Southeast Mega Rally For Buhari: A Postmortem That Answers All The Questions – By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
Southeast Mega Rally For Buhari: A Postmortem That Answers All The Questions – By Onwuasoanya FCC Jones
Since 2003, when President Muhammadu Buhari commenced his match towards correcting Nigeria’s many ills as a nation by seeking to get elected as a civilian President, at no time has he enjoyed the massive endorsement he now enjoys across not just the Southeast, but most of the old eastern Nigeria. President Buhari who has consistently sought to be elected Nigeria’s President under different political Parties’ platforms since 2003, has always got the lowest count of votes in the Southeast. This is blamed, not just on the many misinformation against the former military head of State fed to the people of the Southeast, but also on the inability or even reluctance of his Southeast campaigners in those days to connect well with the people and properly inject his message of change and prosperity into the consciousness of Igbos. Some of these earlier campaigners of his, were either focused on climbing to political relevance on the back of Buhari’s integrity and massive acceptability across most other parts of Nigeria or were simply interested in the little pecuniary gains they got during the periods of those campaigns. This unfortunate narrative is however set to change as shown by the recent mega rally held in Owerri in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid. The Southeast is set to become a solid stronghold of President Buhari.
Buhari’s political fortunes in the Southeast brightened brilliantly in 2015, when Governor Rochas Okorocha took over his campaign in the Southeast, at the risk of losing his own reelection bid as governor of Imo State. Running against a President who was erroneously projected by 95% of Igbo leaders as an adopted son of Igbo, Buhari was to face his worse outing in Igbo land in that race, but 2015 turned out to be the period he posted his best outing in his entire presidential contests. In Imo State alone, he got more than 155,000 votes and his Party won two federal constituency seats. The over 155,000 votes which Buhari got in Imo State is higher than all the votes he has garnered in the entire Southeast States since 2003. This is only possible because the ordinary people of Imo State listen to Governor Rochas Okorocha and Governor Okorocha on his own also believes in the vision of Nigeria which President Buhari represents.
The mega rally, which was organized under the auspices of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Southeast and a support group for President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection campaign called Southeast for Buhari (S.E.B) was confronted with all manners of sabotage by some disgruntled elements within the Party, whose major grouse stemmed from their failure to illegally hijack the Party structure as they planned. To their chagrin, the event turned out even more successful than some supporters of the rally expected. More than 100,000 delegates of the Party, mainly from Imo State were in attendance, while the entire NWC of the APC was fully on ground at the event. Their efforts which included sending emissaries to the presidency to stop the Secretary to the Government of the Federation from attending the event on behalf of the President fell flat.
Sulking from the unexpected success of the rally, the group and some of their allies have resorted to sending out some ridiculous posts on Facebook and other social media platforms, in a futile attempt to discredit the rally and by extension the person and candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari. For the benefit of innocent truth seekers, who are at the risk of being taken by the scurrilous lies of these men of darkness, I have undertaken to carry out a postmortem on that rally, with special focus on answering all the questions raised by enemies of our Party and the President against that rally.
HOW NECESSARY WAS THE MEGA RALLY? Some fifth columnists seem to have got a briefing from some frustrated politicians, especially among the real opposition groups led by the PDP to question the importance of the rally at this time. Those who raise this argument, are no doubt, enemies of Ndigbo who do not want the Southeast region to take active steps towards emancipating themselves, politically. The theme sub-theme of the rally was ‘egwu ako na uche’ which loosely translated means; ‘a game of wisdom and intelligence’.
The organizers of the rally are not ignorant of the real reasons why the Igbos, especially of the Southeast region are lagging behind in the political equation of Nigeria. Ndigbo, have since the advent of the Fourth Republic got involved in what many analysts have described as ‘politics of the pocket’, ‘politics of the stomach’, etc. Ndigbo have not produced the President of Nigeria since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 because they have not taken their time to plan their politics in such a way that they will not always be left with the bad end of the stick after every political season. Correcting this sad reality about the Igbo political situation is a major essence of the Owerri mega rally for President Buhari. The rally was important to ensure that Igbos from across all social and financial backgrounds are mobilized early enough to key into the President Muhammadu Buhari agenda which ensures the best deal for all Nigerians.
The rally also provided a grand opportunity for Igbos to express their appreciation for President Muhammadu Buhari for the many strategic projects he has approved and that are going on across various States in the Southeast. Even though the Southeast did not vote massively for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the President has sited more strategic infrastructures in the Southeast than all the previous Federal administrations from 1999 put together. These projects include; the Second Niger Bridge which has before now remained a political campaign tool by one administration after the other. But President Muhammadu Buhari without the fanfare of any groundbreaking ceremony or make-believe commissioning that were the styles of previous administrations, has seen to the construction of the Second Niger Bridge. As at the last check, construction work at the site is speedily progressing, and completion stage is put at above 50%. Some strategic roads in the Southeast, including, the Enugu-Onitsha, Enugu-Lokpanta, Lokpanta-Abia Tower, Abia Tower-Aba section of the Enugu-Port-Harcourt road, Owerri-Aba road and several other roads across the Southeast. The Southeast has also not been left out in all the poverty alleviation and job creation drives of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. Southeastern politicians have also got a good dose of appointments with the Federal Government under President Buhari. Igbo tradition forbids ingratitude. We also have a saying in Igbo land which says that ekelee onye gwoziri akidi, ogwota ozo, meaning that when a cook is appreciated for a good delicacy, he will be encouraged to prepare another. The Southeast mega rally was not just for the 2019 reelection campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari, but also a thank you rally to the President for his good deeds to the people of the Southeast, with hope that he will do more either within this his first term or in his second term as President.
WHY MUST GOVERNOR OKOROCHA BE THE ONE TO ORGANIZE THE RALLY? Governor Okorocha made a statement during the pre-rally dinner that held at the newly constructed Women of Divine Destiny Organization (WODDI), hall in Owerri. He said that if anyone thinks he can do better in ensuring that effective support is mobilized for President Muhammadu Buhari and the Party, such a person should come forward, but if you cannot, it is better you queue behind those already doing it.
The truth is that no matter how much anyone wants to hate envy Governor Okorocha, it does not take away the fact that the Imo State governor is the overall leader of the APC in the Southeast. He did not appoint himself into this position, but the people did. As the only Southeast governor on the platform of the governing APC and the leader of the faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance that merged with the other three political parties to form APC, Governor Okorocha does not have any challenger when it comes to the leadership of the APC in the Southeast. The Southeast APC revolves around him and so far, he has not failed to ensure that the Party grows from strength to strength.
There was no one in the APC in the entire Southeast on whose shoulder it could have fallen to organize such a rally for the Party in the Southeast and no one, among those who claim to be leaders of the Party in this part of the country had made such efforts or even muted it as an idea and got rebuffed. Governor Okorocha’s passion to ensure the success of the Party and President Muhammadu Buhari in the Southeast spurred him to devote his time and mobilize resources from across the Southeast to host this hugely successful outing for President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress.
WHY THIS TIME? There could not have been a better time than now for such rallies, considering that almost all the geo-political zones in the country had already held similar rallies for the President. Leaders of the Party in parts of the country that are considered traditional strongholds for the President had already held such rallies for the President, so, holding such rally for the President in the Southeast is not only timely but very important.
The 2019 general elections are already around the corner, and the rally targets to serve as a kind of rehearsal for the presidential campaign rally of the President which is expected to take place in every State of the Federation, while each zone will hold a zonal rally, when the time comes.
Hosting the rally just few days after the national convention of the Party is also strategic and would have afforded opportunities to Party leaders from this part of the country to reunite after the highly tensed national convention, in which all the positions zoned to the Southeastern part of the country were keenly contested for. The rally would have afforded sincere and committed Party members from the Southeast, who for any reason may have been feeling aggrieved, the opportunity to come forward and iron out their differences or at most show that they are ready for reconciliation in the greater interest of the Party. The rally served as a good avenue for reconciliation of genuine Party members who are ready to put the Party’s progress ahead of their personal interests.
THE ABSENCE OF SOME ACCLAIMED LEADERS OF THE PARTY: It is not true that majority of the key leaders of the Party from the Southeast boycotted the rally. Leadership in a political Party all over the world is not claimed by some individuals who believe wrongly or rightly that they are top politicians, but it’s earned by those who enjoy the mandate of the people to be leaders. Political Party leadership, just like every political leadership is determined by the current elective position which anyone holds, not positions they held in the past. Elected officials hold bigger stakes in the leadership than appointed officials.
The APC in the Southeast boasts of a total of four Senators of the Federal and out of these four, two of them were present. Senator Emmanuel Agboti of Ebonyi State and Senator Andy Ubah of Anambra State were present during the rally. The four House of Representative members of Southeast extraction who are members of the APC were all present. Hon. Chike Okafor, Hon. Tony Nwoye, Hon. Augustine Chukwunyere and Hon. Raphael Igbokwe were all present. Former Senators and House of Representative members who are members of the Party were also fully present during the rally, while most of the governorship candidates of the Party in the last election were present. Anyim Nyerere who was the candidate of the Party during the 2015 elections, Tony Nwoye who was the candidate of the Party in Anambra, Senator Julius Uche of Ebonyi State, etc. were all present during the rally. Senator Uche Ekwunife, who is the immediate past Senator for Anambra Central was also present with a number of past federal legislators of Southeast extraction.
Rt. Hon. Acho Ihim, the only Speaker of a State House of Assembly in the entire Southeast who is of the APC extraction was present, his deputy, Rt. Hon. Ugonna Ozuruigbo was also present with eighteen other members of the Imo State House of Assembly who are of the APC. Abia has only about four members of its State legislature who are members of the APC, while I do not think Anambra, Ebonyi and Enugu have any.
All the members of the Party’s NWC from the Southeast were also present. They include; Emma Eneukwu who is the national vice-chairman, Southeast, Chief George Muoghalu who is the national auditor of the Party, Barrister Emma Ibediro, the National Organizing Secretary, Lady Blessing Onuoha, the Southeast Women Leader of the Party, Timothy Amah, the Southeast Zonal Organizing Secretary, John Uwede, the zonal Secretary of the Party in the Southeast, Onyeka Osimeka, the zonal youth leader, Mrs. Onye who is the deputy National Women Leader of the Party and several members of the Party’s State Working Committees from across the five States of the Southeast.
If the success of the rally is to be determined by the number of critical stakeholders of the Party who attended the rally, then, it is obvious from the above analysis that more than 85% of critical stakeholders of the Party in the Southeast were present. There is no event in the world, where everyone who should attend, attends. Those who stayed away from the rally may have their reasons, but like I have argued elsewhere; any acclaimed stakeholder of the Party from the Southeast who stayed away from the rally has cast a credible doubt on his or her membership of the Party and on his or her support for the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The All Progressives Congress is a Party that is built for the youths and ordinary people. While the Party recognizes and respects established leaders and stakeholders, it accords more importance to the building of new set of leaders from across the country. One of the cardinal goals of the APC is to bequeath to Nigeria, new set of prepared, disciplined and incorruptible leaders who will take Nigeria forward from where it will be left by our retiring leaders. The Southeast Mega Rally for Buhari afforded the leaders of the Southeast an opportunity to present these new set of leaders from across the five Southeast States. Young, vibrant, technocratic, patriotic and ambitious young men and women were presented before the world as emerging Southeast leaders. This idea further confirms Owelle’s position as the most visionary and most youth friendly leader in the Southeast of today.
Apart from the Minister of Foreign Affairs who was with the President on a trip to Mauritania for An African Union Summit, I do not know what excuse the ministers in President Buhari’s cabinet in the Southeast could give for staying away from a rally organized in support of their immediate principal and in which the President was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha. Even though these ministers do not qualify as critical stakeholders based on the position they presently hold in government, but their presence would have been necessary. The impending reshuffling of the Federal Executive Council will afford some of them the opportunity to know if they were correct in staying away from the rally.
PRESIDENT BUHARI’S ABSENCE: President Muhammadu Buhari was not originally scheduled to be part of the event. The President who was in far away Mauritania for an African Union Summit of Heads of Government had detailed the most senior member of the Federal Executive after the Vice-President to represent him at the occasion. The President who returned to the country on the morning of 3rd July also played host to the French President and couldn’t have been present at the rally for any reason.
Those who understand how the presidential system works would understand the very significant position of the SGF, and it is unfortunate that some people who claim to be members of the APC and longtime political actors could publicly deride the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as an irrelevant representative of the President. The truth is that the sending of Boss Mustapha as the President’s representative shows how seriously the President takes this rally. If he was in the country and without having to host a visiting President, he would have attended the rally in person.
HOW DID THE CROWD COME OUT: Some traitorous elements within the APC, especially in Imo State made every effort to scuttle the rally. They were even said to have hired the services of rainmakers to discourage delegates from turning out to show support to the President and the Party.
Seeing the mammoth crowd of Party delegates that deferred the heavy rainfall to attend the rally, they resorted to fabricating all manners of lies to discredit, not the rally this time around, but President Muhammadu Buhari. They resorted to the daft falsehood that each delegate to the rally was paid the sum of 1000 Naira to attend the rally. Their intention for this was simply to project President Muhammadu Buhari and the Party as hugely unpopular among the masses. They are aware that the rally wasn’t a rally for Governor Rochas Okorocha, but an appropriately themed MEGA RALLY FOR PRESIDENT BUHARI. Any attempt to discredit this rally is an affront on the President.
In as much as there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving those who attended a political rally some money to for either snacks or to assist them in their transport logistics, it is embarrassing to suggest that the more than 100,000 Party supporters who graced the rally were only attracted by 1000 Naira. This is not only an attempt to discredit President Buhari and the PC, but also an insult to Imolites and Igbo people in general. The truth is that anyone who can afford to attend a rally just to get 1000 Naira. Majority of those who attended this rally are independent young men and women who make nothing less than 5000 Naira daily from their various businesses. There were millionaires, Party leaders and other important stakeholders in the gathering and these people couldn’t have been brought to that rally, even with 50,000 Naira.
The crowd is an evidence of the level of acceptability enjoyed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the Southeast as a result of the many good works he has executed in the Southeast and the fact that his true lieutenants led by Owelle Rochas Okorocha have done a lot in sending this message to the populace. It is also an evidence that Igbos have now come to accept the APC as their Party and are ready to vote massively for candidates of the Party from presidency to other positions.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS RALLY: This rally is not a mere showoff or any kind of jamboree as being projected by enemies of the APC and the people. Some of the benefits of the Southeast APC Rally for Buhari are as follows;
1. The rally punctured the lies by opposition within and outside the Party, who had consistently carried the fake news that the APC and President Buhari is not popular in the Southeast.
2. With the crème of Party leaders, serving and past governors from other regions of the country who attended the rally, there is no doubt that the Southeast’ political redemption is already in progress.
3. The rally provided an opportunity for Southeast leaders to present their demands to the President.
4. The President saw firsthand that he is very much welcomed and appreciated in the Southeast just like he is in other parts of the country.
5. The rally achieved its major aim of uniting Southeast voters in support of the reelection bid of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC, as it afforded the Party the opportunity to further mobilize not just those who attended the rally, but majority of Southeast voters to embrace the message of change as being propagated by the All Progressives Congress.