Three persons were feared killed while others sustained injuries as the All Progressives Congress (APC) began its gubernatorial campaign in Lagos yesterday.Trouble started around 1:30 p.m. as Governor Akinwunmi Ambode delivered his speech, which was interrupted by gunshots from hoodlums and security officials. It was followed by a stampede as people fled for their lives.
Despite the chaos, the governor continued his address and handed the microphone to the party’s candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu who excitedly delivered the vote of thanks.
The hoodlums took advantage of the confusion and robbed people of their phones, money and other valuables.An official of the National Union of Road and Transport Workers Union (NURTW) Musiliu Akinsanya (also known as Oluomo) was reportedly assaulted and wounded in the clash.
The group political editor of The Nation, Emmanuel Oladesu; a correspondent with News Telegraph, Temitope Ogunbanke; and a cameraman with Ibile Television, Abiodun Yusuf, sustained bullet wounds.In Katsina State also, suspected political thugs killed six people in the Sabuwa council area shortly after an APC campaign rally on Monday evening.
Lagos State APC chairman, Mr. Tunde Balogun, meanwhile has apologised on behalf of the party over the chaos at the event. He said: “Sorry about everything. We organised a peaceful rally but some people who are not part of the party infiltrated it and disorganised the whole thing.
“We organised our rally to garner support. So, how can we be fighting ourselves? We know that some people came to settle scores here but that was not the right place to settle such. Everybody was enjoying the event until the pandemonium started.“I am so sorry about the journalists that were hit by bullets. Our party does not have scores to settle with reporters. We didn’t expect to have such occurrences.”
But a chieftain of the party, Mr. Olawale Oshun, claimed that all aggrieved members in the APC have been pacified; hence there was no basis for the incident. He urged security agencies to launch an investigation.“It could be an outsider. It could be people not connected with the APC family. There is no rally where you have members of the party deliberately infiltrating their own rally. The security agencies must get to the root of the matter. There is an external factor at play,” he said.
The standard-bearer of Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, however warned voters against re-electing the APC.In a statement by the spokesperson of the Jimi Agbaje Campaign Organisation, Modupe Ogunbayo, the candidate said: “What happened at the rally was a demonstration of the fact that the APC has been rejected by the people. Through this spontaneous burst of protests, the good people of Lagos State have forever rejected the party.
“Lagosians have shown their disenchantment. Do not stop there. Match your words with actions. On election day, troop out proudly and defiantly to vote for me, Olujimi Kolawole Agbaje, as the next governor of your free Lagos.” The incident also drew criticism from the International Press Centre (IPC), which condemned the attack on the journalists.
In a statement by its coordinator, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, the organisation said: “IPC hereby reminds all political parties that the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage obligates them to ensure the safety of journalists covering their activities including campaigns.
“IPC therefore calls on the Lagos APC to urgently take appropriate steps to apprehend the alleged perpetrators of the bizarre attack with a view to handing them over to the law enforcement agencies for immediate prosecution, also as provided by the Code of Election Coverage.
“IPC calls on all journalists covering the ongoing campaigns to keep themselves abreast of all safety measures. They should learn to stay away from political activities where rival gangs engage in show of force, especially through display of weapons.“IPC appeals to security agents on electoral duty, especially the police, to consider the protection of journalists as part of their responsibility as envisaged by and indeed provided for by the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage.”