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Echoes from PDP presidential rally in Rivers

Published by Tribune on Tue, 03 Feb 2015

DAPO FALADE captures the expressions, frills and thrills at the presidential rally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held at Port Harcourt, Rivers State.As early as 6 a.m, people from all walks of life from Rivers State defied the palpable fear and tension of possible outbreak of violence and started converging on the Adokiye Amiesiemaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, the venue of the presidential campaign rally of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The fear of violence stemmed from the face-off between the state government and the state leadership of the PDP over the refusal of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, to approve the application by the opposition party in the state to use the stadium for its rally. The governor, who had bluntly refused to grant the request on the ground that the facility was still under construction, had ordered the construction workers back to the 40,000-capacity stadium immediately after the APC presidential rally was held at the same venue, early last January. He therefore said the PDP was free to use the Liberation Stadium, which cannot hold more than 16,000 people, as the venue of its rally.However, the Rivers PDP leadership, especially its chairman, Mr Felix Obuah and its governorship candidate, Chief Nyesom Wike, defied the governor, insisting that it was either the stadium or nowhere else. Consequently, the PDP leadership took over the stadium as a detachment of combined security agencies, including the army, regular police and State Security Service (SSS) officers took over its security. In fact, Wike was seen in the afternoon of the fateful day with some other members of his campaign team and party officials, supervising and inspecting the security arrangement for ensuring a peaceful campaign rally in the stadium.The tension notwithstanding, PDP members and supporters turned in large numbers to honour the nation's number one citizen, President Goodluck Jonathan and his team, including PDP national officers and governors from the South-South states and their wives. The main bowl, including the seating capacity and the turf of the stadium was filled to capacity, while those waiting outside more than twice doubled those who were inside.However, the PDP presidential rally could have been an event turned sour after a very long wait. After waiting for so long, a lot of the party faithful began to leave the stadium at about 3 p.m, apparently frustrated and dejected. Form the faces and utterances of some of them, one thing was quite clear: they were not a rented crowd but true party loyalists who had come to honour the president.The long waiting gave rise to speculations that President Jonathan might have decided not to attend the rally, due to two reasons. The first was the speculation that he was not in support of the process and intrigues that threw up Nyesom Wike as the Rivers PDP governorship candidate. Secondly, some insinuated that Jonathan, being a man of peace, might have, at the last minute, reconsidered using the Adokiye Amiesiemaka Stadium for his campaign rally to avoid any form of violence. It was only later known that the president was in Ondo State earlier in the day to perform same function-a rally for his re-election.However, all speculations and insinuations were laid to rest, as the president and his team showed up at exactly 3.40pm to a rousing welcome from several other party faithful who defied the pains of the long waiting, as well as the accompanying hunger and tiredness. Jonathan took a tour round the stadium pitch, to a thunderous applause from excited party supporters who consistently shouted his name. Not unmindful of the fact that the time was far spent, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation swung into action immediately with the business of the day.Amidst enthralling musical interlude by a pop artiste, Duncan Mighty, Rivers PDP chairman, Obuah, mounted the rostrum to welcome the president. In a short speech, he said the event was a not a campaign per se, but just to welcome Jonathan back home. He assured the president of 100 per cent votes in the state in the presidential poll, because 'all Rivers sons and daughters have resolved that they don't have any other political party than the PDP.'Echoing Obuah, former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra Stat said that the people of Rivers should ensure that the party got 100 per cent vote during the election because both the president and his wife, Patience, are their children. 'All what you have in Rivers State today were done under PDP. Since your governor, Amaechi joined another party, he has not done any other thing. This state belongs to PDP and it must return to PDP. The president is your son; the First Lady is your daughter, you must ensure that they get 100 per cent in the election in Rivers State. You must give them all the votes,' Obi said.A former PDP national chairman and Director General, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Dr Ahmadu Alli, thanked the people for their patience, apologising on behalf of the campaign team for arriving late to the venue.We are going to defeat his party in such a catastrophic way that not only will he have a political convulsion; he will also have a bloodied nose politically. I depend on all your votes; the power of the vote is with you. Make sure you have your Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and on that day, irrespective of rain, sun, please line up and vote for President Jonathan and, of course, your incoming governor, Nyesom Wike, the anointed one. I wish you all God's blessing and may you rest perfectly with the PDP. Don't be deceived by anybody, vote always for the PDP,' he said.Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross Rivers State and the South-South coordinator of the campaign organisation, took over the microphone from Ali and also restated that the rally was not a campaign but 'to show face to the good people of Rivers State. All we can say is that we can welcome you home.' In a speech interspersed with Pidgin English, the governor said: 'When a son has done well, people come out enmasse to welcome him and we can see the turnout like never before. The entire streets of Rivers State are lined up to welcome you; to say to you, well done; to say to you, go back again. We, in the South-South, our own na carry go o. We have no other matter here. On behalf of my colleagues, I want to say that our next governor in Rivers State, by the grace of God, come May 29 is Nyesom Wike. Let us recognise him and welcome him into the club of governors.Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State also took his turn to speak. The chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum said the people of Rivers had, by their action, shown that Wike would be the governor of the state from May 29, and that the president would win the presidential poll. So today, I came to see and I have seen and I am satisfied; my colleagues are satisfied. We can only say may God bless the good people of Rivers State. Your determination with your leaders to reclaim the Government House you gave to PDP in 2011 but which was stolen, has been shown today. By the mammoth present, you are determined to bring back the Government House.'Finally for the good children of Rivers, note that even though you produced and kept this country together, economically, for 50 years, they give you broom to sweep people's houses in Lagos and as drivers, houseboys house keepers. In our culture, those who used to hold brooms were night-soil men, who used to carry pails before the water system came. Do you want to be house helps' Do you want to sweep streets in Lagos' Do you want to sweep streets in Kano' You want to be managers of your resources; therefore you will say to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tufiakwa,' he said.Standing on the existing protocols, former Governor Peter Odili of Rivers described Jonathan as the best democratically elected president, who had performed and broken all records in four years, beyond all his predecessors. He said: 'Mr President, we know you have been on your feet all weeks. Otherwise, your in-laws would have invoked their traditional rights and decide that you not leave us today until you settled any outstanding dowry. But we will not do that because you have honoured us to be here. You have not come to campaign. Look at the crowd; the lawyers will say, res ipso loquito; the fact speaks for itself. Mr President, do you why this crowd is here' Do you know why Rivers has turned out the best rally you have seen' It is because we are proud of what you have done in four years. You are a worthy son-in-law and you are a worthy ambassador of the South-South.'You are the first person from the South-South that has had the opportunity to lead Nigeria. This zone has carried both the geographic and economic weight of this country called Nigeria. A second term for Jonathan, is that too much to ask' (and the crowd shouted a thunderous no). If it is not too much to ask, we are therefore demanding that the rest of Nigeria must unite and support the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan.The PDP deputy national vice chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, also shared in the sentiments of Odili as he described the gathering of the PDP faithful as 'a political tsunami to show and to demonstrate by the people of Rivers a signal to Amaechi to start packing home.'Your Excellency, Rivers has witnessed, in the past few years, a collapse of the system-judiciary, House of Assembly, market structure, educational system, health sector, roads. The system here is totally collapsed, including the mono rail. Our government is on exile and therefore the incoming government of Rivers State that will be driven by Wike, we are ready to take over this government. On the 14th of February, I want us to come out enmasse to our various polling units, over four thousand.Thanking the Rivers people for the reception accorded the president and his team, Vice President Namadi Sambo said the rally was a singular opportunity for him to say that Jonathan had transformed the country. 'The economy of this country today, under the watch of Dr Jonathan, has become the best and the highest economy in Africa. This is our son who studied in our university in Port Harcourt; got a Bachelor Degree, a Master Degree and a PhD. This knowledge, today, has given him the position of a scientist and best administrator of this country. He has therefore used that knowledge to develop our country.The PDP national chairman, Alhaji Adamu Muazu was not left out in the campaign frenzies as he declared that the mammoth crowd at the rally was a testimony to the commitment of the Rivers people to ensure victory for the party in all the elections in the state.'I know that a lot of us, when we read some national newspapers, some of us are afraid of what will happen in Rivers or what will not happen in Rivers. Let me say it clearly to the campaign organisation of PDP; Mr Chairman, you are here; Mr President, you are here. I want to say that today is the 28 of January, 2015, PDP will win Rivers State and win it convincingly. I say it again, today is the 28 of January, 2015, PDP will win Rivers State and win it convincingly.President Jonathan, eventually strolled majestically to the rostrum, in company of a former captain of the Nigerian national football team, Super Eagles, Kanu Nwankwo and his successor, Yobo Joseph, who is a 'Port Harcourt boy.' He thanked the crowd for waiting patiently for him but said he would like Yobo and his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, to speak first.Yobo took over and said, 'I greet you. Say, no shaking. Now, we don show; here na our own. PDP dey for ground; APC we no go gree. Vote for and support President Goodluck Jonathan. He is the only president who can that can lead us in a unified manner. Thank you everybody.'Surprisingly, the president's wife was obviously the chief campaigner at the rally. Marshaling her points, she started by saying she did not come to appeal for votes, knowing that Rivers and its people were for PDP. Thanking the people for their support for the party so far, Patience said, 'In 2011, you gave PDP two million votes and I know that 2015, come February 14, you are going to give over 2.4 million votes. This is because it is PDP votes, not the APC; APC has no space in Rivers State. This is a PDP state and we have come back to take back our mandate. Rivers people are you ready to take back your mandate' Are you ready to vote for Jonathan/Sambo' Are you ready to vote Wike' When the president eventually spoke, he dwelled on the scathing remark made by Governor Amaechi who have been saying Jonathan does not deserve the votes of the South-South, having failed to make any positive impact on the zone, especially Bayelsa and Rivers states, during his first term outing.Jonathan, in keeping to his promise not to keep the people waiting unnecessarily any more, said: 'No shaking, no shaking, no shaking...What I want to say on this platform is not for the purpose of Rivers people only but for the purpose of the rest of Nigeria. The Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation (Governor Rotimi Amaechi), when he was in Yenegoa and when he was in Port Harcourt, mentioned clearly that the president has done nothing for these two states. Don't worry, it is good news because people (elsewhere) have been saying that I concentrated development in the South-South...'If he is telling Nigerians that I have not done anything in Rivers and Bayelsa states, then he should know that I am a transparent person; I did not allocate positions to my people. The APC Director General would have been the very first person to expose me to the rest of the world, not just Nigeria; he would have taken me to America (US), to South Africa, to France, to UK. But that shows we meant best for this country and in our development, every part of Nigeria must be taken along.'You will agree with me that when we look at the university education, and when we insisted that, look, the Federal Government must make sure that all youths will have the opportunity for university education. We did not divide North or South; we made sure that all the states that have no federal university got federal universities. That is focus.'I am not going to comment on development in Rivers and Bayelsa states because this is part of my area. I can assure you that just work with us; vote for us on the 14th of February, myself and Sambo; vote for us on the 14th of February, for Wike and Ipalibo Banigo and definitely, we must leave indelible prints in Rivers State. Luckily, we have been challenged that we have not done anything, but we must do something.'With the president's speech, the event came to an end and the crowd departed peacefully. It is worthy to note that the rally was devoid of any negative eventuality.
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