The police is probing into the murder of one of the aides of Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State governor
It was not supposed to be a matter for political debate. But the killing of Olaitan Oyerinde, the principal private secretary to Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State governor, has entered the realm of politics and unfortunately has attracted a lot of controversy. Why would the death of Oyerinde, who was not a practising politician, be enmeshed in politics? Four gunmen murdered the 44-year-old man in cold blood at his Ugbor Road residence in the wee hours of Friday May 4, 2012, in the presence of his wife, Funke. From the account of the incident by family members and the security guard, the invading gunmen knew their target very well, hence the desperate search for him even when they stumbled on somebody else – his brother-in-law – sleeping on his bed when they stormed his room. The killing of Oyerinde has further heightened political tension in the state coming a few days after Oshiomhole’s convoy crash believed by the governor and his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, to be an assassination attempt on him. Three journalists lost their lives in the accident namely Olatunji Jacob, George Okosun, reporter and cameraman respectively with the Independent Television, ITV, and Fidelis Okhani, cameraman with African Independent Television, AIT.
Like it did when the governor’s convoy was involved in an accident, the state governor and the ruling party are pointing accusing fingers at the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the masterminds of the murder of Oyerinde. Though the reading of politics to the convoy accident was received with some caution, when Oyerinde was murdered, the party again raised alarm that its candidate, Oshiomhole was the target. What appeared to have given the ruling party the conviction that the incidents were politically motivated was that barely 24 hours after the convoy accident, it was reported that four armed men invaded the residence of Louis Odion, the state commissioner for information in the early hours of the morning. Odion did not sleep at home that day because he left a meeting of senior government officials with the governor very late in the night. He passed the night with a colleague on the cabinet, who felt that it was too late and therefore unsafe for him to go home.
Now here is another reason why the Oshiomhole team is insisting that there was political motive in the murder. It occurred on the eve of the re-scheduled planned launch of the governor’s re-election campaign, an exercise which was first postponed to honour those who died during the convoy accident. The original campaign was scheduled to take place the day after that accident. That is why Tony Iyare, special adviser on media to the governor said, “This sequence of sordid events, coming each time on the eve of the flag-off of Governor Oshiomhole’s campaign, raises grave concern.”
Little wonder that Oshiomhole immediately handed down a 14-day ultimatum to the police to fish out the perpetrators of the heinous crime. He also gave the police some leads to follow in their investigation. Addressing a group of protesters, the governor said “we have written a petition to the state commissioner of police in which we informed him of the meeting held at the residence of the godfather…where they took a typical evaluation of the forthcoming election. They agreed it is impossible for them to win, but they also resolved at that meeting that they will take series of actions to intimidate my person and if possible, to eliminate me.”
But Oyerinde is not the governor, so why would anybody consider him a threat, if truly it were politically motivated? The petition attempted a clue: “At that meeting, they said they will kill under the guise of armed robbery; they will kidnap some people, many of my personal staff and some of our key leaders and pretend as if they are victims of kidnapping.” Could the opposition party have been that desperate?
The PDP in a statement last Monday denied complicity in the two incidents and condemned Oshiomhole’s action in “pre-empting the findings of the probe panel and presciently and hastily concluding that certain persons were responsible for the incidents.” The party also gave the police some clues as to where to beam the searchlight in its investigation. Matthew Urhoghide, the state publicity secretary of the party, said “if the accusation that the PDP had a hand in the death of Mr. Olaitan Oyerinde is false, then the perpetrators of the crime are at large and are walking about freely only to rev up and do it again and again to unsuspecting victims. If the accusation of organising the accident involving the governor’s convoy that claimed and maimed lives is also false, then the issues of reckless driving, driving under the influence (of substance), DUI, unstable psychological state of mind, inexperience driving and the speed at which the convoy was travelling become very cogent points to consider by the police probe panel.”
The PDP had accused the governor of having caused the convoy accident because he was driving himself and the drivers were trying to catch up with him at breakneck speed, before allegedly crashing into the truck. The embattled party also called on the police to investigate the information that the driver and owner of the truck were card-carrying members of the ACN and that the lorry even had Oshiomhole and ACN sticker on it.” Urhoghide who described the late Oyerinde as “a fine, respectful…harmless, urbane person who would not hurt a fly” said “his killers deserve no mercy even in hell fire at the appropriate time.” He said “the PDP joins its voice with him (Oshiomhole) to request the speedy, high-powered and thorough probe of both incidents and to make the findings public. On those findings depend our collective security and on the findings hinge our understanding of Governor Oshiomhole’s persona.” The party said it would take “definite steps to oppose any attempts to sweep the results of the investigation under the carpet as all Nigerians are expecting to hear who actually did what in the execution of the dastardly acts.”
This is not the first time in the life of the Oshiomhiole administration the PDP is being put on the defensive for alleged assassination plot. Before the April 2011 general election, the ruling party had accused the opposition party of an attempt to assassinate Ehigie Uzamere, its Edo South Senatorial candidate. Police investigations later exonerated the party as findings showed that some rampaging, opportunistic armed robbers who had sighted his Jeep parked outside the residence of a friend around 10 pm, decided to attack it with the aim of getting some valuables. The senator was nowhere near the vehicle. He reportedly watched the scene from the window of the storey building of his friend. The question is, can it wriggle out of these present allegations?