The North-Central serves as a bridge between the North and the South and would prove pivotal in the resolution of the 2015 presidential contest. The recent rally by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in Minna was an opportunity for the ruling party to up the stakes in the unfolding battle for the soul of the nation.
BY WOLE MOSADOMI
WITH six states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja serving as a bridge between the far North and southern parts of Nigeria, the North-Central geo-political zone is easily one of the country’s most strategic political pies.
It is therefore not out of place for political parties to jostle for political footholds in the area.
Last week’s unity rally of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Minna, Niger State could thus be seen as preparing grounds for party in the zone ahead of the 2015 polls.
Held at the Trade Fair Complex along Minna Paiko Suleja road, the caliber of PDP stalwarts that attended the rally indicated that the party meant business.
The mammoth crowd of PDP faithful included President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, PDP governors from across the country especially North Central states, members of the National Assembly and a host of other party stalwarts and supporters from within and outside Niger State.
As early as 7 am, party supporters had started trooping to the venue which had been turned into a beautiful arena with posters of President Jonathan, Sambo, Mu’azu and Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of the state.
Right from the “State Box” which was reserved for the president, his vice, senate president, past and present national chairmen and officials of the party and other dignitaries was a long wooden pathway laid with red carpet and elevated above the pavilions to enable the crowd catch a good glimpse of the speakers while walking to the podium or delivering their speeches.
PDP stronger without defectors –Jonathan
Speaking at the rally, President Jonathan described those who left the PDP recently for the All Progressives Congress (APC) as retrogressive, adding that their departure was good and would not have any adverse effect on the party.
According to him, the defection of the governors, legislators and some of their supporters to APC was a good omen for the PDP because since their defection, PDP has been waxing stronger and stronger.
His words: “If some people have been with the PDP for 14 years and now they said they are leaving for the progressive, the question is where are they progressing to? It means in the past 14 years, they have been involved in retrogressive activities in PDP and were problems to us and you will agree with me that now that these retrogressive elements have left, PDP will progress more.”
He called on Nigerians especially the PDP supporters not to be moved by anybody who uses the media to preach violence but rather should be focused on what PDP had done for the country in the past years.
PDP has done well, ‘ll do better –Sambo, Mu’azu
Vice President Sambo, in his brief remarks, thanked the people of North Central for their support for the party in the past years and called on them to remain loyal and dedicated to the PDP and government of the day.
Also speaking, the national chairman of the party, Dr. Mu’azu described PDP “as the only party that has given hope to the hopeless, given life to our wives, given hope to our mothers, given life and hope to our youths and we promise to do even better.”
He called on Governor Babangida Aliyu to finish the job he started with his colleagues by bringing them back into the fold (PDP).
He thanked him and his colleague, the governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido for coming back after seeing the light but the job they started has not finished because now, they should go back to convince their colleagues and let them see the light and come back to PDP and they will be treated equally when they return.”
He however ruled out automatic tickets for any aspirant for any political office.
2015: With our governors’ support Jonathan ‘ll win – Mark
Senate President Mark in his address assured President Jonathan that with the governors in the North Central states, Nigeria will be delivered to him in 2015.
He described the Transformation Agenda of the president as one of the best things to have happened to the country pointing out that Kwara, Nasarawa states in particular will be recaptured.
We’re behind Jonathan –Akpabio
Chairman, PDP Governors Forum, who is also the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Akpabio noted that despite the challenges and distractions in the country, Nigeria is still moving forward, adding that as foot soldiers at the state levels, all the PDP governors are solidly behind President Jonathan and will deliver the country to him in next year’s elections.
He enumerated few ongoing and completed projects across the country especially in Niger State, which include the on-going Zungeru Hydro electricity Dam, the dualization of Suleja -Lambata road, ongoing Bida – Mokwa road, ongoing Kontagora – Sokoto road, dredging of River Niger and the construction of Baro Port, which he said are practical testimonies to the fulfillment of Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.
Anenih, Aliyu speak
BOT chairman, Tony Anenih called on Nigerians to appreciate what God has given Nigeria in the person of President Jonathan whom he said deserves all the support needed to further transform the country into an enviable nation.
He described the crowd at the rally as assuring and a good testimony to the fact that Nigerians are solidly behind the president and the PDP.
Governor Babangida Aliyu described the occasion as not a campaign rally but a gathering to showcase unity and solidarity and to galvanize the people and tell them that PDP is intact.
Looking into future elections, Dr. Aliyu cast his mind back to how the president eventually cinched the office saying, “when many people never thought you will be president, you eventually became president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by God’s grace, your days have not finished, our days at PDP have not finished because we are aware of what you have done, what you are doing and what you are going to do and this is why we will support you beyond 2015.”
He assured that despite what is happening in Kwara and Nasarawa, the two states and other states formerly belonging to the PDP will be recaptured in 2015 because we will not rest on our oars and take things for granted as we will go to the villages, hamlets and we will not spare anybody and even those who said they will not vote for us, we will talk to them and leave our doors open for them to return.”
Dr. Aliyu called on his colleagues to ensure that they not only retain their states but gain more states saying, “by 2015, we hope to get back our 28 states by the grace of God and the place to start is the June/August governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states because if we can get these two states, at least the message would have been clear to everybody.”
Test of political might
The event was not only a solidarity rally but also an opportunity for aspirants in the zone eyeing various offices to test the political waters as their placards were carried from one spot to the other at the venue with their supporters singing and drumming in defiance to pleas from the masters of ceremony not distract the audience.
More disturbing is the shameless exhibition of some hooligans who gained access to the venue disguised as party supporters and caused panic at the tail end of the rally.
As President Jonathan was addressing the gathering, the hoodlums started removing the tarpaulins used as roofing and decoration of the pavilions. Their actions made the crowd to hurriedly vacate their seats in fear as most people including the security agents on ground watched without any intervention.
One of the spectators at the venue Alhaji Adamu Mohammed who looked so worried over what was going on simply said “assuming these boys have invaded this venue with the intention to unleash terror and cause havoc, this is how they would have had a field day with our security personnel watching helplessly.”
However, the rally ended peacefully without any causality.