Before thousands of cheering party faithful and ordinary folks, All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari yesterday opened his campaign, with a promise to tackle corruption, fight insecurity and revive the economy.
The former Head of State declared the level of corruption as “intolerable”, adding that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration must go.
Also yesterday in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Gen. Buhari said: “We have reached a stage where change has to come. PDP must go. Enough is enough.”
The campaign took off at the 40,000-seating capacity Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Igwuruta, near the Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State. It was attended by over 100,000 people, who defied the scorching sun to join the singing, drumming and dancing.
Bu the ceremony has a tinge of tragedy.
As Gen. Buhari’s supporters were moving to the stadium from Asari-Toru (Kalabari) and Khana (Ogoni) Local Government Areas of Rivers State, thugs believed to be working for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) shot at them. One person was critically injured and hospitalised. Police spokesperson Muhammad Kidaya Ahmad, who confirmed the incident, said the command was investigating the attack.
House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who is also the party’s governorship candidate in Sokoto State, said Nigerians did not deserve President Goodluck Jonathan, but a better leadership in Gen. Buhari.
The Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, said members PDP believe in guns, but he and other APC members believe in God and man. Jonathan’s administration, he said, would not be able to protect Nigerians.
APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, who received PDP members, who defected to the APC at the event, after presenting the party’s flag to the Rivers governorship candidate, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, assured all that when elected as president, Gen. Buhari would tackle the Boko Haram insurgency, ensure discipline and regular electricity supply, provide security and wipe out corruption.
Immediately after the rally, which was transmitted live on major television networks Gen. Buhari and members of his campaign team moved to Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
The Port Harcourt rally was attended by Gen. Buhari’s running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN; the party’s Deputy Chairman Chief Segun Oni; Rivers Chairman Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya; Amaechi’s wife Dame Judith; Peterside’s running mate, Honourable Asita and wife, Elima.
Other dignitaries included Governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun); Rochas Okorocha (Imo); and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano); former Ekiti Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Mr. Audu Ogbeh.
Also there were Senators Chris Ngige and Olorunnimbe Mamora; APC’s governorship candidate in Kaduna State Nasir El-Rufai; former Ekiti Governor Niyi Adebayo, House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Abike Dabiri-Erewa, who later joined the Masters of Ceremonies (MCs); and an ex-Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, among other eminent personalities.
Gen. Buhari said: “We congratulate the Governor of Rivers State (Amaechi) profusely for being the Director-General of the Presidential Campaign Organisation. I thank you very much for accepting the responsibility to work with our great party.
“Amaechi has made enormous sacrifice. He earned it. He worked for it and I thank him for accepting it. He got it through a lot of hard work. The way Amaechi mobilises people shows that he is the right choice.
“Let us make sure that our votes count. The problem we are facing today is the problem of security and economy. We have gathered competent hands to manage the economy and tackle insecurity. The level of corruption in Nigeria is intolerable and we will make sure we succeed in fighting corruption when we get there. I wish Nigerians the best of luck and we believe in one indivisible Nigeria. I appeal to you to mobilise yourselves to ensure that the end justifies the means. I also urge you to collect your PVCs (Permanent Voter Cards) to enable you to vote in order to bring in the change we have been talking about.”
Amaechi was unsparing of President Jonathan, First Lady, Dame Patience, who is an indigene of Okrika in Rivers State and the PDP governorship candidate, Chief Nyesom Wike, who is the immediate past Minister of State for Education.
Amaechi said: “I thank God for this opportunity. I never knew I would be governor. Today, I am governor by the grace of God. I have stayed in office till 2015. By this time last year, the men who thought they were God thought I would have been out of office. By this time last year, men had collected money to remove us from office, but the God we worship never allowed it to happen. Now, they are the people struggling. We told them there will be this time, when they will be looking for our votes.
“I want to thank all of you and thank Rivers people, for accepting to make me your governor. I may not have been the best governor you have ever seen. I am not a perfect man at all, because I am human.
“When we came, we addressed insecurity. In the past, we could not have had our rally here. We are gradually going back to that. I hear today that members of the APC from Asari-Toru and Khana Local Government Areas (of Rivers State) were shot at on their way to this place (Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium). The PDP members believe in guns. We believe in God and man. We shall stand and face their bullets. We shall stand and face their guns. The fact that they shot you brings to the fore the argument we put forward that currently, the government in power cannot protect you and I. If the government could protect you and I, why were we shot at? Who bought guns for those people, who shot at our members?
“I’m assuring you as your governor that I will continue to stand by you. They will do nothing, if we all stand together. You know the story of the broom. You can break a broom. You cannot break them when they are together. That is why APC has brought the symbol of a broom to our party. It is not enough to gather. Go and get your PVCs and vote for all APC candidates, beginning from Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; his vice; Rivers governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside and his running mate Honourable Asita. We will make sure they win.”
Tambuwal, who described Amaechi as the lion from the Delta, spoke of better life for Nigerians from May 29 when the candidates of the APC, especially Gen. Buhari, would be in office, through the massive votes of Nigerians and the grace of God.
The speaker said: “When I defected to the APC (from the PDP last year), many people were surprised. With the privileged position as Speaker (of the House of Representatives) for three and a half years, we oversight the executive (arm of government). What we saw and are still seeing are mind-boggling. We do not deserve the kind of leadership we have at the centre. Nigeria deserves a better leadership in Buhari. His records speak for him. We are today bedevilled by insecurity and corruption. Nigerians should know where to cast their votes.
“Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, by God’s grace, shall be inaugurated as Nigeria’s President on May 29, 2015. Nigerians will come out overwhelmingly to vote for all the candidates of the APC.
“I am impressed by the large crowd (at the stadium). I wish to thank Governor Amaechi for making Dr. Dakuku Peterside the governorship candidate of the APC and Hon. Asita his running mate. They are currently members of the House of Representatives. This is a National Assembly project in Rivers State. We shall support them.”
Odigie-Oyegun described as unimpressive, Jonathan’s performance. This, he said, has made change on May 29 imperative.
He said: “The whole of Nigeria is jealous of Rivers State. This is the centre of change. General Buhari is a straightforward leader, strong in character, reliable and incurruptible. General Buhari and Prof. Osinbajo were carefully chosen. Hardwork pays and brings success. General Buhari was ahead of his time. His time has finally come.”