From Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Odita Sunday and Gbenga Akinfenwa (Lagos)
Shekarau promises transparent leadership
Jonathan reaches out to civil societies
Shekarau promises transparent leadershipJonathan reaches out to civil societies
THE polity was awash with presidential rallies yesterday as the standard-bearers of the major political parties hopped from one state to the other seeking the mandate of the Nigerian voters at the April polls.
There were however a few ugly cases, forcing some parties and their presidential candidates to cancel their scheduled campaigns over perceived insecurity.
For instance, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) presidential rally slated for Yenagoa, Bayelsa State yesterday, was shelved by the party’s leadership in Abuja, who directed their flagbearer, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, to proceed to Port Harcourt for the Rivers State’s leg of the exercise.
At the Port Harcourt event, Ribadu told his supporters that he would declare a Marshall Plan for the Niger Delta when elected to address the region’s underdevelopment.
Ribadu said there is no reason why the oil-rich region, which has generated over $300 billion for Nigeria in recent times, cannot be like Dubai or Kuwait.
His All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) counterpart, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, who took his campaign to Ondo State, urged the people to vote for his party, which he described as the best alternative to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
He said the PDP had failed Nigerians in their expectations of purposeful leadership and dividends of democracy, stressing that none of the promises made by the party had been fulfilled.
And as reported by The Guardian yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP have kicked off special campaigns using political and civil society groups in the South-West and North-West for the second round of their campaigns to make impressive showing in the zones at next month’s elections.
On Monday in Ibadan, Oyo State, Jonathan reached out to the civil society groups and activists, whom he urged to use their influential roles in the country to push his presidential bid to their members and other Nigerians.
At the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital yesterday, Ribadu, who was accompanied by his running mate, Mr. Fola Adeola and ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said, if elected, he would implement a Marshall Plan similar to the one used in rebuilding Europe after the World War II.
The plan, according to him, would include massive infrastructural development in schools, hospitals, roads, creation of jobs for the youths, and housing.
“There is no reason why this part of the world, this part of Nigeria cannot be like Dubai or Kuwait. There is absolutely no reason because the money is there and it is coming from here. The people are entitled to enjoy their resources.
“The time has come for you to get the benefit of what God has given to you. We will not touch your money. We will not waste it, we will not convert it, and we will make sure that the money that God gave to you is used for your good. It will happen,” he said.
Ribadu explained that his Marshall Plan would be different from the present administration’s policy towards the Niger Delta and accused the Federal Government of merely throwing money on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs instead of tackling the core issues of the region.
He castigated the government’s amnesty programme, which he said, was aimed at only a few erring youths.
“Today, they will say there is amnesty. It is amnesty to themselves and their pocket. Serious work will start from May 29, 2011 in the Niger Delta. We intend to provide security. We will make sure that we improve our law enforcement agencies. We will take care of the police,” he said.
The former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman said the ACN would tackle the horrible misdeeds of the PDP from May 2011, assuring that he would provide a just, fair, transparent leadership for the country’s advancement.
The highlight event was the presentation of the party’s governorship flag to Mr. Abiye Sekibo, who was the Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG) under Mr. Peter Odili’s administration.
The ACN National Youth Leader, Mr. Ebikibina Miriki, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) yesterday that Ribadu’s rally was cancelled by the party’s national headquarters due to security reports.
He said the party had, therefore, decided to take its campaign to Port Harcourt, saying that “right now, I am at the Port Harcourt Airport waiting to receive our presidential campaign train.”
On December 7, 2010, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) presidential candidate, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, was pelted with stones at a rally in Yenagoa by yet to be identified youths in a bus.
Also, some gunmen on January 4, 2011 attacked the country home of the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Timi Alaibe, at Opokuma in the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Council of the state, killing two persons.
In a swift reaction, the state Commissioner for Information, Strategy and Orientation, Mr. Nathan Egba said: “First of all, it is not the responsibility of state government to provide security at rallies, so it is ridiculous for any serious political party to use that as a basis for canceling a whole presidential rally.
“What I think has happened is that the ACN considers campaigning in Bayelsa State a waste as they know that all available votes will go to Mr. President. They have only tried to hide under these false allegations,’’ he added.
The Director of Civil Society, Jonathan Campaign Council, Dr. Tosin Awolalu, who was at the South-West civil society stakeholders’ summit on the PDP presidential campaign, said the President reached out to the activists based on the historical fact that they were instrumental, through various struggles and agitations, to the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria.
“We are fully persuaded that civil society organisations are not intrusive agents. We see you as partners in good governance,” Awolalu said.
He noted that the mandate of the civil society in the presidential campaign council was not just to mobilise support for the Goodluck/Sambo programme of action, it was also to create a platform for interaction between the civil society and government to allow meaningful participation in governance.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Organisation of the presidential candidate of the SDMP, Prof. Pat Utomi, has described the ongoing political rallies as carnivals devoid of issues.
Addressing reporters ahead of its presidential rally billed for Thursday in Lagos, the group’s spokesman, Rev. Austin Nnorom, said their campaigns would be issue-based and not a jamboree.
“What we are witnessing nationwide by most politicians are fanfare in which 90 per cent of the participants do not understand issues raised but see their participation as an opportunity for merrymaking and dancing. Nigerians and security operatives should begin to ask questions on how the money spent for rallies are generated,” Nnorom said.