By Dayo Johnson
RATHER than abate, the internal crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ondo State turned bloody during the week leaving many injured and property destroyed. This is coming barely few weeks to the governorship election in the state.
While party supporters earnestly await the October 19 deadline given by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for substitution of candidate by political parties, supporters of the APC candidate, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, and an aggrieved aspirant, Dr Olusegun Abraham, engaged themselves in a battle of wits.
Supporters of Abraham across the 18 Local Government Areas of the state converged on Mobil Petrol station opposite Fiwasaye Girls Grammar school, on Tuesday, to stage a rally rejecting the “imposition” of Akeredolu by the National Working Committee, NWC and asking that the mandate be returned to Abraham.
Placards displayed by the protesters had such inscriptions as: “With Abraham we stand” “Restore Abraham’s mandate” “Abraham is APC’s candidate” and “ Abraham is the authentic winner of September 3 primary.”
Supporters clash: Abraham’s supporters had a successful outing until they got to the party secretariat where their leader wanted to address newsmen.
Some youths numbering about 50 invaded the secretariat and a bloody clash ensued. The popular Oba Adesida road became a battle field between the youths and the protesters.
Initially, the supporters of Abraham, who were not expecting such an attack took to their heels only to return with full force to dislodge the youths said to be Akeredolu’s supporters. Many people reportedly sustained machete wounds, while vehicles were vandalized.
Economic activities were paralysed while the bloody clash lasted. An unspecified number of party supporters and passers-by were reportedly wounded during the melee. The timely deployment of policemen with Armoured Personnel Carriers by the Police Commissioner, Hilda Harrison, saved the situation and brought normalcy to the state capital.
The blame game: Both parties traded blames after the clash.
The spokesperson of the protesters, Rotimi Agbede, said: “We are protesting against the name submitted by the national leadership of our party. If as a party, we are preaching anti-corruption and a sane society, we cannot be seen to be doing otherwise. We don’t want some people to drag our party into the abyss.
Agbede, who alleged that the delegates list was padded with over 200 fake delegates, said: “We believe that the national leadership will see reasons with what we are saying. We are not leaving the party because we are founding members.”
He alleged that some hoodlums, who have sympathy for Akeredolu “came armed with cutlasses, dane guns, charms and other dangerous weapons to attack the people that were carrying on with their peaceful protest. Some people are saying they are from Aketi’s camp, I wouldn’t know.”
Reacting, Abraham described the attack on his supporters as uncivilized and barbaric, noting that such people should not be trusted with governance as their administration would further worsen the present economic and financial crises facing the state .
He said: “It was a peaceful rally asking for our mandate to be restored and not to be delayed. All of a sudden, the people attacked the peaceful rally organised by my supporters. Is this the kind of thug we want to put in power? Is it thuggery they use for governance? Thuggery is different from governance.”
The aggrieved aspirant also insisted that the party would fail woefully in the coming election if Akeredolu’s name was not substituted before the October 19 deadline given by INEC.
According to him: “The crowd has also shown clearly and I believe that the powers that be would also listen to the crowd because these are the people that will vote, unless they don’t want their votes. And that is a recipe for failure. I don’t pray that our party should fail.
“It is not all about me, but at this level, we think we should work together so that we can rescue our state.”
Ondo APC reacts: Also reacting, the Party’s Publicity Secretary, Abayomi Adesanya disowned the protesters alleging that they were “hired hungry youths from Kogi, Ekiti and Edo states.” Adesanya, said “we reliably gathered that these people, who are youths and students were hired from neighbouring states and tertiary institutions and given N2000 each then were mobilized to Akure.”
The party’s spokesperson said the protesters were mobilized “to create an unnecessary scene and disrupting the peace we enjoy in the state.
“The protesters are not our party members. We do not have hooligans in our Party. All our members have accepted the decision of the Party on Akeredolu’s candidature and are in various units and wards across the state mobilizing for the Party and its candidate,” he added.
Besides, he said: “The Party is supreme and its decision is binding on all members irrespective of status. The public should disregard them and security agencies should do the needful.”