The Presidential rally of President Goodluck Jonathan, in Asaba, Delta state, on Wednesday February 4, 2015, was a first on many counts.
It was a first because for the first time since the PDP Presidential campaign rallies commenced, President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the mammoth crowd at the Asaba Cenotaph venue and indeed to millions of Nigerians watching the live streamlining of the event of Television, in Pidgin English; the language of the Niger Delta and indeed the unofficial lingua franca of Nigeria.
It was a first because for the first time in the Presidential campaign rally, the first lady Dame Patience surprised and thrilled Nigerians with a stellar campaign oratory whose delivery was flawless, passionate, exciting, stirring, soulful, and throbbing with energy, situational consciousness, savvy and a swagger that not tickled the massive crowd with pleasant goodwill, but was greeted with a thunderous ovation by the appreciative audience at the end of the rousing speech.
It was also a first because for the first time in a Presidential campaign rally in Delta State, the popularity of a Governorship candidate of the party, this time, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, almost visibly eclipsed the reception given to the incumbent Governor.
But most importantly, it was a first because for the first time since the Presidential campaign rallies started, it became obvious to those who had haboured any lingering doubts, prior to the Delta Presidential rally that, President Goodluck Jonathan was going to win the Presidential elections and return for a second term as the President of Nigeria.
Asaba, the state capital, was transformed with a new look ahead of President Jonathan’s visit as The Cenotaph, venue of the campaign, was not only expanded to accommodate the areas around it that had initially been designated to provide shelter for resettled flood victims, tarred, its fence was extended, painted and cleaned up.
Surrounding structures like the High Court building, as well as the adjourning roads of Okpanam, Nnebisi, Summit, DBS and Anwai Roads also felt the impact of the Presidential visit as fences and kerbs were repainted and wore brad new shiny looks.
Billboards earlier erected by politicians during the governorship primaries were removed and replaced with large, colourful massive banners across the state capital, bearing the smiling happy faces of the chosen candidates; Okowa, Otuaro, President Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo, beaming down handsomely on Deltans in Asaba and indeed the mammoth crowd that would eventually throng the venue of the rally of those who lost out in the last governorship, national and state assemblies primaries have been removed.
Even the famous Asaba street lights, which had been surprisingly been off for over one week, for reasons which Deltans were not aware of, suddenly came on dramatically and the darkness which had hitherto engulfed Asaba at Night suddenly disappeared, in anticipation of the President’s visit.
Security arrangements also swung into top gear as all the various agencies, especially the Directorate of State Security, DSS, intensified preparations and turned out in full gear, to ensure that miscreants, hoodlums, detractors and even terrorists and extremists would not have a say on the rally day.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta PDP Chairman Chief Edwin Uzor, and
Delta State Commissioner of Police Alkali Baba Usman, took turns to inspect the venue and assure Deltans and Nigerians that all was set for the Presidential rally in Asaba advised that security is intact for the President’s visit and that since campaign has taken off, it should be issue-based not attacking of persons, being sentimental or primordial.
Governor Uduaghan particularly assured that all arrangements had been concluded for a successful Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential rally, affirming that adequate arrangements had been made to secure lives and property within and outside the venue as expectations were high of a large turnout of Deltans from different parts of the State to receive the President.
“We are ready for the rally; we are going to have the largest crowd ever, our organization is superb. This venue is the ideal venue for a rally as security agencies are well prepared for any eventuality. The Police and the SSS have been adequately mobilized and Deltans are very happy to receive Mr. President”, Uduaghan enthused.
Thus it was that expectations actually reached fever pitch as news went round that President Jonathan and the campaign team, which had first berthed in Benin City, capital of Edo state, was on his way toAsaba.
Delta PDP Governorship Candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa had earlier made a stop at the Cenotaph to felicitate with the people who had been gathering in their numbers to welcome President Jonathan and his team for the Presidential rally.
The day had also been billed to host the grand finale of the hugely successful governorship rallies of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, but in his typical humility and loyalty to the President, Senator Okowa, who could have taken advantage of the Presidential campaign to add more mileage and increase his already burgeoning popularity, had graciously deferred to Mr. President opted to downplay his own event as he joined the rest of Delta State to await the peoples President, by joining Governor Uduaghan and other party dignitaries at the Asaba International Airport where the President was scheduled to touch down.
The outpouring of joy, euphoria and overflowing goodwill which welcome President Jonathan and his team from the Airport to the Cenotaph was simply marvelous to behold, as a smiling President Jonathan received overwhelming cheer and love from Deltans.
A carnival-like crowd with over 600 support groups drawn from all the ethnic nationalities in Delta State thronged the Cenotaph, venue for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Rally in Asaba, the Delta State capital receive the President.
The over 600 support groups with various names inscribed on billboards and placards added colour and glamour to rally in Asaba as the crowd continuously drummed while speeches were being presented.
Vice President, Namadi Sambo; National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu; Director General of Jonathan Campaign Organisation, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Henry Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa State, attested to the crowd, describing it as the handiwork of Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
For the people’s love for the President, over half of the supporters stood under the scorching heat of the sun as the available seats could not contain the crowd from 10am till 4pm when the President arrived from Benin City, the Edo State capital, where he had the rally earlier in the day.
And after all the speeches and drama had been done, the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Mu’Azu, who acted as Master of Ceremonies and who had almost lost his voice, but still had enough powerful decibels to carry on, finally introduced President Jonathan, to an earth shaking, groundswell of joyful celebration in songs and dances.
President Jonathan, basking warmly in the adulation and rapturous embrace of Deltans, did what naturally comes to a leader who is in the midst of his own people; he spontaneously and effortlessly broke into our unofficial lingua franca, Pidgin English and as he addressed the people in his clear, flawless, articulate and unerringly vibrant voice, it became clear with every uttered word and sentence, that this was a President who was right at home with his people and enjoyed unconditional love from his people.
The message was clear; his administration believed in the unity of Nigeria and a country which will take its pride of place in the comity of nations and has empowered Nigerian youths and provided programmes that will position the youths and women for future challenges.
President Jonathan told the people that Delta State through his administration’s efforts is playing host to the first Maritime University in Africa and the 16 billion dollar gas city project in the state, which would not only generate employment opportunities for Delta youths and Nigerians, but would equally stimulate and accelerate economic development in Delta State and Nigeria.
“We want to make sure that our people go to school that is why we are building the Maritime University in the state, the first in Africa, we are also building the 16 billion dollars gas city in the state, the biggest oil and gas investment in Africa,” the President said, asserting, “the Maritime University will train our youths to take the rightful place in the Maritime Industry in the world while the Gas City project will provide employment for our teeming youths,” President Jonathan said.
Taking a swipe at the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, President Jonathan described the opposition APC as a party that usually leaves behind after each campaign rally, sorrows and tears, adding that it had become the culture of APC and its supporters to always maul people, burn houses and property, including signboards of opponents each time they go for campaign rallies across the country.
Speaking in pidgin English, Jonathan said “we for PDP dey go rally and nobody dey destroy something, but when some people (APC) dey come for rally here, dem go beat people, dem go burn houses down, dem go burn signboards down.”
President Jonathan then reiterated that the programmes were designed for Nigerian youths to be equipped for the future, disclosing that his administration has also, empowered those who are in the entertainment industry who were ignored before his administration came into office.
“We are talking about transformation and not change. Change takes place everyday. If you move from your bedroom to your sitting room, you have made a change, but you have not transformed yourself.
“Tell them that we are talking about moving this country forward. Singapore and Nigeria used to be at the same level, but Singapore was transformed from the third world to first world. That is the kind of transformation we are talking about,” he said.
He then urged Deltans and Nigerians in general to vote massively for the PDP in the elections, stating that there is no other political party that is thinking and working towards a more united and developed Nigeria than the PDP.
Prior to his taking the podium, President Jonathan had availed some Nollywood artistes, led by Patience Ozokwor, alias Mama G, Zeb Ejiro and Ime Bishop Umoh, popularly known as Okon, as well as stand-up comedian Gordons, renowned musician Daddy Shokey and a host of home grown talents like Frank D Don, Bovi, I go die and Fretless, all performed and also addressed the crowd on the support and assistance the industry had enjoyed from the present government of President Jonathan since the inception of his administration.
Wife of President Jonathan, Dame Patience, said come February 14, all Nigerian women should adopt President Jonathan as their Val, by voting massively for PDP.
The First Lady, who chided the APC for planning to scrap the office of the First Lady, declared that “APC is a condemned and sour drug Nigerians must vehemently shun.”
She told the women to vote for her husband, so that the 50 per cent quota promised women in the administration of Jonathan would see the light of the day. Also, Mrs Patience Jonathan urged the women in particular to vote for President Jonathan stating that the President has given the women voice in his administration and there is no other President who will empower women and youths more than President Jonathan.
In his welcome address, Governor Uduaghan assured the President of the votes of all Deltans for the PDP noting that President Jonathan deserves re-election because of the success of his human capital development programmes which has seen Nigerian youths excelling in sports, entertainment, education, among other fields.
The Governor stated that Deltans were among the greatest beneficiaries of the Human Capital Development programmes of the President because “more than 80 per cent of those in the entertainment industry – actors, comedians, musicians, and those in sports are from Delta State that is why our girls won gold medals at the Commonwealth games.”
One major drama of the day was the formal decamping of Chief Fidelis Okenmor Tilije, former two time Deputy Governorship candidate to Chief Great Ogboru, now governorship candidate of Labour Party, to the PDP. Others who spoke at the occasion include the PDP governorship candidate in Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Cross Rivers State, Senator Liyel Imoke, his Bayelsa State counterpart, Mr. Seriake Dickson, former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, former Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmadu Ali, Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Steve Oru, urged Deltans in particular to vote for PDP.
High point of the rally was the presentation of the PDP Governorship flag to Senator Ifeanyi Okowa by the National Chairman of the Party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’Azu and the subsequent hailing of Senator Okowa by President Jonathan, who led the crowd to acknowledge the massive popularity of Senator Okowa and assure PDP that Delta State was in safe hands for the party.
President Jonathan who also used the occasion of the visit to the state to commission an ultra-modern Government House constructed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan’s administration, after the rally, praised the Governor for being people-oriented in his programmes and policies.
He then had a cordial session with Delta State traditional rulers in the new government House, where President Goodluck Jonathan pledged to complete the 16 billion dollars gas city project before the end of his second tenure in office.
The President said that the gas city project was very important to Nigeria as it will generate a lot of employment opportunities for the youths while the country’s economy would get a boost from the investments from foreigners and Nigerians.
Dr. Jonathan told members of the Delta State traditional council shortly after a Presidential campaign rally in Asaba, that the gas city project which would be the biggest oil and gas investment in Africa was dear to his administration.
He stated that the project would be flagged off in the next couple of weeks and appealed to the traditional rulers not to relent in their support for his administration.
President Jonathan informed the traditional rulers that he was seeking re-election as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to complete the projects that his administration has started to the benefit of the country.
The Obi of Owa, HRM Efeizomor II who spoke on behalf of the traditional rulers described President Jonathan as a performer whose projects have transformed the lives of Nigerians and repositioned Nigeria for faster economic growth.
The Owa Monarch explained that with President Goodluck Jonathan Nigeria will get a better deal. Earlier, the Ohworode of Olomu in his prayers said they were satisfied with the first tenure of the President and assured him of their support and that of their subjects.
Below are more photos from the Presidential rally in Asaba.