By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor
LAST Saturday, September 20, 2015 political movement was activated at the nation’s commercial capital, Lagos, as adherents of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South West trooped out in large numbers to receive President Goodluck Jonathan at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) for a Southwest Sensitization and Unity rally.
A mammoth crowd of supporters across the six states of the South West geopolitical zone had defied the early morning downpour to express support for the president’s re-election bid in 2015. They were buoyed by the party leadership’s adoption of Jonathan as the PDP’s presumptive presidential candidate.
As expected, there was lockdown on citizen’s movement as some roads leading to the TBS and on other locations where the president was being expected were blocked.
The Lagos Bus Transit Service (LAGBUS), had early on Saturday morning, tweeted: “President Goodluck Jonathan is expected in Lagos this afternoon. As a result, roads around TBS and CMS area have been closed.” Other roads on Lagos Island, including Adeniji Adele road, were also cordoned off.
One of such locations that witnessed airtight security was the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Ikotun, venue of the president’s first public appearance last Saturday.
Visiting the collapsed guesthouse of the church in company of the state’s Deputy Governor, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire and PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, Jonathan had vowed to investigate the cause of the tragedy, which left at least 115 dead.
“My coming here is to express my personal condolences to Prophet Joshua, the Synagogue of All Nations and of course the bereaved families,” Jonathan said during the visit.
The president, who arrived by helicopter at the sprawling church compound in Ikotun, said he would hold talks with the construction industry and state governors on how to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
“We will work with the people to ensure that such an incident does not happen again,” he said.
Jonathan said he deeply regretted that scores of South Africans had died in the tragedy, and that he had already expressed his sympathies with President Jacob Zuma.
After a private meeting of the church leaders with Jonathan, which lasted a few minutes, the president hopped into his chopper, flew over Lagos skyline and alighted at the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Aremu Akiolu I.
For this visit, the president’s delegation was boosted by his advance party team, which was led by Vice President, Namadi Sambo, top government officials and PDP stalwarts including PDP Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus; Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; former Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa; PDP chieftain and member Board of Trustees, Chief Ola Bode George; Chief of Staff to the President, Gen. Jones Arogbofa; Special Adviser to the President on Interparty Affairs, Sen. Ben Obi; and Group Managing Director, Energy Group, Jimoh Ibrahim.
President Jonathan, who expressed gratitude to the Oba and his Council of Chiefs for the warm reception always accorded him each time he visited, said royal fathers are custodians of the nation, as such he could not be in Lagos without paying homage to the Oba to receive royal blessings and prayers.
He noted that Lagos is key to the economy of Nigeria and gave assurance that the Federal Government was committed to ensuring that nothing negative happens to the state. He said this informed the reason the Federal Government rose to the challenge against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in partnership with the governor, Babatunde Fashola.
“We thank you for the service you have been rendering right from when you were in service as a police officer and now as the Oba of Lagos. We assure you that we will continue to do our best in infrastructure development of the country and maintenance of peace and security in the country.
“We are here for the PDP Southwest Unity rally. We are not here for campaign but we will still come. Before we go, we need your royal prayers and blessings because you (traditional rulers) are the owners of the land,” he said.
While responding, Oba Akiolu, who noted that leadership is given to anybody by God, prayed that God will be with President Jonathan and protect him to realise his vision for the country. He appealed for free and credible elections in Lagos and Nigeria next year.
“I have special love for Mr. President. God has put you in that position, He will be with you, God will not abandon you. On the current security challenges, I know God will bring it to an end. I urge you to continue doing whatever you have in mind for Lagos, not minding politics,” he said.
After the exchange of courtesies and pleasantries, it was time for the president and his entourage to leave for the day’s biggest assignment. And at exactly 1:15pm, the president’s motorcade made a grand entry into the bowl of TBS to kick off proceedings at the rally, where Fuji maestro, Abass Akande, popularly known as Obesere, kept thousands of rain-soaked party faithful entertained.
It was especially an opportunity for the many gubernatorial candidates in Lagos State to sell themselves to supporters ahead of the party’s primaries. They took turns hounding the opposition and throwing support for the adoption of the president as the party’s sole presidential candidate.
Aspirants from other states in the Southwest were also represented but were not as vocal as the agents of the gubernatorial aspirants in Lagos. Of the pack, it was supporters of the Minister of state for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro that stole the show and overwhelmed the rally.
The rally, which was a colourful display of music, dance and politicking, was dominated by supporters of Obanikoro, popularly known as Koro by admirers. His banners and supporters, clad in different costumes could be seen conspicuously everywhere across the rally. A creative highlight of the Minister’s presence at the rally was a group of young stuntmen, skaters and young ladies who were all over the place dressed in t-shirts with the inscriptions; #Korolette, #Korobucci.
Before now, the minister, who was the party’s governorship candidate in 2007, had only made a feigned interest in running again for office, but all doubts were dispelled at the weekend as towering posters littered TBS and its environs welcoming the president to Lagos. The subtle declaration of his intention was his imposing image on the posters, with the rider: “Dream Team: Jonathan+Obanikoro=Winning Together.”
And there was more. The minister’s mobilization at the rally took many Lagosians by surprise, not leaving out many of those who had earlier signified interest to run for governorship ticket in the party.
Other aspirants, which included Jimi Agbaje, Babatunde Gbadamosi, Ade Dosunmu, and Deji Doherty, all made an impressive showing with their throng of supporters, but their efforts were glaringly overshadowed by the Obanikoro buzz, which ringed loudly at the square.
For special effect, the minister’s buzz took several sobriquets that appealed to various segments of the society, such as: Korolette, Koro Bucci, Koro for Better Lagos, Lagos can be greater, Jonathan+Koro=Winning Together, Koronated, among many others.
And it was to a rousing applause when firing the first salvo, the minister, who spoke on behalf of the body of Southwest ministers, flanked by Minister of State for the FCT, Mrs. Olajumoke Akinjide; Minister of State for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina; Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson; and Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Jeilili Adesiyan, assured Jonathan of their unalloyed loyalty and further promised to mobilise for him (Jonathan) when the campaign gathers steam.
Obanikoro explained that the president has done well and therefore deserves a second term to continue with his Transformation Agenda. “The party in the west has resolved to “work for the re-election of President Jonathan and we are committed in working for him so that he can continue with the good works he has started not only in the south west but in the country. With all the good things he has done, he deserves a second term.”
Responding, Jonathan expressed gratitude to the members of the PDP in the region for giving him the right of first refusal as the party’s sole candidate for next year’s presidential polls.
He said: “Let me sincerely thank the leaders of our party; from the chairman, committee members, our governors, our National Assembly members, our Board of Trustees members, and all members of the party for giving me the right of first refusal of the presidential ticket.
“There are no dictators in the PDP. There is no one that is so powerful to determine who becomes councillor, local government chairman, state House of Assembly member, House of Representatives member, senator, governor, and even president, in the PDP. The decision is by the people, for the people, and that is why the PDP will continue to do new things and give right leadership,” he said.
The Lagos chairman of the party, PDP, Tunji Shelle, however, said the party would not adopt candidates for the various positions including governorship in the 2015 elections.
Speaking against the backdrop of the party’s adoption of President Jonathan as its sole candidate for the 2015 presidential poll, Shelle said the president’s emergence as a consensus candidate was different from the situation in Lagos State.
“The president is going for a second term and the party decided to let him continue and finish the good job he is doing. In Lagos State, it is different. The PDP is not the party in power; therefore, all aspirants must go for primaries, as it is the tradition of the party.
“There is no preferred aspirant. The candidate that would emerge would be decided by the party delegates,” he said.