By Chidi Nkwopara, OWERRI
Owerri, in recent history, never had the privilege of hosting the type of crowd that flooded the municipality last Tuesday, courtesy of the South East zonal mega rally of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which attracted it’s top shots.
They included PDP Governors, the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the presidential candidate and his running mate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. The Senate President and his Deputy, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Chief Ike Ekweremadu, as well as the PDP Governors of the South East, were also there.
Truth is that Owerri municipality was shaken to its foundation, as the Dan Anyiam Stadium Complex venue of the rally, got filled to it’s brim and overflowed before 9.30am.
Similarly, the security agencies had a hectic time controlling the vehicular and human traffic flowing into and out of the city, from all the entry and exit points. At a point, the stretch between MCC/Wetheral Road junction and Christ Church/Wetheral junction, was completely closed to vehicular traffic.
Scores of vehicles that ferried PDP loyalists from the five South Eastern States, parked along the adjoining streets, thus stifling free flow of traffic. A staff of Imo Broadcasting Corporation, IBC, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on strict grounds of anonymity, said: “I cannot remember when Owerri, the Eastern Heartland, played host to this number of visitors! Sincerely, what we have here today (last Tuesday), are genuine party faithful and not the usual rented crowd we have been witnessing in Imo State. Look at the number of vehicles. The inflow of traffic far exceeded the outflow! The organizers of the event did a good job”, the man said.
Trust the ingenuity of the Igboman. Emergency shops were mounted in every available space. Hawkers thronged everywhere and monies kept changing hands for as long as the event lasted.
A few things however, came to light, during the outing. No PDP flag bearer for any of the elections wanted to be outclassed. They all mobilized their supporters to Owerri.
While thousands of party loyalists waited for Atiku and his entourage in the stadium,the eggheads were moved by the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Imo, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, to Villa Assumpta, the residence of the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province, His Grace, Dr. Anthony J. V. Obinna, on a courtesy visit. The gospel of restructuring, job creation, defence of votes and more, remained the focal point.
Giving an insight as to why the zonal rally was moved to a state that is not controlled by PDP government, a United States of America based attorney, Mr. Stanley Ozuzu, told Saturday Vanguard that the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, has obviously paid his dues.
“From what we have seen today (last Tuesday), Chief Ihedioha has proved that he has the capacity and capability the citizenry need to recover, rebuild and re-position the state from the abyss it has been driven into by the present administration”, Ozuzu said.
He further reasoned that Ihedioha is not only a unifying personality, but also a tested leader and grand symbol of positivity.
Dan Anyiam Stadium became electrified when the Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign entourage was sighted by the people
Kicking off the speeches, the PDP Zonal Chairman, Austin Umahi, assured Atiku and his running mate, Peter Obi, that “the South East geo-political zone has decided to invest in them because it’s a worthy investment, we are sure will yield dividend”.
In his own contribution, the Vice Presidential candidate, Obi, told the jubilant crowd that thronged Dan Anyiam Stadium that “Atiku and PDP are the correct place to vote because they are ready to create job and restructure Nigeria”, stressing that with Atiku, Nigerian environment will be good again for Ndigbo to carry on their businesses.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who also doubles as the Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign, told the people to dump APC as he did, because they have nothing good for Nigeria and Nigerians.
“All Progressives Congress, APC, has sadly run Nigeria aground. Despite their sweet promises, they can neither give jobs nor keep existing ones. The country is steadily going down the abyss, under their watch”, Saraki lamented.
Lending her voice, the wife of the presidential candidate, Mrs. Jamila Atiku Abubakar, a native of the zone, urged her people to come out enmasse on February 16, to cast their votes for her husband, because “he has what it takes to put the country right”.
Addressing the party supporters also, Chief Ihedioha assured that if the PDP wins the presidential election, “the clamour for the restructuring of the country, will be a reality, especially as our Presidential candidate has the requisite experience to carry out the exercise”.
The PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, continued his warning to the Independent National Electoral Commssion, INEC, that a rigged election is an invitation to crisis and they will be held responsible.
“Nigeria is ripe for an energetic, tested and tried President like Atiku Abubakar, unlike the APC candidate, who cannot engage or even articulate issues, as was witnessed by the whole World, in a recent televised interview”, Secondus said.
Speaking also, Atiku expressed regret that APC has made Nigeria the headquarters of poverty in the world.
“Nigeria has sadly become the headquarters poverty in the world. If given the mandate, my administration will give top priority toyouth employment, revamping of the nation’s sagged economy, as well as bring back the country to the path of real development”, Atiku promised.
Continuing, the former Vice President said: “Don’t allow them steal your votes. They are not campaigning. They are not engaging the people. They want to steal your votes. You must not allow them.”
One of the high points of the event, was the handing over of what the PDP National Chairman called “victory flags to the four gubernatorial candidates of Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo States.