By Vincent Ujumadu & Chimaobi Nwaiwu,
Awka – THE commercial city of Onitsha stood still Friday as the All Progressives Congress, APC flagged off its Anambra State governorship campaign with a shock and awe style that has underlined the party’s quest to win the office.
The venue of the flag-off, the All Saints Cathedral Field in the centre of the town which had earlier been used by several other political parties for the same purpose saw a crowd that had not been seen for a very long time in the history of the ancient commercial city.
Besides the unprecedented crowd was also the sense of unity that enveloped the APC as all but one of the former aspirants who contested the ticket with Dr. Tony Nwoye came up to show solidarity with the candidate.
Also present as part of the shock and awe tactics were several APC governors and national officers led by the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. President Muhammadu Buhari who was in Turkey for the G-8 summit was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Indeed, the All Saints Cathedral field, venue of the event, was jam-packed and traffic in the city was brought to stand still for several hours as motorists found it difficult to drive around.
The field went frenzy when the governors and national officers of the party began to arrive, thus putting paid to speculations that most of them would not come to lend support to Nwoye. There were dancing troupes to spice the ceremony that lasted over seven hours.
After the initial shock that followed the massive turnout, the APC campaign team switched on its charms with the vice-president leading.
Presenting Nwoye to the mammoth crowd, Osinbajo, said the APC- led government was not making promises for nothing, explaining that work on the 2nd Niger Bridge had already begun as it was contained in this year’s budget. He also said that the president had included Anambra State in the rail transport programme, adding that one would run from the Delta to Onitsha, while another one would run from Port Harcourt through Owerri to Awka as part of the comprehensive rail programme for the country.
Speaking of the special love Buhari has for Anambra State, he said:
“The president is a man who loves Anambra State because the first time he ran for president, he chose Dr. Chuba Okadigbo as his running mate and the second time he ran, he also chose Chief Edwin Umezeoke from this state as his running mate.
“This is also the state where President Buhari started his school feeding programme. If you vote Tony Nwoye in as the governor, you will be making the right choice, and if you make the right choice, you will get the right result.”
Odigie Oyegun on his part reminded the people that APC removed a sitting Federal Government and asked the people of Anambra State if they were ready to do the right thing.
He said: “This is an election that will decide whether you are serious in your quest to become relevant politically. If you vote for Nwoye, Igbo people will be taking their prominent position in Nigeria.
“I am from the minority part of Nigeria, and I know that this country stands on a tripod, but one leg of that tripod (Igbo) is missing at the national level, and the surest route for Igbo to be in the national leadership is through APC.
“We want to give our president a special present, and the best present we can give him is Nwoye as the governor of Anambra State in November this year.”
Imo State governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, presently the only APC governor in the geopolitical zone appealed to the people to vote for Nwoye because he (Okorocha) needed a brother from the South East to join him at the center.
“Before now, when I looked around, I saw El Rufai and other governors who are not my brothers from this part of the country. I plead with you to allow Nwoye to join me as an Igbo man during the governors’ meetings. If Anambra State must move forward, you must give youths a chance and Tony Nwoye is a young man who is full of energy to give the people what they want,” Okorocha said.
Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai said Nigerians were being deceived by labeling APC a Muslim party and urged the people not to allow people use religion to confuse them. He recalled his experience during the 2013 governorship election in which he was prevented from leaving his hotel room when he came to work for the election of Dr. Chris Ngige as governor.
Urging the people to shun religious politics, El Rufai informed the people that apart from the vice president who is a pastor, the national chairman of APC is also a good Catholic, just like the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong. The country, the Kaduna State governor said, is governed by the rule of law, adding that no religion would lord it over the other.
Accepting the flag from Oyegun, Nwoye urged the Anambra electorate to trust him, assuring that he would not disappoint them if elected governor.
He promised that assist poor students in the state with payment of their WAEC fees, just as he promised to review school fees downwards if elected to ensure that every child of school age went to school.
He also promised that if elected, he would improve facilities in schools and health institutions and create jobs for the teeming population unemployed youths in the state.
He accused the APGA –led government in the state of siphoning local government funds in the past three years, assuring that monies accruing to the local government would go them if he became the governor.
Perhaps the most impressive moment of the gathering was when Nwoye looked the Vice President in the face and demanded that the Federal Government should direct the contractors handling the reconstruction of the Enugu-Onitsha expressway to return to site without delay to reduce the hardship being faced by road users. The feeling many people had at the rally was that Nwoye, as a governor, would not be afraid to take decisions that have to do with the welfare of the
The minister of labour and productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige who is leading the campaign in his speech lamented the poor performance of the incumbent even as he remonstrated with him and his former benefactor, Mr. Peter Obi over their public quarrel.
“It is the turn of APGA and PDP to cry, and they are already crying, Mr. Peter Obi and his friend Governor Willie Obiano are now crying and accusing each other, they are accusing each other of receiving and not receiving billions of Naira, they are quarreling with each other over who asked for and who did not give out N7.5 billion naira bribe, it is their time to cry”
Governors that attended the flag off included Tanko Al Makura (Nasarawa), Godwin Obaseki Edo), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna), as well deputy governors of Niger, Imo, among others.
It was the opinion of several that the massive turnout was on account of the choice of the candidate, Nwoye whose popularity among the youths is legendary.