Controversy is still raging over the disrupted presidential rally held in Ogun State on Monday, February 11, 2019 at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, the State capital.
Two weeks after the outing, many supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are still recounting the embarrassing experience they suffered in the hands of some political thugs.
Like others before it, the rally started with excitement and fanfare. But eventually, it ended up in fiasco. Since then, the two factions of the APC have been engaged in a blame game. No one wants to take responsibility for the ugly incident.
Until now, Ogun State had been a stronghold of the APC, where Governor Ibikunle Amosun has always mouthed his support for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. But to some people, the incident was like bringing home a chicken to roast. Right before the very eyes of the president and other dignitaries present, the hoodlums took charge of the affairs and unleashed terror on the party supporters. What saved the day was the swift response of the security operatives who had to form a ring round Buhari, the presidential candidate of the party, to shield him from the rampaging political thugs.
The disruption was the backlash of the prolonged crisis arising from the governorship primary that produced Prince Dapo Abiodun as the governorship candidate of the party against Amosun’s anointed candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, a serving member of the House of Representatives.
Peace eluded the party when the governor accused Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) of manipulating the process in favour of Abiodun against his anointed successor. The ensuing power struggle compelled Akinlade and his supporters to jump the ship and form the Allied People’s Movement (APM) with open approval of the governor, who though still retains his membership of the APC.
Some days before the rally, it was gathered that there had been orchestrated drumbeat of war between Segun Osoba-led faction of the APC and the group loyal to Amosun. This bordered on the alleged plot by the APM supporters to storm the venue of the rally in solidarity with the governor so that he (Amosun) could outshine those he considered as enemies of the state, especially Oshiomhole and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National Leader of the APC.
According to the statement issued by the Publicity Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the party, Tunde Oladunjoye, the governor’s camp allegedly wanted to payback Oshiomhole and his supposed accomplices for the role they played in the emergence of Abiodun.
“It has become necessary to alert the general public, especially the security agencies, that the members of the Allied People’s Movement, being sponsored by the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, are planning to disrupt and cause mayhem and bloodshed at the presidential rally slated for the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta,” the party claimed.
Some people have blamed the governor for ignoring the early warning signals. And those pointing fingers in his direction say,trouble started brewing gradually when some political thugs launched violent attack on the supporters of Abiodun and chased them out of the MKO stadium.
Mr. Olamide Lawal, in an eyewitness account, said the disruption was orchestrated by the supporters of Governor Amosun who were largely members of the APM.
“Amosun on arrival at the MKO Abiola Stadium was stunned to see supporters of his arch-rival, Prince Dapo Abiodun neatly clad in yellow attires, bearing the inscription of ‘Dapo Abiodun for Governor’ with his portraits, posters and flex banners adorning every strategic location within the main bowl of the stadium and the popular Presidential Boulevards. So, he wasted no time in ordering his aides, with the active support of his security details, to start removing all Abiodun’s campaign materials from within and outside the stadium.
“While this was going on, the security details from Abuja, including armed soldiers, operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS), mobile and regular policemen as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), saw the action of the hoodlums as an invitation to crisis and promptly decided to conduct a screening exercise. In the process, three hoodlums armed with axes, knife and assorted charms were arrested.
“Immediately the news got to him, Amosun mounted the podium, shouting, ‘don’t create confusions in Ogun State. I am talking to you, the security operatives, especially the DSS and Police operatives from Abuja. Please, stop using teargas on our people. Please, don’t do it again. President Muhammadu Buhari is safe here in Ogun State. He is our father. We are going to open the gates to allow our people to come on. We don’t want stampede. So, security operatives, I am putting you on notice. Please, help us to help you. I am begging you to stop it. Our people are suffering outside there.’
“Thereafter, the governor took charge and paved way for the APM supporters to troop into the stadium. Soon as they came in, they started attacking Dapo Abiodun’s supporters who were already seated. Many of them were injured with machete, while others were beaten blue and black, as police looked the other way.
“After the presentation of flag to Abiodun, they went wild and started throwing sticks and missiles at Oshiomhole and other dignitaries. Amidst the confusion, one of the hoodlums hurled an empty table water plastic at the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and other chieftains of the APC on the high table. It was at this point that Governor Amosun took charge and addressed the audience in Yoruba dialect, pleading for calm. ‘Ti aban beru aja, alaja aro wipe oun l’anberu’ (if we are afraid of a dog it doesn’t mean we are afraid of its owner). Let us swallow our pride. Please, don’t disgrace us here,’ that was what Amosun said,” Mr. Lawal added.
While reacting to the development, a chieftain of the APC, Chief Bode Mustapha, described the fracas as a show of shame, urging the party to sanction the governor for the unruly conduct of his supporters. He said: “It was unprecedented and extremely pathetic that President Muhammadu Buhari could be pelted with missiles of all kinds. It was quite shameful.
“I think the party should look into it and appropriate sanctions be meted out to the governor because nobody is greater than the party.
“What would have happened if something untoward had happened to the President? It was putting the lives of President Muhammadu Buhari, his Deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande, state governors in attendance and other notable figures in jeopardy”.
Also reacting, Dr Femi Majekodunmi, berated Amosun and his loyalists in APM for disrupting the rally.
“It was unfortunate that Governor Ibikunle Amosun and his rebels could go to the extent of venting their anger on the national leaders of the party, including President Muhammadu Buhari. That they could go to that extent was very shameful. I am sure Governor Amosun might have regretted that shameful act.”
Amosun’s group, on the other hand, has blamed the sudden eruption of protest and anger on the incisive utterances of former governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State. While addressing the crowd, Aregbesola had cautioned the APC faithful to be wary of hypocrites.
“We are here for peace. Those carrying posters and banners of another party other than the APC are hypocrites.
“On Saturday, March 2, which is a date for both the governorship and State House of Assembly, let us vote for the broom which is the symbol of the APC”, declared Aregbesola.
The above statement, it was gathered, did not go down well with Governor Amosun’s supporters, and as such may have triggered the crisis at the event.
Accusing Aregbesola of precipitating the fracas, the Amosun’s camp further said “He (Aregbesola) knew that the political temperature at the rally was high. But in his usual character, he charged the already heated atmosphere further by calling some people names. That was not the right place to do that. I believe whatever grievances agitating the minds of the rival groups can still be resolved amicably, if the stakeholders agree to play the game by the rules. Therefore, it was not surprising that the situation went out of control shortly after his utterances.”
Also speaking on the fracas, Special Adviser (Information and Strategy) to Governor Amosun, Mr. Rotimi Durojaiye, while denying any involvement of his boss in the fracas, described the allegation of sponsoring political thugs to disrupt the rally as ridiculous and unfounded, saying “as the governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun was not only the host at the rally, he organised the grand reception for Mr. President.
“The relationship between President Buhari and Governor Amosun is well known. It is therefore unthinkable that someone will allege that Governor Amosun will organise thugs against the president.
“The position of the governor is that rather than dissipate their energy on those they will deal with after election, Comrade Oshiomhole and his co-travellers should be remorseful that their anti-democratic conduct has denied the APC scores of legislative seats and a number of executive positions across the country even before the elections. They do not need to wait until after the election, they should throw-in the towel now for undermining the chances of the party they have cornered for their selfish ends,” Durojaiye said.