Three weeks after his campaign rally was attacked in Kaduna State, leaving many people injured, the campaign trail of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was allegedly attacked on Wednesday in Maiduguri by suspected thugs, resulting in the hospitalisation of no fewer than 74 persons.
As a result of the attack, which party officials claimed was instigated by opponents, a total of 70 vehicles were reportedly damaged on the way to the venue of the presidential campaign rally, which took place at Ramat Square, Maiduguri.
But despite pictures of damaged vehicles uploaded on the various social media platforms, the police in Maiduguri described the alleged attack on the PDP members as a hoax, saying no such thing happened. The police said they were on hand to protect Atiku and his people.
Nevertheless, Atiku held the rally in the Borno State capital, during which he promised to dredge Lake Chad and continue crude oil exploration in Lake Chad if elected president next year.
But the PDP leadership condemned the alleged attack, boasting that the party would sweep Borno State and other states of the federation during the general election. It said the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, would not be able to secure 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 states at the 2023 poll.
Vice presidential candidate of PDP and Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, told PDP supporters to not just go out and vote, but also stay back and protect their votes against theft after voting.
Eyewitnesses told THISDAY that people suspected to be political thugs attacked PDP members and supporters going to the venue of the presidential campaign at Ramat Square.
One eyewitness said, although the police barricaded the Ramat Square from a distance, they could not stop the thugs from attacking some PDP members and supporters.
The eyewitness said, “The police tried but the thugs overwhelmed them. They were far from where the police were stationed. But others coming towards the square were attacked. The thugs attacked many of them in PDP colours.
“Some of the thugs were carrying dangerous weapons, like daggers, while the smell of weed (marijuana) was all over the streets.” He added that several vehicles on Atiku’s convoy were vandalised.
One of the PDP presidential campaign spokespersons, Senator Dino Melaye, said at the last count, about 74 persons were injured and some hospitalised, while 70 vehicles were destroyed in total.
Melaye told THISDAY that the aim of the thugs was to stop people from attending the PDP presidential campaign rally and give the impression that the state was a no-go-area to any other political party, except APC.
“They failed, because the crowd that attended the campaign rally was unprecedented. The crowd was a huge one, never like in the history of the ancient city of Maiduguri,” he said.
PDP reported the attack to the police, but no arrest was made.
It was the second time since campaign for the 2023 general election started that the PDP presidential campaign would be attacked. The campaign was attacked first in October in Kaduna during the second presidential campaign rally.
Attack on campaign rallies of political parties is against the spirit of the peace accord signed by all the political parties, organised by the National Peace Committee, led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto State, Matthew Kuka.
Police spokesman in the state, ASP Kamilu Shatambaya, told journalists that the allegation of attack on PDP was baseless and had no truth in it, describing the report as mischievous.
Shatambaya said the PDP allegation was fake, a hoax and an attempt by some unguided people to incite disturbances and disrupt peaceful coexistence of people of the state.
He stated that the rally was conducted successfully under tight and adequate security coverage.
Shatambaya said, “The candidate was accompanied to the Shehu of Borno’s palace after which he was accompanied to the Ramat Square, where he addressed his supporters.
“The Commissioner of Police, Mr Abdu Umar, was also at the venue to ensure that things went on well. However, one Danladi Abbas (32) was arrested on Airport Road, Maiduguri, for throwing stones at the motorcade of the presidential candidate.
“Abbas and other hoodlums attempted to disrupt the motorcade, but they were chased and luckily one of them was arrested and taken away for questioning.”
Shatambaya stressing also that nobody reported any case of attack to any police station within Maiduguri and Jere
“We also went round hospitals to ascertain the claim that more than 74 persons were hospitalised, but no such patient was found,” he added.
Atiku, who spoke in Hausa, and later in the English language, told the crowd of supporters that before coming to the square, they had visited the Shehu of Borno, who made certain requests, which PDP promised to fulfill if elected into office.
Atiku stated regarding Shehu’s requests, “First, that we’ll restore peace and orderliness in Borno State and throughout the country. Secondly, he requested of us to make sure that we reactivate Chad Basin Development Authority so that our farmers can go back to farm, so that we can produce food for our people, so that we can also reduce unemployment and we promised him that.
“He requested that we should make sure the local governments are supplied with power or electricity, which we promised we will do. Again, he requested that we should reactivate the exploration of oil and gas in the Chad Basin, which we promised we are going to do by the grace of God.”
The PDP presidential candidate also said, “We thank you very much for this reception, for this support. We look forward to the day you will vote for PDP, enough of hunger, enough of insecurity, enough of unemployment, enough of suffering, enough of too much taxation. We will make sure that you are exempted from exorbitant taxation. Thank you very much and God bless you all.”
The PDP vice presidential candidate, said,”The problem of Nigeria today is just too much and the only person that can handle it and make sure that our children are happy again is Atiku Abubakar. We cannot allow the APC anymore, a day after May 29, 2023. So, they must go.
“But we have a lot of work to do and that work is for all of us, who are here. You must come out to vote, you must bring your brothers, your sisters and you must defend that vote after voting, we don’t want them to steal your votes anymore.
“In southern Nigeria, the South-south, South-east and South-west, we are going to vote for Atiku Abubakar. We want to show to them that Nigerians are wiser, we cannot afford to give anymore day after the eight years of APC, because they have taken us into a very deep hole but Atiku Abubakar will bring us out and show us a new light.
“He will ensure that you don’t go to bed hungry, that there is food in the family. Our women will be able to provide for their children and men will be able to provide for their children and our children can go to school and will have jobs.
“That is the Nigeria we are looking forward to, that is the Nigeria that Atiku Abubakar is going to provide for us. It is time for new Nigeria and that new Nigeria we are talking about, it is only Atiku that can provide it”
In a statement by PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the party said Atiku and Okowa would record a sweeping victory in Borno and other states of the federation in the 2023 general election.
PDP asserted that it would be a hard task for the presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to secure the statutory 25% votes in most states of the country and, particularly, in Borno State, despite being the home state of the APC vice presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
The PDP statement said, “This is because, while Asiwaju Tinubu is not on ground, being no match for PDP’s more popular and much-loved Atiku Abubakar, the APC vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, has since lost face with the citizens following his abysmal failure as governor of the state.
“Since the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate of PDP, APC, particularly, in Borno State, has been disconcerted, confused and disorganised by the mass exodus of APC members into the PDP across the nooks and crannies of the state in support of Atiku Abubakar and the PDP.
“Reports from Borno State show that in the last one month, the PDP has recorded over a million new entrants. These are mostly members of the APC and other well-meaning Nigerians, who have rejected the failed APC to support the PDP and Atiku Abubakar in the mission to rescue their state and Nigeria at large from the stranglehold of the APC.”
Condemning the attack in yet another statement, by Ologunagba, PDP said, “Our party has information about how agents of certain APC leaders mobilised the thugs with the aim to escalate violence in Maiduguri and prevent the PDP from holding its presidential campaign rally in the state.
“Nigerians witnessed with horror how hundreds of APC’s armed thugs stationed at major roundabouts and intersections in the city of Maiduguri unleashed violence on the PDP Presidential Campaign convoy and innocent citizens going about their lawful activities in a gruesome attack that left over 70 persons gravely injured and hospitalised.
“This attack is consistent with APC’s habitual resort to violence in the face of rejection by the people as also witnessed in the attack on the PDP presidential campaign rally in Kaduna State on October 17, 2022.
“APC’s barbaric and anti-social behaviour is contrary to the Peace Accord it signed on September 28, 2022 and constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy, our electoral process and the 2023 general elections.”
The opposition party further stated that, “Our party is not daunted and cannot be deterred by cowardly attacks by the APC as Nigerians are already connected with PDP’s issue-based campaign in the mission to rescue, rebuild and redirect our nation from the asphyxiating misrule of the APC.”
PDP called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to take immediate action to arrest the constant incidence of violence being unleashed by on PDP campaign activities, because a continuing violence by the APC could result in a situation, where other parties might be encouraged to resort to self-help.
“Once again, we call on President Buhari, as a matter of urgency and consistent with his Oath of Office, to call the members of his party, the APC, to order in the interest of the nation, our democracy and the electoral process. Enough is Enough!”