CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes on the recent zonal presidential rallies of the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the matters arising.
Barely days after members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign team were inaugurated, they set off on their mission, albeit at the level of the six geo-political zones.
With former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate, the 154 member campaign council has so far been to three geo-political zones namely, North west, North central and South west.
Regardless of the region and crowd that attended the rallies, the narrative was the same. The party, fixated on a return to power after four years of being in the oppostion, started off in Sokoto State, with its call for the sack of the current leadership.
At the seat of the Caliphate, the party was able to gather a crowd, that it arguably had never gathered in that part of the country in recent past. Party stalwarts including former governors Ahmed Makarfi, Sule Lamido, Babangida Aliyu, Rabiu Kwankwanso and governors Aminu Tambuwal, Darius Ishaku. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, his former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, national chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, as well as Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were among those who attended the rally.
They took turns to lament the current situation of the country. From the state of the economy to the security situation they blamed the incumbent federal administration of not meeting expectations of the people and urged electorate to kick it out at the polls next year.
At the rally, Jonathan said only the PDP and Atiku could make Nigerians feed three times daily, and asking the people to vote for the party.
However, the Kano State Governor Nasir el-rufai, sought to puncture the outcome of the rally in the Sokoto in a tweet by describing the crowd as rented from Niger Republic.
Undeterred, the PDP campaign train moved to the North central, precisely Kwara State in Illorin. The need to replace the All Progressives Congress, APC-led federal government also resonated at the rally. Leading the call was the Director General of the Atiku/Obi Campaign Organisation and President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who said the APC-led government had failed in all facets of governance.
Saraki in a bid to consolidate his base especially after his party lost a recent by-election, urged the state and region not to vote for the APC in 2019.
But barely days after, Vice President (VP) Yemi Osinbajo landed in Kwara State as part of the activities marking the disbursement of the TraderMoni — a financial scheme of the Federal Government.
The VP arrived to a rousing welcome in Ipata market in Ilorin, Kwara State capital where he launched the N 10 , 000 collateral – free, interest – free TraderMoni for petty traders in the state.
The disbursement is part of the current administration ’ s drive to empower over two million petty traders across the country through a commercial loan scheme tagged the TraderMoni scheme.
While some analysts view the visit of the Vice President as mere coincidence, watchers of the political scheming aver that the visit was meant to deflate whatever impact the PDP rally would have had.
Still, the PDP moved to Ibadan, Oyo State capital for the South west rally. At the gathering, Atiku expressed optimism that Nigeria would be a better country if he wins at next year’s general elections.
The former vice president told the mammoth crowd that the current administration could achieve nothing because of its fake promises and limited understanding of the economy, even as he lambasted APC for reneging on its promise to restructure the country.
Atiku said: “In the next two months, you will be required to choose your next president. Please, make your decision carefully. The best democracy we enjoyed in Nigeria was under the PDP. In 2015, APC promised 12 million jobs, but today we have not seen the jobs. Nigeria is now the headquarters of poverty in the world. We shall return Nigeria to prosperity in 2019.”
Reacting to the outcome of the rallies, the national publicity secretary of the APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said it is an affront for PDP to embark on campaign at zonal rallies, instead of apologising for the damage allegedly done to the nation for 16 years.
Issa-Onilu said: “What we expect the PDP to do in this rally is to go to the zones and apologise profusely, demonstrate remorsefulness which they have failed to do. And they keep going to those zones for rally to insult people.”
However a concerned member of the PDP from the South west who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday on condition of anonymity said, “Unfortunately, the much that I have observed, it has not had the expected impact. Nothing to ‘shout’ about. All the zones visited so far did not have the necessary quantum of publicity, advance hype and not at all inclusive (i.e. the usual cabal within the party went on excursion and sightseeing); It would appear that the cabal has taken victory in 2019 general election for granted. Let’s beware and be wise.”
But the national chairman of the National Democratic Party (PDP) Prince Chudi Chukwuani, gave the rallies a pass mark, saying that the massive turnout of people was reflective of the way people feel about this administration. He said the level of suffering has increased under this administration.
He said “If only you were at the Christian Association of Nigeria Leadership debate of the presidential aspirants for 2019 Election. APC Representatives admitted that there was hunger in the land, the roads were bad and there is insecurity in the land. APC tried to justify the insecurity by saying that it was due to extreme high rate of employment and joblessness.
“When a government in power is talking like that it means that they know within them that the time is up. I believe this clearly supports the reason for the high turnouts at PDP rallies. People are just fed up and hungry and are therefore looking for alternatives that will elevate their hunger,” he said.
A public commentator, Chibuike Nwachukwu, corroborated that the turnout at the gathering reflected the mood of the nation. “While large crowds may not necessarily translate to votes but it gives an indication of how the people feel. For a ruling party that has not been able to meet the expectations of the people, the narrative at the rallies is likely going to make a lot of impact during the polls,” he said.
On the reprimand of the APC to PDP that they should do more of apology than campaigns, he said “as much as the PDP has alot of work to be done, it is also instructive that the APC has to convince Nigerians on why they should support them. I also believe APC needs to apologise to Nigerians for not meeting expectations as well,” he said.
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