There was a mild drama yesterday at the All Progressives Congress (APC) rally at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri, the Imo State capital President Muhammadu Buhari asked party members to vote for a candidate of their choice in the governorship poll.
The counsel ran contrary to that of the party’s National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole, who had earlier told the crowd that the party was not in alliance with any political platform.
He told the party supporters in clear language that they should vote for the party’s standard bearer in the governorship race, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
The Action Alliance (AA) candidate, Uche Nwosu, enjoys the backing of Governor Rochas Okorocha, who is contesting the Imo West senatorial seat on the APC ticket.
Nwosu, who was at the APC rally, had adopted Buhari as his presidential candidate.
President Buhari, who broke his silence on the crisis rocking the party since the party’s governorship primaries, urged APC members to vote for any candidate of their choice across party lines irrespective of inter or intraparty squabbles.
Before coming to the Dan Anyiam Stadium, the governor had hosted the President at the Government House. Nwosu was present; Uzodinma was not. He was at the stadium, waiting for the President.
The emergence of Uzodinma “in controversial circumstances” at the governorship primary pitted the governor against the APC national chair.
Nwosu, who jostled for the APC ticket, defected the AA, a decision that polarised the local chapter of the APC in Imo State.
The state chapter of AA has not only endorsed Buhari, it promised to secure one million votes for him.
At the stadium shortly before Buhari’s address, Oshiomhole, while presenting the APC governorship candidate, had thrown jibes at the governor, who was seen keeping himself under check.
The party chair said: “The APC is not in alliance with any party; we are capable of delivering the President. We have come to present a new hope to Imo people; Senator Hope Uzodinma will win and restore good governance in Imo. APC will win in Imo State.”
The smug look on the governor’s face when Oshiomhole presented the party flag to Uzodinma, betrayed his disapproval of the senator’s candidature.
Okorocha said that the President had always demonstrated his love for the Igbo and would continue to show his love for the Igbos.
He said: “My President, you are a man of destiny. Your victory, come 2019, has been signed and sealed. You love the Igbo. And you have always demonstrated that. You took Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Ume Ezeoke at different times to be your running mates. It will be wrong for anybody to say that you don’t love Ndi-Igbo . Whoever says that is lying from the pit of hell.
“Mr. President, you were forced to look elsewhere. So, it is not right that Buhari does not love Ndigbo . He shall continue to show us love. You have shown your capacity and capability in fighting corruption. There is nothing you can do to please the elite of Nigeria. Continue to work for the ordinary Nigerians while protecting the interest of the few elites.
“Let me remind you sir, I am Owelle Rochas Okorocha, I am the founder of APC in Imo State and I am the only governor in the whole of Southeast from APC. As it stands today, those that challenged us, those that came with the Army and Police and DSS are now sitting boldly as the owners of the party. Let me say to you that, it is Iberiberism Chapter I vs I.”
In Abia State, the Enyimba International Football Stadium, Aba, the state’s commercial hub, stood still as residents and APC supporters from the 17 local government areas, trooped out to be part of the President’s campaign.
They defied the sit-at-home order issued yesterday by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which asked them observe a mini sit-at-home from 6am to 4pm.
President Buhari who came in the company of former of Abia governors Orji Uzor Kalu and Ogbonnaya Onu (Minister of Science & Technology), Senator Ken Nnamani, former Ekiti governor and APC Deputy Chairman (South), Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Senator Chris Ngige, Oshiomhole, House of Representatives member (Isiukwuato/Umunneochi), Nkeiruka Onyejiocha, former Labour & Productivity minister Emeka Wogu and Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, among others.
President Buhari vowed to continue to tackle infrastructural problems and ensure that Nigerians do their businesses without stress.
He urged the people of Abia State to ensure victory for the APC in the forthcoming elections.
Buhari said: “I’m impressed with all the speakers because they’ve articulated what this administration is able to do. When we came in, we approached governance with three point agenda of security, economy and fight against corruption.
“We tried to justify these by trying our best within the time available to us from 2015 to now with the resources available to us. You can all recall that the production of 2.4 million barrel per day was cut short to half a million barrel per day. In the world market which is outside our control, the cost of petroleum per barrel went down from $40, $38, $28 per barrel.
“It is in this context that I want you to see how this administration has been committed to development of this country. Upon all these, we are doing the roads now, we are doing the railways which was neglected and virtually killed and we are doing power which is one of the projects I’ve came here to commission today.
“I assure you that if we get infrastructure correct; the roads, the railways and power… it all depends on who is in the government.
“We have identified this and we are committing available resources to make sure we get the infrastructure right and we are doing as much as possible to secure the country so that we can properly manage it. I thank you for your commitment and I expect you to this time around, vote APC.”
Oshiomhole, who could not hide his joy over the reception given to the campaign train, said that it was an indication that Abians have embraced the APC’s Change Mantra.
He stressed that the Buhari government has done well in the southeast geo-political zone through some of the completed and ongoing developmental projects the APC government is doing in the zone.
“I’m very happy at the testimonies I’ve heard today about what this administration has done in Igboland and Abia State in particular. You can bury the truth ten meters deep, but you cannot kill the truth”, Oshiomhole said.
He went on: “The truth is that in this state, PDP has governed for 19 years just as they controlled the country for 16 years. In those 16 years, this part of the country that was most loyal and committed to voting PDP was abandoned and Federal dual carriage road in the zone was turned to a cassava farm.
“No one could commute from Aba to Port Harcourt. Everything was destroyed under PDP. My message is simple, the beauty of Nigerian democracy is that if you elect by mistake, it cannot last for more than four years. The last mistake of 2015 must now be corrected in 2019.
“What we need in leadership are men and women who can serve Nigeria as their constituency. The development literature of the Federal Government in South East is very clear. It’s not rocket science. The Ariaria International Market Power Plant is there for all to see. The basis for sustainable economy is to build durable infrastructure and President Buhari is ensuring that.”
Uzor-Kalu lambasted the PDP-led administration in the state for what he described as total neglect of infrastructure in the state and none payment salaries and pensions which he said has left many people who served the state with all their hearts in perpetual poverty.
Kalu who is the Senatorial candidate of APC for Abia North District also blasted former president Olusegun Obasanjo for his constant criticism of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I always call the PDP administration in Abia State liars because in this state, they rumoured that I was dead and gone and I’m alive today to the glory of God. Again I call them liars because they always pay Abia civil servants on radio.
“When I was governor, there was free education, our darling team Enyimba which was why I built this stadium became champions of Africa twice. In my days, workers and pensioners never begged for their monies.”
“I heard a man called Olusegun Obasanjo attacking Mr. President and this man Obasanjo forgot that it was him that brought corruption to Nigeria as a president.
“He was the first President who started thwarting democratic processes in Nigeria. My Problem with him was when he called me and some other persons to support his third tenure bid and I refused and urged others never to accept it. He turned himself into a dictator. How can someone compare Obasanjo and Buhari? Buhari wants the Judiciary to be perfectly independent.”
The party’s governorship candidate, Dr. Uche Ogah, urged the President to disregard any information that there is another party in Abia capable of winning elections outside the APC. He declared Abia as an APC state.
Ogah said: “Abia people have resolved to unanimously move to APC and there is no other party that can stop it. You’ll get our votes in Abia and the mistake of 2015 will never repeat. We shall be first in giving you votes. We’ve felt your love through numerous Federal Government projects here.
“We’ve told our people that the mistakes of PDP will be corrected in Abia as we move into Government. Thank you for remembering our infrastructure in the South East. Our roads are now better and what else can we say that to appreciate and show you real love during the elections. Our people are tired of PDP.”