2019 elections: Abia governorship debate ends in chaos

2019 elections: Abia governorship debate ends in chaos

- A debate for governorship candidates in Abia state ended in chaos on Tuesday, January 22

- Gunshots and teargas canisters were fired by security aides of the governorship candidates to contain the situation

- Many sustained bruises and minor injuries, while struggling to escape being hit by bullets

A debate for the governorship candidates of four major political parties in Abia on Tuesday, January 22, ended in chaos, following sporadic gunshots at the venue of the exercise in Umuahia, the state capital.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the gunshots and teargas canisters were fired by security aides to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and Dr. Alex Otti, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), to contain the situation.

According to the report, the shooting and teargas caused a stampede in the hotel premises, as scores of people, including newsmen and supporters of the candidates at the venue, scampered to different directions in a desperate bid to escape being hit by bullets.

In the process, many fell down, sustaining bruises and minor injuries, while struggling to escape through the main gate, which was the only exit route in the hotel.

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Trouble started immediately after the tension soaked debate, when the governor’s motorcade was about to leave the venue.

Scores of youths, said to be students, had besieged the hotel, seeking to have audience with the governor. They were said to have also organised another governorship debate in Umuahia on the same day and had invited the governor to participate.

Their attempt to get to the governor, who was already seated in his car, was stopped by his security aides.

As the students surged toward the governor’s motorcade, the security aides seized and manhandled their leaders, forcing other students to barricade the main gate to the hotel.

In an attempt to disperse the crowd and bring the tensed situation under control, the security aides fired several shots and teargas canisters into the air before forcing their way out of the hotel.

The debate, organised by a group of online practitioners and some private radio stations in the state, was attended by Ikpeazu, who is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Otti.

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Others were the governorship candidates of the Social Democratic Party and Accord Party, Dr. Blessing Nwagba and Mr Emeka Uwakolam.

Discussions at the debate centered mainly on the state of the Abia economy, security, infrastructure development, youth employment, education and health, among others.

Meanwhile, a civil society organisation, Youth Empowerment Solutions (YES), has launched a campaign against violence as Nigeria prepares for the 2019 general elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2.

The campaign tagged 'I Stand 4 Peace' is geared towards raising awareness that will engender peace, before, during and after elections.

Speaking at a press briefing/media launch of the campaign on Monday, January 21, Oche-Precious Edeh, the convener of the group, said YES will collaborate with other groups to embark on campaign tour of the country during the campaign.

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