Policemen and other security agents had a hectic time at the national headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abuja on Thursday when a presidential aspirant, Mr Atiku Abubakar, submitted his presidential nomination and expression of interest forms to the party’s leadership.
The forms are to enable him to take part in the party’s presidential primary slated for October 6 in Abuja.
The large turnout of his supporters led to commotion among them, as some of them engaged in a free for all.
The commotion that followed made policemen to shoot repeatedly into the air to disperse the unruly crowd.
Signs that the national headquarters of the party would witness a large turnout of Atiku’s supporters started emanating as early as 8.55am, when his supporters were seen with different banners and drums.
Singing and dancing, the supporters also carried different banners, posters with Atiku’s pictures.
The former Vice-President later arrived in company with his branded campaign cars at the party’s secretariat some minutes after noon.
Suddenly, some of the supporters were sighted running around the secretariat chasing a few others with cudgels, a development that led to a stampede at the secretariat gate.
Investigations by our correspondent showed that the fight started when some political thugs believed to have come around with flags and tags of a rival political party were noticed around PDP secretariat.
Attempts by some supporters of Atiku to engage them (those with the rival political party flag) led to violent reaction and resistance.
This led to a serious fight in which dangerous weapons were freely used.
The fight, which spread to adjourning streets in the area, led to the beating of a man believed to be a fan of Atiku.
The early intervention of policemen, who fired several gunshots into the air to disperse the unruly crowd, saved the situation from degenerating.
An eyewitness, who is also a supporter of the Presidential aspirant, spoke with journalists on how the incident started.
He said, “The fight started when some thugs with APC posters attacked us along Michael Okpara Street opposite the party secretariat.
“The APC supporters started singing songs against supporters of the former Vice-President. The supporters of Atiku retaliated, before fight broke out.
“We, the supporters of Atiku, said that the thugs came to disrupt the event.
“We believe that the thugs were sent to disrupt the event and cause crisis to put Atiku in a bad light.”
Attempts by policemen to restore order worsened the already tense situation.
Worried at the degenerating situation, policemen fired gunshots into the air, an action that further caused further stampede among the supporters.
Corruption worse now than it was in 2015, says ex-VP
However, Atiku said that he would not have been contesting the presidential election, if Nigeria was working.
He said he was sad because of the large number of unemployed youths in the country.
Atiku spoke after submitting his forms to National Organising Secretary of the party, Mr Austin Akobundu.
He said, “I have just submitted my nomination form to Peoples Democratic Party to officially declare my intention to seek the nomination of the party to run for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the election scheduled for 2019.
“This is a sober moment for me. Today marks the beginning of my journey, our journey together, to get Nigeria working again.
“I would not be seeking this nomination if our country is working. I am very sad that 11 million Nigerians have become unemployed since May 29, 2015.
“And this does not include the millions more who never had a job since leaving school. I have created thousands of jobs in my private businesses and I know how to lead a government that would do the same for Nigeria.
“It weighs deeply on my heart that Nigeria has become the world headquarters for extreme poverty according to World Economic Forum and World Poverty Clock.
“I am not happy that there are so much killings and terror across the country that the Global Terrorism Index rates Nigeria as more terrorised today than she was in 2015.”
He said he was not happy that Nigeria “is perceived to be more corrupt today than it was in 2015, having moved 12 steps backwards from 136 in 2014 to 148 today, in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.”
While saying that 136 was bad enough, he added that 148 was simply unacceptable and shameful, especially under a government that claimed to be fighting corruption.
Atiku also condemned the violent incident, which he said was perpetrated by trouble-makers at the headquarters of the party.
In a statement in Abuja, the presidential aspirant stated that it was uncalled for and undemocratic for any group of individuals to turn an otherwise happy political event into a fracas that threatened the lives and well-being of party supporters who were at the event by choice to support their candidate and party.
The Waziri Adamawa also called on supporters of all political parties to show maturity and allow the democratic process to proceed unhindered in the interest of the parties and aspirants as well as the nation.
He urged his supporters to show restraint even in the face of provocation.
Atiku praised the police and other security personnel for containing the situation and protecting innocent and law-abiding supporters at the venue.
He advised that Nigerians should always allow peace to reign in “order for our leadership selection process to be reliable and credible.”
The former vice-president said he was optimistic that with the neutral and effective conduct by the police, “there is hope that Nigeria would get the 2019 elections right to the satisfaction of all Nigerians.”
APC thugs responsible for pandemonium, says PDP
Meanwhile, PDP has cautioned National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, to caution his members who it alleged were detailed to disrupt activities at its national secretariat.
PDP said while it could understand that APC had allegedly been distraught over the renewed surge of Nigerians to the repositioned opposition party, it alleged that the ruling party’s resort to banditry and violent attack on “our secretariat is a handshake taken beyond the elbow and will not be tolerated.”
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this in a statement while reacting to the pandemonium that followed the submission of forms by Abubakar.
He said, “The world witnessed with dismay, how APC thugs, brandishing their party’s famished brooms and charms; armed with machetes and other dangerous weapons stormed our national secretariat which has become a beehive of activities and attacked and wounded our members and supporters before they were dispersed by security operatives.
“PDP has repeatedly warned against APC’s proclivity for violence and unprovoked attacks, but we never imagined that their desperation for power will drive them to the insanity of attacking our national secretariat.
“Intelligence report available to PDP shows that the thugs were assembled and mobilised from the national secretariat of APC.
“We therefore charge security agencies, who also witnessed this attack, to immediately investigate this development, arrest and prosecute all individuals and officials of APC connected with the attack.
“Moreover, the unleashing of thugs by APC against our law-abiding party members and supporters, is particularly revealing of those behind some of the violent attacks on innocent Nigerians in various parts of the country.”
Atiku’s rented crowd, not our party responsible for crisis – APC
When contacted, acting National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Yekini Nabena, said, “Our party had nothing to do with what happened in PDP.
“We have it on good authority that it was the hired crowd of the presidential aspirant (Atiku) who fought over the money they were expecting but did not get. They should leave APC out of their troubles.”