AFTER weeks of preparation, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, flagged off its campaign in style to retain the presidency in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
President Muhammadu Buhari and National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, led governors elected on the platform of the party, ministers, National Working Committee, NWC, members and other party leaders to the colourful rally held at Jos Township Stadium.
While handing the party’s flag to the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President Buhari reiterated his promise to lead the party’s campaign for the 2023 presidential election.
In his speech that was later interpreted in Hausa language by his running mate, Kashim Shettima, Asiwaju Tinubu praised Nigerians for believing in the APC to lead the country to progress after years of backwardness under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP administration, declaring “hope is back.”
He said the campaign was starting in Plateau, a place that properly showed Nigeria’s vast potential.
“One can see greater prosperity and jobs in an economy humming with activity. From the farmer in the rural area to the city boy in a bustling urban centre, each will have productive work to do and a decent home to return to.
“One can see a Nigeria where all who want will be able to build a decent life from the fruits of their individual and collective endeavour. From this fine vantage point, we see how far we have come. We also see how far we must go and the road that will take us there,” Tinubu said.
The former Lagos State governor commended President Buhari for his presence at the flag-off and the great foundation he had laid for Nigeria, which his incoming administration planned to build on.
“I am deeply honoured for the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari. As campaign chairman, he promised to lead from the front. A man of his word, President Buhari has done what he said and more.
“Mr. President, you have provided exceptional service to the nation and party. Your contributions are both positive and enduring. When the history of this period is objectively written, it will smile upon you and treat you with utmost kindness,” he added.
He also praised Adamu for leading the APC and steadying the ship of the party since assuming office as chairman of the campaign.
My plans for Nigeria
On his plans for the country, if elected, Tinubu said his administration hoped to chart the course of progress already started by the Buhari administration.
“We hereby reaffirm our commitment to progressive good governance and to the fruits that such governance can bring to this nation. February 2023 is more than an election. It is a fight to define the soul of the nation and to determine our collective fate.
”Do we adhere to the ideals of broadly shared prosperity, competence, peace, justice and compassion toward all? Or do we toss these ideals away, shunning the divisive politics of the past or to those whose rantins show they cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy.
“One party wants to take us back to a past that never should have been. Another party wants to take us to a past that resides only in its candidate’s head. Neither the old road nor the fantasy road is good enough.
“Instead, we forged the wiser path toward our approved destination, an even better Nigeria. This is what the election is truly about,” he added.
To ensure overall energy security and resource mobilization for the country, Tinubu promised to continue the ongoing exploration works in all frontier basins and especially speed up the development of the commercial oil find in Gombe/Bauchi states.
Reeling out the successes of the Buhari administration, Tinubu said there was massive development in the agricultural, infrastructure and power sectors in the last seven and half years of the APC government.
According to him, these foundations now require more builders to make them massive structures, and called on all Nigerians to embark on the journey with him.
“I thank President Buhari again because he has truly established a strong foundation for the things we are now to do. Truly, the foundation has been set. It is now time to call more builders forward to further construct the national edifice that will be our best home. We, the APC and the Tinubu/Shettima team, seek to make permanent a covenant of progressive good governance with the people,” he said.
He continued: “Under this hopeful pact, we will assemble the best team. We shall build on progress in the agricultural sector by establishing commodity boards guaranteeing minimal prices for strategic crops. We shall create agricultural and industrial hubs in all zones.
“You shall also see water catchment and irrigation systems to help farming while mitigating the dire effects of drought and flooding brought about by a changing climate.
“We will encourage urban employment through a national industrial plan that employs a series of measures including tax and employment credits.
“We will deepen the knowledge economy. Millions of the tech savvy, innovative youth will benefit as will our overall economy. Talented youth will find a place in our government.
“We will bring greater power through natural gas and reasonable reform of the entire power sector.
“Our government will continue the infrastructural expansion so the overall economy may continue to expand in lockstep.
“Most importantly, I will give utmost priority to extinguishing terrorists and violent criminals. We shall augment our military, police and security personnel while providing them with better tactical communication and mobility. We will employ hi-tech aerial surveillance to track and attack these menaces.
“These evil forces seek to destroy our democratic way of life. I have news for them. We will defeat their destructive way of life. They shall be utterly defeated and vanquished from our soil.”
Addressing the rally, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, the national chairman, and the Chairman, of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, who is also the governor of Kebbi, Bagudu, commended President Buhari for his achievements, saying he would be leaving behind important legacies in democracy, good governance, infrastructure development and economic growth particularly in the area of agriculture and food security.
The Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council, Simon Lalong insisted that history would be repeated in 2023, recalling that Jos hosted the campaigns, which saw the late MKO Abiola and former President Olusegun Obasanjo win their respective elections in 1993 and 1999.
Nobody’ll deny opposition party its mandate if it wins – Buhari
President Buhari urged party members to march to deliver the APC candidates.
The President, who had earlier visited the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, reiterated his earlier commitment to ensuring that every vote counts.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as saying, “No election winner will be denied his mandate, irrespective of the party to which they belonged.”
According to the statement, President Buhari was apparently responding to the Campaign Director-General, Governor Simon Lalong, who announced the intention to recreate the SDP-Moshood Abiola historic victory in 2023 in a campaign that took off in the same city 30 years ago. That election victory was annulled by the military.
In handing the APC flag to Tinubu, President Buhari said the country needed a man like Tinubu, urging the party faithful to campaign on issues and the abilities of our candidate and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
However, President Buhari said it is only the APC that can steer Nigeria to fulfill its historic purpose adding that working together with the leadership of the party, the campaign council, and its teeming supporters, the goal will be achieved.
Under Buhari, Nigeria fares better than some developed countries
Also speaking, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said under the stewardship of President Buhari, Nigeria is better than some developed countries.
“You have done so well in terms of infrastructure and our economy. You inherited it when there were recessions and challenges across the world,” he told Buhari.
“Today in Nigeria, we are better than so many countries, including developed ones. It is under this wonderful APC, that you gave women, people and youth living with disabilities a chance to have a voice and belong.
“You have done it from 2015 to 2019, and from 2019 till date – you are going to hand over to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu so he can continue to replicate what he did in Lagos and what Alhaji Shettima did in Borno State across this country.”
Bello said as the youth coordinator in the APC presidential council, he would mobilise the youths across the country to vote for Bola Tinubu, the party’s standard bearer.
Meanwhile, supporters of the party, who were in high spirits filled the over 40,000-capacity stadium as security agents had a hectic time maintaining order. Those who could not gain entrance filled the adjoining streets causing gridlock in many parts of the city.
The event was briefly interrupted as security operatives, who had a hard time controlling the crowd, resorted to flogging the people with horse whips, forcing the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Idris Wase to appeal for a stop.
After the situation was brought under control, Senator Remi Tinubu in the company of Hajia Nana Shettima and other women in the party assured women and youths that they would be carried along in governance, if Tinubu is elected.
The flag-off was attended by Vice Presidential Candidate Senator Kashim Shettima, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
In attendance were Governors Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna); Abubakar Sani-Bello (Niger); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa); Prof. Ben Ayade (Cross River); Governors Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi); Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa); Lagos Deputy Governor Femi Hamzat; former Bauchi Governor Mohammed Abubakar; former Ekiti governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former Governor of Borno, Modu Ali-Sheriff; and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
There were also Senator Oluremi Tinubu, wife of APC Presidential Candidate; Hajiya Nana Shettima, wife of the Vice Presidential Candidate Shettima; and Dr. Ibijoke Sanwoolu, wife of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos among others.