The crisis in the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Ondo State degenerated on Tuesday in Akure as supporters of its governorship candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu, clashed with supporters of a governorship aspirant, Olusegun Abraham.
Mr. Abraham was runner up at the APC governorship primary controversially won by Mr. Akeredolu.
Mr. Abraham’s supporters said they were marching to protest the party’s choice of Mr. Akeredolu as the candidate of the party for next month’s governorship election.
The protesters waved placards inscribed with words such as “With Abraham we stand” “Restore Abraham’s mandate” “Abraham is APC’s candidate” and “ Abraham is the authentic winner of September 3 primary.” They moved from Fiwaye Rounabout to the party’s secretariat.
As they led their procession towards the secretariat of the party along Oyemekun road, a group of persons armed with axes and other dangerous weapons, said to be supporters of Mr. Akeredolu, disrupted the protest.
The clash, which became violent, lasted for about two hours, disrupting economic and vehicular movements within the city centre.
The attackers inflicted varying degrees of injury on the protesters, while a vehicle belonging to them was also damaged.
Following the attack, the protesters temporarily dispersed, but regrouped to launch a counter attack.
The counter attack was equally violent, with the protesters successfully dislodging their opponents from the party secretariat.
It took a combined effort of police officers and security operatives from the National Security and Civil Defence Corps to bring the situation under control.
Speaking shortly before the fracas, the leader of the group, Enas Mohammed, said the protest became imperative in order to correct the injustice by the leadership of the party over Mr. Akeredolu’s choice as party candidate.
Mr. Mohammed, who blamed the party’s national leadership for the crisis, called on the leadership of the party to restore Mr. Abraham’s mandate.
The protesting group’s coordinator, Rotimi Agbede, condemned the action of the attackers and blamed Mr. Akeredolu’s group for the violence.
“We have refrained from conducting ourselves in a manner that is capable of causing injury to the party,” he said. “But as it is, it is obvious to us that some people particularly in the national leadership are head bent on destroying the party in Ondo State.”
“That is why the people have come out in 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.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Abraham praised his supporters for the show of love and concern and called on the leadership of the party to tow the line of the masses and majority
Mr. Abraham, who drove in a convoy, and was received with loud ovation by the crowd condemned the attack. He described the attack on his supporters as very uncivilized 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 (Akeredolu) people brought and attacked the people. Is this the kind of thugs we want to put in power? Is it thuggery they use for governance; thuggery is different from governance,” Mr. Abraham said.
He claimed that he won the September 3 primary election, warning that choosing any other candidate would spell doom 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,” he said.
“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 for our party to fail.”
But the Publicity Secretary of the party, Abayomi Adesanya, said the protesters were not citizens of Ondo State, but hired thugs from neighbouring states.
“We reliably gathered that these people, who are majorly youth and students were hired from neighbouring states and tertiary institutions after being given N2000 each and were mobilized to Akure, the state capital, 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 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.”