by Sola Fasasi
On Saturday 12th February 2011, a stampede broke out at a presidential campaign of The Peoples Democratic Party at the Liberation Stadium, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State. According to reports, at least 20 people died, and about 25 others were injured during the rush at the rally. According to media reports, this was caused by the refusal of security operatives to open the gate for those who wanted to leave the arena through the main exit points while President Goodluck Jonathan was still addressing the crowd.
Here’s what National Coordinator of the Cool2Vote Nigerian campaign, Fi’ammari Machar Zoaka, has to say:
“While we commiserate with the families of those whose lives were lost and those who were injured, we condemn the security lapses which led to such an incident at the venue of what was supposed to be a peaceful rally for the supporters of a presidential candidate. Coming at a time when there has been a massive pop-culture driven campaign by young Nigerian professionals, celebrities, politicians and pressure groups sensitizing the youths to come out to participate actively in the electoral process, tragic incidents like this can discourage Nigerians from coming out in April to exercise their franchise.
We call on the government to execute a proper investigation into the cause of the Port-Harcourt tragedy and ensure that those responsible are made to face the full wrath of the law. A situation where Nigerians who have hitherto been apathetic about politics are forced to experience such ugly setbacks as the reckless waste of human lives must not be allowed to happen again. It constitutes a serious threat to the yearnings and expectations of Nigerians for peaceful polls in April.
We urge millions of Nigerian youths to turn out in their numbers in the April general elections to vote for their candidates and defend their votes. No matter the obstacles, we want them to remember that it is still cool to vote and that it is their civic responsibility to vote their choice candidates and ensure that their votes are counted.”
The Cool2Vote Nigerian campaign is a non-partisan coalition of young Nigerian professionals, celebrities and political activists.