James Sowole in Akure
There was pandemonium yesterday in Akure, Ondo State capital, when supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the November 26 gubernatorial election in the state, Chief Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and those of his rival, Dr. Olusegun Abraham, clashed at the party secretariat located on the popular Oyemekun Adesida Road.
The confusion occasioned by the clash led to the temporary closure of the road as the party secretariat is located at the popular Cathedral junction that leads to several adjourning roads in the heart of Akure town.
The crisis took place even as the Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 11, Mr. Dan Bature, also yesterday, stressed that security in the November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election in the state would be tighter than what happened in the just concluded poll in Edo State.
Sequel to the crisis, residents ran wildly to avoid being caught in the cross fire as supporters of the two rivals engaged in throwing of pebbles and stones against one another just as they threatened one another with cutlasses and axes.
Though, no one was injured in the melee, some vehicles that were caught at the centre of the clash were destroyed by hoodlums who threw stones indiscriminately on the major road.
Also some vehicles that were packed in front of the APC secretariat were destroyed as many of them had their wind shield smashed.
It, however, took the intervention of soldiers and armed police officers who shot sporadically into the air before the warring members of the party could be dispersed.
Trouble started when some loyalists of Abraham arrived at the party’s secretariat demanded the resignation of the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, who allegedly vetoed the nomination of Akeredolu.
Abraham’s supporters who gathered from early hours of the morning commenced a rally from the Ondo State Cultural Centre, Adegbemile Akure through the popular Oyemekun-Adesida Road, insisting that Akeredolu did not win the primary of the party and should not be regarded as the party’s candidate.
Armed with placards of various inscription, the protesters described the last governorship election of the party as a scam and called on the leadership of the party to redress the alleged anomaly.
As the protesters arrived the party’s state secretariat, they were attacked by people who came with posters of Akeredolu while some dorn his branded vests.
Abraham.s supporters were said to be rounding off the rally at the party’s secretariat.
Addressing his supporters who later converged on his residence in Akure, Abraham said he would do everything within the law to reclaim his mandate, which he said was stolen.
He insisted that he won the last primary election of the party, having polled the highest number of lawful votes in the election, and he should therefore be declared the standard bearer of the party.
Abraham said his supporters came in their thousands from various local government areas of the state to demand that he should be recognized as the APC candidate.
He insisted that the only thing that could bring peace back to the party was for his mandate to be restored, stressing that the only way forward for the APC in the state is to substitute Akeredolu’s name.
The aggrieved Abraham said he may be forced to take a legal action if the party fails to restore his mandate.
He identified Akeredolu as the mastermind of the attack against his loyalists who he said were on peaceful rally when they were attacked.
Meanwhile, Bature who spoke at the headquarters of the state Police command in Akure, said: “In Edo State election, there was no security problem but in Ondo State, no doubt, we will up the game, the security will be much better than what obtained in Edo State,” he said.
The AIG said police would provide adequate security for all the parties during the campaign.
“We have even displayed this during the primaries and definitely, we will provide a level playing ground for all political parties.
“ I tell you on that day we are going to overwhelm all political challenges that may come our way,” he said.
Bature who had earlier addressed officers and men of the command, also warned the men on the highways to stop extorting money from motorists, reiterating that the ban on roadblocks was still in existence.
According to him, “It is not the duty of the Highways policemen to be checking vehicle particulars and anyone caught will be ruthlessly dealt with by the Force. I will not beg for anybody that is caught.”
He added that the Force had set up a monitoring team to monitor the activities of the Highway Savers on the road and also to ensure that the road are saved from the attacks of armed robbers and other criminals.
The AIG also assured the officers and men of improved welfare packages but urged them to be more hard working in their line of duties.