Last week, Edo state was in the news for some unpalatable reasons as no fewer than twelve persons were reportedly injured and 2 vehicles destroyed when Civil Society protest was allegedly hijacked by hoodlums in a melodrama that occurred at the King square which has sent tongues wagging as usual.

Members of Edo State Civil Society were said to be protesting the pension entitlement bill passed by the Edo State House of Assembly for former governors and their deputies to build N200 million and N100 million mansion respectively at any location of their choice.

Reports had it that mid way into the protest by the group, suspected thugs who, obviously were in support of the bill clashed with the protesters. The infiltrators were said to be armed with dangerous weapons who then unleashed mayhem on the protesters as passerby ran for cover.

?The head of the protesters, Comrade Omobude Agho claimed that their attackers were sponsored by the state government. In his words: “You saw how they destroyed cars, I was beaten mercilessly and same with other comrades. We are shocked to see members of the government following them and giving them instructions on what to do. These are politicians whose wives and children are not in this state or this country. I think our democracy has been virtually murdered, we don’t have one.

” No matter what they do we want to send message to members of the Edo State House of Assembly and to the governor, to say we will not give up, the fight shall continue and resist this obnoxious policy.”

A different media , Urhokpota Reporters pointedly accused the Deputy Governor of Edo state, Phillip Shaibu of being the mastermind of the attack on the protesters. According the online media, “Philip charged our leaders up with good money to disrupt anyone who plans to embarrass this government.”

They claimed that “many of the protesters were beaten up and some have their heads broken with dangerous weapons by the government-backed thugs while the police looked on helpless..” Where is the source of the report and where is the evidence that Phillip Shaibu sent the attackers? It is not enough for anyone to allege, the onus of proof lies with the protesters.

Interestingly too, members of the conventional media asked Omobude if he was acting on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he was quick to deny that he was not hired by the PDP. But it does seem to me that Comrade Omobude Agho is being economical with the truth. He should tell that to the marines because Edo people are still stupefied as to how some persons hitherto revered and respected as “human rights activists” condescended so low during the last Edo State Governorship election to be openly campaigning like any other card-wielding members for the PDP. They were also very conspicuous, shamelessly though and leading the protest on the streets for days when they lost out. They are alleged to have received huge sums of money from the PDP which they used to open a mighty office in Benin labeled “Mandate or Victory Reclamation House” on the same day Governor Godwin Obaseki was sworn-in at the Ogbemudia Stadium.

They are human rights activists in the day and PDP members in the night. But when their party was defeated in the September 20, governorship poll, they could no longer hide their treachery and double standards. Edo people are all aware that the hitherto “human rights activists:” Rev. Olu Martins, Barrister Abraham Oviawe and Leader of so-called Talakawa Parliament in Edo State, Mr. Kola Edokpayi are all in the PDP train!

If all these people who Edo people have been seeing on the streets and on television screens parading themselves as Civil Society Leaders and Comrades and human rights activists could be so deceptive, then it means that democracy is in serious trouble. They have been presenting themselves as sheep to Edo people, unknown to many that they are ravening wolves. How on earth will anybody, including thugs not see Omobude Agho as PDP stalwart?

However, the Chief Press Secretary to Edo Governor, Mr. John Mayaki, said the state government recognised the rights and freedom of citizens to express their opinion on public issues and would not do anything to infringe on their freedom. He equally said there was no iota of truth in the claim of the CSOs as government would not in any way attempt to gag the people’s freedom. This is the truth of the matter. The Edo State Government led by Godwin Obaseki cannot sponsor thugs to beat up people who are civil in their conduct on the streets of Benin, Even when the so-called Civil Society organisations led the PDP protest against the conduct of the elections, nobody beat them up. So, Omobude Agho and his PDP co- supporters should find out which of their factions, whether the Ali Modou Sheriff or the Ahmed Markarfi faction hired the thugs that beat them up and leave the Edo State Government out of their trauma.

When Omobude Agho falsely claimed that agents of the state government escorted the thugs and were giving them instructions on what to do to them, he did not tell the journalists who the government official were, because that cannot be correct. As at today, the State Government has not appointed more than 8-10 persons who are very busy trying to develop a road map for massive infrastructural development of the state. Omobude should name the state official that was with thugs and produce the evidence that that official was actually with the thugs giving them instructions.
Edo State Government should not be drawn into the malicious report as regards the sponsoring of thugs to attack persons who embarked on a protest march against the Mansion Bill which was recently passed by the State House of Assembly.

As stated, by the Edo Government spokesperson, Edo Government in the past eight years have recognised the rights and freedom of citizens to express their opinion on public issues and would not do anything to infringe on that. Edo Government believes in popular participation, engagement and in the tenets of democracy. Edo State is very popular for Civil Society activism as government has always given them opportunity to air their opinions, carry out protests and exercise their fundamental human rights. This is key to democracy and development of any modern society.

Almost every day the Edo House of Assembly play host to protesters bringing one form of request or the other. As Civil Society Organisation, one expects that it is during public hearing on Bills that you come to give your opinion on an impending law not after the bill has been passed into law. Experience has shown that during public hearings, you will hardly find stakeholders coming to express themselves. It is after a law has been enacted by the parliament they come and start shouting, this is wrong. It is even worse when a stakeholder is already compromised like some CSOs are now in the pockets of PDP in Edo State.

It is, therefore important to emphasise that he major negative factors that have prevented development and stability in our political dispensation is politics of bitterness. That was what destroyed the PDP that it cannot stand till date. Often times I see politicians killing each other, betraying one another because of political positions or appointments and I wonder: Does politics teach us to destroy one another? Is politics meant to eradicate integrity and love for one another?

Politicians need to understand and appreciate the ethics of politics and true meaning of politics. The essence of Politics is to promote one another, enhance development in our society, promote peace and unity and advance the common good of society. If Edo children want to play politics they should go and register as members of political parties. But a situation where you claim to be a Civil Society activist today and tomorrow you are collecting money from politicians and political parties to do their biddings, just know that you cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot disguise your identity because it is a matter of time, your true identity will come out.

We fail in our political ambitions and positions because of wrong motives in politics. If Edo Civil Society and their PDP did not win the last governorship election, that is not enough reason to want to make the state ungovernable. If youth want to engage government, you must be constructive, not destructive. If you plan to be destructive, you may end up destroying yourselves. But Edo State would move on beyond those who want to pull it down. That is the commitment of the government of the day.

Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Edo State