Governorship candidates of different political parties for the September 19 election in Edo State on Wednesday decried their exclusion from a peace meeting called by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, to address the spate of violence ahead of the elections.
The Benin monarch had specifically invited the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu respectively, and their deputies, as well as the top leaders of both parties.
14 political parties have fielded candidates for the election, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The Oba of Benin’s meeting stemmed from the series of violent attacks that had trailed the ongoing electioneering among supporters of the two major political parties, the PDP and the APC.
There have been accusations and counter-accusations by the two parties over claims of violent attacks by alleged thugs in the past month.
However, Tracy Agol, the governorship candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, said as stakeholders in the forthcoming election, they should have been part of the meeting.
Mrs Agol said, “I think the way they disseminated the information was not proper. I had to call other governorship candidates if they were aware of the peace pact at the palace, they said no.
“Agreed maybe because of the fracas they (PDP and APC) have been having recently, but the truth is that other stakeholders ought to have been involved. If his Royal Majesty wants to address candidates, we should be included.”
Amiemenoghena Akhalamhe, a candidate of the Zenith Labour Party, urged the Oba of Benin to reconvene a peace meeting involving all the 14 governorship candidates in the election.
Mr Akhalamhe said, “we have 14 governorship candidates that have members and followers in this election and if a meeting of this nature is going on we should be included. If we are not aware of any peace meeting, as stakeholders in the forthcoming election, I think we should be invited again.
“This election is not for PDP and APC alone. Although we have always preached peace, all stakeholders must be carried along.”
Felix Obayagbon, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, said he was also not invited to the meeting.
“I just heard of it now, I was not informed. Although we have not been violent in our approach to campaigns. It is the two giant parties, as they call themselves, that someone should fear. If our Oba invites me, I must attend,” Mr Obayagbon said.
At the meeting, Oba Ewaure II warned politicians in the state, especially the candidates of the APC and PDP, against setting the state on fire over the forthcoming governorship election.
The peace accord was initiated by the Oba of Benin and it also had in attendance two former governors of the state, John Odigie-Oyegun, and Adams Oshiomhole.
The Benin monarch said he was worried about the violence across the state over the September 19 poll, stressing that politicians must learn to conduct themselves peacefully.
While noting that the election was not a do-or-die affair, he said the politicians must note that they have only this state to call their own and thus must do everything to protect it from disintegration.
“Both of you are arming thugs and I worry about what will happen with these weapons after the poll. We are doing our bit internally. Traditional prayers are being offered so that there will be peace during the election.
“I want to appeal to the politicians to control the youths, I want the politicians to assure us that there will be peace, you do not kill yourselves over an office. This is the worst scenario of all the politics that we have seen in Edo. Edo politics have been in the news for quite sometimes now for all the wrong reasons.
The Oba of Benin also said he has had sleepless nights over the spate of violence in the state, calling for peace to reign in the state.
“The two candidates must toe the line of peace just like former President Goodluck Jonathan did when he willingly announced his acceptance of defeat in 2015. That singular act changed the prediction of the international community that Nigeria will break up as a result of that election.
“We are begging you politicians, particularly the two political gladiators. You must all do your bit to calm down the tension in the state,” Oba Ewuare II appealed.
The monarch maintained that the traditional institution remained non-partisan and warned his chiefs against making any political statement.
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In their responses, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu gave their assurances to the monarch and promised to ensure that their supporters peacefully conduct themselves henceforth.
Mr Obaseki, the incumbent governor of the state, commended the monarch for his fatherly role.
“I have sworn on oath to protect the people and it will be irresponsible of me to do otherwise, especially that which can lead to the destruction of lives and properties,” Mr Obaseki said.
Similarly, Ize-Iyamu said he would ensure that his supporters peacefully conduct themselves throughout the remaining campaign period and during the election.
Mr Odigie-Oyegun also commended the monarch for the peace initiative and advised the key players to play by the rules.
On his part, Oshiomhole said as a product of peaceful elections, he would not deviate from that which would lead to a peaceful election.