President Goodluck Jonathan commenced his presidential campaign on last week with a scathing evaluation of his main opponent’s professed strong point. Ojo Maduekwe and Anayo Okolie report
The Thursday presidential campaign rally by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos was massively attended. Party members and their candidates from across the country were in attendance.
Also present were the 36 gubernatorial candidates of the party as they were presented their gubernatorial flags at the rally.
President Goodluck Jonathan came to the kick-off rally for his presidential campaign prepared to hit hard at an area for which his main rival, General Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress, was widely believed to have a lot of competence.
Corruption and insecurity are among the hottest topics in the current election. They have provided the biggest political ammunition to the president’s opponents accusing him of non-performance. And they have formed subjects that are widely considered Buhari’s strong points.
But when on Thursday Jonathan, who is the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, kicked off his second term campaign in Lagos, it was an opportunity to hit back and try to puncture what he believed to be an undue credit to his opponent.
The president said, “I am going to dwell on three things because those who say they want to take over power from PDP have been telling a lot of lies. They have hired people from all over the world and those of you in the social media carry all forms of lies, painting all kinds of colour and giving me all kinds of face that I cannot defend.”
According to the president, “The first is the issue of insecurity. I am also going to address whether this administration is fighting or encouraging corruption. I am going to address the issue of weak government and unfocused government that has no plans. Yours is to listen and compare with everything that has been done before in this country and take a decision.”
Jonathan agreed that lack of adequate equipment was the bane of the antiterrorism fight in the country. But he blamed past governments, including the former military government of Buhari, for serially starving the military of necessary arms and ammunition.
He said concerning the past leaders, “These people did not buy anything for the Nigerian soldiers. They refused to equip them. No attack helicopter, nothing. Ask them what they did with the defence budget for the whole time they were in office. No country equips armed forces overnight. What they use is quite expensive and they are built over the years. Even if you spend 10 billion dollars today, you cannot equip the army, navy and air force.”
On corruption, the president said the anticorruption agencies had been doing a lot but had not been showcasing their activities.
Regarding the insinuations that his government is weak, Jonathan said he was only seen as such because he had refused to adopt the bizarre and draconian approaches used by some of the past administrations in the country.
“A New President”
It was Jonathan’s moment as he spoke to the capacity crowd at Tafawa Balewa Square that Thursday, and he seized the moment. Those who were present at the kick-off of the PDP presidential campaign and listened to Jonathan deliver his speech would attest that something seemed to have changed with the president, at least in his speech content and delivery.
You can call it the desire to win a re-election, but the fact remains that something seems new with Jonathan. At the rally, he was the last to mount the podium and speak, and for those who endured the over five hour’s wait, it was one that was worth their time. The president’s speech was so inspiring that an obviously excited compere said, “This is a new president.”
Indeed, there was something different about Jonathan. Delivering his speech, he exuded confidence and his arguments were on point.
Few days before the Lagos event, which was attended by all the PDP state governors, serving federal ministers, party members and the governorship candidates of the party, someone had in a discussion; while probably expecting Jonathan to disappoint at the rally, said that Jonathan’s speech was always poorly delivered, that whenever he began speaking, people would rather switch the channel to “Cartoon Networks”, than listen in.
For all those who have taken it as an academic study to follow and scrutinise every speech ever delivered by Jonathan since he became president in 2010, Thursday’s speech is expected to rank high in their list of “well-delivered-speeches” by the president. His facial expression, gestures and the intermittent raising of the right hand did well in charging the listeners.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola told an audience in Edo State that same Thursday that he had spent about an hour listening to the president speak in Lagos, and discovered “this was an angry president.” From his facial expressions and the tone of his voice, Jonathan was, indeed, upset by what he described as a deliberate attempt by the APC to deceive and lie to Nigerians.
“Now some people have employed social media critics to lie that we are not doing anything… Once the party said that they will not jail corrupt politicians because they want to add more people to their party. Days later their candidate went to Port Harcourt and said he will throw corrupt politicians into Kirikiri. Can someone who speaks from both sides of the mouth be trusted?” Jonathan asked the crowd, which chorused “No”.
Alleged Attempted Assassination by MEND
Chiding the APC presidential candidate for failing as a military ruler, Jonathan said he had built schools, unlike Buhari who built prisons when he was in power. He also took a jab at the endorsement of Buhari by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
In a tone that was sarcastic at best, Jonathan, after spilling what some have described as a bomb shell, said, “I’m sure that this Okah is supporting some people.” He had accused Henry Okah, MEND leader who is currently in prison detention in South Africa, accused of throwing bombs at the Eagle Square on October 1, 2010 during the country’s independence anniversary.
“On October 2010 when we were to celebrate independence, Okah was procured by some Nigerians to assassinate me. Okah bombed Abuja while attempting to assassinate me. Intelligence report from South Africa and Nigeria roped him in and foiled his plan,” the president said.
Besides the allegation about Okah’s plot to assassinate him, which was one of the jabs he threw at Buhari’s endorsement by MEND, Jonathan’s speech was laced with several other arguments meant to puncture the arguments of the opposition. While arguing his administration’s effort to curb insecurity, the president told the audience to ask Buhari, “If he bought one rifle for the military” during his tenure as a military ruler.
Mend is the largest militant group in the Niger Delta that vowed to fight exploitation and oppression of the people of the area and devastation of their natural environment by the oil corporations and the federal government. The group wants a greater share of the country’s oil revenues for the Niger Delta people.
MEND before the October 1, 2010 bomb attack on the Independence Day celebration at Eagle Square had been linked to attacks on the oil infrastructure and guerrilla warfare within the Niger Delta.
It was a perfect opportunity for the PDP to tackle opposition leaders. In his opening remarks, Ahmadu Ali, the Director General of the Jonathan-Sambo Campaign Organisation, took the crowd by storm with a chunk of his remarks in Yoruba. Ali, who was PDP national chairman, said the PDP, unlike the APC, belongs to all Nigerians.
“The PDP is not the exclusive preserve of an individual who has turned Lagos into a cow to be milked,” said Ali.
Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko on his part urged the crowd to settle for a presidential candidate who is “cool as a cucumber,” rather than one who is not “21st century educated.”
Noting that despite the antics of the opposition to make President Jonathan the most abused, most insulted, most negatively-profiled president in the history of Nigeria, he has refused to enact any obnoxious law in the mode of Decree 2 of 1984. He said, “We thank you. We do not take you for granted.”
Goodwill messages and messages of support also came from different groups and individuals. Former Super Eagles Captain, Joseph Yobo, spoke on behalf of the youth while PDP Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, spoke on behalf of Northern governors. Chief (Mrs) Jumoke Akinjide, minister of state for the Federal Capital Territory, sang President Jonathan’s praises and trumpeted his achievements in office.
The speakers also dwelt on the dead Lagos metro line, cancelled in the 80’s by Mr. Buhari when he was Head of State, perhaps hoping that resurrecting the ghost of the project would haunt the retired general.
“Our memory is not short not to remember the anti human decisions…,”Mimiko said, referring to the regime of `general Buhari in the 80s.
He said: “A project the Jakande administration had committed a whooping $75 million at that time was meant to put an end to traffic nightmare in Lagos metropolis through installation of a circuit of rail lines that will have stretched all the way from Agege to Marina, Ikorodu in the north and Badagry in the east, ferrying nearly a million people a day 31 years ago.”
Minister of State for FCT, Jumoke Akinjide, said that the nightmarish traffic experience in Lagos would have been history had Mr. Buhari not cancelled the metro project.
“We have a presidential candidate, during his tenure we had political exiles, political prisoners, and we had bodies in crates,” Akinjide said.
“Now we have another candidate, today in Nigeria there is no political exile, no political prisoner, which one is the better one?”, she asked the crowd.
Bode George, a leader of the PDP in the Southwest, urged the crowd not to be deceived by newspapers’ “lies and propaganda”.
“I want to ask you, the last 16 years, have you enjoyed anything in Lagos?”
The crowd roared “No.” “The worst part of it is they are talking about corruption and good governance.”
Senate President David Mark on his part said a choice of either PDP or APC was like a decision between day and night.
“What we are asking you to do today is to go back and vote for Mr. President so he can consolidate all he had done in his transformation agenda,” said Mr. Mark.
Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu called on the party’s supporters not to allow a repeat of the 2011 post election violence.
He said, “Today I’m going to speak to you about violence. We in the PDP abhor violence. We in the PDP have respect for our fellows including those in the opposition. We must not fall for propaganda. We must understand the difference between sentiments and reality, and we will be ready because PDP is going to win this election. We saw what happened in 2011.”
Godswill Akpabio, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, urged the youth not to vote a candidate who would sentence their parents and uncles to 300 years in jail.
“These are the united governors of the PDP in Nigeria. Any person that was elected as a governor who is not here today must have been aggrieved because he wanted the seat of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.”
“And because he could not get it, he decided to join what they call the Aggrieved Peoples Congress, APC.
“Nigeria cannot afford to hand over this country to people who are aggrieved. We cannot afford to hand over leadership to people who are bitter.
“Are you ready to go to prison? Some of you, your fathers, your grandfathers were given 310 years for crimes they did not commit. Some of them were given 180 years. People like Jim Nwobodo, the governor of the old Anambra State.
“A person who was in the habit of collecting democrats and locking them up cannot today come and pretend to be a democrat. Can a leopard change his skin?”
Also speaking at the rally, Adamu Muazu, the PDP Chairman, said, “Our party has no owner. Our party is our party, you and I and all of us. And everybody has the singular chance and opportunity to be anything in this party.
“Whatever your tribe, whatever your ethnic group, whatever your religion, you equally have the opportunity to be whatever you want in this party. Therefore I want you to know choice of our party PDP is the right path.”
In any case, the February 14 presidential election is fast approaching, and it is being projected that if Jonathan keeps up with the sort of speech delivery witnessed in Lagos on Thursday, he just might win more followers to his side of the campaign that already appears to be divided by sentiments rather than facts.
One foreign news organisation, China’s CCTV, in a news recap of the event and the buzz president’s speech had generated on twitter, said several hash tags had been created by Jonathan’s supporters, following the speech at the Lagos rally, to promote his re-election.
Message to Young People
The president had, obviously, intended to use his speech to attract several young voters. He had in his speech charged young people to take advantage of the election, declaring that the older generation was spent and should be allowed to go.
According to him, “I want to address Nigerians who would probably be voting for the first time this year. The old ones are already spent, and so the 2015 elections is about you. Either you vote to be relevant as young ones, or you vote to be irrelevant and be treated as nonsense. I have asked INEC to ensure that everyone who is of voting age gets his or her PVC, and I mean it.”
In attendance at the rally were Governors Theodore Orji (Abia), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Idris Wada (Kogi), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), James Ngilari (Adamawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe State).
pix: PDP page.1 pix.jpg
In S’South, Buhari Begins Campaign
Ernest Chinwo, Okon Bassey and Bassey Inyang look at the kick-off of the nationwide campaign of the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, in South-south last week
The Kick-off in Port Harcourt
As early as 6am last Tuesday, people had started swarming into the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Igwuruta-Ali, in the Greater Port Harcourt City, for the kick-off of the All Progressives Congress presidential campaign.
The excitement among members and supporters of the APC was palpable. The preparations had been painstaking, with party and Rivers State Government officials spending most of the Christmas period at the APC state secretariat and the Dakuku Peterside campaign offices at Old GRA, in Port Harcourt.
Indeed, on the eve of the rally, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, who was in charge of mobilisation, said the organisers were expecting not less than 100,000 supporters at the 40,000 capacity stadium. Obviously his mobilisation efforts paid off as more than 50,000 supporters of the party were in the stadium to witness the kick-off of the campaigns and the local security personnel assembled by the party to assist regular security agencies had a hectic time trying to control the crowd. In fact, some of them were manhandled by party members who felt they were being restrained from “gyrating” in the stadium.
Buhari Assures on Security
Buhari addressed a mammoth crowd of supporters at the stadium. He was accompanied by Rivers State Governor and director-general of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal; Governors Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State, as well as members of the National Working Committee of the party.
Addressing the crowd, Buhari promised to fight insecurity and corruption and also revive the ailing economy of the country. He reiterated that the two major challenges facing the country were insecurity and an ailing economy made worse by corruption. He said his party had already assembled capable hands that would work towards improving the economy as soon as he was sworn in on May 29.
To enable the people exercise their franchise and give him the mandate he needs to work for them, the APC presidential candidate told them, “Go and get your PVC (permanent voter card) and ensure that you vote. We will make sure every vote counts in 2015 election. We have lined up programmes on how to tackle unemployment. We are going to assembly a team of professionals for wealth creation and employment for our teeming youths. We will put mechanism in place to fight insecurity, improve on the economy.”
In his goodwill message, Tambuwal said the turnout of APC supporters at the campaign rally was an indication that the people of Rivers State and Nigerians, in general, would come out en-masse to vote for the party in the general elections. He said he defected from Peoples Democratic Party because “we don’t deserve the kind of leadership we have at the centre.”
According to Tambuwal, “Many people were surprised by my defection to the APC. It is because I have presided over the House of Representatives for more than three and a half years and we have carried out oversight functions on the present government at the centre and what we saw was mind-boggling. We don’t deserve the current kind of leadership we have at the centre.
“We deserve a better Nigeria. We accompanied Buhari to the rally because we believe he is the right person to take Nigeria to a greater height. Buhari is the next president of Nigeria by the grace of God, come February, 14, 2015. Today, we have insecurity and high level of corruption in Nigeria…There is a clear indication that the people of Rivers State will vote for Buhari and all APC candidates.”
However, while at the stadium news started filtering in that some members of the party from Khana, Asari-Toru, and Degema local government areas of the state, who were on their way to the rally, had been attacked by unknown gunmen. The initial reports said one person was killed while two women sustained serious injuries in the attacks, which occurred along the Bori-Saakpenwa Road, in Khana Local Government Area, as well as Okpo community in Asari-Toru Local Government Area of the state.
But later reports said nobody died in the attacks, though, seven persons were seriously injured and were taken to the Kelsey Harrison Hospital, Diobu, Port Harcourt, for treatment.
The ceremony, however, went on without hitches. While the rally went without incident, the attack on APC supporters coming to the venue became a major subject of discussion and debate during and after the rally. Amaechi threw the first salvo in his welcome address at the rally, as he accused the PDP of being responsible for the attack.
The governor said, “I heard today that members of APC from Asari-Toru and Khana local government areas were attacked on their way to this place. The PDP believes in guns, we believe in God and man. We shall stand and face their bullets; we shall stand and face their guns.”
The police in the state confirmed that there was an incident in Khana but alleged that it was an armed robbery attack.
A statement by the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Muhammad (DSP), read, “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to inform the general public that on 06/01/2015 at about 1240 hours information by a Good Samaritan was received that on the same date at about 0500 hours between Yaghe and Sakpenwa in Gokana LGA some unidentified armed men suspected to be armed robbers had attacked innocent commuters.
“Police patrol vehicles raced to the scene where they cleared the road block, combed the forest around the scene where the armed robbers were suspected to have fled to and maintained presence.
“Information received later indicated that a commuter bus was attacked at the scene where some victims sustained various degrees of injuries. The said victims were traced to a hospital where they are responding to treatment.
“The case is under investigation, while aggressive manhunt of the fleeing armed robbers is on-going.
“The Command further reiterates its determination to providing adequate security to all, as demonstrated by the effective crowd and traffic control within and around the venue of the launching of the presidential campaign of All Progressives Congress, which ended without any adverse incident.”
But the accusation continued the next day, as Amaechi led Buhari and other top APC stalwarts to the hospital to visit the seven members of the party who were shot in the incidents.
Addressing journalists shortly after the visit, Amaechi appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to call on his supporters and members of his party, PDP, not to unleash violence on APC supporters in Rivers State and across the country.
The governor called on Jonathan and the PDP to condemn the attack and take necessary steps to stop their members from acts of violence.
His words: “We as APC members are the people the people expect to be violent; yet, we are a peaceful party. Imagine the president goes for campaign in Katsina or in Kano and his convoy is attacked. We will condemn it. In the same manner, we expect the president and the Peoples Democratic Party to condemn these attacks by their members and we expect that they should be able to hold back their members.
“The president promised us a violence-free election and our people are already experiencing violence. We are saying that if the government fails to provide security for individuals, individuals will provide security for themselves, and I pray that people don’t begin to provide security for themselves. I pray that the state should provide security. The fact that people are being attacked here and there is an indication that the PDP is not prepared for a fair and violence-free election.”
The APC governorship candidate in the state, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, also condemned the attack, describing it as unwarranted.
Peterside said, “You are aware that yesterday (Tuesday), we had a presidential rally in Port Harcourt and our people were attacked at three different points; one, was at Elele, another one was between Kpoki and Kira in Ogoniland, and the third one was between Emohua and Sa-Ama-Abalama axis of the state and so many persons were injured and some of them are unconscious.
“We thank God that we did not lose any life, but for me, this is an unfortunate trend. I don’t want to believe that this is a signal that violence will characterise the 2015 election, because that is not what any of us desires. The president has said, whether he means it or not, that his ambition is not worth the blood of anyone, I agree with him to that extent.
“But, again, it is one thing to share your philosophy, it is another thing to see your people clearly against what you believe in and you are doing nothing about it. We are optimistic that the president and his party, the PDP, will come out strongly and condemn the act of violence meted out to members of the APC in Rivers State.”
In her own reaction, Director of Communications, Greater Together Campaign Organisation (the governorship campaign team of APC in Rivers State), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, also accused the PDP of resorting to bloodshed and terror against Rivers people.
While commiserating with the injured and promising close care and treatment, Semenitari, who is also the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, declared that Rivers State had been handed over to God. She vowed that no level of intimidation will return the state to dark days.
“The PDP should know that Rivers State and her people have been handed over to God. Nothing, not PDP’s gun-toting style of politics, will return Rivers State and her people to the dark days when gunmen and criminal lords held sway,” she said.
Semenitari said, “Those shot include Aadum Pya-Alu (male), who was shot on the leg; Deemua Beatrice, shot on the back-arm; Sorbari Npebee, shot in the head and neck; Barbe Jack, stomach; and Victory Vinam, shot in the leg.
“They were from Ward 6 in Khana while the other victim was the driver of the second bus. Another victim, Wisdom Akpogbara, also from Ward 6 Khana, and shot in the head, had by yesterday (Tuesday) been moved to a Rivers State-owned hospital where he is receiving medical attention. The sixth person shot in the stomach had also been admitted for better treatment. The three whose conditions were worse, as they had relapsed into unconsciousness, had improved and stabilised after medical doctors had extracted bullets from their bodies.”
But in its reaction, the PDP in the state said its members had no hand in the incidents and advised the APC to look inwards to know where its problems were coming from. A statement issued in Port Harcourt by the PDP state chairman, Felix Obuah, through his media aide, Jerry Needam, said, “The PDP hereby makes bold to say that no member of the party was involved in the alleged shooting of suspected members of the APC.”
It further declared, “Gunmen are not members of the PDP and they are not also working for the PDP. Members of the PDP are God-fearing and cannot be part of any activity that will spill blood
“The PDP urges the APC to settle their internal crisis, which is gradually tearing the APC apart, arising from the imposition of Dakuku Peterside as governorship candidate without due process, and leave the PDP alone.”
As the blame-game rages, it is not clear who attacked the APC members. And the police appear to have introduced a complication into the search for the attackers with their theory of an armed robbery attack.
What is clear is that with such savage attack on APC supporters in a state where leaders of the ruling party and the opposition PDP are in fierce contest for votes, the omens for hitch-free polls do not look good.
Campaign Train Moves to Uyo
It was a real broom revolution on January 6, when the All Progressives Congress presidential campaign team converged on Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, for the rally of their presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari. The event also featured the official presentation of the party’s flag to the state governorship candidate, Obong Umana Okon Umana.
The capacity of the venue of the rally, the Uyo Township Stadium, was stretched as the entire stadium, outside and adjourning streets were taken over by party faithful. The crowd that turned out for the rally had not been seen at an opposition rally in the state since the return to democracy in 1999.
There were no indications of crowd renting from the mood of the thousands of people from the 31 local government areas of the state and beyond that came for the rally. They went back home at the end of the event satisfied, without the frequently witnessed nuisance of fighting gratification or settlement.
Before now, Akwa Ibom State was seen as 95 per cent controlled by the ruling party in the state, Peoples Democratic Party, with a feeble opposition. The situation has changed since the defection of Umana, a former frontline governorship aspirant of PDP, to APC about a month ago.
From about 9am on that January 6, supporters of APC in the state had gathered at the venue of the rally, exuding enthusiasm, until the convoy of Buhari, Umana and chieftains of the party arrived the stadium about 3.40pm.
As the crowd sighted the entourage, there was a thunderous ovation. In that attitude of celebration, Buhari, Umana the chieftains on alighting from their vehicles walked around the stadium, waving to the crowd, stirring further caused wide jubilations.
APC chieftains who attended the rally included the national chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Governor of Rivers State Rotimi Amaechi, who is also the director-general of the Buhari campaign organisation, former governors of Anambra and Zamfara states, Senators Chris Nggige and Sani Yerima, respectively, former first lady of Akwa Ibom State, Mrs. Imo Isemin, and the state party chairman, Dr. Amadu Attai.
Buhari Promises Infrastructure, Anti-corruption
Addressing the crowd, Buhari vowed to tackle corruption head-on if elected and reiterated his intolerance of corruption. He noted that the inability of the leadership to tackle corruption was a major problem faced by the country, saying, “From the day we come to power, with God willing, anybody who steals Nigeria’s kobo will find himself or herself either in Kirikiri or another prison.”
The former military Head of State said it was shameful that the current leadership in the country under the PDP wanted to perpetuate itself in power despite the deteriorating situation of things. He recalled that in the past, the country used to have railways, airways, shipping lines, but for the past 16 years the PDP government had succeeded in destroying those facilities.
“The party, PDP, has succeeded in ruining this country. We have a lot of work to do. To secure this country, provide jobs and ensure infrastructure is put in place. We have reached a stage where change has to come. PDP has to go, let them pack and go because enough is enough. We will use Nigeria’s money to put in education, agriculture and power,” Buhari said.
He advised Nigerians to get their permanent voter cards and ensure on the election day they vote under rain or sun.
Odigie-Oyegun had while introducing Buhari to the people said what the former military leader preached against 30 years ago on corruption and indiscipline in the country had come to pass.
“Thirty years ago we were not ready; we got him out of office. But today, 2015, the people of Nigeria, men, women, and youths say they want General Buhari.”
He described Buhari as a man as straight as he looks in character and everything.
Presenting the flag of the party Akwa Ibom State to the APC governorship candidate, Umana, Odigie-Oyegun said it was to the credit of the party that Umana who was admitted into the party about a month ago was able to pull such a huge crowd.
Receiving the flag, Umana, thanked God for providing him the opportunity to lead the process of change in Akwa Ibom State.
He said, “As a former Director of Budget, Permanent Secretary, Commissioner for Finance, and Secretary to the State Government, the people know me and I know the people of Akwa Ibom State. I want to say that it is time for change. We have had enough of uncommon propaganda. It is time to ensure that we changed the circumstances of the people; we put an end to poverty and impunity. We are tired of a situation where one man will act as if he is God, as if he is the one to appoint governor. Come February 28, you need to effect the change.”
Amaechi said despite an alleged plan of the PDP-led federal government to use the Nigeria Police, the Army, and other security agencies to intimidate the opposition and gain undue advantage in the coming elections, APC members must stand up to oppose the plot. He regretted that about 10.5 million Nigerian children were out of school, with the PDP government showing little interest in addressing the problem.
The governor said, “If you sit down there and think PDP will give you power, you are wasting your time…
“We have heard they have army, police, do they have God? So why are you worried? The people are tired. This is what we call the broom revolution. Millions of Nigerians are out of work or unemployed or under-employed and government is not interested. We promised we shall create three million jobs. We shall invest in agriculture. Agriculture is essential to deal with unskilled workers. God has blessed us so well, but poor leadership. We assure you, if we win, there will be basic difference between this current PDP government of President Goodluck Jonathan and government of the president in waiting, Buhari of APC.”
Nggige recalled that before now, the state governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, had told members of the Senate that the former Secretary to the State Government, Umana, will be his successor. “When the whole senate visited here about three years ago on retreat, this governor who is here used his mouth after prayers and said Umana Okon Umana is the anointed candidate. After praying to God can it change like that? Umana Okon Umana is going to Hill Top Mansion.”
Akwa Ibom State is really witnessing an important moment of change with the rising popularity of the opposition. How this would develop will be obvious in the coming weeks.
The Rally in Calabar
The presidential campaign of All Progressives Congress got to Calabar last Wednesday, where the party’s presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, and other members of his contingent addressed a rally at Government Secondary School, Atu, in Calabar South Local Government Area.
Though, neither the traditional U.J. Esuene Stadium nor the Cultural Centre,in Calabar Municipality, were used for the rally, residents of the town and the entire state could perceive that something uncommon was happening.
As early as 10am, thousands of enthusiastic party members, supporters and others who came to witness the event from across the 18 local government areas had started converging on the venue of the campaign rally.
Amid drumming, dancing and shouting of “Change” by hundreds of youths, and display by various masquerades, the crowd waited patiently for the arrival of Buhari and other members of his team. They included the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, director-general of the APC presidential campaign organisation, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, and chieftain of the party, Prince Tony Momoh.
About 1pm news filtered into the venue that the aircraft conveying Buhari and his entourage had arrived the Margaret Ekpo International Airport and would be getting to the venue soon given the short distance from the airport to the venue. The distance is about 15 minutes’ drive, but it took about two hours for the convoy of cars, numbering more than 100, to get to the venue.
The convoy came into the venue of the rally about 3pm. Buhari was accompanied by Odigie-Oyegun, Amaechi , the state chairman of APC, Pastor Usani Usani, and other party chieftains. They were met at the venue by Senator Olorumibe Mamora , Hon. Abike Dabiri, state chairman of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, Mr. Cletus Obun, Minority Leader of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Alex Irek, and others.
Many people who attended the rally said since Buhari started contesting the presidential elections in 2003, he had never had his rallies in Cross River State. The rally was well attended.
A lawyer, Mr. Utum Eteng, said, “The large turnout for the APC rally is a sign of protest against the draconian style of the PDP leaders in the state. People are just looking for anything different from the PDP to hang on as a mark of protest. The crowd was not rented and branded with T-shirts and fez caps, so, I see this crowd translating to votes for APC on February 14.”
At the venue, the Odigie-Oyegun presented the APC flag to the governorship candidate APC, Mr. Odey Ochicha. Defectors from PDP were also received into the APC. Among them was the lawmaker representing Boki 1 State Constituency, Ernest Eki, and his supporters. A senatorial candidate, Mr. Maria Ukpanyang, and Efiong Ekarika were also presented to a cheering crowd at the rally.
Security and Economy
Addressing the crowd, Buhari said, “The situation in this country is of genuine concern to us. We have two fundamental problems that the government of APC would attack head-on: insecurity and the economy, because if there is no security there is no way the economy would be vibrant.
“If there is corruption from top to bottom, a vicious cycle is established. You either kill corruption or corruption will kill the country. We are determined to make sure that the economy is expanded so that the tendency to steal and misappropriate and misapply government resources would be discouraged.
“Our main objective is to make sure that agriculture and development and exploration of other mineral resources are given priority. This will give immediate relief to the large number of able bodied unemployed, whether they had the opportunity to be educated or not.
“I promise we will secure this country, we will provide employment through agriculture, we will build infrastructure to make sure industries are resuscitated. Our industries are dying and will continue dying unless we get supply of power correct, because without power, they cannot break even, they cannot be competitive to stop foreign cheap products from flooding Nigeria. Whether the naira is high or low, foreign goods will still come unless we resuscitate our industries and give our people jobs.
“The biggest asset you can give a people is education. When you allow schools to be dilapidated and equipment is not available and you have paucity of qualified teachers, then you are digging a grave for the failure of the nation.
“My advice is that you get your Permanent Voter Card and on the election day, come rain come sunshine, try and put up with any problem put before you. Go and vote and make sure your vote counts.”
Also addressing the rally, Amaechi said the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan is from the South-south did not mean that people of the zone must vote for him. “The first term of the president was on the basis that he was our brother. This second term is based on merit and achievement and he has not achieved. If he has achieved, he should fix the road from Calabar to Uyo and from Calabar to Ogoja, Calabar to Bakassi also. So, tell me why you need to vote for the president when there is a Buhari who says when he becomes president, he will reconstruct those roads?” the governor said. “Deceit would not work this time. You cannot tell me you are my brother. If you vote for an APC governor, we shall revive your oil palm companies and provide 5, 000 workers, which is employment. APC has promised that you will have three million jobs in the next four years. So we need to refocus on agriculture. Business can only work if we fix our roads. I can assure you our incoming president will fix our roads. He has said he will save money from corruption and the money saved will be used for development.”
The APC leaders would be hoping that the new passion for change in Cross River State will translate to votes for them.