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Supporters of Akeredolu, Abraham in free-for-all in Ondo

•Many injured  •Police read Riot Act  •C

The crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State took another dimension on Tuesday, as supporters of the the candidate of the party, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu and Olusegun Abraham, engaged in a free-for-all in Akure, the state capital.

Many of them sustained various degree of injuries as the supporters used dangerous weapons during the clash that forced residents of Akure metropolis to remain indoors for several hours.

Trouble began when the supporters of the closest rival in the APC primary, Abraham, gathered around Adegbemile area of Akure to stage a peaceful protest over the choice of Akeredolu as the party candidate.

As they were marching towards the party secretariat, some APC supporters believed to be Akeredolu’s supporters allegedly attacked them.

The clash lasted for about two hours thereby paralysing social, and economic activities, as well as impeding vehicular movement in the ever busy Adesida/ Oyemekun road.

Some members of the public and supporters of  Abraham sustained various degree of injuries, while a vehicle belonging to the protesters was destroyed.

The protesters, who were armed with placards with 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, moved from Fiwaye Rounabout to the state APC secretariat.

Speaking before the fracas, the leader of the group, Enas Mohammed, said the protest became imperative in order to correct perceived injustice by the leadership of the party over Akeredolu’s  choice as APC candidate.

Mohammed, who blamed the party leadership for the crisis in the party, noted that APC National Working Committee, had ordered for a rerun of the primary, the party.

However, the protesters regrouped, mobilised and stormed the party secretariat in a reprisal attack, and were able to dislodge Akeredolu supporters who had taken over the secretariat

It took the combined effort of men of the state Police Command, and the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to bring the situation under control.

Speaking on the attack, the coordinator of the protesting group, Rotimi Agbede, condemned the action of the attackers.

He said: “We have refrained from conducting ourselves in a manner that is capable of causing injury to the party, but as it is, it is obvious to us that some people, particularly in tAPC national leadership are bent on destroying the party in Ondo State.

“That is why the people have come out in a large number to protest against the injustice during the primary. In any election, the primary tool for such election is the voters’ list. Where you don’t have the credible voters’ list, you can’t have a credible election.

“During the last primary election that we had, we observed that a number of people close to 200 that are not supposed to be part of the delegate list found themselves in the voting arena and eventually had the opportunity of voting.”

Agbede said they staged the peaceful protest “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 to self-destruction. We are with the belief that the national leadership will see reasons with what we are saying. We are not leaving the party; we are founding members of the party.

He, however, expressed optimism that Abraham’s mandate would be restored before the October 19 date set for substitution of candidates by the parties stressing “It is not too late; what we are saying is appealing to the sense of our national leadership to do the needful; do what is right. “

However, Abraham while speaking, appreciated his supporters for the show of love and concerns and called on the leadership of the party to toe the line of the masses and majority.

Abraham, who rode in a convoy and was received with loud ovation by the crowd, described the attack on his supporters as very uncivilised and barbaric.

He stated that such people should not be trusted with governance, as their administration would further worsen the present economic and financial crises facing the state

“It was a peaceful rally asking for our mandate to be restored and not to be delayed. All of a sudden, the Aketi people brought and attacked the people,” he alleged.

He insisted winning the September primary of the party, during the election proper, saying any other candidate would spell disaster for the party.

“The difference between the legal votes and the illegal votes is 34. It is not all about me, but at this level we think we should work together so that we can rescue our state. I am afraid that we don’t replace PDP with another PDP government.

“This 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 to fail.”

All effort to speak with leaders from Akeredolu’s camp was not successful, the Vice Chairman of the party and the publicity secretary of the party could not be reached as at press time.

However, one of the supporters of Akeredolu denied the attack, saying the protesters were the aggressors and looking for ways to stain the good name of the party’s candidate.

Reacting to the allegation, the chairman, Research and Communication for Akeredolu Campaign group, Kunle Adebayo, claimed that the protest was sponsored by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state to impersonate and embarrass Akeredolu.

Adebayo who affirmed that the protest staged by the people against the decision of APC’’s National  Working Committee to uphold the election of Akeredolu, was designed to cause panic by the opposition.

He said: “We are aware that those hands were deployed by the PDP from its huge pool of thugs and miscreants. To emphasise the mistake of PDP is the fact already in public domain that reknowned members of the PDP are fingered among the alleged APC protesters. it is the great wish of PDP to sow a seed of discord into the APC

“APC members are disciplined individuals who are well versed in the rules and procedures of our party. They are united and focussed at working together to chase out the PDP from the stronghold of Ondo sSate.

“Party primaries are and remain internal process of a political parties. Ours have come and gone and our great party is moving on. Members, who may have concerns, know fully well the channels open to seek redress. They are also aware of the irrelevance of the members of the public to the internal  processes of our party.”

Adebayo said further that “In this season of election, when blackmail, impersonation, betrayal and mudslinging thrive like the devils trade, members of the public are advised to be wary of the different strategies of the desperate PDP in its struggle to survive its nearing end.

“We use this opportunity to call on the Nigeria Police and other security agencies to scale up their efforts to deal decisively with perpetrators of such nefarious and unacceptable acts.”

Speaking on the fracas, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state, Femi Joseph, said his men were able to curtail the hoodlums.

Joseph, who said no arrest was made, however called on politicians to always play the game by the rules.

He warned: “If you are expressing your grievances, it must be done with maturity and within the ambit of the law and not by resorting to violence

“We are advising politicians to talk to their people and warn their supporters, because we will not hesitate to deal with anyone or group that decides to constitute any breakdown of law and order.”

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