South Shields General Election candidate overcomes paralysis after 'poison bid'

A General Election candidate has told how she is recovering from paralysis after a suspected attempt to poison her.
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Oni Oviri, who will represent the Conservatives in South Shields, said doctors told her she might never walk again after she lost all feeling down the right side of her body from her shoulder to her foot.

While she has recovered sufficiently to take part in December 12’s poll, she is still unable to bend her toes and is uncertain whether nerve damage will completely heal.

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Miss Oviri, 37, from Croydon, London, was supporting Atiku Abubakar’s bid to become Nigerian president when she woke up on the morning of the February election to discover she was paralysed.

Oni Oviri, the Conservative candidate for South Shields.Oni Oviri, the Conservative candidate for South Shields.
Oni Oviri, the Conservative candidate for South Shields.

The Conservative councillor said: “I strongly suspect that I was deliberately poisoned. The doctors have refused to say so so far because they are still carrying out tests.

“But there were high levels of mercury in my blood system. You cannot ingest that much mercury by eating it in food. So the conclusion must be that I was poisoned.”

Asked why she fears she was targeted during a restaurant visit, Miss Oviri, whose parents were born in Nigeria, said: “I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps when you are working on an election there are people who dislike other people if they feel you are pushing a particular agenda which is not the same as their own.”

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She spent more than three weeks in a Nigerian hospital before continuing her recovery in a London hospital and then at home.

Oni Oviri in South Shields town centre.Oni Oviri in South Shields town centre.
Oni Oviri in South Shields town centre.

Gradually returning to her duties on Croydon Council – “councillors carried me from the car into meetings” – she started walking again in July and recalled: “I was totally determined to walk again after being told by doctors in both countries that I might not.”

She said: “We have spoken to lots of people since we have been here and they have been honest and say they want change.”

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Among her policies would be to make South Shields “Britain’s Dubai” by seeking free port status for the Port of Tyne post-Brexit while also developing the town’s tourist potential.

She said: “There would be a halo effect for the surrounding area and could create an extra 48,000 jobs for the area. Nissan, which is worried about Brexit, would benefit.

“There is also money for coastal communities. £50m here, £30m here. It should not just be southern resorts applying for them.”

Miss Oviri, who has friends from South Shields and has visited the town several times previously, does not believe her London roots should count against her.

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She said: “Eric Idle and Ridley Scott have left here and done well elsewhere. It is the same coming here. You can be born in one place and still succeed somewhere else by doing your best for that area.”

The full alphabetical list of South Shields candidates is Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour), Sarah Jean McKeown (Green Party), Oni Boghene Oviri (Conservatives), William James Shepherd (Liberal Democrats), Geoff Thompson (Independent) and Glenn Michael Thompson (Brexit Party).