By Francis Igata
Since the advent of democracy in 1999, Enugu State has shown its unwavering support for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. As the President Goodluck Jonathan presidential campaign train got to Enugu on January 9, from Lagos State where the presidential campaign was flagged off, residents trooped out en mass to identify with PDP amid excitement.
THE Electorate in Enugu State has over time demonstrated its unflinching resolve to identify with PDP. That accounts for the bandwagon effect among politicians as the party is seen as the most viable vehicle for achieving political aspiration.
Thus, the state chapter of the party made efforts to convince President Jonathan during the visit that Enugu is a PDP state even though some observers believe that the February 14 presidential election will be a keen contest between Jonathan and his major opponent from the All Progressives Congress, APC, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Thus, people from all parts of the state and beyond trooped to the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium for the event. It was a carnival of sorts as the teeming members of the party in different PDP regalia danced to the expansive arena. The singers intermittently sang praises of President Jonathan, Governor Sullivan Chime and Enugu PDP candidate, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
President Jonathan finally arrived the venue of the colourful rally at exactly 2.15 p.m. He was accompanied by his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, deputy Vice President, Namadi Sambo, National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, Governor Sullivan Chime and Enugu PDP governorship candidate, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
The rally also had in attendance the entire PDP hierarchy from the governors to members of the party’s National Executive Committee, National Assembly members and candidates to the governorship candidates of the party.
Others who graced the occasion are former Senate presidents and elder statesmen including former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr Alex Ekwueme.
President Jonathan arrived the venue of the colourful rally at exactly 2.15 p.m. He was accompanied by his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan, deputy Vice President, Namadi Sambo, National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, Governor Sullivan Chime and Enugu PDP governorship candidate, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Held at the 22,000 capacity Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium, which was filled to the brim, the presidential re-election and governorship campaign lived up to its billing when Jonathan having dried his gun powder, fired the first salvo by tongue lashing Buhari, claiming that his opponent’s administration as military head of state in 1983, was more interested in throwing people into jail than systematically fighting corruption.
President Jonathan said his administration has fought corruption more than any other past administration in the country, urging APC to tell Nigerians how they will tackle corruption in the country.
Many of those who listened to President Jonathan’s speech were in agreement that it was meant o de-construct Buhari.
President Jonathan accused Buhari of deceiving the people by promising that he would revive the economy without correspondingly explaining how he would achieve that.
He wondered how Buhari could develop the economy when he could not do so in office as head of state between 1983 to 1985.
“Is it now that Buhari cannot even remember his own phone number that he can change the economy?” he asked.
President Jonathan who said although he did not like to go personal during campaigns, said that “sometimes, certain things demand that certain things must be said”.
The President said that the APC candidate belonged to the medieval age, adding that Buhari’s intention is to run the Federal Government like a medieval king.
His words: “we cannot run the government as if we are in a medieval age; we cannot run a government where somebody said he would throw people into jail. You are not a medieval king- a medieval king can throw somebody into jail but we have to follow the rule of law because we cannot go back to the old days”.
President Jonathan was not done yet as he read the speech made by former Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) after overthrowing Buhari on August 27, 1985, to justify the fact that Buhari does not keep his promises.
Gen Babangida in the portion of the speech read by Jonathan justified the overthrow of the APC flag bearer saying that Buhari did not live up to the promises he made to Nigerians when he overthrew a democratically elected government headed by Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
The President quoted Babangida as saying: “The initial objectives of Buhari’s intervention was betrayed as there was a general deterioration of standard of living in the country.”
Many observers argue that Jonathan’s hard knocks on Buhari made him to gloss over what he would do for the South East people and indeed Nigeria, if re-elected for a second term in office.
Handing Ugwuanyi governorship flag
One of the issues members of the party at the rally and particularly people of Enugu State were anxiously waiting for was the official handover of the 2015 governorship flag of the PDP to Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. The anxiety over the flag was obvious considering the struggle for the governorship seat.
Before the rally, there were still pockets of doubts over the actual candidate of the PDP in Enugu State.
One of the contenders to the Lion Building, Senator Ayogu Eze had claimed to be the PDP candidate in Enugu after holding a parallel governorship primaries at Filbon Hotel, in the New Haven part of the state.
But with Friday’s rally in Enugu, the struggle for the PDP flag became history as the hierarchy of the party led by President Jonathan officially handed over the flag to Ugwuanyi, who is about rounding off his third term in the House of Representatives.
Mu’azu, while formally handing over the party’s governorship flag to Ugwuanyi, declared that it was a flag of victory from the PDP. Hon. Ugwuanyi enjoys overwhelming support of Enugu PDP stakeholders, and the party faithful, many of who have constituted over 100 support groups working to actualize his ambition.
Party stakeholders in the three senatorial districts of the state had long adopted him as consensus governorship candidate before the primaries.
A chieftain of the party and former member of the House of Representatives, Hon USA Igwesi, described the handover of party flag to Ugwuanyi as a confirmation of victory for the PDP in Enugu State.
He said that the development showed that the PDP believes in the popular will of the people, adding that with Ugwuanyi’s candidature, the ruling party could go to sleep as far as the governorship election is concerned.
I will take Enugu to the next level -Ugwuanyi
Speaking with newsmen after receiving the flag, Hon. Ugwuanyi thanked the party and the people of Enugu State for the confidence reposed in him and assured that he would consolidate on the current gains and take the state to the next level of development.
Promising a robust campaign, he enthused: “The presentation of the party’s flag to me by the President and our National Chairman is a call to duty, a charge to work hard with my governor and the rest of the team to deliver Enugu State to the PDP 100 per cent as has been the tradition; and that I will surely do, God being my helper”.
Absence of Ayogu and his supporters
Many curious supporters were quick to notice that Ayogu Eze, the Senate Committee chairman on Works was absent at the PDP rally. It was observed that few members of the PDP who still show solidarity to the Enugu North Senator were also not at the crowded stadium.
Prior the president’s speech, chieftains of the party took turns to canvass votes for him and the party in next month’s polls.
The first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan urged women in Nigeria to vote for her husband insisting that the 35 percent women affirmation initiated by Jonathan’s administration will be sustained.
According to her, “the President has shown that he is gender friendly from the number of appointive offices to women. His administration has fought to improve girl child education,eradication of maternal child mortality and Polio.”
Enugu PDP is united—Chime
In his remarks, the Governor of Enugu state, Mr Sullivan Chime assured the President that he has no business campaigning in Enugu state because “we are united under the umbrella in Enugu. Jonathan will till 2019 while Hon. Ugwuanyi will rule Enugu state till 2023.”
President Jonathan commended the party’s governorship candidate in Enugu State, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi for towing his line of being a gender friendly governor.
He urged women in the country to vote for his re-election bid lamenting that Buhari never appointed a woman in his cabinet as military head of state.
Jonathan said,”Buhari never appointed any woman into his cabinet. Our women had all the qualifications and experience at that time. If you make the mistake of voting him, you will not be liberated. You will remain in the kitchen and die.