By Olawale Abdul-Fatah
Barely 24 hours after All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial campaign kick-off in Lagos was marred, various revelations have started emerging on how breach of security exposed thousands of party members’ lives and residents, within the rally flag-off venue axis, to danger.
The event, designed to showcase the APC candidates ahead of the election, was brought to end midway, unprepared, by the party leadership after security officers at the venue could not immediately arrest the situation, forcing attendees to scamper for safety.
Findings from party members revealed that the disruption of the rally was a pre-planned arrangement by some faceless people working against APC, capitalizing on rivalry among National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) factions as a ground to achieve their aims.
Our correspondent learnt that the mayhem started among the executive members of the transport unions, including one Mustapha Adekunle popularly called Tafa Seigo, Azeez Lawal a.k.a Kunle Poly and incumbent NURTW chairman, Tajudeen Agbde, and others, who were of different factions.
During the unprecedented confrontations among the unions, followers of both factions were reported to had engaged in free for all while innocent lives were lost, with others sustaining severe injuries.
It was learnt that several gunshot were recorded at the venue, forcing the party Chairman, Babatunde Balogun, to end the proceedings after it became obvious that the clash was not going to subside.
As a result, party leaders faulted the situation and linked the hoodlums attack to breach of security, said to be responsibility of Lagos Police Command, the agency saddled with law enforcement in the state.
Most of the leaders, who spoke to the Guild after the event, lamented that it was unfortunate that an event which planning had been ongoing days before could lacked adequate security presence to arrest pressure or breach of security at the venue.
They argued that there expectation was much than what they experienced at the venue as no member’s life were given maximum protection required during the chaotic situation, including the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, APC candidates and party chieftains who left hurriedly after the event was turned upside down.
The Guild investigation revealed that the police personnel were not sufficiently deployed to the event to cater for sea of people who were at the venue to display their solidarity for entire APC candidates, particularly the governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
It was gathered that the State Police Command intentionally failed to provide needed personnel for the show despite assurance from the Commissioner of Police, Edgar Imohimi, that he would ensure 2019 election campaign remain violence free in Lagos.
Meanwhile, rather than beefing the venue with maximum security ahead of the event, the command was reported to had only directed formations within the state to provide insufficient numbers of personnel to the party’s rally venue.
Sources from the police command, who confided in The Guild, disclosed that directives to the formations before the event were that Lagos State Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences Unit (Task Force) should only deploy 10 personnel to the venue while Rapid Response Squad (RRS) should arrange four vehicles and the Area Command to provide few men.
But contrary to the directives, as hinted by the sources, the Taskforce chairman deployed over 40 men to the venue, an act aimed at providing watertight security, while RRS arranged 10 vehicles aside the police area commands that strictly adhered to the commissioner directives.
From the police, it was revealed that the police commissioner, who was privy to the campaign, held a closed door meeting with leaders of transport unions, directing heads of the unit to join a peace accord meeting held at the command, while rally was ongoing, knowing fully-well the consequence of withdrawing heads of the unit, who would have maintained peace at the rally.
A source from the command, who pleaded not to be mentioned due to sensitivity of the matter, claimed that Imohimi cannot exonerate himself from the incident, due to obvious errors from security angle.
He added that the face-off between the unions would not have occurred should the command had taken the right measures including Deputy Commissioner of Police in-charge of operations, who refused to direct policemen to go after the hoodlums who were causing mayhem during the rally.
As the clash intensified, the source hinted that Taskforce chairman, in a move to salvage the situation, after waiting endlessly for deputy commissioner’s directive, deployed his men to apprehend the hoodlums; an initiative which was said to have aided arrest of two suspects.
But after the clash had subsided, the chairman was queried by the police command for acting against directive of a senior officer.
Some APC members, who spoke to the Guild, condemned the clash between the transport unions and inability of security personnel at the venue, to prevent the clash from escalating.
They argued that if the police had done the needful, the clash could have been prevented and the campaign would have ended without blood spilled.
Worried by outcome of the campaign designed to showcase APC candidates to voters in Lagos, a close aide to national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, disclosed that the Lagos State former governor had constituted a team to examine the entire exercise and fashion out better strategy ahead of future campaigns in the state.
While members await better strategy for subsequent rallies, motorist told the Guild that they lost several man hours navigating within the metropolis after traffic caused by the rally spread to other parts of Lagos.
They described traffic management strategy adopted by Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and other agencies as abysmal, urging the agency to more personnel in subsequent rallies.
Apparently not satisfied with the security strategy put up for the rally, a member of Independent Campaign Group (ICG), a group designed to campaign for Sanwo-Olu, alleged that the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was aware of the clash that affected the campaign.
He disclosed that Ambode’s body language and facial expression after the clash further showed that the governor cannot be exonerated from the clash and was never on same pedestal with the party.
According to him, Ambode’s action during the campaign further proved otherwise as he never recognised the party’s gubernatorial candidate.
The source stressed that his action further confirmed his antics and that of the state commissioner of police who were planning to sabotage Lagos APC efforts for PDP during forthcoming elections.
Some of the plan, the source explained, was to tarnish the party’s image, a strategy targeted at dissuading electorate and alter their perception about APC, to garner support for PDP in the state.
Also, the ICG source disclosed that part of the plan was to reduce Tinubu’s popularity in Lagos especially after President Muhammadu Buhari handed over his re-election campaign to him.
Meanwhile, APC has condemned the action of the transport union members who turned the party’s rally to battle ground.
The party publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, while reacting on the act, having reviewed and investigated the actions of the union members and those who had capitalised on the mischief, assured that efforts would be intensified to prevent future occurrence.
Although, efforts to reach the police command’s spokesperson, Chike Oti, for his reaction over the allegations proved abortive as he was not available to speak to us when calls were put through his mobile line.
It would be recalled that the command had earlier declared one of the NURTW members wanted, the person that was alleged to be connected to the mayhem that occurred yesterday during the rally held in the state.