On Tuesday, the campaign team of President Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, in grand style. The Oluyemi Kayode venue of the colourful event was filled to capacity, with supporters drawn from the 16 local government areas of the state. They basked in the euphoria of Governor Ayodele Fayose’s popularity, the same factor the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Jonathan, hopes to leverage to win the presidential election in the state next month.
Members and supporters of the party waited from about 10am till 3.46pm, when Jonathan and his team came into the arena. The Jonathan/Sambo Support Group, led by Mr Bola Olu-Ojo, and members of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, headed by an oil magnate, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, were all decked in resplendent dresses. They held green flags bearing the portrait of the PDP presidential candidate.
Fayose has always been reputed for his robust grassroots appeal. That largely accounted for the landslide victory he recorded over the then incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, in last year’s governorship election. PDP is trying to rely on this popularity in next month’s elections in the state.
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Fayose had declared that civil servants should close by 12 noon on that day. This, however, seemed to yield little result as many of the civil servants saw the early closure as an opportunity to attend to their private businesses.
A critical look at those at the event showed that they were mainly from commercial motorcyclists, drivers’ unions, and market men and women. They were supported by the party leaders and members clad in cloths bearing the inscription of Jonathan.
PDP would be hoping to use the huge crowds to water down the seemingly huge public opinion against Jonathan now in the state.
Jonathan waxed philosophical throughout his 25 minutes speech. He sounded convincing and less emotional. It was like a discussion between family members.
However, not oblivious of the fact that many of the projects he promised to initiate while campaigning in 2011 have not been executed, Jonathan tried to tactically wriggle out of the issue. He first listed those projects his government had executed outside those that had been promised. The cheering from the crowd seemed to confirm that the strategy actually worked.
Jonathan described himself as the best president for Ekiti people, being the most educated state in the country. He said he had been able to complement education, the most thriving industry in Ekiti State, with the establishment of a federal university located in Oye Ekiti, to encourage the young generation.
The president told the audience of Ekiti people, “You did not come to beg me when I established a federal university in Ekiti. I just felt that Ekiti, being the most educated state in the country must have a federal university. I believe it is not fair to deny Ekiti of this right and I had to do it.”
He said his administration had built 100,000-capacity silos worth N2.2 billion to help the farmers to store their grains. The PDP candidate added that Ekiti will also benefit tremendously from the several youth empowerment programmes he would be initiating under You-Win programme for unemployed graduates.
To give the programme a strong back up, he said he had instituted a “Jobs Board”, to be chaired by Vice President Namadi Sambo, to fine-tune arrangements under which two million unemployed graduates could be trained and given loan facilities through the federal government to become employers of labour.
Jonathan added, “Nigeria is producing about 1.8 million graduates annually. With You-Win, about two million will be empowered annually in small –medium scale enterprises. In another five years, Nigeria can boast of many youth billionaires through this scheme.”
The president also appealed to the emotion of the people in the area of economic survival. He used the opportunity of the fact that the state rely solely on federal allocation to send a signal that all the money expended on federal roads by the state, running into N17 billion, could only be recouped if Ekiti State aligned with the government at the centre.
Speakers at the event included Fayose, Ondo State Governor and South-west coordinator of the Jonathan campaign organisation, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, director-general, Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation, Chief Ahmadu Ali, and PDP National Chairman Adamu Mu’azu.
The speakers called on the Ekiti electorate to reject the APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, Jonathan’s main challenger.
Jonathan’s campaign in Ekiti State was a success. The crowd was impressive and the president spoke eloquently well. But what he needs now is the ingenuity to covert the crowd to votes. He also needs to do a lot to dissuade Ekiti people from the mounting demand for change of government at the centre.