President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday shocked members of the All Progressives Congress at his campaign rally in Abeokuta, the Ogun State Capital, when he asked them to vote for any governorship candidate of their choice in the forthcoming general elections.
The rally, held at the 35,000-capacity Moshood Abiola International Stadium, was marred by violence, with thugs throwing stones, sachet water and sticks at chieftains of the party seated at the podium.
Recall that Governor Ibikunle Amosun had been at loggerhead with the national leadership of the party following his failure to secure governorship ticket for Adekunle Akinlade, his preferred successor. He then vowed to work against his own party in the governorship race.
The governor's aggrieved supporters, with his consent, moved into the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and they all participated in Monday's APC rally. The APM had before now adopted Mr. Buhari as its presidential candidate.
However, Mr Buhari, while addressing the crowd before presenting the party's governorship candidate in the state, Dapo Abiodun, told the gatherings that they should all vote for APC in Saturday's presidential election. He then added that they were free to vote any other candidate apart from that of the APC at the governorship election.
"On Saturday, February 16, you are to vote for Presidential candidate of the APC. But I want to urge you to choose whoever you like across the parties as governor of Ogun State. There is no problem about it. I have no problem about it. The rest people of Ogun State will decide," the President said.
Mr Buhari had behaved similarly at the presidential rally of the APC in Owerri, Imo State, when he asked members of the party in the state to vote for any candidate of their choice apart from the presidential election.
In Imo, Governor Rochas Okorocha's preferred successor is running on the platform of Action Alliance, a party he embraced after he failed to clinch the ticket of the APC.
Governor Amosun had earlier in his speech canvassed votes for the governorship candidate of the APM, saying "we have told them that they (APC Governorship Candidate), that they are not up to five per cent."
Trouble started early in the rally shortly after Buhari arrived the Moshood Abiola Stadium in company with the Vice President Yemi Oshinbajo, Governor Amosun and other chieftains of the APC.
The Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Rotimi Amaechi in his opening remarks remarked that the rally was an APC campaign, a note that was received with shouts of "no", "no" from the stands.
The protests got louder when the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, came on board and disclosed that his mission was to introduce President Buhari and the gubernatorial candidate of the party.
His comments sparked confusion and sachets of water were hauled in the direction of the party chairman where other party chieftains were seated.
Governor Amosun had to step in to appeal to the party members to be calm and not "disgrace" him before President Buhari.
His repeated appeals fell on deaf ears and went into crescendo as the insistence of Mr Oshiomhole to present the party flag to Prince Dapo Abiodun, further infuriated party members.
That led to uncontrollable heckling from the stands, forcing security men to erect a barricade around the President and other party chieftains.
When it was time for former Governor Bola Tinubu to speak, Rauf Aregbesola, former governor of Osun State, stepped in and his pronouncement that there were unfaithful party members at the gathering fuelled further fuelled shouts of rejection from the stands.
Mr Buhari, apparently noting the crisis at the rally, thanked party members for turning up in their numbers to receive him.
He admonished them to vote for him in the February 16 presidential election.
However, on the governorship election, the president advised members of the party "to vote for any candidate of their choice".