Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Louis Odion, has accused the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of being the mastermind of a predetermined script to assassinate the Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The allegation came just as Mr. Odion’s private residence in Benin was reportedly attacked by a team of gunmen in the early hours of yesterday.
The governor’s convoy was at the weekend involved in a ghastly crash along the Warrake–Auchi road that killed three journalists, leaving many others including security details injured.
The governor was returning from a rally in Afuze, headquarters of Owan East Local Government Area (LGA), when a tipper lorry suddenly veered off its track, facing the Governor’s staff car, missing it by the whiskers. It later rammed into the vehicle conveying the security details and the bus conveying Government House Press crew.
The sequence of events leading to the crash and its aftermath points to foul play, Odion said, calling for a thorough investigation of the dastard incident by the security agencies.
While the driver of the offending truck was said to have been nabbed as he was trying to escape after initially hiding in the bush, his partner was reportedly arrested on the spot by security agents attached to the Governor.
Said Mr. Odion: ‘Under interrogation much later, the driver’s partner could not offer a coherent explanation on their destination and mission while on the road. He said he was asked by the driver to join him in the vehicle to go somewhere shortly before the accident and that the purpose and destination was not explained to him.
‘Again, we are left wondering why a truck will veer off its lane and directly target the vehicle in which the Governor was travelling. Even if the driver were in distress, the logical thing to do was to veer the car to the roadside. Why target the car in which Oshiomhole was riding? Again, when did driving against a convoy become a matter of leisure?
‘As if that was not puzzling enough, we also observe even while Governor and other Good Samaritan were still busy trying to retrieve the wounded from the two accidented vehicles and comfort the traumatised, a statement signed by PDP had already landed television and radio stations in Benin expressing sympathy and condolence to Oshiomhole and the victims. Given the speed, it was as if PDP already prepared the statement before the accident. We are aware that they offered money to the television and radio stations for the statement to be used as ‘special announcement’.
“When we take these together and the litany of open threats earlier made by our political opponents to deal ruthlessly with top officials of the Oshiomhole administration, we are persuaded to strongly believe that there is more to the Saturday incident than readily meets the eye”.
“That is why we are calling on the Commissioner of Police and the State Security Service to carry out a thorough investigation”.
“Again, as if that is not enough, at about 3a.m Sunday, my private residence in Benin City came under attack by a gang of four gunmen. It happened that the Governor and a few Commissioners including myself had a meeting which lasted till 1.30a.m on Sunday”.
‘After departing the Governor’s Lodge, a fellow Commissioner who lives within the GRA kindly suggested that it was too late for me to drive to Ugbowo that hour and asked me to come and stay at his place till the morning.
‘By 3A.M. I received several distressed calls from my relations at home that some shadowy figures with automatic weapons had managed to force their way into my compound. They were shouting ‘Where is Commissioner?! Where is the Comissioner?!!’ The alarm my relations raised alerted the neighbours and the neighbourhood vigilante groups who in turn engaged the gunmen in gun battle. Apparently sensing trouble, the gunmen later fled in the SUV.
‘You will recall that precisely on February 19, 2012, I had raised the alarm that Chief Tony Anenih openly threatened at the palace of the Oba of Benin to deal with me. I am persuaded to believe that that threat is now being carried out.’
Meanwhile, Governor Oshiomhole has paid condolence visits to the bereaved families. Accompanied by some senior government officials, Oshiomhole was in the home of Mr George Okosun, Mr Olatunji Jacobs, both of the Independent Television (ITV) and Mr Fidelis Okhani of the African Independent Television (AIT).
Consoling the wives, Mrs Isokhen Okosun, Mrs Blessing Olatunji and Mrs Rita Okhani and relatives at their respective homes in Benin City, Oshiomhole said, “we have come to condole with you on the untimely death of our brother and comrade. It is hard to find the appropriate words to console you at this trying moment”.
Speaking glowingly of Okosun, the ITV camera man, the governor said, “We have many reporters in Government House but he was one man that I find very creative, his sense of news judgement was superb. Yesterday I saw him recording the events at the rally without knowing that that will be his last. I love him, he gave his job his all. I have never been so touched as I was yesterday (Saturday), I cried almost like a baby.”
Also speaking about Olatunji, the governor said, “he was faithful and passionate about his job”. For Fidelis who had covered the governor since 2006, Oshiomhole wrote this on the condolence register. “You gave your all to the people of Edo State whom you served with uncommon passion. You were my true comrade in all my struggle for the governorship of Edo State”
Promising to take care of the wives and children of the bereaved journalists, Oshiomhole said, “I will do whatever I can to support you (wives), I will support the children. God as their father will stand by you”.
The governor was accompanied by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr Simon Imuekemhe, Commissioners for Environment, Mr Clem Agba, Information and Orientation, Mr Louis Odion and Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Chief Lucky James, Special Adviser, Media Affairs, Mr Tony Iyare and the Secretary of the state branch of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Osaro Idah amongst others