The battle for votes in next month’s elections reached new heights yesterday as Lagos, the commercial capital of the country, played host to two massive rallies organised by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). President Goodluck Jonathan and his major supporter, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who were among several party dignitaries at the PDP presidential campaign, used the occasion to reiterate their confidence that they would defeat the ACN at the polls in April. Speaking at the rally, which attracted thousands of party members to Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, Mr. Jonathan said that his desire to ensure that Lagos continued to play its role as the heartbeat of the country was the main reason he had invested much time and energy in the state. He also spoke of the party’s determination to win a majority of the residents’ votes.
“I visit Lagos more than any other state because I know we have to work with Lagos State,” Mr. Jonathan said. “To fix the Nigerian economy, we must know what is happening in Lagos State if our dream for the year 2020 must be achieved.” Nigeria hopes to become one of the 20 industrialised countries in the world by 2020.
‘Remove those that are disturbing us’
One of the leading speakers at the PDP rally, Mr. Obasanjo, ignited the campaign with fiery rhetoric about winning the elections by all means. He told the crowd of PDP supporters that he would not be part of an election which his party would participate in and not win.
“For us to contest and not be elected, Obasanjo will never accept that,” he said. “Obasanjo will not allow [PDP] to vote and not win.”
The former president said that the presidential election was a forgone issue for the ruling PDP as he proudly congratulated the incumbent president on his re-election bid. Mr. Obasanjo also said that bad history would not be repeated.
“In this venue, I campaigned and won in 1999. That is a good history. In this same venue, Mr. President, your predecessor campaigned four years ago and won. That is another good history. All that you need from me, Mr. President, is to congratulate you,” he said.
The former president then asked the crowd, “No be so?” to which they responded, “Na so o.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, using the words of a folklore song, called on God to “remove those that are disturbing us” in an apparent reference to the ACN.
PDP loves Lagos
Mr. Jonathan called on Lagosians to vote for the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate for the state, Babatunde Dosunmu, so that the leader of the state could work harmoniously with the federal government.
“We cannot stay in Abuja and improve Lagos, we need an anchor man in Lagos to change Lagos and this anchor is Dosunmu and his running mate,” Mr. Jonathan said, raising Mr. Dosunmu’s hand.
Is that Bode George?
Bode George, the former Nigeria Ports Authority chairman who was recently released from Kirikiri Prison where he spent two years for fraud, was also present at the rally and sat in the front row beside Mr. Obasanjo. The presence of Mr. George at the rally, according to a source, took Mr. Jonathan by surprise. The president was reportedly unaware that the leader of the PDP in Lagos would be a guest at the function. The presidency source said that Mr. Jonathan would have preferred not to see Mr. George at the rally, but there was nothing he could do to stop the politician, who stormed the arena with an army of supporters.
“Mr. President was not aware that Bode George was one of those guests packaged for the event by the organisers. I am sure the organisers took the president unawares. You know everybody in Nigeria wants the president to remain as president after the April poll, so they are supporting him. Bode George is one of those supporting while in prison and now that he is free, he is showing it in the open,” the source said.
The campaign carnival was supported by King Suny Ade, the country’s foremost juju artist.
Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, who flagged off the ACN senatorial candidates’ campaign in the state, at Onikan Stadium, said that the PDP had consistently proved that a vote for them was a vote for suffering. He called on Nigerians to elect his party’s candidates in the forthcoming general polls. The ACN campaign took place across the three senatorial districts in the state.
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