Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu addressing crowd at his residence in Benin

The high drama surrounding the holding of rally by a faction of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to receive Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his defecting political associates and supporters from the PDP, ended yesterday on an anti-climax note, as the factional state chairman, Col. David Imuse (rtd), formally welcomed Ize-Iyamu into the party and presented him and his supporters with a broom, which is the party’s symbol.

This is as the state government issued tough warnings, banning political rallies in any part of the state. Recall that the rally was earlier scheduled to hold yesterday at Garrick Memorial School in Benin City, but controversy over the event arose after Governor Godwin Obaseki announced that he was not aware of the rally.

Though the Police had earlier granted approval for the rally to hold, it cancelled the permit on Thursday, following violent protest against the holding of the rally. But in a smart move, the organisers of the rally changed the venue to the private residence of Pastor Ize-Iyamu, where Col. Imuse in company of other party leaders received the defectors.

Before the ceremony, there were bonfires and sporadic gunshots at Abuja Junction of First Ugbor road, possibly to discourage people from attending the mega rally while residents of the area scampered for safety. Vehicles were forced to use alternative routes for fear of possible attack. The factional APC chairman in his speech, said the coming of Ize-Iyamu and his supporters from the 18 local government areas of the state to the party was a homecoming worthy of celebration and that it will add value to the party.

“We are here to celebrate the homecoming of our brothers and sisters from the PDP who have come to add value to our party; not only to add value, they are coming to make our party grow from strength to strength so that we can win at all levels”.

Imuse who urged all members of the party in the state to close ranks so that it can grow from strength to strength, called those he said were sitting on the fence to come and join the party, adding that as a party with a large heart, the APC was open to all.

Receiving the broom from the APC chairman, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu said the notion that he was joining the APC in Benin City was wrong because he had already done so as required by party regulations at his Ugboko ward in Orhionnwon Local Government Area. Displaying his APC membership card, he said, “For those who are in doubt, the moment I made up my mind to join the APC, I went to my ward and am proud to say I have registered in Ugboko ward in Orhionmwon local government area”.

Pastor Ize-Iyamu thanked his supporters for coming to his residence for the event, saying he was confident his decision to return home to the APC will, “by the grace of God make APC grow from strength to strength”. He appreciated his supporters for turning out enmasse despite the disappointment of a change of venue.

Speaking to newsmen shortly after his reception into the party Pastor Ize-Iyamu said he is pleading with those who felt threatened by his home coming to have a rethink adding that he is only coming to add value to the party and not to wage war against anybody.

“And for those who feel threatened or apprehensive, I want to please reassure them that we are not coming to fight in APC, we are not coming to wage war, we are coming to add value and so, we will continue to stretch our hands of friendship to everyone”.

He said he has learnt in life to move on even in the face of obstacles stressing that he is happy to have come along with his friends to join the party. Well, I am very happy. In my life, I have learnt never to be deterred by obstacles and so, I have made up my mind with those who also believe in me to join the party that we founded in this state and even in this country, the APC.

“So, today, we are surrounded by old friends and comrades in politics who have come to receive us. The crowd, as you can see, is mammoth and we thank God that there was no obstacle.

“For those who could not make it because of the difficulty, we apologize to them and I assure them that there will be another date and for those who came, I want to appreciate them. It has been a wonderful day, the weather has honoured us, the leadership have honoured us and we are very glad”, he said.

Ize-Iyamu who said he has gone to his ward to register as a party member added that he thought that the event would be marred by violence but thanked God that his coming back to the APC as a party was peaceful. And like I mentioned, this place is not actually the place to join a political party and so even before today, I have gone to my ward in Ugboko in Orhionmwon and I have registered as a member of the APC. It is signed by my ward chairman. So, today is just a ceremony to welcome me home and I want to thank God Almighty that gave us enabling environment. People thought it will be violent but was not but it was very peaceful and I thank all our people and I look forward to working with everybody in APC and to make it a stronger party”, he said.

Also speaking, the former deputy governor of the state, Dr. Pius Odubu, said Pastor Ize-Iyamu has been a foundation member of the party and that their hands are widely open to welcome him back to the party he helped to found.

“Together APC remains in power here in Edo State, at the federal level. I thank my brother, Pastor, for coming home for he is a foundation member of this party. He worked hard for the stabilization of this party now this is a home coming for him and our hands are wide open and now you can see we all came here to receive him. It is well. I tell you, freedom comes by struggle”, Odubu said. Earlier yesterday, the state government announced a total ban on all political rallies, demonstrations or procession in any part of the state. It directed all security agencies to deal firmly with all persons, no matter how highly placed who breach the directive.

A statement signed by Secretary to the Edo State Government, Osarodion Ogie, said the state government has made clear its position that the “plan by some identified mischief-makers to organise an unauthorised political rally in Benin City was capable of leading to breakdown of public peace and also danger to the persons and property of Edo citizens.”

The statement warned property owners that any venue which is used for activities in breach of this order shall have its right of occupancy immediately revoked and forfeited to the state government.

Ogie said the state government would not allow any person turn the state into a battlefield. “The events of yesterday 12th December, 2019 were a scary prelude to the absolute mayhem which these irresponsible activities would generate if left unchecked. M“In defiance of the clear and publicized instruction of the Inspector General of Police, calling off the proposed rally owing to security implications, these desperate persons are presently shopping around for alternative venues to carry out their incendiary activities”, the statement said.

At the APC secretariat in Benin City, security was beefed up with scores of party supporters seated around the secretariat apparently waiting to forestall any eventuality.

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