As Atiku, Obi, PDP faithful walk through South-West states

Sam Nwaoko, Oluwole Ige and Hakeem Gbadamosi capture the scenes as the presidential campaign trail of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hit Ekiti, Osun and Ondo last week.

THE presidential campaign trail of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)featuring former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi, and the party faithful berthed in Akure, the Ondo State capital, on January 14.  Party loyalists from across the state showed their unwavering support for the return to power of the former ruling party as they trooped out en masse to identify with the party and its presidential flag bearer amid excitement.

The PDP presidential rally was the first in the state since the party was rooted out of power in the  November 2016 governorship election which produced Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Party (APC) as the governor of the state, while the party also lost a bit of vive with the exit of the  immediate past  governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

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But to showcase their readiness to fill the void, PDP loyalists in Ondo demonstrated their unflinching support and resolve to identify with the PDP, with hearty displays and a huge crowd.  The mammoth crowd that thronged the Democracy Park  ground, where the rally took place,  was a signal of the readiness of the PDP to right the wrongs of the past as its leaders reeled out messages of hope, comfort and promises to rescue the country from what they called misrule, maladministration and incompetence of the ruling APC during the rally.

In trying to justify the belief that the PDP is firmly on ground in the state, the state chapter of the party made efforts to convince the PDP presidential hopeful during the visit that it was ready to deliver the state for Atiku in the February 16 election. They waited for hours to receive the campaign train which set off in Ado-Ekiti the same day.

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Addressing the large crowd of the party faithful, the leaders of the party took turns to tell the audience many reasons they should vote out APC and refuse to go back to Egypt, describing the four years of President Buhari as the worst in the history of the nation’s democracy.

The national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, pleaded with Nigerians not to elect or vote for an analog president again but urged the voters, especially the youths, to elect a leader who is abreast of new world order and capable of turning around the country positively.

Secondus said that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC have failed the people woefully, saying the PDP has chosen a credible and experienced presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Peter Obi, to lead the rescue mission.

The Senate President and the Director-General of Atiku Campaign Council, Dr. Bukola Saraki, apologised to the people of Ondo State and Nigerians as a whole for being part of the entourage who deceived and cajoled the electorate to believe that Buhari was the best for the job during the 2015 presidential campaign.

He, however, canvassed for votes for Atiku saying a vote for PDP and Atiku in next month’s presidential election is a vote to take the country to the new world and out of poverty, assuring that Atiku would make life better for Nigerians.

“There is no security, there is no food; there is hunger. Atiku is the man that can fight insecurity, hunger and unite Nigerians.  He understands it; he knows how to create jobs. He knows how to unite Nigerians and put smiles on their faces,” Saraki said.

Former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, described Ondo State as the home of democracy where the foremost Yoruba  group, the pan socio-political group, Afenifere, was formed, attributing the large turnout to the love of the people in the state for standing for the real tenets of democracy.

Daniel said apart from this, the state in the past had produced great politicians who contributed their quota to the development of the nation and its democracy.

Atiku, the PDP flag bearer, while addressing the crowd said APC had failed to live to expectations and had not kept to its electoral promises. He said the APC deceived Nigerians with the promise to tackle insecurity, turn around the economy and provide three million jobs but said people had lost more than 10 million jobs in the last three years.

“My good people of Ondo State, APC has stolen all your jobs; now they want to steal your votes. They did it in Ekiti and Osun, Ogun, Bauchi; they even stole in Kastina where they come from. I don’t know why they have to steal in their home,” he said.

Atiku, however, promised to run an inclusive government with an assurance that 40 per cent of youth and 30 per cent of women would be accommodated in his cabinet, noting that they occupy the highest percentage of the nation’s population and restated his commitment to create jobs, security and resuscitate the economy of the country.

The highpoint of the rally was the address of the chairman of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in the state, Mr. Oyinlola Ogungbemi, who disclosed the decision of the coalition to support Atiku in the election, saying “this is the time for real change. We had clamoured for change in the past but the change turned out to be a terrible one.

“We have been experiencing hardship, joblessness, economic hardship and insecurity. I am assuring you that a vote for Atiku is a vote out of these hardship and solution to all the myriads of challenges confronting us as a nation.”

In Ado-Ekiti, a colourful campaign had literally commenced at Ikere-Ekiti, the home of the chairman of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Council in Ekiti State, Professor Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola. Professor Olusola, popularly known as Olusola Eleka, the party’s governorship candidate in the July 21, 2018 governorship election in the state, had received the Atiku/Obi presidential campaign entourage along with his principal and the South West coordinator of the campaign, former Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.

The PDP presidential candidate could not just have moved through the crowd at Ikere without at least absorbing the love shown him by the expectant people of the community. Besides, it is the belief among the people of Ekiti State that Ikere, seen as the town that benefitted most from the government of Ayodele Fayose after Ado Ekiti, still loves the PDP and is still looking forward to what the Ekiti governorship election tribunal would say of their son’s petition.

The Atiku/Obi campaign train thereafter moved to Ado Ekiti, the state capital, where a large crowd of PDP supporters had been waiting nearly all day. Before the party’s presidential hopeful moved to the campaign ground, he had been received by the traditional rulers in the state. The monarchs had gathered at the palace of the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe Aladesanmi III, and were led by the chairman of the Ekiti Traditional Council, Oba Michael Ademola Ademolaju, the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti.

At the brief visit, Atiku Abubakar apologised for his late arrival and called on the monarchs to forgive him as he explained that logistics was the cause of the delay. He stated that he was in Ekiti State to seek the support of the people in his quest to take over the mantle as leadership of Nigeria, and pleaded for the support of the royal fathers.

“We are in Ekiti to talk to our people and Nigerians and seek their support,” Atiku explained. However, he did not forget to commiserate with the traditional rulers and people of the state on a recent accident that claimed over a dozen lives in Iworoko-Ekiti.

The traditional rulers, who responded through their chairman, Oba Ademolaju, welcomed the former vice president. He said there was the need for peace, saying “we want peace before, during and after the elections. We want peace, because nothing can be achieved without peace.”

The traditional council chairman noted that the people of the state were also hopeful that all the inter-state roads in the state would be repaired and made useful to the people.

The convivial nature of the campaign did not betray the fact that the chieftains of the PDP in Ekiti State are at loggerheads over the leadership of the party. The PDP in the state is divided along the lines of Fayose and the Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, and the schism was the talk in the state before the campaign train landed in the state.

A section of the party membership believes that the leader of the party remains the immediate past governor of the state, Fayose, while another section contends that Senator Olujimi, being the highest-ranking elected officer of the PDP in Ekiti State and in the South West region, deserves to be recognised as the party’s leader. This has remained the source of the dispute in the state’s chapter of the party, and had colored the people’s thinking as they expected the Atiku campaign train.

Before the arrival of Atiku Abubakar and his entourage in Ekiti, Fayose and Senator Olujimi had, the week before, inaugurated separate Atiku/Obi campaign councils for the state, with each of the teams laying claims to being the right group as approved by the national leadership of the party. With this in the mind of the people, they had envisaged a possible squabble either at the campaign rally venue or elsewhere, because the matter has remained a source of tension among PDP faithful in the state.

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However, as much as the PDP members appear and act divided, there is no dispute among them on the chairmanship of the Ekiti chapter of Atiku/Obi Campaign Council by Professor Kolapo Olusola.

Thus, for the day’s important event, observers had waited for how the rally would go, with some commentators on the social media saying they envisaged a fracas at the PDP campaign. Those looking forward to a fracas hinged their expectation on what they said was a call by Fayose that the people should vote for all PDP candidates except Olujimi, who is also the party’s candidate for the Senate in Ekiti South district.

However, at the Ekiti Parapo Pavillion where the PDP faithful had massed, there was nothing to suggest that there was any such tension. The dancing and revelry even increased in intensity when Professor Olusola made his entry into the arena, and walked round the pavilion to greet the crowd.

The dancing, singing and cheering increased when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his entourage made a grand entry into the arena. Even if there was trouble with the leaders of Ekiti PDP, it was drowned in the loud cheers, singing and intense dancing that greeted the arrival of the Atiku/Obi presidential campaign team.

Olusola, in his welcome address at the campaign which formally commenced with prayers, charged the PDP members and indeed the entire people of Ekiti State to remain steadfast in their support for the PDP and the Atiku/Obi ticket, saying this is the sure way for the country out of the current economic and security woes he said the nation is wallowing in.

Olusola’s welcome address was followed by an address by Ayo Fayose, the South West Coordinator of the campaign. Fayose, who mainly restated his desire to see the replacement of the current federal government also charged the people not to be deceived by what he said was the now known falsehood of the other political parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The director-general of the Atiku/Obi campaign, Dr Bukola Saraki, told the people of Ekiti State that the choice before them was simple. Saraki called on the people to vote for Atiku for president, saying he would create jobs because he had done it before through his private businesses.

He said, “Youths, you are the future we need. A leader has to make good his promises. Atiku will give 40 per cent of his appointments to the youths and 30 per cent to the women, making 70 per cent in total.”

National chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, said he was sure of a PDP victory in the presidential polls, claiming that the people of the country were tired of the Buhari-led administration and was waiting for February 16 , 2019 to vote it out. He, however, warned that the various agencies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring a free, fair, credible and acceptable election must ensure that the votes of the people count.

According to Secondus, there are plans allegedly by some of the concerned agencies to rig the election, and warned that this could trigger a crisis in the country if the votes of the people are manipulated.

The PDP national chairman said: “This government of APC wants to rig election but we want to tell you that they cannot rig the coming elections because the world will focus on Nigeria. So, we are going to win this election. Vote for Atiku; he is tested and trusted in public and private sectors. He is a man that can turn the Nigerian economy around. Nigeria is a big country that needs a strong president and Atiku has the energy for the job.”

After his speech, Atiku Abubakar was introduced to the cheering crowd by Secondus to address the people. Atiku assured Ekiti people that he would not abandon them like the ruling party had allegedly done.

According to him, “APC has stolen all your jobs, now they want to steal your votes, they did it in Ekiti and Osun, Ogun and Bauchi. They even stole in Kastina where they come from. I don’t know why they have to steal in their own home. Ekiti State has always been a PDP state. So, come out and vote massively for PDP in the election.”

Atiku Abubakar reiterated his promise not to abandon the people if they elect him as their president, and promised to be there for them at all times.

In Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, on January 15, the Atiku/Obi campaign train was equally received by a massve crowd and given  warm reception. The state is regarded as the home state of Atiku, being an in-law of the state, since his first wife, Titi, hails from the state. Titi Abubakar did not also disappoint her kinsmen as she mounted the podium and spoke in Yoruba throughout.

 

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Though, the campaign train scheduled to hit Osogbo, Osun State capital on Tuesday by 11.00 am arrived around 5.15pm, crowd of party faithful and supporters who had thronged the popular Nelson Mandela Freedom Park waited patiently in the scorching sun.

 

Regardless of being in the opposition, the massive crowd that converged on the venue was a strong indication that the PDP still commands large followership and enjoys some level of acceptability in Osun State.

One of the major issues on the front burner during the campaign was the concern expressed by Atiku over the sanctity of the presidential poll amidst accusations that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was allegedly releasing unclaimed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to APC governors.

Investigation by the Nigerian Tribune indicated that surreptitious moves were already being made to widen the support base of Atiku ahead of the poll, with a view to shoring up its electoral fortune.

This became evident with the presence of the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is also the chairman steering committee of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) and the candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) during the last governorship election in Osun State, Alhaji Fatal Akinbade.

Addressing the mammoth crowd, Atiku contended that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) under the leadership of President Muhammad Buhari had failed to deliver on its electoral promises, thereby dashing the hope of the people.

Atiku, however, promised to give 40 per cent of appointments in his cabinet to youths if he wins February 16 presidential election, stressing that enabling environment for women and youths would be created across the 36 states of federation.

In his remark, immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose said “Atiku has brought good tidings to the people of Osun State. But, the electorate must resist all forms of rigging by INEC and the APC.”

Similarly, former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel recalled that “Buhari promised restructuring, but when he got to government, he jettisoned the idea.”

The PDP national chairman in his submission lamented the hardship Nigerians were experiencing in the last three and half years, saying that Nigerians have made costly mistake by voting President Muhammadu Buhari led government into power.

Earlier, the campaign team of Atiku and the PDP had paid a visit to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi in his palace, located inside Oduduwa House in Ile-Ife.

Receiving Atiku and his team, Oba Ogunwusi cautioned politicians against violence and bitterness, stressing that much emphasis should be placed on the welfare of the citizenry and the socio-economic development of the nation.

Oba Ogunwusi appealed to whoever take the mantle of Nigeria president to assure they put the consideration of the welfare of the citizenry first in all they do.

The royal father urged all politicians to join hands together to take Nigeria to the next level so as to overcome the current challenges, confronting the nation.

Oba Ogunwusi also admonished politicians to factor in the interests of the youth in their policies and programmes, bearing in mind youths’ leadership roles in the future of Nigeria.

According to him, politicians should not make politics to be do or die affairs, but should maintain peaceful coexistence in all their endeavours.

Speaking earlier, the PDP Atiku commended Ooni for his fatherly role played across the country, saying he was in Ile-Ife to take royal blessing from the source of Yoruba race.

He added that his political tour to almost all the states in the South West was aimed at strengthening the unity and stability of the country, just as he prayed for the long life and prosperity of the monarch on the throne of his forefathers.

Dignitaries in the entourage of Atiku to Ooni’s palace include former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who represented ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ambassador Segun Bamigbetan, Atiku’s wife, Chief Titilayo Abubakar, former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayo Fayose, the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, former PDP national secretary, Professor Wale Oladipupo among others.

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