The All Progressives Congress rally in Rivers State was on Thursday disrupted following the twin explosions which rocked the Rumu-Woji venue in the Mile One axis of Port Harcourt.
A similar event held by the Peoples Democratic Party in Edo State ended in disarray after unknown men fired gunshots at the campaign ground.
The campaign rally was going on peacefully in ward seven of the Edo Central Local Government Area when the sounds of gunshots fired by suspected political thugs suddenly filled the air, forcing the party faithful to scamper in fear.
The police have, however, launched investigations into the two incidents in which several persons were injured.
The PUNCH gathered that the Rivers State APC governorship candidate, Tonye Cole and the other candidates vying for various positions were present at the Rumu-Woji rally when the blast occurred.
Eyewitnesses said the explosions were preceded by shootings at about 1:20pm.
Three persons, including two women were injured in the ensuing chaos.
Earlier, the gate leading to the venue popularly known as Ojukwu Field was locked against the party members and supporters by youths of the area.
The gate was subsequently opened when the party chieftains, including former APC acting National Chairman, Chief Victor Giadom, and their supporters arrived at the venue.
Our correspondent also gathered that the angry youths who locked the gate accused some community members of embezzling the money the APC paid for the venue.
But some APC supporters accused the PDP in the state of allegedly masterminding the incident.
An eyewitness said, “We were all here waiting for the campaign to begin. Next thing, we saw some people throwing dynamites into this place and people started running away. That was how I got this injury on my leg. But thank God, the police came and we continued the campaign.”
Speaking at the rally, Giadom condemned the incident which he blamed on suspected political thugs.
He urged the party members and supporters to remain resolute despite the threats, saying the bullets fired could not scare the APC from winning the elections in the state.
“Why were they shooting? They were shooting because they don’t want us to campaign. They should go and buy more bullets. Tell them the bullets that they fired today are too small to scare us from winning,” he stated.
Speaking on the incident, the APC Chairman, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, Chief Emmanuel Orlu, said, “Prior to this (Executive) Orders 21 and Order 22, we have been operating peacefully, the APC and PDP in Rumu-Woji community.
“But immediately this Order 21, 22 came out, my community became something else, especially the PDP members in the community. They see themselves as demi-gods. They hijacked my community playground and hall and were using them unilaterally for their meetings.
“Each time the APC wants to make use of the place, they will deny us in the guise of orders 21 and 22. I see this as a challenge by virtue of my position as a chief in the community and also the APC Chairman in PHALGA. I am not asking for privileges. I am only saying, ‘give us our due right being enjoyed by the PDP.’
“As our guests were coming in, they started shooting sporadically. And the people who did this, we were meant to understand, were thugs sent by the PDP.
“They were shooting round the premises and they threw dynamites into the place which injured about five persons. They are in the hospital.”
However, the spokesperson for the state Police Command, Grace Iringe-Koko, said it was not an explosion but a fracas between community folks.
Iringe-Koko, a Superintendent of Police, disclosed that the Commissioner of Police, Okon Effiong, had ordered an investigation.
She stated, “The command is not aware of any explosion. It was a fight between the community people. The APC, I think, applied for a community hall and the CDC chairman has a faction, where some people benefited while others didn’t benefit. They were asking the APC people to pay part of the money so that they can use the hall.’’
“It was that altercation within the community that led to the fight and two persons were injured. We don’t know if there were other political parties involved in the fight. But the CP has mandated the Deputy Commissioner, State CID to investigate the incident”, she stated.
Meanwhile, the state APC Publicity Secretary, Darlington Nwauju, has described the incident as another black day for democracy in the state.
While reacting to the incident, Nwauju said, “It is another black day in the annals of democracy where all sorts of underhand strategies are being deployed to frustrate opposition political parties in Rivers state.
“The National Security Adviser, retired General Monguno, the DG of DSS and IGP Usman Alkali must zero in on Rivers State and stamp out politically sponsored violence. No single opposition politician is safe. We have also intercepted credible intelligence of plans to attack key opposition politicians in Rivers state.”
During the shooting incident in Edo, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Marcus Onobun and other PDP leaders were evacuated to safety, while others ran for dear lives.
A former Commissioner for Land and Survey and leader of the PDP faction loyal to Governor Godwin Obaseki, Anslem Ojezua, flanked by other party leaders spoke in a viral video on the incident.
They assured that a police investigation had commenced to unravel those behind the attack.
He said, “We had to suspend our campaign today. Today was supposed to be the final stanza of the campaign in Esan Central. We were in ward 7 and having a very peaceful really when we heard gunshots in the vicinity of the rally and in order to avoid injuries and possible damage and loss of lives, we decided to evacuate immediately.’’
“We later heard that there was possible loss of lives. It was only wise and sensitive to suspend our campaign until when we are sure of what happened.
“We are reliably informed that the police are handling the situation and as soon as they give us information, then we can continue with our campaign,” he added.