Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Dele Ogbodo Dele Ogbodo in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City, Olakiitan Victor in Ado Ekiti
President Muhammadu Buhari was nostalgic on Tuesday in Benin, reliving his 33-year-old coup statement in which he asked Nigerians not to despair in the face of prevailing economic adversities, but urged them to rather remain resolute in the belief that only their collective will could salvage the country.
“We are a nation of great human and material resources especially the youth. Please sit down, reflect and remember what I said 30 years ago. We have no other nation like Nigeria, no matter where you go. We may as well remain here and salvage it together,” he told the mammoth crowd that gathered at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City during the closing rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to canvass support for the APC candidate, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, ahead of the Edo State governorship election holding on Saturday.
The president, who also raised hopes that the current economic downturn in the country would not last for long, said Nigerians must be aware that they were the only ones who could salvage the country, warning them there was nothing for them elsewhere.
“No matter where you go, you may defy the Sahara Desert or the Mediterranean, if you are lucky and not killed by drought. But what you get there, the mere colour of your skin will be a problem for you,” he said.
Buhari in his coup day speech on ascension of office as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief in December 1983, had said that in spite of the rot that the President Shehu Shagari democratic government had created, Nigerians had no option other than to stay in the country and rescue it.
“This generation and indeed future generations of Nigerians have no other country they can call their own. We must stay here and salvage it together,” he had said.
The president took the opportunity of the rally to reassure Nigerians on the country’s failing economy, saying that the federal government under his watch was doing all it could to pull the nation out of the recession its economy had entered.
“I assure you we are going to get out of these our economic doldrums soonest,” he said, adding: “We are almost out of our insecurity problems and we are going to make Nigeria great again. We are going to be very proud of our country and our size and our resources will not be for nothing,”
He congratulated his party’s candidate, Obaseki, on his nomination as the standard-bearer of the APC, telling the people of the state to elect him as their next helmsman.
The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, complemented Buhari’s hope raiser on the economy and said the country would definitely recover more quickly than the people expected.
He blamed the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the economic crisis, saying its 16-year-rule at the national level, and 10 years in Edo State were remote causes of the recession.
“The PDP squandered trillions of naira when the party held sway for 10 years in the state,” Oyegun said, calling on people not to make the mistake of voting the PDP in the Saturday election.
Present at the rally were governors of Sokoto, Kogi, Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Ogun, Kano and Katsina States; Minister of State Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu; Minister of State Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire; Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN); and Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
Past and serving senators, House of Representatives members, party leaders and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) also graced the rally.
The Chairman of the National Campaign Council for Obaseki and Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode, who joined other supporters to welcome Buhari to Edo State, urged the people to vote for Obaseki because he has been tested and could be trusted.
He said: “The presence of the president is a pointer to the level of importance we attach to the political economy of the people of Edo State. The state is the heartbeat of the South-south region of Nigeria. Currently, Edo State without any controversy has witnessed the best developmental projects in the last seven and a half years more than any other period in the last 17 years.”
He praised the state Governor Adams Oshiomhole for laying the right foundation for governance, saying he had been responsive, progressive and totally committed to the needs of the people.
He therefore asked the people to return the APC for continuity by voting Obaseki.
While welcoming dignitaries at the rally, Oshiomhole lashed out at the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, for talking about projects that were rendered koboless by the government he served as secretary, saying that “between 1999 and 2008 a period of 10 years, these people together with their godfathers, cannot point at any project they have done for the people”.
According to him, “Under PDP, they introduced discriminative school fees, but we abolished it because our party is a progressive party that believes in one Nigeria. There was never investment on roads, water, and education.”
He therefore urged the people to come out in large numbers to vote for the APC as a way of punishing the PDP for their sins against the people and the state.
Elsewhere in the city, the PDP held a town hall meeting attended by some of its governors who came to canvass for votes for the party’s candidate, Ize-Iyamu.
The Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, urged the people to vote massively for Ize-Iyamu on Saturday, urging them to also defend their votes.
He said: “Edo people should not make the same mistake Nigerians made last year by enthroning the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He advised them to be extra vigilant before, during and after the election. “The people should not just vote and go to sleep, they must make sure that their votes count and victory is ensured for Pastor Ize-Iyamu who is unarguably the best among the contenders,” he said.
He said the PDP candidate deserved victory because he had worked hard, campaigning through the nooks and crannies of the state to sell his vision to the people.
Referring to the governorship candidates’ debate aired on Channels TV, Fayose said the performance of Ize-Iyamu left no one in doubt about his sterling qualities, which towered above all other candidates.
On its part, the Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Campaign Organisation said the rally attended by Buhari and other APC leaders in Benin City was a send forth party for the APC in the state.
The campaign organisation in a statement issued by its Media Unit said that there is no way Edo people would reward a party that had decimated every institutions in the state in almost eight years of its administration and subjected the people to untold hardship.
“We are not bothered about the obliviousness which some pseudo political analysts have consistently exhibited in the last few days and a rally organised by All Promises Cancelled (APC) on Tuesday. Perhaps they are not aware about the untelevised political revolution that is about to take place in Edo State.
“The September 10 election is about failed promises and bleeding of our state’s resources by APC-led government; it is about decimation of the state civil service by the present government in the past seven and a half years.
“It is about the total collapse of socio-economic institutions in Edo State; it is about the abject poverty in the state, caused by the unjust Oshiomhole-led government. Indeed, it is about the collapse of our educational institutions,’’ it enumerated.
While advising the electorate not to waste their votes on Godwin Obaseki, the PDP said he is not qualified to contest the election over his alleged forging of his certificates, adding that the election would be decided by Edo people who have registered to vote, including 500,000 students, who have been denied the enabling environment to advance their educational career in the past seven and a half years by the APC-led government.
“The people are not fools — not to remember the failed promises by APC government — nearly eight years ago, to provide jobs for them. And never again will they be persuaded by the deceitfulness and fraudulent promises,’’ the PDP added.
IG to Meet Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, INEC, Others
The acting Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, yesterday said he would meet Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials, election observers and candidates of the other political parties in the election before Saturday to adopt strategic measures aimed at ensuring free and fair polls.
A statement by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Donald Awunah, said Idris was committed to ensuring that the election was conducted in accordance with the electoral law in the atmosphere of peace and security.
He said the IG had deployed a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, an Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) and three Commissioners of Police (CPs) to coordinate the security operations, supervise the deployment of security personnel and facilitate the electoral process throughout the state.
He said: “In order to ensure safety of life and property before, during and after the election, we are deploying additional 25,000 police personnel, comprising the Police Mobile Force (PMF) the Counter Terrorism Units (CTU), the Anti-bomb Squad, the Marine Police, conventional policemen, the Armament Units, personnel from Force Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department (FCIID), Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) and the Sniffer Dog Section.
“In addition, the Police Aerial Surveillance Helicopters and Gun Boats, 10 additional armoured personnel carriers and 5,000 patrol vehicles will be deployed to cover all the polling units across the state.”
He assured Nigerians that in order to ensure a credible election in the state, he would meet with actors and stakeholders of the political parties, INEC officials, election observers and other stakeholders before Saturday in Benin City.
According to him, the meeting will focus on the overall desirability of peace during the election and adherence to the rules of the game.
He said: “All police personnel and other complementing sister security agencies are under strict instructions to be professionally polite and civil but firm in the discharge of their statutory duties.
“They are to provide adequate security for the electorate, INEC officials, electoral materials, election observers and all stakeholders throughout the period of the election.
“For the avoidance of doubt, political parties and their leaders, traditional rulers and parents are advised to warn and prevail on their members, supporters, subjects, wards to be law abiding and not allow themselves to be used as canon fodders to cause disturbance of the peace or the electoral process.”
He warned that the spirit and letters of the law would be fully applied on any person or group of persons found violating the Electoral Act.