From Abubakar Abdullahi, Lafia
Saturday, 17th January 2015 was the day the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari and party chieftains stormed Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital for the presidential campaign of the party.
As early as 7am prompt politicians as well as supporters of the party from different part of the state and beyond started trooping into Lafia to be part of the much awaited APC presidential campaign, more so that Nasarawa State is considered the only true political offspring of Buhari, being the only state won by the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC).
Not only traders but most of other business places around the Lafia metropolis closed voluntarily because of the significance of the event which is seen by the people as their way of expressing their support and sympathy to the party’s presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari as well as the Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-makura who is vying for his seat for the second term.
Peoples Daily recall that a similar visit like this was frustrated 4 years back, to be precise on 22 March 2011, when General Muhammadu Buhari who was then presidential candidate of the defunct Congress For Progressives Change (CPC) was the denied the venue to hold his campaign rally by the then Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under the leadership of former Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma.
This situation left the party faithful that came to Lafia from various part of the state without knowing where to go and listen to the message of their presidential candidate, but later on that day, despite what the pundits described as undemocratic, the then CPC supporters gathered at the TA’AL Conference Hotel owned by Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura who was then the Nasarawa State CPC gubernatorial candidate and they were addressed by the party presidential candidate and other party chieftains.
Four years after this event, despite blocking of some major roads and diversion of vehicles as well as security deployment all over Lafia town especially at places considered to be closed to the new Lafia Square venue of the campaign rally for security reasons, people from all strata of human of life trekked from far and near while those that came from places other than Lafia in their vehicles, parked their vehicles from far distance and trekked to the venue of the event.
The event which was earlier scheduled to take place at 2 pm and in spite of the attempt to control the crowd by preventing people from entering the main venue before the scheduled time, as at 10:30am party supporters have taken over the available places considered to be convenient for them to sit or stand to wait for the arrival of the APC presidential candidate, apart from those that were on trekking or coming on vehicles to the venue.
Despite the scorching sun, people defied it and waited under it for several hours to witness the arrival of the APC presidential flag bearer, General Muhammad Buhari who arrived the venue of the event few minutes to 6 pm together with party chieftains including Governor Al-makura.
Lafia Square which has 5000 capacity was filled to its capacity apart from those outside the Square who even stood on story buildings, climbed trees and other adjoining structures to be part of the event, even as giant display screens beamed ongoing activities to the delight of the tumultuous crowd both within and outside the venue.
The attendance was marvelous which will remain for long in the political history of Nasarawa State if not Nigeria because the event was witnessed all over the country and beyond as it was simultaneously beamed by the Television Continental (TVC) station.
The APC presidential flag bearer on arrival commissioned the new Lafia Square which is the venue of the event and proceeded to his seat together with his running mate Prof Osibanjo and other party chieftains, among them was the former governor of Kwara State and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sen Bukola Saraki while other chieftains of APC like its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and Representatives Abike Dabiri moved to the podium and took over the function of Masters of Ceremony (MC).
While speaking to the unprecedented crowd from the podium, Representatives Abike Dabiri expressed delight over the crowd and the kind of reception witnessed in Nasarawa State by the APC supporters and sympathizers of the party from Nasarawa State boarder with Benue State which she described as a sign of success for the party in Nasarawa State and Nigeria as a whole.
A development that pundits believed will make the way to success for the APC during the next month’s election especially the gubernatorial election is the calibre of people that defected from the PDP which is the major opposition party to APC.
At the APC presidential campaign rally, chieftains of the PDP like Senator john Danboyi, aides of former Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma such as former commissioner for land and survey, Mohammed Iyimoga, former commissioner for education, Abdullahi Loko, former commissioner for information, Abdullahi Mustapha, former Special Adviser, Mohammed Oshafu and Tanko Zubairu who served as Chief of Staff during the Akwe Doma administration, all of whom were major players in the PDP’s last administration in the state when their boss, Aliyu Akwe Doma was piloting the affairs of the state, defected to the APC.
These people were playing vital roles politically even as the PDP remains the opposition party in the state because they have influence over large number of people in their respective communities.
With these calibre of people submitting themselves voluntarily to the state leadership of the APC which later handed them to the national leadership of the party under the national chairman, Chief John Oyegun when few days are counting for election, pundits observed this as a threat to the aspiration of opposition to capture power in Nasarawa State while on the other hands boost the chance of the ruling party in the state.
Receiving the defectors, APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun assured them of equal treatment with old party members and called on them to collaborate with old party members and work towards success of the party at all levels.
He said aligning themselves with the APC was a sign that Nasarawa State received APC in its totality, saying that the event of their reception into the APC fold weakened the opposition and showed the non- existence of opposition.
Senator John Danboyi who spokes on behalf of the defectors, said they joined the APC because of the good manifestos of the party and the desire for good governance.
He promised that they will work for the party at all level to ensure that the party succeeds in the forthcoming election.
On his part, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura who received his party flag at the rally, called on party supporters to remain steadfast as they demonstrated during the 2011 election saying that their doggedness this time around will not only bring success to the party in Nasarawa State but also the entire country which according to him will enable the citizens to enjoy more dividends of democracy.
Amidst cheering of supporters from within and outside the square, Governor Al-makura promised to continue with his developmental projects across the state if given another mandate to pilot the affair of the state for 4 more years.
Also speaking at the event, APC presidential candidate, General Mohammadu Buhari who spoke throughout in Hausa language said he has nothing new to tell the gathering but that he will remind them on major challenges bedeviling the country which according to him includes three things, insecurity, unemployment and corruption.
He said these were the major problems that are retrogressing development all over the country and he promised that if he is elected as president of Nigeria, if he assumes power from 29th of May this year, his administration will focus on activities that will bring lasting peace all over the country.
General Buhari called party faithful to ensure that they have retrieved their Permanent Voters Cards and to defy the rain or scorching sun to come out and cast their votes.
He pledged that if he is elected as president of Nigeria, he will give agriculture and mining priority saying that these will bring employment to many Nigerians.
Buhari also said if corruption is tackled, the proceeds generated as a result of ending corruption will be used in the construction and rehabilitations of schools and hospitals as well as assist owners of small-scale businesses to develop.
The Buhari campaign visit to Nasarawa State which preceded the opposition’s presidential campaign was unprecedented, with many describing it as an insurmountable challenge to the opposition party in attempting to showcase its strength in the state.
Considering the tough times Al-makura encountered in the process that brought him into power in 2011 and the developmental projects being executed by his administration across the state, people of the state are regarding him as a messiah who rescued the state from underdevelopment to place it on the pedestal of genuine growth and development, with many believing that if Governor Al-makura is to be given another 4 years term to rule the state, the state will compete with many developed states across the country and in all sectors of the economy.