Massive crowds at Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kaduna show PDP candidate has altered equation
By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
The mammoth crowd of supporters that attended yesterday’s rally of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano has further strengthened the growing forecast that the main opposition party’s flag bearer is in strong contention in areas hitherto believed to be strongholds of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Buhari had won convincingly the massive voting North-west states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa and Kano in the 2015 general election that saw him squaring up with the incumbent, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, making bookmakers to declare them his strongholds.
But with the advent of Atiku and his campaign, the large numbers of enthusiastic supporters that subscribed to his rallies have got analysts rethinking their permutations and giving the PDP standard bearer a winning chance in some of the states.
Atiku’s rallies in Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina, the home state of the president, drew such an unprecedented crowd that some leading lights of the APC, THISDAY learnt, have expressed fears privately that Buhari might have shed a heavy weight.The situation is not markedly different in the North-east states of Bauchi and Bornu that were thought to be Buhari’s impregnable fortresses. If anyone had any doubt that that was no longer the case, said one analyst, Atiku’s last week’s rallies in those states must have cleared such doubt.
Perhaps encouraged by the massive crowd, Atiku spoke glowingly of the failure of Buhari’s government, saying that it has brought the nation’s economy to its knees and must be punished for it.
The punishment, he said, should come in form of votes that would send its President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration out of office.
With all available spaces occupied by PDP’s followers at the stadium, 28 persons were said to have slumped at the event, while the huge crowd that flooded the stadium made it difficult for movement within the Kano metropolis, especially around the stadium.
People were seen lined up the streets, as early as 9am to welcome Atiku to the ancient town. As soon as he arrived in the city, the presidential candidate headed to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi.
For a journey of less than 20 minutes, it took Atiku-led campaign team over four hours to get to the palace and another three hours to get to the stadium because of the human/vehicular traffic created by Atiku’s visit.
He was accompanied by the Director-General of the presidential campaign, Senate President Bukola Saraki; the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; and former governor of Kano, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; among other key party’s leaders.
Until recently, Kano was a Buhari stronghold, securing his highest number of votes, nearly two million, in 2015. Kwankwaso, who was the governor of the state when this happened, is now in PDP.
Speaking to PDP supporters, Atiku disclosed that if given the mandate on Saturday, he would support the renewal of agriculture and the economy, which according to him, are in shambles.
He said: “Are you going to vote for PDP? If you vote for PDP, the government will revitalize business and the moribund industries in Kano. We will also boost agriculture.
“I will ensure that among my priorities would be the revitalization of agriculture, industries and commercial activities so as to boost the economy, which has been killed by the APC government.”
Atiku noted that Kano, which used to be the centre of commercial activities in the North, is experiencing backwardness in business and commerce.
Also speaking at the rally, the PDP national chairman told the overwhelmed crowd that the Kano rally represents a revolution and a pointer that Kano people have reembraced PDP.
Saraki said there is hunger in Nigeria, accusing the APC government of bringing hardship on the people, saying there is need for Nigerians to vote out the government.
“Today, Kano people have spoken; and what we have seen in this unprecedented crowd today is that PDP has taken over Kano. People have agreed to vote for PDP. A vote for PDP and a vote for Atiku will put food on our table,” the Senate president added.
In his address, former governor of the state, Kwankwaso said the mammoth crowd had sent a message to Aso Rock that PDP has already taken over Kano.
‘’Today, Kano people and particularly, the youths have shown that Kano is for PDP and Kwankwasiyya,” he said.
Atiku, who was visibly overjoyed over the mammoth crowd, was clad on Kwankwasiyya red cap and white Babarriga to match.
Meanwhile, with six days to the presidential election, PDP has called on its members and supporters to use every legitimate means available to them in a democracy to defend themselves and resist all acts of intimidation by the ruling APC.
The main opposition party said it has resolved to use, in full measure, all defence machinery legitimately available, including its numerical strength, in marching with millions of Nigerians across the nation to defend its votes, with the stiffest resistance, ever, against any infraction by the APC and the Buhari presidency.
The Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, made the call yesterday while addressing a press conference in Abuja.
He said: “You will particularly recall that on February 4, 2019, the PDP handed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a 48-hour ultimatum to make public the list of all officials and ad-hoc staff that will play any form of role in the February 16 Presidential election at all levels, for verification by stakeholders.
“That demand was predicated on our findings that the INEC leadership in deferring to directives by Buhari Presidency and the APC had collected lists of APC loyalists from APC state governors and candidates, across the federation to serve as electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff and returning officers at the polling units.
“You will recall that upon our demand the APC openly directed INEC to ignore the PDP and go ahead with its compromised list. Shockingly INEC leadership appeared to have obeyed the APC, ostensibly because of threats by the party to give its leadership the Onnoghen treatment if it fails to comply.”
Ologbondiyan noted that this was in addition to how the presidency has been importing mercenaries from Chad and Niger Republic to vote for Buhari and to unleash violence in the country upon his eventual defeat.
He said the party had also alerted of plots to manipulate the smart card readers so as to substitute biometric accreditation with manual verification and pave way for mass rigging and allocation of fictitious votes for Buhari.
Ologbondiyan stated: “From the foregoing, it is clear to all that the Buhari presidency and the APC are out to rig the election and that INEC is in clear deficit of the required will to conduct a credible, free and fair election.
“In this regard, the PDP charges all its members and supporters, in their millions, to politically occupy and become extra vigilant by closely monitoring all electoral activities around their polling centres.
“In this determination, the PDP is ready to confront the Buhari-controlled security forces and APC thugs, head to head, at all levels. For this, we charge our members and supporters to use every means available to them legitimately in a democracy to defend themselves and resist all acts of intimidation by the APC.”