RAPHAEL EDE writes on the sour taste left in the mouths of those who thronged the South-east unity rally of the PDP in Enugu, during which leaders of the party in the zone begged President Goodluck Jonathan to take another shot at the nation’s top job in 2015
Shutting down Enugu
Enugu the Coal City, was last Friday shutdown for the South East Unity Rally organised to reconcile aggrieved party members of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the zone. As early as 6:30am, roads leading to Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium was blocked by armed soldiers, policemen, as well as personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps(NSCDC), Directorate of State Security (DSS) and those of the Federal Road Safety Corps(FRSC).
The stadium that has over seven thousand capacity was at its fullest , with people from different states and supporters of different political leaders trying to outsmart themselves. Most visible were supporters of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Abia state governor, Chief Theodore Orji and that of the host governor, Sullivan Chime.
An elated Jonathan speaks
Speaking during the rally, President Goodluck Jonathan who was overwhelmed with the intimidating crowd, said the South East is PDP and PDP is South East, vowing that his party will capture the entire the entire region in the 2015 governorship election.
President Jonathan who explained that the unity rally was to make a statement to PDP members, Nigerians and indeed the whole world that PDP is number one party in Nigeria, said the second party is yet to emerge much less talking of rivalry. According to him, PDP has no rival party at all, stressing that by their fruit we shall know them.
“We have to thank (you) our party loyalists at the ward, council, senatorial district, state and zonal levels across the South East and of course, the national leadership of our great party, for a work well done. We thank you for your commitment, dedication, resilience and hard work you have been doing,” the president appreciated.
Further boasting of the party’s readiness for a clean sweep in the region come 2015, he declared: “In the South-East, the PDP is total. Every state has a maximum of three senators and a minimum of three senators. It is now clear the South-East is a PDP zone. Any other person holding the governorship seat now is in fact a PDP and from today onward PDP will take the entire southeast zone.”
He commended the South-East geopolitical zone for what he described as the minimal security challenges in the area, saying, the development was occasioned by their resolve that Nigeria must move forward.
Though the President refrained from mentioning the name of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he took a swipe at the opposition party, describing it as nothing near progressive, and claimed that the PDP was more democratic than other political parties in Nigeria.
“PDP is the only democratic party that can take Nigeria to join the rest of the democratic world. The party that we don’t have a dictator, the party that Mr. President will not impose a candidate on any ward, the chairman will not impose candidate on any local government and the party national leadership will not impose anybody on the state.
“It is the only party that people like me from poor background can stand here as your president, it is the party that all of you have to join, the party that even when I was in primary school, I had no shoe to wear and today I am standing before you as your president. It is only PDP that can do that, other parties stay in their bedroom and dictate who will be what, they can never take Nigerians to democratic world and the whole world is looking upon PDP to continue to give leadership to this country,” Jonathan said.
The president who described Nigeria as a great country that needed to be pushed forward by all, said such a push can only be achieved by a great party like PDP made of great minds, democratic and with open heart to lead.
In an open reference to the APC, he said: “One party tags themselves as progressives, but where are they progressing to? It is only in such progressive party that you find an ex-governor determining who gets what and how. Is that what you mean by progressives?
“We are not like one party in this country where one man or a group of people determines how the party is run. The national chairman of the PDP or any of its governors can’t cancel a ward congress of the party with impunity. I as the President don’t even have the powers to do so, but it is happening in a political party in this country.”
He said the PDP was more democratic because it would not cancel ward congresses across the states without considering the wish of its members, adding that it was not like some other party where a local government chairman can cancel a ward congress for no justifiable reason and without the people’s opinion. The president therefore urged the Igbo people to support the PDP, saying,“The PDP would not disappoint you.”
“The party that can salvage this country, the party that can take this country to the moon, the party that can continue to change our economy, the party that can create a job for our teaming youth, the party that can create wealth for our people, it is the PDP,” Jonathan further assured.
Begging Jonathan to run
The governors from the zone who took turns to speak were unanimous in their call on the president to re-contest for a second term in 2015, assuring him of their total support. They hinged their position and support for the president on his leadership style, which they believed had given hope to people of the area, unlike what obtained under successive administrations.
Responding to their request, President Jonathan assured not to disappoint them even though he said it was not yet time whether or not to make such declaration. They insisted that on no account should he reject their request for his re-election, stressing that they would not mind conscripting him if he refused to declare his intention to continue in office.
Addressing the rally, Governor Orji said that Jonathan had performed creditably well to deserve a second term in office and should heed the call by the South East to seek re-election.
Towing same line of thought, host Governor Chime who apologized to the president for time wasting on so many rhetoric, declared that they had come to the unity rally with two requests. One; that Mr. President must for 2015 presidential election and the second request is for you to say yes to the first request.
“We are not here to preach to our people but we are here totally converted for you and anybody speaking here is just to affirm our position,” he said..
Also speaking, Governor Elechi Martin of Ebonyi state said their resolve to compel the president to join the 2015 race was predicated on the fact that his emergence in 2011 was divine. “You have been a humble man and you and your wife are embodiment of patience. You have tolerated oppositions like no other. We want to know those who said they are coming to rescue Nigeria. What do they want to rescue Nigeria for?” he queried.
Tears wiped off
In a similar remark, the South East ministers led by Emeka Wogu, assured the president and party faithful of continued support for the party and the Jonathan administration. He recalled the alleged marginalization of the zone which the Jonathan administration put an end to. The ministers’ spokesman said: “For many years, we have the burden of neglect and marginalization but you came and wiped off our tears. When our leader, Dim
Chukwuemeka Ojukwu died, you accorded him a state and military burial to honour Ndigbo.
“Under your administration, an Igbo man became the Chief of Army staff and SGF in 40yrs. When somebody crossed Niger Bridge, we remembered marginalization and when you came you gave us the 2nd Niger Bridge. The 1st Niger Bridge was constructed under Nnamdi Azikiwe and another Azikiwe Jonathan is constructing for us the 2nd Niger Bridge”.
In similar vein, members of PDP caucus in both Senate and House of Representatives also added their voices to the call for the president to contest the next presidential election. Leading the pack from the House, Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, said: “We are here to cement what our governors have said, but Mr. President that information will be convened better when we meet in a convivial atmosphere.”
And in his remark, Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Tony Annenih, told the gathering that as meaningful and genuine their request on Jonathan recontesting is, to do that would amount to running foul of the Electoral Act.
Pre-Jonathan arrival’s violence
Of course, like any event of that magnitude, there were little skirmishes preceding the president’s arrival , as some security men drafted to the event to provide security were the real people breaking the law and order. The security agents, according to our reporter who was at the scene of the event exchanged blows to the charging of the audience. The impasse which involved personnel’s of the Nigeria Police and officials of the NSCDC followed complaints of alleged harassment of policemen drafted to the rally venue by personnel of the civil defence corps. The situation was however put under control by other security agencies like the DSS, the Army as well as the FRSC.
Paving way for Mr. President
As if that was enough a scene, the teeming crowd got a bad tale to tell at the end of the event, as the police had to fire teargas canisters into the air to pave way for Mr. President’s exit form venue of the event. A very senior officer who said it was on the order of the state Commissioner of Police, explained the rationale behind this act. He told our reporter in confidence that what they did was the best they could do under that circumstance because the place was almost becoming impassable for Mr. President and his entourage.
Lo and behold, the officer was to even add that “ We only threw small compared to the quantity we were ordered to open on the crowd.” Certainly, it was a rally turn awry.