*Groups hold marches also in Abia, Anambra, Plateau
*Umahi not aware of disruption – Media Aide
* We came to ensure law and order — Police
By Clifford Ndujihe, Vincent Ujumadu, John Alechenu, Peter Okutu, Marie-Therese Nanlong & Steve Oko
SUPPORTERS of the Labour Party, LP, presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, stormed four states of the country, holding simultaneous marches in Ebonyi, Abia, Anambra and Plateau to drum support for the former Anambra State governor.
The marches that affected human and vehicular movements in the four states were peaceful but initially ran into glitches in Ebonyi State when the police personnel tear-gassed and disrupted the gathering.
The police action elicited sharp criticisms from the LP, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum and the Coalition of South-East Youth Leaders, COSEYL.
The rally for Obi in Abakaliki was disrupted by men of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies in Ebonyi.
The mammoth crowd, which gathered at Pastoral Centre of the Catholic Church in Abakaliki, were dispersed at the beginning of the event as fierce -looking policemen shot teargas into the air from different locations.
The crowd, which couldn’t withstand the teargas, ran into the church but more shots of the teargas were still released there.
This development caused panic among the youths who are staunch supporters of the Obi movement for a better Nigeria.
The youths, who were scattered everywhere around G-Hotel, Mile 50 Road, Kpirikpiri Road, among others expressed disgust at the Umahi administration in the state for its role in trying to abort the gathering.
“Peter Obi is our President. This rally must hold. See the shooting teargas directly at us. They are shooting directly into the church,” one of the supporters told Sunday Vanguard.
“This is despicable. The present government in Ebonyi is full of hypocrisy. Umahi said on TV that the rally could hold, but we knew he was lying. See us now. Obi remains our President come 2023.”
No minding the teargas shot at the youths, they were still seen with their banners shouting, “Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi, Obi” within the premises of the church.
As the rally struggled to start within Abakaliki metropolis, more and more youths were seen coming into Pastoral Centre, the takeoff point.
As the youths persisted, not minding the harsh treatment they got from the police, the rally was allowed to hold.
In the company of security forces, the ‘Obidents’ marched around Abakaliki metropolis chanting ‘Peter Obi for President’.
In a telephone chat, the Chairman of LP, Ebonyi State, Simplicity Jioke, said: “We are not happy with the disruption.”
‘Umahi not aware of disruption’
Reacting to the allegation that the state government ordered the police and other security agencies to disrupt the rally, Chooks Oko, the special Assistant to Governor Umahi on Media & Strategy, said the Governor was not aware of any disruption.
“The attention of the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State has been drawn to some online publications and rumours making the rounds that he ordered the disruption of a gathering in support of one of the presidential candidates in the 2023 elections. This is not true.
‘The Executive Governor of Ebonyi State is certainly not aware of any disruption of any gathering as he didn’t order any. He is a democrat who believes firmly in the rule of law. He wishes every contending politician the very best and will insist on a level playing ground for all. If it is true that the police dispersed people, the answer will surely rest with the police”.
Meanwhile, Labour Party reacted angrily to the attack on supporters of its presidential candidate, saying, “The All Progressives Congress-led administration should be conscious of the fact that no one has the monopoly of violence.”
National Publicity Secretary of the LP, Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, said this in a statement in Abuja, last night.
He noted that the APC by this action was deliberately and officially promoting and encouraging politics of violence in the country.
The party said it was now evident that the administration has moved all Nigeria military hardware from various armouries to some APC control states with clear instructions to reduce Labour Party members through officially sponsored killing, banditry and murder.
The party challenged the Inspector General of police to fish out the policemen involved in the attack and bring them to justice to demonstrate the neutrality of the force in the lead-up to the 2023 general elections.
It’s police authoritarianism — Yoruba Ronu
Condemning the development, the Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, in a statement by its President, Mr. Akin Malaolu, said “the attack on peaceful
Nigerians rallying for their candidate in a season of the democratic contest is tantamount to police authoritarianism.”
The group said: “We must warn, that the actions of the police in Ebonyi State must not be allowed to replay themselves in other states of the federation. It can snowball into chaos, spasm of communal bloodletting and take Nigeria into a spin”.
Police acted within confines of rules of engagement – Ebonyi PPRO
However, the Ebonyi State Police Command insisted that the police acted within the confines of the rules of engagement in order to maintain law and order in the state.
According to the Command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Chris Anyanwu, in a statement, the police acted in line with the law.
Fans lock down Umuahia, vow 90% Abia votes for Obi
In Abia, supporters of Obi locked down Umuahia, the state capital, in a solidarity rally.
The rally tagged ‘#I million Man-March For Peter Obi and Datti-Ahmed’, began at the Abia Tower Junction of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway through the Government House/Bank Road to Aba Road before terminating at ShopRite junction after the popular Isi-Gate axis of Umuwaya Road.
There was a traffic snarl as the mammoth crowd of supporters glided through the major streets chanting solidarity songs and dancing to the admiration of residents.
60 Obi support groups storm Awka
Also in Anambra, no fewer than 60 groups supporting Obi organized a two-million-man- march in Awka, the state capital and brought economic and social activities to a standstill for some hours.
The groups, consisting of men, women and youths from different parts of the state converged at Dr. Alex Ekwueme Square in the state capital from where they marched through the capital city, singing solidarity songs for the LP presidential flag bearer.
Massive crowd march for Obi/Baba-Ahmed in Jos
There was gridlock on major roads in Jos, Plateau State capital as a massive crowd turned up for the Plateau Mega Rally/Fitness Walk and one-million-man-march to canvass votes for Obi.
This is even as Prophet Isa El-Buba of the Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministries International, EBOMI, and a group, Coalition for Better and Brighter Nigeria, joined in the walk which started with prayers at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium in Jos.
El-Buba, who addressed the crowd, called on Nigerians to be politically awake as it was time for power to be given back to the people, even as he admonished Nigerians to be wary of politicians who are out to use them for selfish gains.