Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has accused his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa, of planning to recruit thugs and hooligans to register as voters in Edo State ahead of the September 10 governorship election.
In a statement by the Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Kassim Afegbua, on Wednesday, the governor alleged that Mr. Okowa connived with the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party to send political thugs to the fringe villages between the two states to fraudulently register as eligible voters with the intention to use them to cause mayhem before and during the election.
But in a swift reaction, the Delta State governor dismissed the allegation, describing it as “laughable” and “baseless.”
Edo and Delta States were formerly known as Bendel State until the 1991 state creation exercise, when it was split into two.
While Mr. Oshiomhole belongs to the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Okowa is of the PDP.
Both parties recently picked their candidates for the governorship election, with Godwin Obaseki emerging as the APC flag bearer and Osagie Ise-Iyamu as that of the PDP.
The Delta State governor attended the June 20 Edo PDP primary election in Benin City, the Edo State capital where he said, “For the government and all of us in Delta State, we promise you our support. With the one sprit I am seeing in us today, we will win the election come September.”
The statement by the Edo State government said, “It has come to our knowledge that following the commencement of the Continuous Voters Registration exercise in Edo state preparatory to the September 10 gubernatorial election in the state, the Peoples’ Democratic Party in connivance with the Delta state Government, has started recruiting thugs and hooligans from Delta State to register as voters in communities sharing border with Edo state.
“We had earlier taken the information with levity when we received it a few days ago, but we now have it on good authority that indeed the PDP Governor of Delta state, His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa is involved in this sinister move to send political thugs to the fringe villages between the two states to fraudulently register as eligible voters with the intention to use them to cause untold mayhem before and during the elections, on September 10th.
“According to information at our disposal, forty political thugs have been dispatched to each of these border villages with the sole aim of registering them as voters before engaging their services to perpetrate violence during the September 10 election.”
The statement said it had put the security agencies on notice of the alleged plan by the Delta State government and its Edo PDP collaborators to cause a breach of security in Edo state.
It warned, “The fact that our people are generally known to be peace-loving should not be misconstrued as a sign of weakness, it is just to make the point that we believe wholesomely that democracy is a game of contestation of ideas and not one of contestation with guns and bullets.
The statement also said the Edo government had put the people of the state “on notice to keep an eagle eye on their environment and resist any infiltration or attempt to undermine the peace and security of the state.”
But Mr. Okowa, in a statement by his media aide, Charles Aniagwu, denied the allegation, describing it as baseless and indicative of loss of confidence of the APC-led government to woo voters based on track records of its achievement.
The statement said it was preposterous for the Edo State government to expect that Deltans would leave their constituencies and embark on a wild goose chase of registering to vote in Edo state.
It noted that the Edo State Government had betrayed its ignorance of the workings of the Permanent Voter Card which makes multiple registrations impossible and asked the APC in the state to restrict itself to issues rather than resort to name- calling.
“Governor Okowa is too refined to engage in such clandestine activities to the extent of decimating his own support base by encouraging his constituents to register in another state,” the statement said.
“What becomes of the fate of Delta political stakeholders who would rely on the votes of those people in subsequent elections?
“This is laughable and is gradually becoming a character of the APC in Edo State to believe that it can scare opponents through smear campaign.
“Governor Okowa declared publicly that he would support the PDP candidate both morally and logistically to win the September 10, 2016 governorship election in Edo State and no amount of browbeating would stop him.”
The statement said the governor recalled Mr. Oshiomhole’s outburst, some weeks ago, against the PDP governors in the southern part of the country, for pledging their support for the PDP in Edo State.
It said Mr. Okowa wondered when it became an offence to declare support for members of one’s party.
“Governor Oshiomhole boasted that he could win election against Governor Okowa in Delta state. Why is the Edo State APC getting fidgety for a mere declaration of support for the PDP candidate by Governor Okowa,” the statement said.
It also said Mr. Okowa had called on the security agencies to intensify their surveillance on all the electoral processes to ensure that those who cried the wolves where there was none did not find a chink to rig the polls.
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