The All Progressives Congress, APC, in Borno State has alleged that the violence witnessed Monday when the presidential candidate of the party, Muhammadu Buhari, visited the state was instigated by ex-Governor Ali Sheriff to justify the cancellation of elections in the state.
Initial reports suggested that supporters of the APC had vandalized and torched several campaign offices and posters of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The reports also said while soldiers were battling to control the large crowd at the venue of the campaign rally, some irate youth were seen bringing down PDP billboards that were mounted close to the venue of the rally.
Hours later, thick smoke was seen some 500 meters way from the venue of the rally as the APC youth stormed a major campaign office of the PDP, popularly known as UTC.
Witnesses at the scene said hundreds of the APC supporters, chanting anti-PDP and anti-President Goodluck Jonathan slogans, stormed the PDP office armed with petrol jars, forced themselves into the premises and set the place ablaze.
The APC however, issued a statement Tuesday, distancing their members from the act.
The statement by Ali Dalori, the Borno State chairman of the APC said the party has conducted its own investigation into the attack and had found out that Mr. Sheriff held series of meetings with thugs loyal to him, days ahead of the APC rally.
The party said Mr. Sheriff also doled out huge sums of money to the thugs and asked them to disguise as APC supporters and attack his and his PDP’s properties.
The statement also said Mr. Sheriff’s spokesperson, Inuwa Bwala, swiftly rushed to the media accusing Governor Shettima of being behind the attacks, while it was being carried out.
“The manner in which Bwala rushed to press has further confirmed the findings of our investigations that the whole thing was orchestrated by the PDP affiliated to former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff with the sole intent of causing political violence in so as to create basis for elections not to be conducted in Borno State by March 28 and April 11, 2015,” APC said.
The party also said Mr. Sheriff was determined to cause violence and stop election in Borno so as to pave the way for him to regain the Senatorial candidature he lost earlier.
The party also recalled that on the eve of President Goodluck Jonathan’s trip to Borno for his campaign rally on January 24, Governor Shettima issued a statement appealing to citizens of the state to respect the president and not to do anything that would undermine his campaign rally.
It also said the governor held series of meetings with select youth groups and APC youth leaders in all the wards in Maiduguri, the state capital calling on the party’s supporters not to breach the peace.
“Indeed, Governor Shettima’s efforts paid off as the PDP held an entirely peaceful rally on January 24, 2015,” it said.
It added that Mr. Shettima could therefore not organize violence while his own party was holding its rally.
Sheriff is responsible
The APC said ex-Governor Sheriff arrived Maiduguri last Friday at about 7p.m. while the APC was making preparations to receive Mr. Buhari.
“For nearly three days, Sheriff kept on holding meetings with different youth supporters of the PDP who brandished all manner of weapons every day they were his guests.
“Sheriff kept on sharing money to these thugs before he left the State on Sunday, February 15, 2015 at about 4:10pm.
“Immediately Sheriff left Maiduguri, we suspected he was up to some mischief and from our investigations, his discussion with most of his political thugs was for them to disguise as supporters of APC and seriously disrupt Buhari’s rally to the extent that confusion would spring up such that Buhari would be forced not to appear at the rally,” the party said.
The party also added that beyond the task given to them to disrupt APC’s rally, some of the thugs were equally angered by the inability of their leaders to pay them in full.
“As things turned out, Sheriff’s aggrieved thugs went out of control and descended on the PDP campaign office soon after they started fighting themselves,” it said.
APC said it stands to lose if there is political crisis in Borno that threatens the forthcoming elections considering the unfortunate security challenges being faced.
“As things stand in Borno today, the APC is the number one beneficiary of the current political climate and wouldn’t want any breach of the peace, how much more inciting it. Sheriff on the other hand has been doing everything to cause confusion,” it said.
The party maintained that Mr. Sheriff is very desperate, and doesn’t want elections to hold because he is not a Senatorial candidate, the major reason it said, he moved to the PDP.
It said he nurses the ambition of emerging as Senate majority leader after 2015 if he can’t be the Senate President.
Mr. Sheriff could not be reached for comments Wednesday.