By Okey Muogbo
Lafia Town was not expected to pull out the kind of mammoth crowd that welcomed the Labour Party (LP) at the flag of the Party’s 2023 presidential and general election campaign. But the people there and around the state trouped out in their thousands to receive Comrade Peter Obi, Comrade Yusuf Datti-Ahmed (Presidential and vice presidential candidates of the LP respectively), the new brides of the Nigerian voters on the flag off the nationwide campaign of the Party on Saturday, the 29th of October, 2022. Venue was the Government Science Secondary School football ground in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital.
So many obstacles, both man-made and natural would have made the outing a big flop but the resilience of Nigerians triumphed and it turned out a huge success. The day was the last Saturday of October. On the last Saturdays, Nasarawa State observes its monthly sanitation exercise throughout the State from dawn to 10 am during which period the state would remain on total lockdown without human or vehicular movements. It was a huge setback for the mobilization of supporters to come from the nooks and crannies of the State to the State capital.
Again, Nasarawa State is home to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). It is, in one or more respects, the hub of the APC because the National Chairman of the Party, Alhaji Adamu Abdullahi is not only from there but was a two-term Governor of the State. The incumbent Governor, Abdullahi Sule is an APC man.
Apart from the foregoing, Nasarawa is the political birthplace of President Muhammadu Buhari. His long and tortuous struggle for the Presidency of Nigeria bore its first significant fruit in the election of Alhaji Tanko Al-makurah as governor on the platform of Buhari’s original Party, the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC).
It was the first major victory the CPC would record as Buhari could not even win his home state, Katsina in that 2011 general election. When you hear that Buhari has (or at best had) cult followership, Nasarawa State is one of the States the out-going President had such frenzy followers. Borno state is another and a few other places. Nasarawa presented a case of top-to-bottom massive followership for Buhari.
But on Saturday, Obi proved that the frenzy followership of Nasarawa State has been transferred to him as residents and indigenes of the state turned out in their thousands to receive the new hero of the masses as chants of “Obi kerenke Obi” rented the air of Lafia.
The supporters ignored the unhygienic venue given to the Obidient Movement for the rally by the APC-controlled State Government of Nasarawa State instead of the Sports Stadium, Lafia which the LP had applied for. That wasn’t enough to demoralize the committed Obidients. They were ready to bear the sabotage because of their belief that Peter Obi Presidency from May next year would wipe away the tears brought by the eight ruinous years of the APC. Nasarawa State is for the LP, Nasarawa State is fully Obidient. How was the feat achieved?
As earlier stated, the people of Nasarawa State invested heavily in the APC –Physically, materially, emotionally and mentally. Sadly, their investment went into irretrievable ruins. Their joy of 2015 became their sorrow and anguish in 2022. Like other Nigerians, Nasarawa people now know that they are at the precipice –threatened now by hunger, inflation, diseases, poverty of the pocket and most dangerously by terrorists lurking dangerously from all fronts.
They like other Nigerians too, now know that only Peter Obi and the Labour Party would save them, not APC, not any other political Party.
They waited patiently in clear demonstration of the age-long saying that “no journey is too long as long as a person finds what he is looking for.”
>>> They actually found what they were looking for. Obi’s message to them was comprehensive and convincing. The Presidential Candidate knows the problems of Nasarawa state people and the the solutions to the problems.
As an Agrarian State, he promised them to eliminate the terrorists and bandits stopping them from engaging in their farming and other economic activities. It was an assurance from the heart that after May 2023, they would return to their farms without the fear of the marauding bandits and kidnappers. Obi assured them that his Government would make fertilizer available to them to increase their farm yields. That floods that ruined their produce this year would be stopped by the dredging of the Rivers Niger and Benue together with other contingency measures that would address flooding permanently.
He promised them that the Lafia-Abuja Road dualization project would be completed quickly to enhance commercial activities and evacuation of their agricultural produce. Obi also assured them that projects that would make the State derive maximum benefit from its close proximity to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would be executed when he becomes President. The people responded through prolonged and deep applauses. Obi from Lafia, told Nigerians that the world Football Cup finals would no longer be played without Nigeria participating during his presidency. He queried, “how can they play World Cup without Nigeria, a country of 200 million people? It would not happen again. With me as President, Nigeria must be in the next world Cup.”
An event at the Palace of the Emir of Lafia, Hon Justice Sidi Bage (retired Justice of the Supreme Court) was to dramatize the state of public infrastructural services. Midway into the courtesy call, the public power supply went off (NEPA took light as Nigerians would say). The Palace Hall went dark and dead for a while until the Palace staff rallied to put on their standby Electricity generator. Obi was to cash in on that to lament the deplorable state of power supply in Nigeria and assured his host that erratic public power supply would end when he becomes President next year.
Bage, who once served in the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal when Obi was the Governor of Anambra State thanked the LP Presidential Candidate for the visit and wished Obi well in forthcoming presidential election. He said with his personal knowledge of the capacity and capability of the Presidential Candidate, he was not in any doubt that Obi would lead Nigeria very well.
It was a successful flag off of the LP presidential campaign. It was very organic and that organic nature added a measure of fresh air not usually seen in the usually heavily-induced political campaigns in Nigeria. It was devoid of scandals. It was as clear and fresh as the candidature of Peter Obi/Yusuf Datti-Ahmed.
Okey Muogbo is an Abuja based Journalist.