Nigeria’s political turf was agog yesterday as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) kicked off its presidential campaign in Sokoto.
The event, which witnessed a mammoth crowd of PDP leaders and the party’s supporters in the Northwest geo-political zone, offered the PDP standard bearer in the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar opportunity to sell his governance blueprint to Nigerians.
To the cheering crowd and other Nigerians, Atiku said that next year’s elections offered them the opportunity to choose between poverty and prosperity.
He said that a vote for him at the poll is a vote for national prosperity and stability while any one for the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is an endorsement of the continuation of widespread poverty and retrogression for another four years.
But Atiku’s seemingly soothing words were immediately countered by the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO), which asked him to showcase PDP’s achievements for the 16 years that the party ruled Nigeria.
In an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP, the director of Strategic Communications and spokesman of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election campaign, Mr. Festus Keyamo (SAN), said that the only visible mark, the PDP (Atiku’s platform) left on the polity was all round failure in leadership, adding that whatever form of poverty Nigerians face, did not begin with Buhari.
At the Northwest presidential rally in Sokoto, Atiku insisted that the forthcoming election gives Nigerians the ample opportunity to choose between unemployment, poverty, insecurity, segregation, and hunger as well as all the attributes of misgovernance and prosperity, employment as well an all-inclusive government.
While assuring Nigerians of his readiness to return the country to the path of all-round development, Atiku said that he remains an “apostle of good governance.”
Atiku, who is the Waziri Adamawa, said: “2019 general elections is between unemployment, poverty, insecurity and all the negative attributes of misgovernance and the direct opposite, which I am sure Nigerians now know better.
“The time has come for Nigerians not to continue believing lies. Let nobody continue to tell you lies that for almost 15 years, he has only 150 cows. For me, I am not a liar; I have more than 1,000 cows. I will not cheat Nigerians because I believe in prosperity for all which is the essence of governance,” he said.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan, who led the PDP campaign team to the occasion, admonished Nigerians to vote Atiku in 2019 so that they can have food on their table.
Jonathan stated that with Atiku’s presidency, life will be more meaningful and better for Nigerians.
Before presenting Atiku to the crowd as the preferred candidate for all Nigerians, PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said that Nigerians’ progress is not part of the ruling APC’s agenda, which made the PDP to embark on a rescue mission for them.
Secondus warned that anybody thinking of rigging or manipulating the next year’s general elections should be ready toface the wrath of Nigerians even as he charged Nigerians to ensure that the electoral umpire deliver free and fair elections.
Earlier, the director-general of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation and Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki, said that the unprecedented crowd at the rally held in Buhari’s purported stronghold, is a confirmation of the fact that Nigerians have seen the failure of the APC and are ready to vote them out of office.
Saraki urged the Northwest electorate never to allow themselves to be deceived by those who claimed they are going to protect them only to end up endangering their lives the more.
He said: “Before 2015, the people of the Northwest region only heard of insecurity in the Northeast, but today, insecurity has enveloped not only the Northwest, but the entire country, because there is no security, no employment and no prosperity for Nigerians.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon, Yakubu Dogara, said that the presidential general election is not between Atiku and Buhari, but between the impoverished Nigerians and the APC.
Dogara lamented that Nigerians had continue to face worsening insecurity, killings, kidnappings and poverty within the last three and half years of the APC administration and urged them to support Atiku to rescue Nigeria from poor governance.
The host and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said that Atiku will be Nigeria’s next president and appealed to the youths to prove to those that call them lazy that they a force to reckon with by voting for Atiku who is concerned about their future.
Among the dignitaries at the rally were former governors Attahiru Bafarwawa (Sokoto), Ibrahim Idris (Kogi), Idris Wada (Kogi), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), the secretary of the Northwest Campaign Organdisation, Senator Ibrahim Kazure, Mukhtar Shehu Shagari, and Senator Dino Melaye.
Though, Rivers State governor, Nysom Wike, the South-South PDP Presidential Campaign coordinator was conspicuously missing, a reliable party source said that his absence is a non-issue.
Show Us PDP’s Achievements In 16 Years –BCO
To the PDP and Atiku, Keyamo described them as mismatch for Buhari, adding that that the opposition party, which was ousted from power by Buhari in 2015, dreads free and fair elections.
He said that that since Smart Card Reader and Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were adopted for the authentication and biometric data verification of the voters in the polling units, the fortunes of the PDP had nosedived.
According to Keyamo, poverty did not start with Buhari, stressing that, “it’s a direct consequence of what the past government including the PDP candidate himself had done. There’s this publication where Babangida wrote a famous letter to Obasanjo and Atiku in 2002 and the headline was that Nigerians are suffering because for the young people who are within the age bracket of 18 and 35, who they are now targeting for votes, who don’t know the history of Nigeria because we have very short memory in this country. They are trying to dazzle them that it was paradise when they were there and they are trying to bring back that paradise. We have to remind Nigerians of the kind of situation when they were there and if they did what they should have done; we would not be where we are today.
“Don’t forget that it was in their time that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were initiated across the world and the template was given to Third World countries to begin to implement the goals in education, health and poverty alleviation programmes.
“If they had faithfully implemented all of that, we would have been out of poverty just like India is pulling out. It is their failure to do this that brought us to this sorry condition. Now what the present government is doing is refocusing because if the opposition can point to one infrastructure that they did in 16 years, Nigerians would forgive them.
“I am not talking about constructing roads that were washed away after two years, or buildings because they were boasting about Almajiri schools which is quite a beautiful idea, but all that do not form the critical infrastructure of a country. They are not the rails, roads and power that I am talking about,” he said.
Keyamo said that since 1999, the hierarchy of the PDP had perfected the art of rigging elections until history and technology caught up with them.
He said that with the introduction of those technological devices in 2015 which ostensibly tackled nuances of election rigging in the country, the PDP that is alien to free and fair elections, began to lose in electoral contest.
He said that the call of the party for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu and IGP Idris to resign is not new.
He recalled that the PDP called on the former INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, to resign on the grounds that it lost faith in him..
Keyamo praised Buhari for developing critical infrastructure and agriculture.
‘’By critical infrastructure, I mean those things that have direct correlation with the economic prosperity of nation. This is in contrast to ensuring that people have a lot of cash, slush funds in their pockets and once it does, they fly out of the country, and buy houses abroad,” he said.
Police Warn Against Hate Speeches, Indecent Conduct
Meanwhile, the inspector-general of police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has warned that the Nigerian Police would not condone hate speeches, indecent conduct, and defamatory statements from individuals or groups during the campaigns and beyond.
The police boss reiterated that the police are committed to free and fair elections in 2019.
At an interactive session yesterday with critical stakeholders ahead of the 2019 elections at the Oyo State Police Command headquarters, Eleyele Ibadan, the IGP assured Nigerians of safety, free and fair conduct of the polls.
Represented by the deputy inspector-general (DIG) Glover Oshodi, the IGP said that the force would “not condone hate speeches, indecent and criminal defamatory conducts from any individuals or groups that can cause threat to public peace and safety,” and threatened that the full wrath of the law would be applied on such actors.
He said: “We will use all resources within our capacity to achieve this feat. I am here speaking from the directive of IGP Ibrahim Idris, who has directed us to initiate this kind of summit in all states including Abuja, to sit with the critical stakeholders and to reason a way out for the peaceful conduct of 2019 general elections and I can tell you that from what we have been able to achieve through the roundtable meetings, we will achieve the desired results at the end.”