The presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has recommitted himself to his campaign mantra of renewed hope at a special rally organised by Lagos APC in his support and other candidates in the state standing for 2023 elections. Gboyega Akinsanmi reports
Last Saturday, members of Lagos APC thronged the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere in great numbers. Unlike December 10, 2014 when the party’s delegates gathered at the same venue for the presidential primary then as an opposition party, the mission this time was to formally present their presidential candidate to the people of Lagos State now as a governing party.
Eventually, the rally turned out to be one huge carnival that celebrated Asiwaju’s sterling contribution to the socio-economic development of Lagos State. At one end, the cultural troupe of Isale Eko entertained the party faithful with masquerades dancing to their delight.
At the other end, the popular Fuji maestro, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, took over the stage, singing diverse songs of endorsement that predicted Asiwaju’s victory in the next presidential poll.
From all indications, it was indeed a great convention that unquestionably reverberated the pledge of renewed hope, which Tinubu made to the people of Nigeria in his campaign document christened “Renewed Hope 2023: Action Plan for a Better Nigeria.”
Evidently, from the number of supporters that converged on the stadium, Asiwaju’s quest to govern Nigeria might be as good as a reality.
Obviously, the size of the crowd might not be sufficient to arrive at this conclusion. However, the repertoire of the APC gladiators that attended the rally from all states of the federation attested to Asiwaju’s progressive ascendance to the presidential villa in Abuja. The National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, led the retinue of the gladiators that thronged the stadium in support of Tinubu’s presidential ambition.
From the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Senator Simon Lalong to the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Senator Atiku Bagudu; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Gaduje and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the gathering was perhaps a witness to what APC stands for in modern Nigeria.
Also, with a long list of former governors, serving senators, members of the National Working Committee, serving ministers, former federal and state lawmakers that trooped in for Asiwaju, the presidential rally was no doubt a clear statement that Lagos was a no-go area for the opposition parties, which according to reports, had been playing ethnic, religious and tribal cards to gain foothold in the state with 7.075 million registered voters.
After painstakingly observing the crowd of the adherents and the number of the gladiators that attended the presidential rally from the rostrum, Adamu made a conclusion that the gathering was truly a testament to Asiwaju’s overwhelming popular approval, not just in Lagos State, but also in other states of the federation, including some of those under the control of the opposition parties.
In reference to the size of the crowd, Adamu unequivocally observed that the people of Lagos “have spoken, and they have spoken well.”
But beyond the crowd, Adamu challenged the state’s registered voters “to transform Asiwaju’s street popularity to electoral victory.”
He also challenged them to come out in greater numbers on February 25, 2023 to vote for Tinubu and on March 11, 2023 to vote for other candidates in the state standing for different elections. The crowd is assuring. However, it is not over until it is over.
Also, citing an array of other serving governors, ministers, senators, lawmakers, NWC members and council chairmen that had already ratified his presidential candidature, Adamu told the gathering that Asiwaju “is apparently a president-in-waiting,” a statement which other speakers at the rally convincingly attested to.
Irrespective of how representative the public approval he enjoys nationwide, however, Adamu observed that Tinubu would still have to stand for the election to confirm his popularity, hence the need for all registered voters in the state “to come out in greater numbers to vote for our candidate.”.
With the number of party faithful that converged on the venue of the rally, Lalong, the Governor of Plateau State, believed that Asiwaju “has obviously made the next presidential election much easier for the APC to win by landslide.”
He, however, told the party faithful to step up mobilising voters across the state to position Asiwaju for victory in the 2023 presidential poll.
From his antecedent as governor of Lagos State, Lalong noted that Asiwaju “is undoubtedly the best among the candidates jostling for the presidency in the country today.”
Also, from his invaluable input as one of the founding leaders of the APC, Lalong added that Asiwaju obviously “stands above all other presidential candidates,” irrespective of what the critics had said to de-market him.
Speaking on behalf of the progressive governors, Bagudu commended Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat and Lagos APC at large for organising the special presidential rally in support of Asiwaju. The rally, according to him, obviously confirms Asiwaju’s popular support and his capacity to lead Nigeria out of its complex challenges.
Bagudu equally acknowledged diverse challenges currently confronting Nigeria. As diverse reports showed, the challenges range from security challenges to fiscal headwinds, acute infrastructure deficit, dysfunctional education system and intractable food crisis, among others. As he did when he emerged the governor of Lagos State in 1999, Bagudu assured Nigerians that Tinubu would transform Nigeria if eventually elected on February 25, 2023.
On these grounds, Gbajabiamila made a passionate appeal to the leaders and people of the South-east and South-south to invest in Asiwaju’s presidential aspiration, perhaps to avoid the repeat of history, which if not properly handled, might jolt into oblivion in the mainstream politics.
One after the other, Gbajabiamila also faulted allegations that Asiwaju falsified his age; claims that he was indicted in the US for complicity in drug peddling and speculations that he was not healthy enough to provide leadership that Nigeria would require in this time of crisis.
Beyond the accounts of all the speakers, Asiwaju mounted the rostrum amid musical interjections and public accolades that left people almost speechless at the presidential rally. Overwhelmed by shouts and songs of endorsement from the crowd of the party faithful, Asiwaju could only clearly assure the people: “You will never be forgotten.”
This assurance further elicited public accolades that rent through and almost ended the rally before Asiwaju completed the delivery of his address. As the shouts and songs of approval quelled, Asiwaju further said: “In education, healthcare, food security, job creation and in virtually all parts of our national life, I will not breach my covenant with the people of Nigeria irrespective of languages, races and religion.”
Tinubu acknowledged diverse heinous challenges the administration of President Muhammadu had been confronting since 2015. From intractable security challenges created by the governments of the PDP to global economic turbulence that triggered fiscal crises and the outbreaks of COVID-19 that forced the country into lockdown in 2020, Asiwaju argued that Buhari had led Nigeria in the time of crises.
Despite these crises that plunged other countries into internal instability worldwide, Asiwaju claimed that Buhari never failed his fatherland. Rather, he added that the president had decisively responded to the national challenges through progressive policies and pro-people programmes that eventually brought about economic and social stability nationwide.
With Buhar’s records of performance, Asiwaju promised that the next presidential election “will be a broom revolution,” according to him, which would finally be deployed to sweep the main opposition party to the dustbin of history.
Asiwaju justified this proposition on what he described as PDP’s unacceptable antecedents as the party in government between 1999 and 2015. For 16 years, he historicised how the PDP betrayed the trust of over 200 million people, whose hope and aspiration became wild dreams under the PDP.
Asiwaju also observed that the APC has obviously done in eight years what the PDP could not do in 16 years. For 16 years, the presidential candidate pointed out how the PDP failed “to reconstruct Lagos-Ibadan expressway that connects the country’s economic nerve-centre.”
He also attested to how PDP promised in vain to construct the Second Niger Bridge that connects the South-east to other parts of the federation.
Among others, Asiwaju cited the failure of the PDP to reconstruct the East-West road that connects all the states of South-south.
Under Buhari’s administration, Asiwaju observed that APC had excelled with the construction and reconstruction of these strategic infrastructure projects. By implication, he concluded that APC had succeeded where PDP absolutely betrayed the trust of Nigerians.
To sustain progressive governance, therefore, Tinubu challenged the people of Nigeria to use their PVCs “to reject the main opposition party in the forthcoming elections on the ground that it was in government for 16 years with little or nothing to show for it. But as for us in the APC, we remain committed to our pledge of renewed hope for all.”