Osun State Governor, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, yesterday blamed political thugs for Saturday’s attempt on his life at the #EndSARS protest in Osogbo, the state capital.
The governor, in a broadcast, however, absolved the protesters of any culpability in the attack in which his vehicles were damaged and some of his aides injured.
He said the youths had embarked on a successful and peaceful road walks with the government several times in the past without attacking anyone.
According to him, the political thugs and hoodlums made failed attempts on his life and those of his aides while he was identifying with the youths who were engaging in legitimate protest against the alleged brutality of the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
He said: “The entourage and I joined protesters from Alekuwodo area to Olaiya Junction chanting solidarity songs with them and encouraging them along the way. During the course of my address to the protesters to reiterate our cooperation and support, political thugs hijacked the exercise and hurled stones and dangerous weapons at us and vandalised several cars in my convoy.”
He added that preliminary investigation revealed that the commando-style with which the assailants carried out their attack was deliberate and pre-planned, saying it was also evident that it was not the genuine protesters that carried out the violence.
He said: “Preliminary investigation further revealed that no live bullet or canister of teargas was fired at the rampaging political thugs. Therefore, no life was lost at the scene of the incident. I was properly evacuated to safety.”
But the governor expressed regrets at the death of two persons even though none occurred during the attack on him.
He explained: “One of the said deaths, which was caused by a lone motorcycle accident, occurred around 12 noon, long before I got to the protest ground.
“The second death was said to have occurred around Ayepe, about five kilometres away from Olaiya where we held the protest.
“We sympathise with the families of the deceased and pray to God to grant them the fortitude to bear the great losses.
“I have directed that the incidents be properly investigated with a view to ascertaining the causes of the deaths.”
Oyetola said this week, the government would set up a judicial panel of inquiry in line with the directive of the National Economic Council (NEC), chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to investigate all related cases of abuse and brutality by the disbanded SARS. The panel will also investigate Saturday’s attack on him.
He described what happened on Saturday as objectionable, unacceptable and a blight to the Omoluabi ethos that Osun State stands for.
He said: “Osun youths who are the original #EndSARS protesters have travelled the long road of building a better
Osun with us and we have been on the lane of delivering a better and prosperous Osun together. This assassination attempt could not have come from them.”
The governor added that his administration had identified with the youths from day one of the protests in the belief that protest is a legitimate right of the citizenry and a core component of democracy.
He noted that on the first day of the protest, senior government officials were at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park to address the protesters.
He recalled that these senior officers of the government also addressed them at the gate of the State Secretariat, Abere, on the fourth day to identify with the protesters, adding that they “pledged our solidarity to their cause and promise to deliver their demands to the president. Those demands have since been met by Mr. President.”
He stated that the protesters had engaged in peaceful demonstrations for the first two days before it was later hijacked in the last five days.
According to him, the state government has cause to raise the alarm last Wednesday that the protest had been hijacked.
The governor added that the All Progressives Congress (APC) also raised another alarm that identified political thugs were seen brandishing dangerous weapons while following the protesters.
He said it was unfortunate that Saturday’s protest, which started peacefully, was allowed to degenerate into violence that threatened the lives and property of the people.
He said as a responsible and responsive government, the state will do everything within the ambit of the law to protect the lives and property of the people.
Oyetola said: “All our citizens and residents are enjoined to be law-abiding as any person found contravening the law shall be made to face the wrath of the law.
“We commit to the cause of our youths and the #EndSARS protesters and shall do everything to ensure that their demands are met.
“We shall fish out the perpetrators of this dastardly act and bring them to justice. We shall not condone any act that will compromise the lives of our people and the hard-won ranking of our state as the most peaceful state in Nigeria.”