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Tension between Akpata, Obaseki's camp over destruction of campaign billboards

The Edo State government has denied any wrongdoing and urged Akpata to address his frustrations through proper channels.

Tension brews as Akpata accuses Obaseki's agents of destroying campaign billboards

Akpata, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), made the allegation in a statement issued in Benin on Friday, June 7, 2024.

The lawyer described the action as desperate, undemocratic, and fascistic, adding that it was intended to undermine the Labour Party's campaign and silence the groundswell of support for the party.

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, Godwin Obaseki.

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“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 antidemocratic 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 clear, 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 destruction of my campaign materials, which 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,” Akpata alleged.

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Meanwhile, the Edo State government has advised the Labour Party governorship candidate to go through the proper channels in expressing his grievances.

The state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, also asked Akpata to interface with relevant agencies responsible for signage to settle any outstanding bills or disputes.

We acknowledge the concerns raised by Mr Olumide Akpata regarding the removal of his campaign billboards.

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“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,” Nehikhare said.

Akpata is one of the leading candidates in the much-anticipated election, alongside Obaseki-endorsed Asue Ighodalo of the PDP and Monday Okpebholo of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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