From Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Regular public activities were disrupted in Asaba on Tuesday when the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, made a loud campaign stop in the Delta State capital.
Atiku was in the home state of his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, alongside members of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, chaired by Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State.
Massive crowds streamed through the streets leading to the Stephen Keshi Stadium, where the rally was held.
The rally witnessed the defection of the state secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Nick Ovuakporie; the Director of Campaign for the state All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Wilson Okpepigho; Labour Party House of Assembly candidate for Ndokwa East, Philip Ogboma; and their supporters.
This comes as the South-South National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) endorsed Atiku as the preferred candidate for students in the region.
Addressing the enthusiastic supporters, the former vice president restated his commitment to implement his five point agenda of restoring unity, addressing insecurity, devolving power to component units, investing in education and revamping the economy, if elected.
Atiku said he was not in the state to campaign but to show appreciation for the support Delta has given him in his political career since 1999.
“We are not here to campaign but to show appreciation. I have received support from Delta in my political career since 1999, Delta has never failed me,” he declared.
“I shall not betray the trust of Deltans and indeed that of Niger Deltans. It is because of your support for us that we decided to take Okowa as vice. As you know, VP is a stepping stone, and so you need to support us,” he stated.
Atiku said if elected, there will be no strike in the nation’s tertiary institutions during his administration, adding that Niger Delta states would benefit immensely from resource control or restructuring which his administration would implement.
The former vice president declared that the APC-led Federal Government has divided Nigerians along ethnic, religious and regional lines, noting that the present administration has brought insecurity to the country.
According to him, his administration will restore the nation’s unity, tackle insecurity headlong and revive the economy.
Receiving those who defected from other parties to the PDP, national chairman of the party, Sen. Iyiorcha Ayu stated that Okowa was chose as running mate because of his administration impressive performance as governor of Delta State in the last seven and half years.
Ayu thanked Deltans for trooping out en-masse to welcome the PDP presidential campaign train, and urged them to translate the turn out into votes during the general elections.
Running-mate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who expressed elation with the large turn out, encouraged party members to embark on door to door campaign to ensure emphatic victory for the PDP.
Okowa declared that the party has already won the election but that the margin victory was important, hence party faithful needed to work extra hard.
He thanked Atiku for choosing a Deltan as vice presidential candidate, and urged the people of the state to reciprocate the gesture.
Governor Emmanuel told the crowd that all Interesting Oil Companies (IOCs) that left the Niger Delta region would return if the Atiku-Okowa ticket is elected.
The Akwa Ibom Governor said Niger Deltans were delighted to have one of their own as vice presidential candidate, declaring that the oil rich region would deliver over five million votes for the PDP in the February 25 presidential election.
The Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, described Atiku as a nationalist, saying that he was the only one among the presidential candidates with a national profile.
Tambuwal said other candidates were provincial leaders who lacked the requisite experience to govern a complex country like Nigeria.
He urged Niger Deltans to reject APC for failing to manage the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) which were instituted by the previous PDP federal administrations.
“It was PDP that gave NDDC, Niger Delta ministry, PAP but APC could not manage any of them, they don’t know how to manage people because they do not understand Nigeria. Vote massively for the Atiku-Okowa ticket,” Tambuwal said.
Other speakers at the rally including Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State; Delta State governorship candidate of the PDP, Sheriff Oborevwori; Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, former governor of the state, Emmanuel Uduaghan, thanked Atiku for choosing Okowa as running mate, pledging to reciprocate the gesture by mobilising massive votes for the party.
Presenting a certificate of endorsement on behalf of South-South students to Atiku, coordinator of NANS in the region, Kings Tamara Preye, vowed to mobilise over 7.5 million votes for the PDP standard bearer.
Preye said students in the region decided to endorse Atiku because of his choice of Okowa as running mate.
He said Okowa, as governor of Delta State, has transformed the education sector in the state, recalling that it was in Delta State owned institutions that did not partake in the eight-month strike by ASUU.
“In Delta, students are always in school, no strike. Students are enjoying bursary, and the governor established three universities.
“That is why we are supporting Atiku because of his choice of Okowa as VP. We will deliver the over 7.5 million students votes,” he vowed.