Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
An inter-ethnic clash involving northern and Igbo traders broke out Tuesday in the popular Wuse market in Abuja, following the attempt by the exponents of the â€˜Our Mumu Don Doâ€™ movement, led by Nigerian musician Charles Oputa, to hold an anti-Buhari protest in the largest market in the capital city.
The clash, which was promptly nipped in the bud by the police and led to the closure of the market, however, did not stop it from spilling over into neighbouring streets where hoodlums took advantage of the melee and began to hurl stones and other projectiles at passersby.
Trouble started when Oputa, better known as Charly Boy, led some protesters to the market to demand President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s return to the country or resignation.
Buhari has been in the United Kingdom for more than three months where he is receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment. His prolonged absence has led to pro- and anti-Buhari protests in the last few days.
However, Charly Boyâ€™s attempt to take the protest to the market, which has several traders of northern extraction, almost led to his and his supportersâ€™ lynching by an irate mob Tuesday.
They were stoned and chased out of the market, resulting in injuries sustained by members of his entourage and journalists.
According to an eyewitness, when Charlie Boy and his entourage arrived the market in the morning on motorbikes, he and his supporters overpowered the private security men who had tried to stop them from gaining entry into the market.
This drew the ire of some traders of northern stock, who did not take kindly to Charlie Boyâ€™s protest against the ailing president, which they said had political undertones.
The traders, chanting â€œSai Baba, Sai Babaâ€, then attacked and chased Charlie Boy and his group from the market.
They were attacked with sticks, stones and other projectiles, forcing Charlie Boy to beat a retreat and abandon his BMW motorbike in the process.
Some hoodlums, said the eyewitness, also took advantage of the situation and started attacking Igbo traders in the market, who retaliated in kind.
Owing to the crisis, policemen were deployed in the market and fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse the riotous situation, thus preventing the clash from getting out of hand.
But even after the traders were ordered to leave the market, the clash spilled over into the streets where hoodlums threw stones and other projectiles at passersby, forcing them to scamper for safety.
Later, the Our Mumu Don Do group reassembled along Sani Abacha Road and moved towards the Mabuchi axis to continue their rally calling on Buhari to return or resign from office.
Reacting to the incident, the co-convener of the movement, Deji Adeyanju, said the attack on Charly Boy was completely unprovoked.
â€œThis is the third in a series of attacks carried out against us using a combination of policemen and paid hoodlums. It is saddening that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would rather commit scarce national resources to such underhand tactics than giving full disclosure regarding the health of the president.
â€œWe reiterate our commitment to remain resolute in demanding full disclosure regarding the health of the president. It is the right of the Nigerian people to know the true health of the man they voted into power and for whose healthcare they are paying,â€ Adeyanju said.
He said the group would continue to remain law abiding in the face of provocation.
In his reaction, the former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, condemned the altercation between traders and demonstrators at Wuse market, saying that the action that resulted in the clash of interests was ill-conceived and inconsiderate.
He said Nigerians should be a little more sensitive and should accord respect to Buhari who has been battling with his health.
Speaking in a statement signed by his aide, Mr. Peter Eze, Kalu called for calm and greater understanding of the dynamics that hold the country together as different groups express their support for the president.
He said the call for Buhari to resume or resign might have become insensitive considering his ill-health.
According to him, while it is the democratic right of Nigerians to demonstrate over any cause they strongly believe in, Buhariâ€™s health ought to be taken into consideration in the demonstrations.
Kalu also frowned upon the altercation between the traders and demonstrators at the market and urged all groups to show their respect for the president and allow him to conclude his treatment before returning to the country, adding that the president would be saddened by the altercation.