BusinessEdo 2024: Akpata Tackles Edo Govt Over Campaign Billboards Vandalisation

Edo 2024: Akpata Tackles Edo Govt Over Campaign Billboards Vandalisation

June 9, (THEWILL)- The Labour Party (LP) candidate for the September 21 governorship election in Edo State, Barr. Olumide Akpata, at the weekend raised the alarm over alleged destruction of his billboards across the state, particularly in Benin city, by suspected agents of the Edo state government.

Akpata, who raised the alarm at a press conference in Benin City on Friday, described the action, as a coordinated, premeditated and insidious assault on his constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, political expression, and the fundamental tenets of democracy itself.

Titled “Pulling Down of My Billboards by Agents of Governor Obaseki: The Clouds Are Gathering”, Akpata said, “This is a desperate, undemocratic, and fascistic action being employed by the incumbent administration to undermine our campaign and silence our voice—the voice of the people.”

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According to him, “Over the past few days, we have witnessed a coordinated, premeditated, and insidious assault on our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, political expression, and the fundamental tenets of democracy itself.

“Billboards that I, as a law-abiding citizen and a gubernatorial candidate, legally paid for and erected across the length and breadth of Benin City have come under attack from the Local Government Areas, who are agents of the incumbent governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.

“In Oredo Local Government Area, two of my billboards were viciously vandalised, defaced, and ultimately torn down, with explicit threats of more removals to come.

“The situation is equally dire and unacceptable in Ovia North East, where two more billboards bearing my visage and campaign messages were mindlessly destroyed by these merchants of anti-democratic forces.

“In Ikpoba Okha, my campaign team has received unambiguous threats that our billboards in that area will also be targeted for elimination. Let me be absolutely crystal clear: these are not the actions of a democratic government secure in its mandate, popular goodwill, and record of accomplishments in office.

“No, these are the desperate, last-ditch tactics of an intolerant regime terrified of the winds of change blowing across our dear state—a regime paralysed by the fear of the people’s burgeoning yearning for a new direction, a new vision, and a new era of progressive and inclusive governance.

“By resorting to the unbridled destruction of my campaign materials — materials that I have legally and legitimately paid for with hard-earned resources—Governor Obaseki and his handlers have clearly shown themselves to be anti-democratic forces intolerant of divergent voices, dissenting opinions, and the fundamental principles of pluralism that undergird any true democracy worth the name”, he said.

Akpata, a former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), noted that by this action, “the state and its agents are laying bare, for all to see, their disdain for the rights and freedoms that generations of Nigerians have fought, bled, and died for—the sacrosanct rights and freedoms that serve as the bedrock upon which our democratic edifice is erected.

“By their actions, they have demonstrated a callous disregard for the rule of law, due process, and the sanctity of our democratic institutions.

“To the perpetrators of this undemocratic brigandage—the faceless, shadowy minions deployed to carry out these nefarious acts under the cover of darkness—let this serve as a solemn warning:

“We, the Labour Party, and indeed all well-meaning citizens of Edo State who cherish our hard-won democracy, shall not be cowed, intimidated, or browbeaten into silence.

“We shall unapologetically and robustly defend our constitutional right to freely campaign, share our vision, and interface with the good people of Edo State without let or hindrance.

“To the agents deployed to carry out these dastardly acts of impunity, I urge you to search the depths of your conscience and desist from further enabling this descent into the abyss of undemocratic totalitarianism.

“You are not just vandalising mere billboards; you are vandalising the sacred tenets and ethos of our democracy. You are urinating on the graves of the martyrs whose sacrifices paved the way for the democratic freedoms we enjoy today, albeit imperfectly.

“The people of Edo State, long-suffering and resilient though they may be, deserve a free, fair, credible, and transparent election premised on the robust exchange and marketplace of ideas, not desperate acts of vandalism, repression, and violence from those terrified of their dwindling popular mandate.

“The clouds may be gathering; the ill winds of anti-democratic perfidy may be howling; but our resolve, our determination, and our commitment to the cause of democratic rejuvenation in our beloved state remain unshaken, unwavering, and inscribed in indelible ink. We shall overcome these anti-democratic forces through the sheer power of the people’s will and our unshakable faith in the democratic process.

“We shall campaign—lawfully, vigorously, and indefatigably—until the last day, taking our message of renewed hope, sustainable prosperity, and progressive governance to every nook and cranny, every village and hamlet, of this state.

“Our campaign is not a jamboree; it is a revolutionary struggle to emancipate our people from the asphyxiating grip of mal-governance, mediocrity, and the crass debasement of democratic values.

“The struggle continues, but rest assured, the Labour Party, drawing strength and sustenance from the people, will match every act of desperation with greater determination until light overpowers the forces of darkness in our dear state.

“We will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of despair and despondency to enthrone a new era of accountable, responsive, and people-centric governance in the hallowed lands of Edo.

“To the masses—the downtrodden and the oppressed of Edo State—I say to you: Be not afraid! The Labour Party is your party, the party of the people, the party that will banish the spectre of poverty, underdevelopment, and lack of opportunity from our horizons. We are the vehicle through which your long-suppressed yearnings and aspirations will find vent and expression.”

In its reaction, the Edo State Government described the allegation as false and urged Akpata to liaise with relevant agencies responsible for the management of signage to settle any outstanding bills or disputes.

While it condemned any form of vandalism, the government through the Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, also advised Akpata to address the internal crisis in his party.

The Edo Commissioner urged Akpata to prioritise addressing the internal challenges within his party and work towards fostering its unity and stability rather than accusing the state government of vandalizing billboards.

He said, “We acknowledge the concerns raised by Mr Olumide Akpata, regarding the removal of his campaign billboard. The Edo State Government condemns any form of vandalism and urges all parties involved to address such issues through proper channels.

“While we understand Mr Akpata’s frustration, we encourage him to engage with the relevant agencies responsible for the management of signage to settle any outstanding bills or disputes. Threats of violence or disobedience have no place in our democratic process, and all parties should conduct themselves with decorum and respect for the law.

“It is essential that we focus on constructive dialogue and peaceful engagement rather than resorting to tactics that may incite division or unrest. The government remains committed to upholding the rule of law and will address any disruptive behaviour, regardless of one’s status or affiliation.

“We encourage Mr Akpata to prioritise addressing the internal challenges within his party and work towards fostering unity and stability. Let us all strive to promote a peaceful and inclusive electoral process for the benefit of all citizens.”

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