Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:21 am
Political activities gather momentum ahead of the Valentine’s Day elections with Nigeria’s dominant political parties, Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress, hitting the states and soliciting for votes from Nigerians to clinch the nation’s top job
While the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chose Lagos state as its first port of call in its search for votes ahead of the 14th February Presidential election, the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, chose Jonathan’s home base as its starting point in the quest for much needed votes to sack the President from office.The parties’ choice of venues for their flag off campaigns gives a clue to their mindset and indicates a desire by both parties to poach votes from the other’s strong base. Sort of fishing in the pond at your opponent’s backyard!
Lagos has, for years, since the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, been in the clutch of the opposition progressives from the Alliance for Democracy, AD, to Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and now, All Progressives Congress, and has always been a star target for the ruling PDP which had consistently chased after the state with repeated failures.
On the other hand, the South South states have been the toast of the PDP and had consistently contributed nearly hundred percent votes to the PDP until lately, following the internal contradictions that erupted within the party causing some of its former loyalists to decamp to the opposition party. Such defections, as in the case of the Rivers state Governor Rotimi Amaechi, thereafter opened up the region for the incursion of the opposition APC where the party has so far attracted some top politicians into its fold with its chances of garnering much needed votes in the region greatly enhanced.
The choice of the Rivers state capital as the venue for the flag off of APC’s Presidential campaign is thus a deliberately calculated step to boost the chances of the opposition party’s quest to snatch at least enough constitutionally required votes from the South South states to better the chances of its candidate clinching the nation’s top job.
Addressing a mammoth crowd of supporters at the Adokiye Amesiemeka Sports Complex, Igwurita-Ali, in Ikwerre local government area of the state, Buhari said the two major challenges facing the country were insecurity and an ailing economy made worse by corruption and promised to fight the two problems and revive the ailing economy of the country if given the chance.
“The major problems we are facing in Nigeria today is the problem of the economy and insecurity. We have arranged competent hands to manage the economy once we come on board on May 29, 2015,” said the retired General and former Head of state to the admiration and cheers of his supporters.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi who also doubles as Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organization, successfully mobilized about a hundred thousand supporters to the venue for the event and spared no expense to ensure the success of the flag off campaign. The Governor’s efforts drew commendations from Buhari, who heaped praises on him for the good job done in mobilising the mammoth crowd which graced the flag off event, adding that the way the governor mobilised supporters for the lunch of the APC campaign was an indication that the party made the right choice in making him the head of the campaign organisation.
“I did not close my eyes and pick anybody. We came through processes recognised by our great party and he earned it. I thank him very much for accepting me because it is a lot of hard work with a lot of sacrifices,” he said.
The APC Presidential candidate pleaded with Nigerians to be patient and to support the party in the forthcoming elections to enable it reposition the nation for development.“I am appealing to you, the damage that has been done to this country is great. The level of unemployment, the level of insecurity is intolerable. The damage has been done, it will take time, patience and support from you to ensure that we succeed”. Part of the activities that marked the APC Presidential campaign flag off in Port Harcourt was the official presentation of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers state, who defected to the APC, to the party’s leadership.
APC’s Port Harcourt flag off event was without challenges as some supporters of the party from the Khana Local Government, Ogoni around Saakpenwa axis of the state, were attacked by some unidentified masked gunmen on their way to attend the event. The state governor accused the PDP of masterminding the attack which had been confirmed by the Rivers state police command’ spokesman, DSP Muhammad Ahmad.
From the Rivers state capital, the APC train moved to another PDP stronghold state, Akwa Ibom, where the APC Presidential candidate presented its governorship candidate, Mr Umana Okon Umana, a former secretary to the state government, to the party’s supporters. The campaign train thereafter moved further into the south south region, visiting Calabar, the Cross River state capital same day last Tuesday.
At the Calabar campaign rally which took place at a Government Secondary School, the APC Presidential candidate reiterated the urgent need to fight insecurity and corruption which are currently holding the nation hostage and promised to ensure stable power supply if elected president. As it was in Port Harcourt, a huge crowd of people came out to receive Buhari’s campaign train which thereafter moved on to Warri in Delta state where Buhari made a promise to transform all the nation’s refineries to make them work optimally if elected.
As the opposition party was busy casting its nets for votes in PDP’s Presidential candidate’s home base last Tuesday, the ruling party was putting finishing touches to its campaign machinery with the inauguration of its Presidential Campaign Committee at Abuja for the take off of its Presidential campaigns billed for Lagos last Thursday. During the inauguration ceremony where campaign vehicles were also commissioned, President Goodluck Jonathan reassured Nigerians and the international community that the general elections would be free, fair and credible, adding that the forthcoming election would ensure continuity of democracy in the nation and enjoined party leaders to encourage members of the campaign organisation to ensure that all campaigns were issue-based.
“When we start campaigns, we will confront them with what we have done as a government, we will tell them what they did not do when they were heads of state. Some people want to still keep Nigerian children as shoe cleaners, we must lift them up. Our children should not be used as cannon folders. They should be allowed to move forward to be governors like us”. Thumping the party’s chest, Jonathan stated that the PDP has all it takes to run a victorious campaign.
“We have everything it takes to run an excellent and victorious campaign. Our great party has demonstrated to Nigerians that it is the party with the broadest appeal. We are the strongest and the biggest. We have engaged the people of Nigeria positively with people-friendly policies, which have moved Nigeria forward. We have sustained the democratic tradition. We have strengthened democratic institutions. We inherited a rather complex security challenge but we are waging a determined war against it. We are succeeding in preventing terrorists and insurgents from turning more of our communities into enclaves for their dastardly activities” The President’s directive to the PDP campaign committee to drive an issue – based campaign attracted a response from the opposition APC which promptly welcomed the challenge rather than personal attacks on respective parties’ candidates. In a response released from the campaign train in Calabar last Tuesday, the APC noted that the issues facing the Nigerian voters today are essentially those of security, unemployment, the economy and corruption.
The opposition party’s response was signed by the Director, Media and Publicity of the campaign organisation, Mallam Garba Shehu, who explained that the security challenges facing the nation have put the Jonathan administration out of its depth, noting that the government has run out of ideas. He pointed out that the purported improvements of the economy being bandied by the PDP government are merely on paper and only reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.
“No government could boast of improving the economy when the quality of life for the majority of the citizens is getting rapidly worse. You can’t run an economy on unworkable economic thieves that haven’t impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians in practice”. The APC explained that with the prospects of gainful employment ever grimmer, the Jonathan government lacks the moral right to talk about issue-based campaign in areas of people’s lives in which he has failed woefully to deliver. According to the statement, one of the greatest issues facing the Nigerian voters is jobs and job security.
Furthermore, APC maintained that no development or progress can ever take place in any country where corruption or stealing, not only thrives, but is also celebrated and condoned and wonders how a government that strikes deals with corrupt persons in return for political support should preach about issues-based campaign. It concluded by observing that on all the issues facing Nigerians, the PDP has failed the citizens and urged that the Jonathan Campaign should not talk about issues in which it has failed woefully.
In an apparent obeisance to the President’s directive on issue based campaign, the party’s campaign Committee in its maiden media briefing hosted by its spokesman, Chief Femi Fani Kayode, last Wednesday renounced the ruling party’s earlier position linking the APC Presidential candidate with the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Chief Kayode stated that no such link exists between Buhari and the sect but however noted that because of the alleged anger displayed by the APC when the sect was proscribed by the Federal Government, that the APC might be in support of the group. “The fact that we have said that Buhari made suggestions or statements on Boko Haram in the past doesn’t mean that the government has evidence against him but the APC had spoken against the proscription of the Boko Haram and if they take over, they might lift the ban on the sect.”
While canvassing for support for the re election of the President, the campaign spokesman expressed his party’s belief that the APC candidate represents a return to an ugly past, which is best forgotten. He said President Jonathan represents Nigeria’s hope for a greater and better future.
At the party’s campaign flag off event at the Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, last Thursday, President Jonathan visibly lost his temper as he responded to the volley of attacks by opposition politicians. He said his message was for Nigerian youths, especially those under the age bracket of 18 to 23 years who had never voted before. He noted that the forthcoming election is for the young people and urged the teeming supporters of the party who thronged the venue to be steadfast and to work for his re election.”2015 election is for you young people, either you vote for the Nigerian youth to be relevant or you vote for the Nigerian youth to be irrelevant. I believe that young Nigerians will take us to the moon. My generation has failed Nigeria and no party has given the Nigerian youth the kind of opportunity that they have received under the PDP government” the President stated.
The PDP campaign thereafter moved to Enugu state as the quest for Nigerian votes propel the parties to the nooks and crannies of the nation ahead of the February general elections.