
After his election victory, the governor informed his close aides that he has suspended further attacks on Chief Anenih “unless dem find my trouble again”.
And for Chief Igbinedion his relationship with him has been cordial due to the governor’s closeness with the son and former governor of the state, Chief Lucky Igbinedion. Due to the role the Igbinedions played towards Oshiomhole’s emergence the governor found himself in a dilemma on how to react to issues that had to do with the administration of the state during the administration of Lucky Igbinedion.
He has even been accused by the PDP of working with the same people who were in the administration of Igbinedion and had refused to probe some decisions taken by that administration.
It was obvious that the duo will clash but when was the issue. However, Oshiomhole was able to manage the situation until prior to the 2012 governorship election when Chief Igbinedion decided to pitch tenth with his party the PDP against Oshiomhole. Saturday Vanguard learnt that Chief Igbinedion was not comfortable with the tax regime of the state government which was clashing with his business interest in the state.
As a result the Benin High Chief believed that supporting the re-election of Oshiomhole will further diminish his business empire in the state. consequently, he backed Gen.Charles Airhiavbere of the PDP and mobilized support for the PDP.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that Oshiomhole in company of the former Secretary to the Edo state Government during the administration of Lucky and Vice-Chairman South South of the ACN, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu met with Chief Igbinedion on three occasions before the governorship elections to plead with him to support Oshiomhole but to no avail.
It was learnt that each time they discuss the issue with the Chief, he kept insisting that the taxation policy of the state government was not a palatable one while on his part Oshiomhole will argue that it will be difficult for him to bend the rules because the poor in the state also pay taxes. All the meetings yielded no fruit on either side, and it was obvious that the battle line was drawn.
Campaigns for the governorship election commenced and as expected, Oshiomhole tongue lashed the Esama after the latter went to Okada to campaign for the PDP governorship candidate.
Unfortunately for Chief Igbinedion, Oshiomhole won the governorship election and it was obvious that his numerous business interests in the state will be in jeopardy. Unlike the kind of verbal attack Oshiomhole launched against Anenih, it was difficult for the governor to react that same manner to Igbinedion because of his closeness with Lucky and other close friends of the Igbinedions in his administration.
But the animosity resurrected during the Local Government chairmanship primaries of the ACN which was contested by one of the sons of Chief Igbinedion, Charles who was chairman of Ovia North East when his brother Lucky was governor.
The Igbinedions are from Okada in Ovia North East and that council has been under their grip until recently. Charles was denied the ACN chairmanship ticket by the ACN leaders, rather the ticket was given to Mrs Lucy Omagbon, who was former PDP Woman Leader in Edo state.
Omagbon was formerly Chief Igbinedion’s political daughter while she was in PDP but parted ways with the Igbinedions and became a core loyalist of the ravaging Oshiomhole’s political empire.
This did not go down well with Chief Igbinedion. As if this was not enough, Oshiomhole revoked lands acquired by Chief Igbinedion when the son was Governor. In particular the large expanse of land at Okada where Yoruba cocoa farmers have been operating for years and paying royalty to Chief Igbinedion.
While Oshiomhole is utilizing his executive powers to right the wrongs of the past, the Independent Television (ITV) belonging to the Igbinedion family has not spared Oshiomhole’s administration with their persistent criticism of his policies.
The war of words between the duo heightened last Saturday during the Local Government elections when Governor Oshiomhole accused Chief Igbinedion and Arch.Onolemenmen of violating electoral laws and asked the police to arrest them. He accused the PDP leaders of disrupting elections with mobile policemen in their respective areas. While swearing in the 14 elected ACN chairmen last Monday, Oshiomhole said: ““there is evidence that he (Igbinedion) has undermined the prosperity of the state for a very long time.
Those who live in glass houses do not throw stones.I want to send a warning to Chief Igbinedion that he should take it easy, he has acquired a lot of government land that the people have not engaged him on.
He walks as if he is above the law, he was a chief tax collector in this state, pocketing twenty five to thirty percent of every kobo that accrued while his son was the governor. I have not looked back because my mandate is to look forward.
I want to put him on notice that if he continues with elderly rascality, I will bring him to justice. He must never ever underestimate the fact that I have the will and I have the capacity to deploy that will, if he crosses the law he will be cut to size. Elders must teach the younger ones to behave responsibly.
You heard how he is using ITV in a very reckless manner in a clear breach of the NBC code. He left where he is registered to vote and going all the way to Okada on a day movement was restricted across the state, he got to Okada and illegally used Mobile policemen to be walking on the street going to the police station where sensitive election materials were being kept in order to vandalize the sensitive electoral materials to ensure elections did not take place.
If he misleads himself into believing that he has the birth right to continue to appropriate, privatize the resources of Edo State, he is living in a fool’s paradise, Edo money will
never flow to the Igbinedion house any more”.
But the Benin Youth Congress (BYC) in a statement signed by Douglas Ibizugbe Ojo, faulted Oshiomhole’s criticism of Chief Igbinedion, describing it as disrespect for the elderly.
“We are not happy with the way and manner the Governor has continued to abuse our illustrious son. Chief Igbinedion is a respected son of the soil and those abuses are not acceptable to us. We expect the governor to apologize for the poor performance of the Edo state Independent National Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) in conduct of the election and not abusing Esama”.
Reacting also to the allegation by Oshiomhole that he should be arrested over alleged violation of electoral law, Arch.Onolemenmen asserted that there was no Local Government election in the state “so how could I have violated electoral laws”.
His words: “PDP was ready for the election but we were disappointed that a government that always preached one man one vote has taken conscious effort to disenfranchise our people in Edo Central. Fifteenminutes to 2pm, no material has gotten to many Local Government Councils in Edo Central senatorial, is it a crime for a party to be strong in a senatorial district?
We are surprised because this is the first election Governor Oshiomhole will be conducting in the past five years. It has taken him five years to conduct this charade election. We are thoroughly surprised and embarrassed because the good records of Mr President in the conduct of elections has been applauded worldwide. But what we witnessed in Edo state is a big minus to that score card of Nigeria in terms of conducting free and fair election”.
He further stated that it was the desire of the PDP and the people of Edo Central senatorial district that a free and fair election is conducted, adding that the people of the area had “suffered mal administration in terms of mismanagement of their capital resources and we have resolved to enthrone a positive change”.
However, Saturday Vanguard learnt that plans are in motion reconcile the Benin High Chief and Oshiomhole in order to halt this verbal war between the two camps.
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