Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The social media space was awash with news of a purported attack on Governor Willie Obiano’s convoy on 12th October, 2021 at Ihiala during a campaign rally of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) by gunmen.
From investigations, one of the APGA ward chairmen in Ihiala local government area who didn’t want his name mentioned for security reasons, told our correspondent that Governor Willie Obiano, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo and the entire APGA campaign train were at Ogbaru local government area when the gunmen struck at St. Martins Catholic Church Parish field Odata Ihiala shooting sporadically in the air while those who were decorating the venue scampered for safety. He said categorically that no life was lost in the gun duel between the hoodlums and the law enforcement agents who repelled the attack.
While many reported that the campaign was in progress when the attackers stormed the venue which they said was Odata Central School field Ihiala and many were feared dead during the shootout, other sections of the media noted that the invaders disrupted the political rally and held Obiano’s convoy hostage for about an hour and security men at the venue were disarmed and rendered powerless.
Apart from the APGA ward chairman who confirmed that the ugly incident occurred when the venue was being prepared for the campaign rally, a source from the governor’s press crew also confirmed that the governor was still at Ogbaru when they got intelligence that mayhem had occurred in Ihiala and that the event was cancelled forthwith. The source said the governor and the entire APGA campaign team had a swell time at Ogbaru and thereafter left for Awka following the disruption of the Ihiala planned campaign rally.
Meanwhile, the police in Anambra state said their officers and men stood their grounds during the gun battle at Ihiala and quelled the storm. The official press statement from the Police Public Relations Officer of the command DSP Ikenga Tochukwu confirmed it. The statement said, “The Police Operatives of the Anambra State Police Command, at 9:30am 12th October 2021, successfully repelled an attack at Odata Central School, beside St Martin’s Church, Ihiala. Exhibits recovered include: one AK 47 rifle; two magazines with 30 rounds of ammunition; one Lexus 350 Jeep, one Rav 4 Jeep, one Mercedes Benz and a Toyota Corolla.
“Preliminary investigations revealed that the hoodlums started shooting sporadically while arriving Odata Central School but they were successfully repelled by Police operatives and military on ground. No casualty was recorded by the police. Normalcy has been restored and operations are ongoing in the area for possible arrest of fleeing gang members.”
Also, a statement from Soludo’s media office signed by Joe Anatune corroborated what others said about the Ihiala mayhem on 12th October, 2021. The statement reads, “The news making the rounds that Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo’s Campaign team was attacked at Ihiala is totally false and should be disregarded.The Soludo campaign team was at Ogbaru Local Government Area when this unfortunate incident at Ihiala allegedly took place.
“However, it was reported that a combined team of policemen and soldiers repelled an attack by unknown gunmen at Odoata Primary School, Ihiala, where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), was scheduled to organise a campaign rally for the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra. It is also, however, important to note that while this unfortunate incident was happening, Prof Chukwuma Charles Soludo and Governor Willie Obiano were both at Ogbaru at a campaign rally organised by APGA and not at Ihiala as being insinuated by some fake news peddlers. Consequently, the news being peddled around that the campaign train was attacked is therefore untrue and should be disregarded. Prof Soludo applauds the professionalism and gallantry of the combined security agencies who repelled the attackers and expressed his deep sympathy to the innocent people who were attacked.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Willie Obiano, Mr. James Eze, also faulted what could be described as the false narrative showcased by those who reported that Obiano’s convoy was attacked and held hostage at Ihiala. Eze’s counter said, “Our attention has been drawn to the false report in the media alleging that the convoy of the governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, was attacked by gunmen in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. We wish to inform the general public that the report is a blatant lie without a shred of truth in it. The fact is that when some gunmen engaged security operatives in a shootout in Ihiala, Governor Obiano was attending a pre-scheduled political rally in Ogbaru Local Government Area along with Prof Chukwuma Soludo, the standard-bearer of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in the November 6, 2021 gubernatorial election in the state. The Ogbaru campaign was highly successful with a large turnout of party members and supporters who came to reassure Prof Soludo and APGA of their support in the coming election. There was not a single incident of violence in the campaign venue and its surroundings and Governor Obiano and his fellow party men and women all went home peacefully after the rally. The report that Governor Obiano’s convoy was attacked is obviously false and should be disregarded by well-meaning members of the society.”
Also, another information from the grapevine has it that security operatives in Ihiala proved their mettle from the gallantry they displayed while the gun battle lasted on the day the daredevils disrupted APGA rally at St. Martin Catholic Church field Ihiala. The information reads, “A combined team of policemen and soldiers repelled an attack by unknown gunmen at Odoata Primary School, Ihiala, where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) was scheduled to organize a campaign rally for the November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra State. The gunmen came on various motorcycles and in three vehicles, namely, a Toyota Lexus 350 ES with registration number EKY 765 EX, Toyota RAV4 with number JJJ 434FP and a Ford van whose number could not be ascertained at the time of this report because it caught fire during the exchange of bullets between the gunmen and security forces.
“The gunmen, unable to withstand the superior fire power of the soldiers and police officers, quickly ran into the large premises of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital which is directly opposite the campaign ground. They suffered serious injuries, even though they managed to shoot a gallant soldier”, according to an eye witness who did not want his name disclosed in the media for fear of his safety. If the gunmen had not run into the hospital which is a very delicate place to shoot any person, the security men would have gunned all of them down. Security forces, who recovered all three vehicles and motorcycles used by the gunmen, were searching the area by the time this report was filed. The Anambra State Police Command has requested the people in the area to help look out for people with gunshots and report them. It has also asked hospitals and other health facilities in both Ihiala Local Government Area and neighbouring communities in Imo State to report to security agencies patients with gun wounds.
“Meanwhile, Governor Willie Obiano has commended police officers and soldiers who repelled the attack for their gallantry. Speaking to journalists at Atani in Ogbaru LGA where he led a large crowd of APGA faithful to welcome the APGA governorship candidate in the forthcoming election, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo, Governor Obiano described the response of the security men as professional and patriotic. In the same vein, Professor Soludo, who lost three policemen guarding him when he was attacked on March 31 in his hometown of Isuofia, Aguata local Government Area while addressing the youth of the town, lauded the security forces for bravery.
“These security men and women in Anambra State lay down their lives for us and they do their best because of the encouragement they receive from the security-conscious state government, among other factors. We expect more professional exhibition as days go by and the election date approaches”.
The APGA candidate expressed sympathy for innocent victims of the attack, pleading with every aggrieved person “to lay down his or her weapon and opt for dialogue to resolve all differences in the interest of our people”.