How APC presidential campaign flag-off shook Rivers

APC Campaign Rivers

By Victor Edozie

The presidential campaign flag off of the APC presidential candidate had an electrifying effect on the people of Rivers State. Our correspondent gives highlights of the event.

If the mammoth crowd that attended the presidential campaign flag-off of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday in Port Harcourt is a yardstick to determine who wins  an election, the former military Head of State and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is on course towards capturing the oil rich Rivers State on February 14.

The 40,000 capacity Adokiye Amasiemeka stadium located at Igwurita Ali, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State was filled to capacity as early as 7.30am. Thousands of APC supporters who arrived the venue late squatted outside the stadium complex and the major road leading to Isiokpo, the headquarters of Ikwerre LGA. This development led to a serious traffic gridlock as motorists battled for hours before they could wriggle out of the hold up.

Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, and the leadership of the party in the state appeared to have done their homework very well preparatory to the rally  as the party was able to mobilise youths, men and women across the state to attend the rally.

Prior to the January 6 date of the rally,  the state APC took adverts in almost all the electronic media in the state announcing the date for the rally and the need for the people of the state to attend the rally. The jingle ran for almost one week. The print media also had a fair share of the deal as adverts were placed in select national dailies and some local tabloid to announce the rally and also welcome the August visitors.

The rally

The rally which was billed to kick off at 7.30am was delayed till 11.00am for unexplainable reasons but at exactly 11.00am, Buhari and his campaign train led by Governor Amaechi who is Buhari’s director of campaign, drove into the stadium to the warm embrace of anxious supporters of the APC. It was an electrifying moment as shouts of “Buhari! Buhari!, APC… Change” rend the air. The atmosphere was fully charged as Buhari and other dignitaries that attended the rally took turns to make their speeches.

Buhari, Amaechi and all the speakers at the event spoke on the need to effect a change at the centre.

Buhari, who was the first to fire the salvo, said he would transform Nigeria’s ailing economy when elected and would provide jobs for the masses of Nigerians.

The APC presidential candidate also pledged to tackle insecurity in the North-East caused by the Boko Haram Sect.

He said, “The fundamental issues facing this country is insecurity and the problem of economy which was being made worse by corruption. I assure you that we are going to finally assemble a competent team of Nigerians to efficiently manage the country. I am appealing to you; the damage done to this country is great. The level of unemployment, level of insecurity is intolerable.  The journey has begun. It will take time, it will take patience, it will take support from you to make sure that we succeed.”

He thanked Amaechi for taking up the offer of Director-General of his campaign organization and urged party supporters to pick their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) in preparation for voting in February.

Governor Amaechi, who thrilled the audience with his rave song “Otua ka chineke anyi di” on how God made him governor, said change was necessary in the country.  He said change in Nigeria would come through the APC presidential candidate and called on APC supporters to vote for Buhari.

He also said he would stand by Rivers people in charting a course for the state’s political future, stressing that he would not disappoint them.

“ Today, I am governor by the grace of God. Today, I have stayed in office till 2015. By this time last year, those who thought they were God thought we 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 that there will be a time like this, 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.

“You will agree that when we came, we addressed insecurity. You agree that in the past we could not have had our rally here. We are gradually going back to that.  I hear today that members of APC from Asari-Toru local government area and from Khana were shot at on their way to this place. The PDP believes in gun, we believe in God and man.  The argument we have put forward is that currently the government in power cannot protect you and I. If the government could protect you and I, why were they shot at? Who brought guns for those people who shot our members?

“Today is not my day. Today is the day of General Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Osinbajo. It’s their turn to tell you what they will do for Nigerians. All I will assure you is that as your governor, I will continue to stand by you,” he said.

Also speaking, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwa, explained why he defected to the APC.

He said progress for Nigeria would come faster with the APC than with the ruling PDP, stressing that the Jonathan-led administration was not serious about government business.

He said, “I am impressed by what I am seeing here today.  This is a clear testimony that Rivers and indeed the good people of Nigeria will come out en masse and overwhelmingly vote the candidates of the APC.

“When I defected to the APC, many people were surprised that I left a ruling party for an opposition party.  On the privileged position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives that I presided over for three and half years, we over sighted the current government and what we saw and what we are still seeing is mind-boggling and from the information available to us, we don’t deserve the current type of leadership that we have at the centre and Nigeria deserves better leadership as is by the grace of God and will be exemplified by General Muhammadu Buhari. His records speak for him.

“The highly elated APC national chairman, Chief John Oyegun applauded the choice of Buhari as the APC presidential candidate, saying that Buhari was deliberately chosen to move the country forward.”

He listed Buhari’s achievements to include his fight against corruption and indiscipline in Nigeria which he said during the Buhari administration reshaped the sensibility of most Nigerians.

He said, “The train of change is setting out from Rivers State. Great people of Rivers State (and Nigeria) are you happy? Who is your president? Buhari, “the crowd answered.”  Let me present to you the President-in-waiting of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Do you want electricity, do you want better security, do you want to wipe out corruption? Then, take a good look at General Buhari.  He is as straight in character as his figure is in figurative terms. Take a look at his vice. These two people were deliberately chosen. Gen. Buhari was ahead of his time. His time has finally come.  If you want corruption wiped out, who do you vote for? If you want discipline in this country, who do you vote for? The crowd again chorused, “Buhari.”

While urging Nigerians to vote for the party’s presidential candidate, Chief Oyegun also urged Rivers people to vote at the state level for the APC gubernatorial candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside.

The highlight of the event was the presentation of the party’s governorship flag to Peterside, confirming him as the party’s governorship candidate in Rivers State.

The APC also unveiled its campaign team with Buhari as campaign chairman, the vice presidential candidate, Prof. Osinbajo as vice chairman.

Others include Amaechi as the Director-General of Gen. Buhari presidential campaign organization with two deputy directors-general.

Dignitaries at the flag-off include Dr Chris Ngige, Nasir El-Rufai, Audu Ogbe, former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chief Tony Momoh, other national leaders, party faithful and supporters.

Attack on APC supporters

Unknown gunmen attacked APC supporters who were coming from both Khana and Asari-Torlu LGA’s of the state to attend the rally. Eye witnesses said the gunmen who were on mask opened fire on the two buses conveying the APC supporters at Sakpanwa junction in Tai LGA. Seven persons reportedly sustained serious bullet wounds. The victims were evacuated to the state owned Kelsey Harrison  special hospital where they are receiving treatment. Buhari and Amaechi visited the victims where the governor advised President Jonathan to call his men to order. Amaechi said President Jonathan apart from calling his men to order should also condemn the attack on the APC members. “Imagine that the president goes to campaign in Katsina or in Kano and his convoy is attacked, imagine that, we will condemn it. In the same manner, we expect the president and the PDP should condemn this violence that has been visited on us by their members and we expect that they should be able to control their members,” he said.

Police/APC trade words over the attack

Rivers State Police Command are in war of words with the State chapter of APC on who was responsible for the attack. The police through its spokesman, DSP Almad Muhammad had earlier confirmed to journalist that the APC supporters were attacked by unknown gunmen but later came up to allude that the APC supporters were attacked by armed robbers. This did not go down well with the Peterside campaign organisation as it  reacted spontaneously to the police statement, saying the police comment is partisan and an allegiance to the PDP.

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