By WOLE MOSADOMI & HENRY UMORU
SULEJA – THE Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Zone B rally in Niger State was , yesterday, rocked by a massive bomb blast that killed at least 10 people leaving scores severely injured.
Vanguard gathered that no fewer than 20 people were rushed to the Suleja General Hospital as a result of various degrees of injuries they received from the incident, while four are in critical condition. The State governor, Dr. Mu‘azu Babangida Aliyu and his deputy, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto who were present at the rally ground, however, escaped unhurt.
Yesterday’s bomb blast was denounced by former Military President Ibrahim Babangida who said that it was “disturbing and disheartening to note that bombings are becoming part and parcel of the democratic process.”
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, gubernatorial candidate in Niger State, Alhaji Bawa Bwari also condemned the bomb blast. Bwari said that violence and intimidation were strangers to the democratic process.
The rally started on a good note with the state governor, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu and other PDP stalwarts in attendance, but the venue, Government Secondary School, Suleja, was rocked by the blast when they were about to leave.
Singing of National Anthem
It was learnt that as the crowd was singing the National Anthem to round off the rally, a moving vehicle along the Suleja-Abuja road slowed down at the venue of the rally while someone from the vehicle threw the bomb into the large crowd.
The bomb exploded immediately leaving no fewer than 10 people dead and scores of others injured. The moving vehicle which nobody could immediately identify was said to have sped off the scene after unleashing the terror on the innocent people.
Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, and his deputy, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, were hurriedly ferried out of the venue by security operatives while other top government officials also jumped into their vehicles and zoomed off for safety.
News of the blast threw Suleja town into confusion as traders along the area closed shop immediately and ran for safety.
Consequently, residents of the town especially those living along Rafin Sanyin area who got wind of the incidence panicked with many immediately placing their homes under lock and key. At press time, more policemen had been drafted to the scene, keeping vigil over the area.
Vanguard noted that the confusion would have led to another stampede and an increase in the number of casualties if the venue did not have many exit points.
The rally which was organized to kick start Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta’s campaign for return to the National Assembly had the state governor, Dr. Aliyu urging the people of the zone to vote en-masse for Senator Dahiru Kuta to enable him to continue with the good work he had started at the National Assembly.
The pomp and pageantry and other activities that were supposed to add colour to the rally could not hold as the rally came to an abrupt end.
An unconfirmed source later told Vanguard that a similar blast erupted few metres from venue of the rally which further threw the ancient city of Suleja into confusion, but it could not be ascertained whether there were casualties and the extent of damage.
Efforts to get the state police command spokesman, ASP Richard Oguche, to react and confirm whether any arrests had been made proved abortive as his phone was put off.
IBB, Bwari react
Reacting to the bomb explosion yesterday, Babangida in a statement issued by his spokesman, Prince Kassim Afegbua said: “Bomb explosions are gradually removing the beauty and attraction of political campaigns from being a platform where issues are presented to the electorate to being one that is dominated with fear, apprehension, suspicion, intimidation and threat to humanity.
The callous act of the bombers calls for total condemnation by all, and we must not shy away from the fact that security remains a major concern to all of us in our bid to creating an egalitarian society where everyone’s rights are protected.
“It is utterly shocking, disturbing and disheartening to note that bombings are becoming part and parcel of the democratic process.
“My heart goes to the families of those who lost their precious ones as a result of this ugly incident. My heart goes to the people and government of Niger State over this barbaric act. My heart goes to the Emir of Suleja, the host town over this spectre of violence that has brought shame to all of us. My heart goes to Mr. President and the good people of Nigeria over this sad incident.”
Bwari in his reaction to the bombing condemned it, saying: “Bombing or whatever form of violence are strangers to our democratic process. We must join hands to ensure that such aberrations are uprooted from the system.”