A pro-Jonathan political rally, disguised as a Unity and Peace rally, has ended abruptly on a tragic note in Kaduna, with an unspecified number of participants reportedly injured, with some dripping with blood.
At least two people were stabbed and rushed to hospital while several others suffered minor injuries after participants began to use dangerous weapons on one another, witnesses said.
The rally, reportedly bankrolled by a governor from the South-south geopolitical zone, was organized under the auspices of the Northern Youth Forum, which has members in the 19 northern states.
The governor is believed to have shelled out N500 million for the rally meant to buoy President Jonathan’s acceptance in the north ahead of the 2015 presidential election.
The participants, those familiar with the organisation of the rally said, were bused to Kaduna from all the 19 northern states and paid N3000 each.
In the invitations to participants, organizer Jubril Tafida, a former vice-chairman of a local government in Kaduna and current youth leader of the Northern Youth Forum, had claimed the rally was called to promote unity in the north.
But shortly after the event began at the Murtala Muhammed Square in central Kaduna, it dawned on participants that the rally was organised to drum up support for the reelection bid of President Goodluck Jonathan, witnesses said.
Muhammed Bello, who attended the event, said the rally turned violent after Mr. Tafilda and other speakers began to heap praises on President Jonathan in their speeches.
“As they praised Jonathan, some elements in the crowd began exhibiting campaign posters of the President,” Mr. Bello said. “A lot of participants became angry and they started throwing stones and bottles at the organizers. People started running in different directions. Some people were saying they don’t want to hear Jonathan’s name at the rally.”
Another witness said the police was later called in to restore order.
“The police started shooting teargas until everyone dispersed,” he said.
Spokesperson of the Kaduna state police command, Aminu Lawan, could not be reached to comment for this story, as calls to his telephone failed to connect.
Mr. Tafida’s telephone was also switched off the several times our reporter called.