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The Edo State Deputy Governor, Dr. Pius Odubu, has given full details of the assasination plot over his life, which occured in the Etsako West Local Government Area of the state.
Odubu, a governorship aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress for the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, was reportedly attacked on Saturday by some armed thugs on his way to Auchi to meet with party delegates in the area.
The thugs were allegedly paid N1m to carry out the act.
Odubu, who is said to currently have a frosty relationship with Governor Adams Oshiomhole due to his governorship ambition, was said to have been denied access to the APC secretariat at Fugar on Saturday.
He was said to have left for Auchi and was meeting with some delegates when the suspected thugs suddenly appeared and opened fire on the gathering, leaving several persons injured, including a policeman and an operative of the Department of State Services.
Odubu, who spoke through the Odubu Campaign Organisation on Sunday, during a press briefing in Benin, said he had to be shielded inside a hall to avoid “direct bullet contacts”.
The campaign organisation added, “Surprisingly, at Auchi, the deputy governor and his team met with passionate, patriotic (and) huge number of delegates but no sooner had the meeting begun that gunmen opened fire outside the secretariat on both security men and members of the deputy governor’s entourage and delegates.”
It noted that although the attack was “orchestrated directly at his person” and geared towards disrupting the aims of the campaign, seven persons sustained varying degrees of injuries and were receiving treatment at the University of Benin Teaching hospital.
Speaking on behalf of the organisation, a former Minority Whip in the House of Representatives, Mr. Samson Osagie, listed the victims to include a DSS operative, Patrick Amakiri; his escort police commander, Inspector Agge Felix; and a driver, Zibiri Yakubu.
Osagie explained that preliminary investigation revealed three principal suspected masterminds of the attack.
He described the attack as an act of cowardice “perpetrated by those who dread a free, fair and credible democratic contest” and an attempt to compel the deputy governor “to quit the governorship race or be eliminated”.
Osagie called on the national leadership of the APC to intervene in the ongoing development in the state.
“This, to us, is the height of naked display of cruelty, animosity, acrimony, intolerance, gross irresponsibility and man’s inhumanity to man,” he added.
The leadership of the state chapter of the APC condemned the attack on the deputy governor, calling it “absolute madness”, which had become “endemic” in the party.
The state APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Godwin Erhahon, stated this in a statement on Sunday.
Erhahon added, “I am not a member of any campaign organisation; I am not a supporter of any aspirant.
“Therefore, I am here to also condemn what happened yesterday at Auchi on behalf of all the APC members and leaders who are not yet infested with the ongoing madness that has become endemic in the party.
“What happened yesterday was absolute madness. I think we should pray for them (perpetrators) so that sanity can come into them, otherwise, they will end up destroying themselves.”
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, on Sunday, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party also condemned the incident, calling on various security agencies to investigate the matter and bring the perpetrators of “this heinous crime to book”.
Meanwhile, the Edo State Police Command said it had begun a manhunt for the masterminds of the attack.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, who said this in Benin on Sunday, noted that the incident was “clearly avoidable” in a civilised society.
Ezike added, “2016 is a peaceful year and it’s all our prayer that it should bring peace to the people of Edo State and that is without prejudice to the incident of yesterday (Saturday). I have held that the incident of yesterday was clearly avoidable and should not have happened; it has no business happening.
“And for the perpetrators, I have given the marching order that those named be arrested. Very luckily, a few names have been mentioned and they are not ghosts; so, the command is after them.”
He, however, noted that due to the location of Edo as a “gateway” and “getaway” to other parts of the country, the police had been mopping up arms from criminals in order to ensure the safety of lives and property.
But the Edo State Government has dismissed as false the claim by the campaign organisation of Odubu that an attempt was made by thugs to assassinate him at Auchi, in the Estako West Local Government Area of the state.
The state government, in a statement by the Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Prince Kassim Afegbua, and made available to The PUNCH on Sunday, said the claim was not only untrue but appeared hasty.
It explained that while the incident was condemnable, the clash was caused by thugs allegedly loyal to the deputy governor, as preliminary reports suggested that security details attached to him, allegedly fired the first shots to scare away party supporters, who kicked against the presence of the thugs in their area.
The statement read, “It is instructive to note that the deputy governor was inside the secretariat building of the APC in company with the party chairman in the local government, Alhaji Umoru Akokhia, addressing the delegates while thugs, loyal to him, who had become unruly, fired gunshots at other APC loyalists, who were outside protesting against his visit.
“It should be noted that among those who sustained injuries are APC loyalists, who are presently receiving medical attention in the hospital.
“It is laughable that the Odubu Campaign Organisation will allege that the deputy governor, with a full compliments of security details, was shot at, yet no casualty was recorded on the other side and nobody apprehended.”
It added, “Given the above scenario, we find it lousy for anyone to impute assassination theory as propounded by the Odubu Campaign Organisation especially when investigations are still ongoing and the police are yet to submit their findings on the fracas.”
Meanwhile, the APC chairman in the Estako West LGA of Edo State, Akokhia, has however, debunked the reports that Saturday’s attack in the area was targeted at Odubu.
Akokhia, who stated this in an interview with journalists at the Government House, Benin, the Edo State capital, however, noted that the alleged assassination attempt might have been carried out by “thugs that he (Odubu) brought”.
He explained that the warm reception accorded Odubu by the party was interrupted by shouts of ‘Odubu, you don win; Odubu, na you we know’, which came from a crowd outside the venue of the meeting.
He added, “Before the deputy governor came, there were boys around. I asked them what they came for. They said they came to see the deputy governor and I told them they were not invited and that they were not delegates. They said they were Odubu supporters.
“Anybody that said the attack was directed at the deputy is a liar. We were together inside my office. He was inside my office during the shooting.”