The rebellion by the Islamic sect has taken a heavy toll on communities in the North-east states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, where the group has concentrated its activities since the outbreak of the terror campaign in 2009, which is estimated to have killed more than 10,000 persons.
But the president told a crowd of about 10,000 supporters at the Ramat Square that everything would be done to end the Boko Haram crisis and rebuild the destroyed towns. He also assured that rehabilitation of victims of the insurgency would begin soon.
However, in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, Jonathan’s main rival in the election, the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, General Muhammadu Buhari, accused the president and his party, PDP, is angling to postpone the general election for fear of defeat. Buhari insisted that the elections must hold as scheduled. He promised political and economic rebirth for the country if elected next month, saying Nigerians risk more severe conditions if Jonathan is allowed to return.
Also, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State has alleged that the federal government had sent emissaries to high-ranking emirs in the North to support the postponement of the February election. Wamakko said this yesterday in Sokoto during a courtesy visit by the representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in West Africa, Muhammad Ibn Chambas.
This was as the Inspector-general of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, expressed concern over growing political thuggery ahead of the general election and warned politicians against sponsoring violence. The IGP gave the warning in a release by the Force Spokesperson, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu. The Nigeria Police vowed to “apply the full weight of the law” against politicians who indulge in the use of derogatory language and violence to advance their political interest.
The police statement came against the backdrop of last week’s stoning of Jonathan’s convoy in Katsina and Bauchi during his campaign rallies in the states. And it coincided with a meeting in Yenagoa by ex-militant leaders in the Niger Delta, who saw the attacks on Jonathan in the North as an attempt to “intimidate” him out of office. They threatened to take up arms, if need be, to defend the president.
But APC alleged yesterday that the attacks on the president were arranged by PDP to stoke crisis in order to have an excuse to justify the ruling party’s efforts to reschedule the general election. APC said in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, that the coordinated hysterical reactions to the attacks by the presidency, Senate President David Mark, and the leadership of the Ijaw nation exposed the president’s party as sponsors of the attacks. The statement alleged that PDP had hired miscreants who were given brooms, the APC symbol, to pose as APC supporters and attack the president on purpose to instigate “retaliatory attacks” in the South. The ultimate aim, according to the opposition party, is to precipitate chaos that can be used as an excuse to shift the polls.
PDP has not officially called for the postponement of the general election scheduled to hold on February 14 and 28, but that desire can be gleaned from the body language of the party’s leaders. This is in spite of the nationwide campaign tour by the president in readiness for the election, which continued at the weekend.
Campaigning in Maiduguri yesterday, Jonathan regretted that Nigeria was losing the abundant economic potentialities of Borno State due to the Boko Haram insurgency. He promised to do all within his power to end the Boko Haram insurgency and rescue the over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the group in Chibok, Borno State, last April.
The president said with its vast land and population, Borno State “can feed the whole of this country…Borno State can support the federal government in so many ways, but many people do not want to come to Borno State because of the common enemy of the whole of the people.
“I am promising you that we shall surely end this insurgency. We will surely stop Boko Haram and we shall return Borno to the path of peace. Whatever it takes to do this and to ensure the return of the Chibok girls, we will do. We will surely conquer Boko Haram. We will surely return this state to the peaceful state we know.”
Dignitaries at the rally, which featured a heavy security build-up, included former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff, Director-General of the Jonathan campaign organisation, Ahmadu Ali, Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Minister of Defence, Shettima Mustapha, Alhaji Taminu Turaki, and Hon. Mohammed Wakil.
At the APC presidential rally in Ado-Ekiti, Buhari said Nigerians had passed through hell during the past 16 years of PDP’s leadership, saying the people should resist what he called an attempt to perpetuate Jonathan in power through poll postponement.
The former Head of State said regarding PDP, “The party has been given opportunity to rule Nigeria in the last 16 years and all we had were corruption, insecurity and unemployment. Rather than submit to the will of the people, they are looking for loophole to short-change the people.
“The February 14 election offers opportunity to vote against incompetent and corrupt government and attempt to ensure that this does not happen, should be resisted by the electorate.”
Among notables at the APC rally held at the Ekiti Parapo Pavilion, which was filled to capacity by the party’s supporters, were the party’s vice presidential candidate, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, his wife, Bisi, Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Chief Segun Oni, former Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Professor Modupe Adelabu, deputy director general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Senator Olorunibe Mamora, and Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
A highpoint of the event was the presence of House of Representatives member and for Labour Party governorship candidate, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, which signalled his imminent return to the party. Former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and a chieftain of PDP, Hon. Sola Ajigbolamu, also led other PDP members to defect to APC.
As the parties campaigned for votes, the police warned them against reckless language and actions that could cause violence. “We have also received disturbing reports of the pulling down and defacing of campaign posters. These conduct definitely do not speak well of the maturity of aspiring leaders,” the police said in a statement, stressing that such acts also contravene the law. It said, “The Nigeria Police will apply the full weight of the law on any political actor, sponsor, associate or foot-soldier who resorts to hate speech or the use of violence to advance his or her political agenda.”
Abba directed all Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police and Commissioners of Police to investigate all acts by politicians and their agents that contravened the law.
But APC said the recent attacks on the president and PDP presidential candidate were sponsored by the ruling party to give itself an excuse to shift the elections.
APC said about PDP, in a statement, “Apparently, they did not envisage that the information about their complicity over the attacks will leak to the public. It is common knowledge that the security around the president is such that no hoodlum can come close enough to pelt him with stones.”
The party said the presidency distorted facts when it accused APC of breaching the Abuja peace accord signed by the presidential candidates of the various political parties, saying the PDP and its thugs did not allow the ink with which the agreement was signed to dry before they started breaching it.
“The second attack on our offices in Rivers took place after the pact was signed, just like the serial attacks on our supporters in Sokoto, organised by a PDP stalwart in the city and aided and abetted by the police. The death-wish-for-Buhari advert by the incautious Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State in the name of President Jonathan, which could have triggered unimaginable violence if not properly managed by the APC, also breached the agreement,” the statement by the APC national publicity secretary said. “Where was the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Professor Rufai Ahmed Alkali, when all these breaches were taking place? Not once did he issue a statement to say 'this nonsense must stop'.
“Where was the senate president, David Mark, when these breaches were taking place? He was never on record as condemning the attacks on the APC offices and its supporters or the irresponsible and downright repugnant advert by Governor Fayose. Are those in the opposition not Nigerians who also deserve the care and attention of the nation's number three citizen?”
APC condemned the bombing of its office in Okrika, Rivers State, by suspected PDP thugs in an area where First Lady Patience Jonathan had campaigned without any incident earlier in the week. The attack that occurred in the early hours of yesterday forced a postponement of the APC governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside’s campaign rally in Okrika billed for Saturday.
“Now that the antics of the PDP have been exposed for the world to see, we are once again calling on Nigerians and the international community to prevail on President Jonathan and his party to desist from its plot, using the excuse of violence and PVCs, to shift next month's polls. If President Jonathan is sure he has utilised the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2011 to their satisfaction, he should be eager to know the verdict of the citizens come February 14, 2015,” APC said.