From Magnus Eze, Geoffrey Anyanwu and Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, told people of the South East that his presidency if elected next year’s poll would be a stepping stone to the zone producing president of Nigeria.
Consulting with leaders and stakeholders of the party from the five South East states, Atiku, who was accompanied by his running mate and Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, National Chairman of the party, Iyorcha Ayu, acting Board of Trustees Chairman, Adolphus Wabara, National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu and other chieftains, assured that his government would address all the issues that gave rise to agitations in parts of the country, particularly, the South East.
He said any government determined to revive the nation’s economy must carry along the people of South East and praised them for their industry and contributions to the sustenance of Nigeria’s economy.
He also appealed to those he described as misguided youths to sheathe their swords by discontinuing the Monday’s sit-at-home calls which had disrupted the economy of the zone.
He said: “As you know, the South East is close to my heart. You have supported me through thick and thin and I will always remember that. Your sons and daughters have played very positive roles in the development of our country. They were key personnel who played important roles in the PDP government in which I served as vice president. And they have continued to excel in other roles across the world. You are a key contributor to economic activities in this country and a government that wants to revive our economy and provide opportunities for our people must carry the South East along.
“I am a business man and I know businesses need supporting environment to thrive and when they thrive, the country thrives. I do not see the provision of infrastructure in any part of the country as a favour to that part. If anything, it is a favour to the country because we are one country, one economy.”
Noting that Nigeria was more divided today than it had ever been, Atiku said it was their responsibility to reunify the country through equity, justice and fairness, saying: “That way, we can all pull in one direction to develop our country and improving our people’s lives. This will require giving every segment of this country a sense of belonging, not just by meeting constitutional requirements on federal character but through government policies, programmes and projects, and our body language and utterances as leaders.”
He assured that his government would restructure the country to give room for healthy competition among the federating units, stressing that the security system would be repositioned and devolved such that there would be state police.
According to him, a federal system that does not encourage the federating units to compete among themselves in order to be better is a faulty one.
“This restructuring is not a favour to any section or group of sections of the country. Our country needs it badly to survive and thrive,” he said.
He further said his government would grant the Akanu Ibiam International Airport full approval to handle international flights for the benefit of the zone.
Leader of the PDP in the zone and Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, said the zone had been home to PDP, assuring the party will emerge victorious at all levels in next year’s polls.
Wabara said the zone had suffered untold hardship in the hands of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the past seven and half years.
He said: “Last time we suffered because we were entirely PDP, not to talk of now that we have realised what it takes to be hated and what it will take to be loved.”
He assured Atiku, on behalf of other PDP leaders from the zone, that their people will vote massively for PDP.
The National Chairman, Ayu, said the rousing welcome they received was an indication that the South East is PDP and PDP is South East. Unlike the APC which he said relegated Igbo, Ayu said the PDP would give them their pride of place in an Atiku government.
Speaking, Okowa said competence would make the difference in the coming elections, pointing out that “the solution to the problems of Nigeria is who has that capacity, who has that experience and knowledge, who is that man that will be fair to everybody, who is that man that is ready to call everyone to the table to discuss Nigeria to ensure there is equity.”
All these qualities, he said Atiku has them in abundance.
•Our demands –Ben Obi
Former presidential adviser, Senator Ben Obi, presented a checklist from the South East PDP leaders to Atiku. Top on list include making the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, operational, such that planes can land and take off to all parts of the world, declaring an emergency on road infrastructure in the South East and connecting the zone with rest of the country with rail.
Other requests according to Obi, are for Atiku if he emerged victorious in the elections, to “Give South East access to the sea as Atlantic ocean is just 18 nautical miles from Ihiala/Oguta, consider making Onitsha Port operational and properly linked up, tackling security situation in the South East, facilitate the building of electricity plants in the South East and appointment of South Easterners to key positions in government.”
They also demanded general liberalisation of the business environment for commerce and industry to thrive, exploitation and exploration of solid minerals in the zone as well as restructuring and devolution of powers to federating units.