By Umar Muhammad Puma
The mammoth crowd that attended the presidential campaign rally of the former military Head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday in Benin has further demonstrated that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is indeed determined to win the February 14 presidential election, with party stalwarts insisting on a landslide victory.
The 40,000 capacity Ogbemudia Stadium located just close to the Oba of Benin palace was filled to capacity as early as 7.30am. Thousands of APC supporters who arrived the venue spilled even outside the stadium complex as well as the major road leading to the venue of the rally, a development that led to a serious traffic gridlock as motorists battled for hours before they could move freely.
The APC supporters who defied the scorching sun waited for hours just to have a glimpse of the APC’s presidential candidate and his entourage and to also show their support, amidst the blaring of assorted types of music as they were variously entertained before the arrival of Buhari and his team.
Pundits were of the view that kudos must however be given to the party in the state under the leadership of Governor Adams Oshiohmole who appeared to have done his homework well by mobilizing such huge crowd, youths, men and women from across the state to attend the rally in Benin, the state capital.
The rally which was billed for 10 am was however delayed till around 12 00pm mainly because the campaign team had to pay courtesy visit to the Oba’s palace to seek his blessings, thereafter, Buhari’s team proceeded to the stadium and were received by the warm, thunderous supporters of the APC, who chanted “sai Buhari!, in an atmosphere that was electrifying even as Buhari and other dignitaries that attended the rally took turns to make their speeches.
First to address the mammoth crowd was the director general of the presidential campaign team, and Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Ameachi, who started by commenting on President Jonathan’s public admittance to have done nothing for the people of the south-south region in his 6 years in office, urging the people not to trust him again for another term in office.
He said, “the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, from the south-south, admitted that he has done nothing to the south-south, so who will trust him to do anything? Our President who is our son, has failed for 6 years and has done nothing, all he has done was to enrich himself and others and our responsibility is to get a good President who will do good for us and for Nigeria”.
Giving reference to himself when he was seeking votes from the electorate, he said “while in my campaign in Rivers State, I said I have done this and that I never said I will do if you vote for me, is that not the right thing? Our President anywhere he goes after 6 years he would say, I will do this if you vote for me instead of saying I have done this and that. So we will vote out ‘I will do President’. In APC, if we say we would do something, we stand by it”.
Ameachi further said “any government that is campaigning on failed promises will be voted out because as the government is seeking for a second term, you must show us what you did before. You cannot continue to lead on empty promises”.
Ameachi further said that the change will only come through the people’s votes; calling on them to make the change happen. “It is not enough to chant ‘Sai Buhari’, you must go out and vote. Do not just shout change with your mouth, go to the polls on 14 February and effect that change with your vote” he told the crowd of supporters at the stadium in Benin.
On his part Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiohmole said the people need to ask a simple question when they want to vote for any man. He said the President has done nothing for 6 years knowing fully well that he would come back to seek their votes. “If you were to make the mistake of voting for him again and he knows he will not need you anymore, is it difficult for you to know that he’s not going to do anything for you?
“This president has not treated us as his brothers. So, now, we will vote for change. We will vote for the light to replace darkness. We will vote for a man who will not allow our children to be defrauded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs where our youths were asked to pay money contrary to the Labour Law that prohibits collecting money from people in the name of employment.
“The federal government collected money from the youth in the name of jobs. Nigeria got into the Guinness Book of records that interviews were conducted at the stadiums. Private consultants made over N8 million. Unable to deal with the crisis, they asked you to go the stadium and died. Young unemployed people died. And I ask you, was anybody punished? Was anything done to them? No, something was done. The man who presided over this fraud was given national honors. That’s the reward for the killing all those applicants in various stadia including those who were killed here in Ogbumudia Stadium”.
He said the President, everywhere he goes north, south, east and west, it is all about promises and none of these promises have been kept. “If you watch the television, you see them showing you old schools, buildings that are more than 20 years old. They portray them as new projects. There are no new projects. Across the length of Edo State, we can’t find federal presence.
The dualization they are doing doesn’t fit in into any particular order. They are doing it because election is coming. They will do 2 kilometers from Benin. They will jump another 4 kilometers. When they are getting to Ekpoma, they will do 1 kilometer and jump on 5 kilometers. When they are approaching Auchi, they will jump 3 kilometers and do one kilometer. Those are political roads. They are not informed by genuine commitment to extend the dual carriage way from Abuja to Benin.
“The issues you will decide on February 14 are straight forward. Do you want to vote for a party that has run down our refineries in Warri? Will you vote for a party that has failed to revive the Port harcourt refinery? Will you vote for a party that could not revive the Kaduna refinery? This is where the statement by Governor Ameachi comes in, the gap between promise and delivery. They have promised 16 years ago to revive the refineries. NNPC said they will fix them in 6 months. They have given them billions of dollars to fix the refineries and they are all pocketed.
“We need to elect a new Commander in Chief, a Commander in Chief that will inspire the troops. Abiola said it, if the head of the fish is rotten; the body is going to smell. We cannot have a country that grows bigger than the dreams of the leadership”.
National chairman of the APC Chief John Oyegun, on his part, said the time for a genuine change has come to Nigeria and thanked the Edo people for coming out in large numbers to welcome the campaign train. “I thank you for coming out to welcome the agents of change, to welcome the face of change, to welcome the captain of the boat of change, to welcome that man of courage, to welcome that man of consistency that will bring us the desired change.”
When it was finally the time for Buhari to address the crowd, there a uproar erupted from the supporters shouting ‘Sai Buhari!’, and when the crowd finally calmed down, Buhari began his address by apologizing to his supporters for coming late and charged them to vote out PDP in the February election.
“The problems of this country, to be honest, you know it better than us because you have suffered physically and materially more than all of us standing here, as a result of 16 years of PDP misrule which every household is suffering from today. So APC’s intensions which have been very well articulated in its manifestos and which will be modified from time to time is to tackle the three fundamental problems we have that we recognized throughout”.
He outlined the problems of insecurity, corruption unemployment as his top priority if elected into office. “There is nothing that we can do without security, so our priority first, is to secure the country. Second is unemployment, the youth of this country are more than 60 percent of the population and whether they are in school or not, they are not employed, this is extremely dangerous for the country.
“There is also the problem of corruption which is responsible for so much wastage of the resources which can be properly utilized especially for education. There is nothing you can give people better than qualitative education” Buhari told the crowd of supporters.
He said the APC government, by the will of God from 30th of May this year, will make sure they remove insecurity from north east to Badagry, from Sokoto to Cross River and from Daura to to Port-Harcourt, the APC will ensure that peace returns to trouble spots across the country by removing insecurity.
On the issue of job creation, the APC presidential candidate said “the quickest way we can give jobs whether there is education or not is to make sure we empower farmers by giving fertilizers and inputs and thirdly, which is very important, is to try and get the financial houses to give soft loans to traders and small manufacturers so that they can fortify their businesses and employ more people to produce goods and services.
“What our government will also do is to reposition education and to improve our schools, equip the schools, get qualified teachers and make sure that our children get qualitative education which we believe they will utilize to look after themselves. Lastly we will try and solve the problems that have become a source of worry here, especially erosion, the amount of resource required to control erosion in Edo State alone are enormous not to talk of the south eastern states. The APC government will do that. This is an undertaking.
“We are going to make sure we rehabilitate infrastructures. When PDP came into power, NEPA of blessed memory was producing more than 4000 megawatt, today after PDP government have expended 20 billion US dollars, and we are producing less than that with the amount. If there is no accountability, there is no Nigerian that can survive, so before they kill Nigeria and kill us, we better vote out the PDP.
“We urge you to hold your Permanent Voters Card on the Election Day, you will come out en masse, and make sure PDP is constitutionally dead in Nigeria and make sure your votes count” Buhari told the crowd of supporters in Benin.