The claim that the state administration refused the Labour Party permission to use the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium for the party’s rally drew a response from Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
In an interview, Evangelist Tony Ekhine, a leader of the LP in Edo State, claimed that he personally wrote the office of Secretary to the State Government Osarodion Ogie to request the use of the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium but was informed that the location was off-limits to political activity.
However, he was urged to use the Garrick Ground across from the University of Benin’s Ekewan Campus on Ekewan Road. But he noted that this recommendation was again rejected, forcing him to utilize the Baptist Church Ground.
He said, “We wrote to the state government for the use of Sam Ogbemudia Stadium. The letter was acknowledged in the office of the SSG. We were advised to request for the use of the Garrick ground, which we did and was granted to us. But we were denied the use of the ground in the 11th hour. The act is barbaric, backward, primitive and sad.”
Reacting, the state governor said the leadership of the Labour Party in the state applied for use of the facility late; adding to that, they were not given ample time to prepare the facility for such an event.
Obaseki said, “I heard they applied on Wednesday night to hold a rally at the Samuel Ogbemudia stadium on Friday morning; giving us one day’s notice. And the tracks in the stadium are still under warranty.
“The pitch has to be maintained in a certain mode. So, it’s not just another facility that you can go in and use without preparing.
“If they knew they had a rally on Friday, why couldn’t they give more time and notice; so that we give them the conditions under which they can use the pitch? The same thing we did to PDP when they wanted to use the pitch.
“And the only reason why we allowed the PDP rally was because it was also used as an opportunity to commission that facility. Otherwise most other rallies are held in other large grounds around the city. But I expected more from the Labour party.
“I expect they should be more serious. I spoke to my friend Peter Obi the night before. He told me he was coming to the state and we offered him all the courtesy including the security and some logistics.
“I didn’t know they were coming for a rally. For me, the issue didn’t come up to me. The people had to deal with the issue at the Sports commission and they did what they had to do professionally,” Obaseki revealed.