By Titus Atondu, Makurdi
The All Progressives Congress, (APC), in Benue state has accused the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), of being responsible for disrupting their governorship campaign rally on Friday, in Gbajimba, Guma LGA of Benue State.
But the PDP has rather stated that the Gbajimba violence was carried out by the APC and led by two of their members who violently assaulted PDP supporters and burnt campaign materials belonging to the incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom.
This is just as Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom has said he is innocent and did not send any person to disrupt or stop the APC rally.
Gbaiimba is the village and home town of the incumbent governor Samuel Ortom.
Briefing journalists in Makurdi, Secretary Emmanuel Jime campaign Organization, Professor Eugene Aliegba said trouble started when suspected political thugs allegedly loyal to the PDP, disrupted their governorship campaign rally in Gbajimba.
He said the campaign team had gone there in continuation of its governorship rally and while addressing the people at a particular venue, armed militia youths stormed the venue and started throwing stones at them.
He explained that security men were called in to disperse them only for them to regroup and came back again throwing stones and shooting sporadically injuring several people who ran in different directions for safety.
Professor Aliegba further explained that before their movement to Gbajimba, Guma LGA, they had it on good authority that Governor Ortom had already mobilized PDP members not to allow APC hold any rally in the area.
According to him, the organisation decided to put the rally on hold and informed security agents but up till the time of writing this report, no arrest has been made.
A chieftain of the APC and one time Head of Service in the state, Mike Iordye also said the PDP chairman of Nzorov Council ward was specifically instructed not to allow APC hold any rally in the area and so, he mobilized thugs to disrupt the rally.
“As early as 6am on Friday, PDP thugs gathered around the roundabout on Garibaldi wanting to stop the rally. One APC and PDP supporter was arrested following a fight that ensued between them.
“PDP supporters were seen throwing stones as the Police dispersed them with teargas canisters. They came back later shooting as the Police struggled hard once again to disperse them. My filling station ware house was destroyed”, Iordye said.
Also speaking, a member representing Makurdi/Guma federal Constituency, Dickson Targhir, said that just yesterday, he was reliably told that Governor Ortom hired some mercenaries and invited them to government house Makurdi and gave N4.5millon and instructed them to move into Gbajimba to ensure that APC did not hold the rally.
He called on federal government and the inspector general of police to immediately deploy security personnel in Guma to guarantee free, fair and credible elections.
The Chairman of APC in the state, Comrade Abva Yaro also condemned the attack on their supporters and called on security agencies to wade into the matter as soon as possible. Abba Yaro said the governor has signed a peace pact with them and wondered why he is remerging on it.
He however stated that “Ortom does not want us to campaign in his place but whether he likes it or not, we will not only campaign but take over the state afore the elections”.
Meanwhile, the Benue state governor Samuel Ortom has debunked the allegations stating categorically that he did not instruct or direct any person to disrupt or stop any rally.
Ortom in a press statement signed by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and ICT, Taha Agerzua reiterated his commitment to peaceful elections and called on all stakeholders to eschew violence and conduct that could trigger a breakdown of law and order.
He appealed to his supporters in particular to exercise restraint even in the face of extreme provocation and to report any person or group who breaches the peace to law enforcement agents.
The governor states that it became necessary to reiterate his position following accusations that he stopped the rally of an opposition party in his home town, Gbajimba.
He condemneed the destruction of his campaign materials in Gbajimba and Daudu in Guma as well as several other places including Wannune in Tarka and Lessel in Ushongo local government areas and calls on the police and other security agents to arrest and prosecute those found culpable.
He noted that did not have any ante cent of violence in his close to 40 years in politics and has never resorted to violence and the use of thugs to prosecute his campaigns or win elections.
In the same vein, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State has condemned the latest spate of violence unleashed on the party’s supporters by thugs loyal to the APC at Gbajimba and Daudu in Guma Local Government Area of the state early on Friday.
The party in a release signed by State Publicity Secretary, Bemgba Iortyom said eyewitnesses report that the Gbajimba mayhem was caused by thugs led by Terhide Utaan, APC’s candidate for Makurdi/Guma Federal Constituency in the coming elections.
He said the thugs violently assaulted PDP supporters and also burnt down campaign materials, mostly billboards promoting the incumbent governor, Samuel Ortom.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms such lawlessness by APC in the state as it falls short of the acceptable standards for thriving of multi-party democracy anywhere. “But more worrisome is the fact that the Gbajimba and Daudu violence adds to a growing list of such acts by APC supporters in places like Tarka, Ushongo, Kwande where they had previously visited violence and destruction on supporters of our great party.
“Such acts of deliberate provocation by APC reflect their growing desperation as reality of their impending loss at the 2019 elections in the state dawns on them.
“We call on security agencies to without any delay arrest and prosecute Terhide Utaan as the mastermind of the violence in Gbajimba and Daudu and as well take proactive steps to avert any further occurrence of such incidents.
“Equally we call on the good people of Benue State to be vigilant and resist the antics of APC in the state which are targeted at subverting their right to free and fair elections”.