The campaign train of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stopped over in Enugu, last week with its presidential standard bearer, President Goodluck Jonathan addressing a large crowd. People from all parts of the state and beyond trooped to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, venue of the event. It was a carnival of some sorts as the teeming members of the party in different PDP regalia danced to the expansive arena. The turnout was a further proof that Enugu is a PDP state as all the streets in the state were literally empty.
The crowd that gathered at the stadium had waited endlessly as the event was initially billed to commence at 10am. During the long wait, the gospel artistes and masters of ceremony had a swell time in their effort to fill the gap arising from the late arrival of the president. The two outstanding gospel singers, who performed on the occasion – Felix Ndukwe and the Delta state-born Sammy Okposo – gave the audience a full dose of their stuff. The singers intermittently sang praises of Jonathan, Governor Sullivan Chime and Enugu PDP candidate, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
President Jonathan finally arrived at the venue of the colourful rally at exactly 2.15p.m. He was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, deputy Vice President, Namadi Sambo, National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, Governor Sullivan Chime and Enugu PDP governorship candidate, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
The rally also had in attendance the entire PDP hierarchy from the governors to members of the party’s National Executive Committee, National Assembly members and the governorship candidates of the party. Others who graced the occasion are former Senate presidents and elder statesmen including former vice-president, Dr Alex Ekwueme.
Political observers argue that even though the event has come and gone, many issues came to the fore during the rally. Some of them include
deconstructing Buhari. Many of those who listened to President Jonathan’s speech were in agreement that it was aimed at deconstructing the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari.
Critical observers agreed that substantially, his unscripted speech was in response to previous statements made by the APC standard bearer at various occasions. President Jonathan accused Buhari of deceiving the people by promising that he would revive the economy without correspondingly explaining how he would achieve that.
The President wondered how Buhari could develop the economy when he could not do so in office as Head of State between 1983 and 1985.
“Is it Buhari that cannot even remember his own phone number that will change the economy,” he asked. Jonathan, who said although he did not like to go personal during campaigns, added that “sometimes certain things demand that certain things must be said.”
The President said the APC candidate belonged to the medieval age, adding that Buhari’s intention is to run the federal government like a medieval king. His words: “we cannot run the government as if we are in a medieval age; we cannot run a government where somebody said he would throw people into jail.
“You are not a medieval king – a medieval king can throw somebody into jail but we have to follow the rule of law because we cannot go back to the old days.”
President Jonathan was not done yet as he read the speech made by former Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) after overthrowing Buhari on August 27, 1985. The speech he read was to justify the fact that Buhari does not keep his promises. General Babangida in the portion of the speech read by Jonathan justified the overthrow of the APC standard bearer by pointing out that Buhari did not live up to the promises he made to Nigerians when he overthrew a democratically elected government headed then by Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
The president quoted Babangida as saying: “The initial objectives of Buhari’s intervention were betrayed as there was a general deterioration of standard of living in the country”.
Many observers argued that Jonathan’s hard knocks on Buhari made him to gloss over what in practical terms he would do for the South-east people and indeed Nigeria when he is re-elected for a second term in office. But Governor Chime assured President Jonathan that people of the state and indeed the entire South-east would support his re-election bid.
“The traditional rulers have told you that you have no business campaigning in Enugu. We are here to support you. We are here to celebrate our governorship candidate, Ugwuanyi,” he told the president, who handed over the governorship flag to Ugwuanyi – an item some members of the party at the rally and particularly people of Enugu State, were anxiously waiting for.
The anxiety over the flag was obvious considering the struggle for the governorship seat. Before the rally, there were still pockets of doubts over the actual candidate of the PDP in Enugu State. One of the contenders to the Lion Building, Senator Ayogu Eze had claimed to be the PDP candidate in Enugu after holding a parallel governorship primary at Filbon Hotel, in the New Haven part of the state.
But with Friday’s rally in Enugu, the struggle for the PDP flag became history as the hierarchy of the party led by Jonathan officially handed over the flag to Ugwuanyi, who is about rounding off his third term in the House of Representatives.
When the real kick-off ceremony rolled off the ground, Mu’azu, who was called up to the podium after Ikeje Asogwa and Chime had presented their addresses added colour to the profile of Ugwuanyi.
“This is one of the most popular candidates I have ever met in this period of electioneering in our country”.
He called on other aspirants who had run against the candidate to join hands with him and the party while also urging Ugwuanyi to work with all party faithful whether they had run against him or not. He paid tributes to elder statesmen in the South-east region such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nwafor Orizu, Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu and others who have contributed immensely to the development of the country.
He thanked the people of the South-east for their show of support and solidarity for the PDP, which has made the party grow in leaps and bounds. Muazu thereafter formally handed over the party’s governorship flag to Ugwuanyi, declaring that it was a flag of victory from the PDP.
Ugwuanyi enjoys overwhelming support of Enugu PDP stakeholders, and the party faithful, many of whom have constituted over 100 support groups working to actualize his ambition.
Recall that the party stakeholders in the three senatorial districts of the state had long adopted him as consensus governorship candidate before the primary election.
A chieftain of the party and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon USA Igwesi described the handover of party flag to Ugwuanyi as a confirmation of victory for the PDP in Enugu State. He said the development showed that the PDP believes in the popular will of the people, adding that with Ugwuanyi’s candidature, the ruling party could go to sleep as far as the governorship election is concerned.
“In my entire political career, I have never seen any politician who has enjoyed the support of his people like Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. This is unprecedented in the history of Enugu State. The support is so overwhelming that even members of other parties are solidly behind him. He is just waiting to be crowned the next governor of Enugu State and I am sure he will not disappoint the people,” he said.
Chairman of the PDP in Amachalla/Ikpuiga ward, Mr. Hyacinth Urama praised the PDP for ensuring the maintenance of internal democracy in the party.
He said the handover of the PDP flag to Ugwuanyi had proved that truth will always prevail. “The PDP is a family and when members of a family take a decision, it is binding on all of them. In democracy, it is the majority that carries the vote,” he said.
Speaking with newsmen after receiving the flag, Ugwuanyi thanked the party and the people of Enugu State for the confidence reposed in him and assured them that he would consolidate on the current gains and take the state to the next level of development.
The Enugu PDP governorship standard bearer, who promised a robust campaign enthused: “The presentation of the party’s flag to me by the President and our National Chairman is a call to duty, a charge to work hard with my governor and the rest of the team to deliver Enugu State to the PDP 100 per cent as has been the tradition and that I will surely do, God being my helper.”
Many curious supporters were quick to notice that Ayogu Eze, the Senate Committee chairman on Works was conspicuously absent at the PDP rally. It was observed that few members of the PDP, who still show solidarity to the Enugu North Senator, were also not near the crowded stadium venue of the rally. What many took away from the rally was that Enugu is a PDP state and that the coming governorship election would not change the overwhelming support people of the Coal City state have for the ruling party.
It is stating the obvious that no other party has what it takes to dislodge the PDP in the battle for the Lion Building. However, critical observers who monitored the rally argued that the main challenge is how to convert the large turnout to actual votes. Many insist that what is important is for the teeming supporters to ensure that they get their permanent voters’ cards that will qualify them to vote in the next governorship election.