By Ismail Mudashir (Abuja), Hamisu K. Matazu & Olatunji Omirin (Maiduguri)
Controversy yesterday trailed the reported attack on the convoy of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, during a campaign visit to the state.
While the campaign council of the former vice president insisted that the convoy was attacked during the rally, the Borno State Police Command and the state government have faulted the claims, insisting that the event was held peacefully. The police, however, said it has arrested one thug with a stone. Atiku was in Maiduguri in continuation of his campaign for the February 25 presidential election.
Reports filtered yesterday that the opposition candidate’s convoy was attacked, with many persons injured and vehicles destroyed.
A resident told this paper that hoodlums attacked the campaign team of the PDP. He said the convoy was attacked along the Airport Road and at Dalori Roundabout.
Along the Airport Road, some hoodlums stoned the PDP vehicles. The security operatives on the convoy fired gunshots in the air to disperse them. I think this was what Senator Melaye posted, claiming that gunmen have attacked their convoy,” he said.
Another resident, who corroborated the attack, said supporters of the APC came out in large numbers because of an empowerment programme organised by the state government.
“A rally was organised but they called it empowerment programme. Over 9,000 persons participated. The program was held on Tuesday but the participants were asked to come today (yesterday) for the empowerment tools,” he said.
We were attacked by hoodlums carrying APC flags – Former VP
In his account, through his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku said hoodlums wielding the flag of the APC attacked the convoy of vehicles conveying dignitaries to the venue.
“It is rather unfortunate that the APC in Borno State mobilised some of its members to attack the convoy carrying dignitaries who had earlier paid a courtesy visit at the Shehu of Borno Palace to the venue of the rally.
“While it is well understood that such barbaric behaviour is typical of the APC, it must be noted that this time around, it is specifically the last kick of a dying horse.
“The APC, apparently overwhelmed by the large turn of supporters to greet our presidential candidate, resorted to anti-democratic actions to scare the crowd away from the rally.
“It is a similar pattern to what happened during our rally in Kaduna State and it is important to call the attention of all stakeholders in peaceful elections in Nigeria to the dangerous actions being undertaken by the APC to disrupt our rallies, especially in the North,” Ibe said, in a statement.
It’s fake news, campaign rally held peacefully – Police
However, the Borno State Police Command has said that the campaign rally was held peacefully.
The command in a statement by its spokesperson, ASP Sani Kamilu Muhammed said the Commissioner of Police in the state, Abdu Umar was physically present to supervise the place.
“The command wishes to state authoritatively that the news is not only fake but also a false and mischievous attempt by some unguided people to incite disturbance and distract the peace of Borno people and Nigeria at large.
“The campaign/rally was conducted successfully, as tight/adequate security coverage was emplaced throughout the activities. The candidate and his party were accompanied to the Shehu’s Palace by the Police to pay a courtesy call after which they were escorted until they departed the town,” he said.
He, however, said that one Danladi Musa Abbas (32) who attempted to disrupt the convoys along the Airport Road was arrested by the police.
“He is under the command’s custody with a stone, which is an exhibit,” he said.
It was stage-managed to score cheap popularity – Borno govt
Contacted, Isa Gusau, the spokesperson for the Borno State governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, said there was no attack during the campaign of the PDP.
In a phone interview, he said the APC in Borno has no basis to disrupt the campaign of the PDP in the state, adding that PDP is not on ground in the state.
“Governor Zulum is against thuggery, hence he has empowered many of the political thugs through vocational skills. They are busy with their various trades. The governor has spent close to N2bn to rehabilitate political thugs.
“I don’t know where this story is coming from. I’m beginning to think that the PDP stage managed it just to create some kind of hype and score cheap popularity. Initially, Melaye said they were attacked by gunmen, when they discovered that cannot fly, they changed it to say they were attacked, by who?” Gusau queried.
Atiku promises to end insecurity, revive Lake Chad Basin, reduce tax
Meanwhile, Atiku yesterday promised to end insecurity, revive the Lake Chad Basin and reduce tax policy in the state if voted during the presidential election.
Addressing supporters at the launch of his North East campaign for the 2023 poll in Maiduguri, he said that the revival of Lake Chad was part of the requests made by the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Garbai when he visited him before the campaign.
“Before I arrived here, I visited the Shehu of Borno and in his address, he requested us to attend to about four or five issues that are the problems in Borno.
“One of them is to restore peace and security in the state and I promise you that by the grace of God if the PDP is elected, we shall restore peace and order in Borno State.
“Secondly, he requested us to make sure that we reactivate the Chad Basin development so that our farmers can go back to the farm so that we can produce food and reduce unemployment.
“He requested that we should make sure the local governments are supplied with electricity, which we promised we would do.
”Again, he requested that we should reactivate the exploration of oil in the Chad Basin, which we promise to do by the grace of God.”
Atiku thanked the people of Borno State for the massive reception accorded him in the state, and urged them to vote for the PDP at all levels during the 2023 polls.