A governorship aspirant on the platform of the Labour Party, Olumide Akpata, has denied claims that he had a hand in the protest that took place at the party’s secretariat in Benin on Sunday.
Members of the Edo Chapter of the Labour Party on Sunday evening had protested against the party’s national chairman, Julius Abure over alleged support for some aspirants ahead of the party governorship primary to be held later this month.
The angry members, mainly youths, who besieged the state party secretariat with placards bearing different inscriptions, while chanting, “Abure must go”, were prevented from entering the building by security operatives.
The state chairman of the Labour Party, Comrade Kelly Ogbaloi told us on Monday that the secretariat of the party was attacked by protesting members with dangerous weapons.
He said, “People came protesting with dangerous weapons and they told the press that they were protesting because they were informed that the primary will not be free and fair so they came to attack us. For over two hours, we were under siege but we were protected by some security operatives. That was why we were not within their reach.”
In a press statement released after Akpata addressed journalists on Tuesday in Benin, he said he was in a party to join hands with others to build it and it was unthinkable that he would be linked with such things.
He said, “It has come to my attention that there was a protest on Sunday, 4th February 2024, at the Labour Party State Secretariat in Benin City, Edo State, which allegedly turned violent.
“I want to clearly and unequivocally state that I do not know this protest, nor have I sanctioned or approved it in any way. The baseless rumours and insinuations that have been mischievously circulated that these protesters are carrying out my bidding are totally false, unfounded, and quite frankly ridiculous.
“As a loyal, dedicated member of the Labour Party who has invested significant time, energy, and resources towards building and strengthening the Party across Edo State since I joined, it is both laughable and utterly despicable that I would be linked to any kind of violent protest at the party’s secretariat.
“It is very likely that these bogus allegations and rumours are emanating from certain quarters within and even outside the Labour Party that are opposed to my emerging as the Labour Party’s gubernatorial flagbearer in the upcoming February 22, 2024, primary elections. In their desperation, they have resorted to underhanded tactics and smear campaigns to undermine my widespread credibility, acceptability, and support base within and outside the Party in Edo State and across the country.
“Amusingly, this is quite similar to an earlier campaign of calumny that sought to link me to acts of violence meted out against a former National Youth Leader of the Party in Benin City. This is yet another ludicrous attempt to unjustly give a dog a bad name to hang it.
“I want to categorically state that I, my campaign organisation, supporters, and well-wishers do not engage in, encourage, or sanction any kind of violence or unwholesome conduct. These puerile allegations are the products of malicious minds that are aimed at unfairly and irreparably tarnishing my hard-earned reputation, image, and rising popularity as a foremost gubernatorial aspirant of choice within the Labour Party in Edo State.
“The good and discerning people of Edo State and Nigerians at large know what I stand for. They know my antecedents and that my track record is one of integrity, maturity, and excellence. As such, these attempts to unjustly smear my character by linking me to acts I have no knowledge of or involvement in will certainly fail.
“As a lawyer of more than 30 years, I fully understand that peaceful protest is the fundamental right of every Nigerian citizen, guaranteed by the constitution and upheld by the courts of the land. Law-abiding citizens have a right to freely associate and to protest, provided that this is done peacefully and legally without threatening lives or property.
“However, if any person has acted unlawfully in the course of this alleged protest, I strongly urge that they be promptly reported to the appropriate law enforcement agencies for proper investigation and possible prosecution as provided by our laws.
“I have confidence in the discerning wisdom of members of the Labour Party, Edo people, and indeed Nigerians to reject all forms of violence, propaganda, and deceit. United in our diversity, we shall build a greater Edo State,” he added.