Chuks Okocha, who was in Owerri, the Imo State capital, writes on the Peoples Democratic Party rally where defecting members of the All Progressives Congress and the All Progressives Grand Alliance were received into the PDP fold
It was no doubt one of the biggest political rallies in recent time in the east of the Niger. It was the day the South-east and South-south states of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) welcomed the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the heartland of the east, Owerri, the Imo State capital. It was also an avenue where the PDP made it clear that it was ready to take over the Douglas House, seat of power come 2015.
The turnout at the Owerri rally was a huge success when compared to the PDP rally that took place at the Shehu Kangiwa Square in Sokoto when former governor Attahiru Bafarawa joined the PDP. The stadium was filled to capacity by PDP members who sang and danced under the scorching the sun. It took extra efforts of the security operatives at the stadium to control the crowd, especially when the president arrived.
Though the visit was the first by President Jonathan after the electorate in Imo gave him the 1.3 million votes, they turned out regardless in their thousands to welcome him. They also used the visit of the president to reassure him that they were behind him and would cast their votes for him, irrespective of political party affiliations.
The commercial city of Owerri was decorated in style with dancers and praise-singers making brief earnings for their artistic display.
The purpose of the visit was to receive defectors from the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) who defected to the PDP. The president arrived in style through a helicopter after paying a courtesy call on the chairman of the Southeast Council of traditional rulers, Eze Ilomuanya. The rally, tagged ‘PDP Sensitisation Rally’ aimed at reclaiming Imo from the Rochas Okorocha-led APC government
Apart from the defection, the Owerri rally was also significant in the sense that it was the day Jonathan warned all the five governors, National Assembly members and other chieftains of the party that defected to APC that they stood the possibility of losing their seniority if they did not return to the party now.
Jonathan spoke glowingly of the new national chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, whom he described as the game changer in PDP and in the national politics.
â€œThe message today is very clear and I believe some of my good friends are not here. They know where they are. We have opened the door for a few days. You join us these few days, the position you occupy is the position any other person will occupy. No discrimination. But if you don’t come and come later, you will queue behind your ward assistant chairman. So, the time to join us is now so that there will be nothing like discrimination in anything. The party is open for everybody. Equal rights and justice is guaranteed. We are a party that believes in justice and so we must also believe in equal rights.
“For us, Imo State PDP has come together; everybody has equal rights- there is no discrimination. We call on all of you who are still watching that this is the best time to join us so that you can use the platform of PDP to express any interest you have. If you donâ€™t come back now, if you come back later, then you queue behind. There is no discrimination.â€
The president who was overwhelmed by the crowd at the stadium said â€œlooking at the crowd, it is clear that the Imo state belongs to PDP. We are not here for a campaign; I donâ€™t know how it will be when we come for the 2015 campaigns. From what I see here, Imo state has bounced back to PDP. It has come back stronger than was the case in 1999.â€
Jonathan also lampooned other political parties and described them as political parties without ideology, respect for internal democracy and rule of law. â€œIf you want to join a political party, what is it that you look out for? Does the party have respect for democratic principles, like sense of inclusiveness and the status symbols like what we have in the PDPâ€?
Jonathan, who said the PDP represented Nigeria as anything affecting the PDP has the capability of affecting Nigeria, argued that â€œPDP is the stabilising factor in Nigeria. There would be no democracy in Nigeria without the PDP. We are still the same from 1999; we have not changed our name since 1999. Our logo has remained the same. PDP has always been the best, even when we have issues. We follow the rule of law.
â€œYou donâ€™t need to be a moneybag to win elections in the PDP. We play decent politics and we expect every Nigerian who wants decent politics to emulate the PDP. I have been telling Nigerians not to shed blood because of party politics.â€
The rally was attended by who-is-who in the PDP family. Some of those in attendance included the Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President, David Mark, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, PDP national chairman, Adamu Muazu, former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, Chief of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Anthony Anenih, the deputy national chairman, Uche Secondus and NWC members.
There were former governors of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, former governor of Ebonyi state, Sam Egwu, Senator Ajaegbu, Ndudi Elumelu and former Senate President, Ken Nnamani among others.
The rally received such defectors as former Imo State governor for eight years, Achike Udenwa, APGA senator, Chris Anyanwu, Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, Cosmos Iwu, and Mike Ahamba.
However, THISDAY gathered that PDP was not happy with the continued absence of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, despite invitation allegedly extended to him. He was also absent at the Sokoto rally when President Jonathan received Bafarawa.
One after the other, the PDP chieftains at the rally spoke on the need for a united PDP in the state to enable the party return to the Government House in 2015.
Senator Hope Uzodimma blamed PDPâ€™s inability to win the 2011 governorship election on internal crisis. But promised that in 2015, PDP would reclaim what is traditionally its own. According to Uzodimma, “PDP will form government again in Imo State and continue with governance at the centre.”
Ihedioha said â€œToday marks the beginning of the journey towards regaining Imo State Government in 2015,â€ stating that the mistake of 2011 will not repeat itself in 2015. He assured the president that the 1.3 million votes he received from the state are still intact for him in 2013 and urged him to declare for 2015 presidential election as the Imo people are behind him.â€
He said Okorocha was a mistake made in 2011 and that the rally was about righting the mistakes of 2011 because the state is PDPâ€™s, adding that the 1.3 million votes which Jonathan got in 2011 was not a mistake and would get more in 2015.
The Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio said PDP lost the governorship in 2011 governorship elections because they did not protect their votes.
“Ohakim did not lose the election, he only lost the calculations. People don’t take APC again, but what they take now is Panadol. PDP will win 99 percent and leave one percent for APGA. The President’s transformation bug has caught Imo State and in 2015, PDP will take over the Government House. The will of God for Imo State is that PDP win the governorship election in 2015.”
In his speech, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh itemised the achievements of the federal government under the Jonathan administration. He listed such to include Owerri-Port Harcourt road, Owerri-Aba road and Owerri-Onitsha road, built over 200 kilometers of roads in Imo state as well as the remodeled Imo Airport and the Federal Medical Centre coupled with a 700 room hostel at the Federal University in Owerri.
Apparently overwhelmed by the crowd, the Senate President, David Mark, said the PDP was yet to commence campaign, wondering that “if we start campaigns what will happen?” For him, from what he saw at the rally, PDP is the party to beat in Imo because all the state’ heavy weight are members of PDP.
Also, the PDP chairman of Board of Trustees (BoT), Tony Anenih, urged the party in the state and the entire country to play politics of inclusion and unity. According to him, PDP was the only party that could ensure unity of Nigeria.
He therefore pleaded with Imo to continue to support PDP, saying “You voted for PDP in 2011, when we come for your votes in 2015, please support us again.”
Publisher of the Champion newspapers, Iwuanyanwu pleaded with Jonathan to declare for his re-election as the time is now. He said Imo state was grateful because he fulfilled all his campaign promises.
The Southeast chairman of PDP, Col Austin Akubunde, also called on president to declare for 2015 because the zone is solidly behind him.