SOKOTO: PDP Stages Reclamation Bid With Presidential Campaign Rally
President Goodluck Jonathan’s impressive campaign rallies in some northern states recently particularly in Sokoto State are a pointer that the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential flagbearer has a strong support base in the region.
IF the crowd that converged on the Shehu Kangiwa Square, Sokoto State, to herald the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign rally to the ancient city last Saturday is anything to go by, then the February 14, 2015, presidential election would indeed be a keen contest between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking a second term in office, and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the flag bearer of the main opposition party in the country, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Before the campaign rally, many analysts had postulated that with the clamour for power shift to the north and Buhari’s popularity in the region, Jonathan would find it difficult to convince the northerners to queue behind him. But right at the seat of the Caliphate, Jonathan’s campaign train was welcomed by an unprecedented crowd of supporters that left all the party stalwarts at the venue with a beaming face throughout the duration of the event. And when it was speech time, the party leaders could not but hail the political sagacity of former governor of Sokoto State and current Chairman of the state PDP Elders’ Committee, Alhaji (Dr) Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa (Garkuwan Sokoto) and his team for keeping the party afloat in the state.
It could be recalled that the incumbent governor of the state, Aliyu Wamakko, who was elected into office on the platform of PDP in 2007 had decamped to the APC in November 2013 alongside four other PDP governors following the crisis that rocked the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). Although Wamakko’s deputy, Mukhtar Shehu Shagari did not decamp with him but remained in the PDP, the party unavoidably tottered at the period. However, soon after Wamakko joined APC, Bafarawa, who was one of the opposition eggheads in the country that worked hard to see to the merger of the opposition parties that gave birth to the party, dumped it and headed to the PDP citing injustice. The ruling party did not waste time in opening its doors to Bafarawa and treated him to grand reception in February 2014 at the same Shehu Kangiwa Square, Sokoto. There is no doubt that the decision of the party in this regard has paid off as evidenced in the outcome of its last Saturday’s rally in the state.
The party faithful in the state showed strong commitment to its cause as they defied the harsh harmattan weather and trooped to the venue as early 7am although the event was slated for 11am. And by the time President Jonathan arrived the venue at 12. 20pm having paid a courtesy call on His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the expansive square was already brimming with supporters who cheered him on tumultuously as he moved around waving to the crowd.
On the President’s entourage were Vice President Namadi Sambo, National Chairman of the party, Adamu Muazu, Director General of the party’s presidential campaign committee, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido and members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), among others.
While delivering his speech, an elated Jonathan thanked the people for their continued loyalty to the party. “I want to appreciate the commitment of the leaders and members of our party for bringing PDP together after the governor we installed decided to take our mandate and dash it to another party. May be he thought that the party will collapse but the party is becoming even stronger and stronger. So, I thank those of you who have worked very hard to keep the party afloat,” he said.
After paying glowing tributes to founding fathers of the state like the late Uthman Dan Fodio and Sir Ahmadu Bello, he extolled the virtues of former President Shehu Shagari, also an indigene of the state, noting that their good works as leaders of the people inspires today’s leaders in the country both at national and state levels.
Apparently trying to strengthen the people’s confidence in him, President Jonathan told the crowd that a bond exists between the people of Niger Delta and Sokoto State. He explained: “During the Shagari era, it was only Rivers and Cross River states that were in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). That made NPN a national party otherwise the party would have been regarded as a regional party. My people worked with Shagari to the extent that he visited Ogbia town in the old Rivers State as part of his state visit just to appreciate the bond between the people of Sokoto State and the Niger Delta.
“Also, remember what led to Nigeria’s attainment of independence and what led to the First Republic. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) would have been just a regional party of the northerners but because NPC had an alliance with the Niger Delta Congress (NDC), one Chief Melford Okilo, who later became the first civilian governor of old Rivers State, won the single seat that NPC had south of the Niger. That made NPC a national party and because of that Chief Okilo was recognised and given a parliamentary seat. So, you see that the bond between us is old and nobody can come and separate it. Those people who came and stopped Shagari from completing his second tenure said they would also come and stop others from completing their second tenure and I don’t think they would succeed. Insha Allah they will not succeed”
He further explained that his administration has recorded some achievements in the area that were enough to earn him their votes. He said: “This administration recognises the fact that education is key to developing all human race and we believe that every Nigerian child must go to school. Recall that it was in this state that we launched the Almajiri educational programme, which we continue to fund. We will continue to fund that until all Nigerian children are able to go to school. Through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), we are intervening in basic education at primary and secondary levels. Also, through the Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETFUND), we have intervened in most of tertiary institutions in the country including Uthman Dan Fodio University here in Sokoto.
“Some people will come and tell you that this government has not done anything. But from 2011 to date, there has been no single case of polio in Sokoto State. But before 2011, we had cases of polio in this state that deformed our children. We have also completely eradicated guinea worm from this state for which it was known. But they will still tell you that we are not doing anything.”
Jonthan added: “In the area of agriculture we have also intervened very well and if you go to the rural areas, you will see what we are doing in this sector. If you go to the Shagari Irrigation Project and of course the Guroyo Dam and ask, if they don’t tell you that this government has intervened more in agriculture than any other government in the past, then don’t vote for us. Also, go and ask the farmers and if they don’t tell you that this administration has helped them more than any other in the past, then don’t vote for us. We have revolutionalised agriculture and we also encouraging young people to go into commercial farming so that they can become our future millionaires and billionaires. My plea to the good people of Sokoto State is that we must work together to change the fortunes of our people.”
Bafarawa, while addressing the crowd assured President Jonathan of victory in Sokoto State, stressing that the state had not played opposition politics since inception.
He explained: “Sokoto State in the history of Nigerian politics has always been in the ruling party except from 1999 till 2007 when I was the governor under the umbrella of the All Peoples Party (APP) which later became All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). But let me reveal the secret that many people did not know. When I found myself under ANPP and won my election, I realised that there was no way Sokoto could be in the opposition. So, what I did was to be in the two camps — APP in Sokoto, PDP in Abuja — in order to attract good things to Sokoto people. As a result, former President Olusegun Obasanjo visited Sokoto State 14 times during my eight years in office. I aligned with the PDP at the national level so that I can be able to develop Sokoto State. During my tenure as governor, I constructed over 1000 kilometres of asphalted roads, built hospitals and schools and executed other life changing projects. If I had remained in the opposition, I would not have received the necessary support from the centre to record these achievements. So, it was the collective decision of Sokoto people to join PDP to ensure that our state is not in the opposition party; it was not my decision. Therefore, in the coming general elections, Sokoto State would be returned to the PDP at the national, state and local council levels.”
A major highlight of the event was the presentation of the party’s flag to its gubernatorial candidate in the state, Senator (Amb.) Abdallah Wali, by the National Chairman, Muazu. Wali, a former Senate Leader and former Nigerian Ambassador to Morroco, would be slugging it out with the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal at the poll. He beat three other aspirants in the race including the state deputy governor, Muktar Shagari, former Minister of Sports, Yusuf Suleiman and Senator Idah Gada at the primary election to clinch the ticket. Although the other candidates especially Shagari had protested the outcome of the election leading to speculations that he might quit the party, he came out clear on the matter while addressing the rally. “I want to put it on record here today that the rumour that I am preparing to leave the PDP is false. I have worked for PDP and will continue to work for our great party. Sokoto is a PDP state and will continue to be governed by PDP,” Shagari said.
Now that Shagari and the other aspirants have closed ranks with Wali and given Bafarawa’s wide acceptance among the people of the state, PDP may hand Jonathan victory and reclaim Sokoto in the coming elections.
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