Supporters of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, made good their repeated threats of violence to dissenters with the assault of Pastor Ugochukwu Chika, one of the Christian clerics whose attendance at the official unveiling of Senator Kassim Shettima as the running mate of the APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, generated controversy following debunked allegations that they were hired impersonators.
He was mobbed at the Dei Dei building materials market in Abuja this weekend, with his attackers distributing video recordings of the assault to gloat about their “thorough beating of an emi-lokan Bishop who is not Obidient”, a reference to his affiliation with the APC candidate and a clear indication that the attack was as a result of partisan belief.
Pastor Ugochukwu, a well-known preacher in FCT Abuja, was joined by other clerics at the unveiling event and they attributed their support for Senator Shettima to his demonstrated tolerance and inclusive style of leadership, qualities confirmed by all Christian groups in Borno State where the APC running mate served as Governor for two terms.
Evidence of Senator Shettima’s rebuilding and protection efforts in the Christian community have also been made known to the public by prominent leaders of the faith, all of whom expressed confidence in his ability to lead fairly and uphold the rule of law, including the preservation of constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms.
The participation of Pastor Ugochukwu and the other clerics, as well as their attestation to Senator Shettima’s credentials as an open and fair leader with fact-based testimonies that countered and weakened insinuations of a purported covert ‘Islamization agenda’ given the Muslim-Muslim nature of the APC ticket, drew the ire of Obi’s supporters, many of whom had deployed the divisive and fear-mongering tactic to discourage support for the APC and promote their candidate.
Since then, they have subjected Pastor Ugochukwu to vicious threats and other forms of harassment, prompting fear for their safety. Many of them, including Pastor Ugochukwu went into hiding as a result, with reports of him taking refuge in a mosque, a development that buttresses his point on the existence of inter-religious tolerance contrary to the divisive rhetoric spread by those hot on his pursuit.
His luck, however, ran out on Saturday when some of the Obi’s supporters recognized him in a local Abuja market and immediately formed a mob that violently attacked him and made an attempt on his life before the Police and other well-meaning citizens recused him.
Stunned by the development in which an innocent man is mobbed and wounded over the expression of a legitimate political opinion, Nigerians have turned to social media to express their strong condemnation of the incident, repeating warnings to candidate Peter Obi to ‘put on leash’ the monster he has set loose in the public.
David Offor, who tweets via the handle @DavidsUffor, said: “Umunne, how did we get to this point?? Why molest a man because of politics? Igbos are never known to be this hostile ehh. How can others trust us like this? One of the pastors at Shettima unveiling being humiliated by Igbos at Dei Dei market Abuja.”
Another Twitter user @Johnnysleek wrote, “That Dei Dei Market has gradually become a breeding ground for IPOB Biafraud mentality miscreants of Igb0 extraction in Abuja! They must be brought under control before it is too late.”
@OduObodumu called for prosecution with a tweet that read, “Understand a man said to be one of religious people who went for APC vice presidential presentation was seen in dei dei market & d traders decided to attack him. imagine! Hope police will pick them all & charge them to court. The ipob mentality should not be tolerated. @OfficialAPCNg”
Ademuyiwa, a digital communications expert, said the attack was borne of frustration and lack of success with an agenda to exploit fault-line for political benefits. He tweeted that “They keep losing even with their own cards and strategies. The religious card woke up apolitical and indifferent Muslim clerics. This tribal card will also backfire. Again, our candidate is sellable with verifiable achievements. Na una own dey lie effortlessly.”
On his part, @BoluAdeosun condemned the mockery of the victim by other ‘Obidients’, wondering why the basis of their denial that their movement breeds violence if they can find such an ugly incident worthy of gleeful laughter. He said, “You all are having a good laugh now because the man didnt align with your political choice. When they say you Peter Obi people are IPOB una go dey deny. But see the comment section.”
Last week, an activist Deji Adeyanju accused Peter Obi of “raising terrorists” in response to previous incidents of violent threats and attacks against himself and other members of the public for not expressing support for the presidential ambition of the former Anambra Governor.
Femi Kuti, son of legendary afrobeat singer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, lamented the same when Obidients threatened to burn the New Afrika Shrine and harm his family for saying during a performance that he was too old to be an ‘Obidient’ and that candidate Obi’s sincerity was questionable given his open fraternity with members of the same political class he purportedly sets out to depose.