Political thugs on Thursday attacked members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State.
The PDP has alleged that the thugs are loyal to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the thugs armed with dangerous weapons simultaneously stormed two meetings of the PDP members at Igboroko and Ijebu areas of Owo, the hometown of the state governor.
A third attack was also carried out on the home of PDP chieftain in the area, Ladi Ojomo, who was a member of the House of Representatives between 2003 and 2011.
During the attacks, some members of the PDP, including Ogunyase Damilola and Olayanju Olasunkanmi, were injured and are now receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo.
A power bike belonging to a member of the opposition party was also set ablaze during the attack.
“They started shooting sporadically with the intent of killing Honourable Ojomo and threatened other opposition party members, and vowed to kill anyone who opposed APC and Governor Akeredolu,” a witness recalled.
“They are APC thugs loyal to Governor Akeredolu and have been moving around Ijebu Owo area of the Owo LG to disrupt meetings of opposition PDP.”
The governor has denied the allegations.
But the police confirmed the development, saying officers have been moved to the area to restore normalcy.
Police Public Relations Officer, Femi Joseph, told PREMIUM TIMES that the development was unfortunate, ”but the perpetrators had fled after the attack”.
He did not confirm if they were APC or PDP thugs.
He said the police had launched a manhunt for the perpetrators.
“Yes, it is true, there was a clash of supporters of the two parties, and we are investigating the matter,” said Mr Joseph.
“We stepped in as soon as we were alerted, and our first objective was to bring the situation under control, and that we have done.
“Now we have launched a manhunt for the perpetrators and we will get them and make them face the full wrath of the law.”
Following the attack, a large number of PDP members staged a peaceful protest to the A Division of the Police in Ijebu Owo.
They urged the security agencies in the council to ensure the security of lives and properties.
In an open letter to Mr Akeredolu, the PDP Chairman in Owo LGA, Olafimihan Asaba, appealed to the contending parties to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.
Mr Asaba, who reminded the governor that the PDP worked for his emergence in the 2016 governorship poll in Owo, lamented that the APC was ”head-bent on causing chaos in the area”.
“For APC thugs who are your boys and indigenes of Owo and also well known to us all to shoot at their kinsmen and PDP members who were holding their polling unit meetings peacefully at Igboroko and Ijebu yesterday is a sad development and very criminal in this clime,” the letter stated.
“Mr Governor, over the years, you have always portrayed yourself as a man that believes in a decent politics free of bitterness and calumny. We know you to be an advocate of free and fair election.
“Apart from the destruction of the PDP flags and burning of flex banners at the PDP Secretariat previously by APC boys under the supervision of your Special Assistant on Natural Resources, Mr Fatai Lawal.”
The PDP state leadership, headed by Clement Faboyede, had earlier accused the APC of plotting to cause violence across the state.
“The information at our disposal has fingered some leaders of APC in Ondo State to cause electoral violence; and first on the list is the Deputy Governor, His Excellency Agboola Ajayi,” said Mr Faboyede.
“He is exploiting all opportunities and avenues, including the use of thugs to cause violence in this election. It is an open secret that he has mobilised thugs and some unofficial security agencies to harass and detain our party leaders in the Southern Senatorial District.
“We are appealing to the whole world to please talk to the Deputy Governor to allow a free and fair election. It is worthy to note that he has sworn an oath to protect lives and properties; he is the Deputy Governor of the state and not of APC.”
However, the Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Olorunleke Akeredolu, refuted the allegations against his boss and the state government.
He said the PDP was only raising a false alarm.
He also described the allegation as “both distasteful and regretful,”.
He explained that rather than planning to cause mayhem, ”the deputy governor had met with former militants in order to ensure they ensure peace in the coastal communities during the elections”.