Two of the presidential aspirants of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday asked supporters of the party to be vigilant and protect their votes during next year’s general election.
Both Buhari and Atiku addressed a sensitisation rally in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, along with other leaders of the party, including the APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, and Kano State Governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso.
At the rally, APC also formally received over 2,000 former members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) into its fold.
Just as the rally got underway, information filtered in the arena that a prominent leader of APC, the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, may have been denied flight entry into Lokoja.
One of party’s leaders had told the gathering that the plane meant to convey Tinubu and his entourage, along with some governors, from Lagos was denied a permit to use the Obajana air strip.
However, THISDAY checks revealed that Tinubu did not embark on the trip to Lokoja, let alone being prevented from landing.
What happened, according to reliable aide of the party leader, was an operational error by the handlers of the aircraft whose application for permit apparently went late and as such, it’s subsequent late approval by officials of the Civil Aviation Authority which made it impossible for Tinubu to fly.
The source said Tinubu was prepared to attend the rally but had to cancel the trip when it became obvious that it was too late to make it to Lokoja.
While addressing the rally, Buhari said the large gathering was an affirmation of support by Nigerians for APC.
He said APC was determined to secure and effectively manage Nigeria, promising that the party, if elected will provide good healthcare, security and qualitative education.
Speaking further, the former head of state said: “APC will stop the stealing of money that belongs to all. This is the only opportunity we have to get the only country we have back into good reckoning. Let those who cannot perform give way to those who can do the job.”
Buhari told the crowd of supporters that henceforth, “in next five months, no sleep, no rest, until we take Aso Rock.”
He enjoined the people to ensure that they register and obtain the permanent voter’s card, adding that: “Next year is going to be very tough, so we are determined to get Nigeria back to work.”
In the same vein, Atiku enjoined the people to ensure that they protect their votes because in the previous elections, the party had always won but that the people’s votes were stolen by the PDP.
He urged the people of Kogi State to ensure that they vote out the PDP governments at the state and federal levels, adding that both the state Governor, Idis Wada, and President Goodluck Jonathan have failed Nigerians.
Atiku, who had his supporters in good numbers displaying his campaign posters, expressed confidence that APC would emerge victorious in the next presidential election in 2015.
Another presidential aspirant, Kwakwanso, assured Nigerians that his party was prepared to bring about positive change to the affairs of the country.
“There is corruption in the land, in the air and water, crude oil theft, Boko Haram in the North, kidnapping in the South, lack of electricity and jobs. This is why we need change in the country, and APC is prepared to make the country a better place,” he said.
Kwakwanso welcomed all the defecting politicians and urged all those who may have left the APC to make a detour in order to join hands with the progressives to salvage the country.
In his remarks, the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, criticised the Kogi State Government for allegedly neglecting infrastructural development, including the dilapidated township stadium where the rally took place.
“Salaries of teachers are not being paid and teachers are not happy doing their work. Let me tell you, the PDP is down, and the challenge you have is to kick them out. They have failed to deliver on every inch of what they have.
“I want to assure you that the APC is moving very fast in this state. We are unable to compile all the names of those who wanted to defect to the party. Have you forgetting the 20.3 billion, have you forgotten the Boko Haram or have you forgotten the N20 billion?” he asked.
The national chairman assured the defectors that APC is a dynamic party which has concern for the welfare of ordinary Nigerians, adding that: “God is on the side of APC. See what PDP is facing today, the issue of $9.3 billion and Boko Haram.”
Oyegun assured the people of the state that the first things the party will do on assumption of office is to clear the backlog of teacher’s salaries and return the state to the good old days.
While addressing the party supporters, the Deputy National Chairman (North), Lawan Shuaibu, said one of the signs that the PDP is about to implode in the state is the defection of key leaders of the party to APC.
Among the defectors were Alhaji Ibrahim Aliko, a former Speaker; Clarence Olafemi, another former Speaker in the state; Abdulahi Bello, two former acting governors of the state, former chairman of PDP in the state, Chief John Odanwu, Isaac Onu, former members of the state House of Assembly including; a member representing Kogi constituency, Salihu Akawu, and 10 former chairmen of local government councils, including former chairman of Ankpa Local Council, Mr. Vincent Baba.
Dino Maleye said chairmen of four other political parties along with a youth leader from Lokoja town were among those who formally defected to APC at the ceremony.
The rally which is the second sensitisation kicked off at about 1.45p.m. with the arrival of prominent leaders of the opposition party. However two of APC presidential aspirants, Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, were absent.
Also at the rally were former governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu; National Organising Secretary, Senator Osita Izunaso and Kogi State Chairman of the APC, Alhaji Haddy Ametuo.