*Former Lagos gov hails president for being focused amid distractions
*Tinubu responsible for Nigeria’s economic setback, says PDP
Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Igbawase Ukumba in Lafia
Following the tension arising from the allegation that some people at the Presidency were working against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu in the February 25 election, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday moved to unite the party, declaring that he would campaign for the former Lagos State governor to emerge as the next President of Nigeria.
He specifically reassured Tinubu of his unwavering commitment to ensuring that he wins the presidential poll, pointing out that the APC presidential candidate will give his best to the country.
But the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation has said the presidential candidate of the APC set the stage for the national economic setback of the country.
Buhari made the declaration yesterday in Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, at the APC presidential campaign rally with thousands of party supporters and residents in attendance.
The president also confirmed the earlier statement of the APC presidential candidate on their over 20 years of friendship, assuring Nigerians and the people of Nasarawa State that Tinubu would be a good President that would make the country better after him.
He thanked the party’s supporters for defying the hot weather and standing in the sun for hours to express their support for the party’s candidates in the forthcoming elections.
The president told the crowd of party supporters that he would continue to campaign for the emergence of Tinubu as the “next president of Nigeria.”
Buhari, who spoke in both English and Hausa, said: “I am happy to be part of the campaign today for Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the next President of Nigeria and Governor Sule for his second and final term.
“I congratulate and assure you that God willing, we will win through and through. As Tinubu said in his speech, I have known him for more than 20 years, and I will continue campaigning for Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is a committed Nigerian, and I believe he will give his best to Nigeria.
“Also, vote for Abdullahi Sule for a second and final term as governor,” he said.
Speaking before the rally while paying homage to the Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Dauda Bage, in his palace, President Buhari thanked the first-class traditional ruler for always welcoming him to his palace, noting that in the last eight years, he had lost count on the number of visits.
Commenting on Tinubu’s ambition, the Emir and retired Justice of the Supreme Court said: “I have known him (Tinubu) for many years since my days in Lagos State at the Court of Appeal; we saw what he did, his transformational agenda in the state. We are waiting for that for our nation. We know you can do it; you can transform this nation.”
Speaking earlier at the rally, Tinubu saluted the president’s courage, who he said had continued to offer leadership with boldness and courage despite all the challenges, adding that the country would recover from her challenges.
Speaking further, Tinubu compared Buhari with former United States President Abraham Lincoln, who also led his country in a crisis and still recorded huge achievements in infrastructural development like President Buhari did for Nigeria.
The APC presidential candidate thanked the president for being the “poster boy” of his campaign, fighting and working hard for the survival of Nigeria.
“Nigeria is surviving as a nation, and we believe because of constitutional democracy, we would have asked you to continue, but you said no, you are going back to Daura, your hometown.”
Tinubu also used the forum to chide those insinuating that he had a frosty relationship with the president.
“Our president and Leader of APC worldwide, it is a thing of joy that you are a poster boy for APC and Bola Tinubu today. Those who think there are cracks in our friendship and relationship will continue to be disappointed and have their short-time joy dashed. Ours is not about individuals. It is about integrity and nation-building.
“Nobody ever thought a man in uniform would be a democratic, principled, and honoured leader. Today, it is a thing of joy and honour to have you at the rally,” Tinubu explained.
“President Buhari faced the challenges of Nigeria courageously and squarely. You fought hard and worked hard. Nigeria is surviving as a nation, and we believe because of constitutional democracy, we would have asked you to stay on, but you said no, you are going back to Daura.
“You said there is more to do, and you will allow other people to continue. Few leaders have faced challenges and crises like you and continue to build infrastructure. One of them is Abraham Lincoln. You have joined great men, who can stay focused amid distractions and enemies. You have tolerated criticisms, and there is no labeling you have not endured, but today in Nasarawa, you are celebrated, commissioning project after project.
“We can see true leadership, but we may not be able to read the leader’s mind. Today, I stand before you and pledge again that Nigeria will recover from all challenges. We are brave. We are resilient. We will focus on agriculture; we will build our mineral resources. We will turn the earth and our dust into money. We will work hard. We promise you. Your children and grandchildren will not have any regret about our nation and ourselves. Happiness, joy, and prosperity will be part of our success,” Tinubu added.
Also speaking at the rally, the National Chairman of APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who addressed the crowd in Hausa, narrated the history of friendship between President Buhari and Tinubu and rallied them to vote for the APC because of the excellent job the current administration has accomplished for the country and in Nasarawa State.
On his part, the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, urged the people to vote for Tinubu, stressing that APC has delivered excellence to the people of the state.
Similarly, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, joined the party’s National Women Leader, Betta Edu, to mobilise women’s support for the presidential candidate.
Plateau State Governor and Director-General of the Campaign Council, Simon Lalong, and former Nasarawa State Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, told the people to vote for all APC candidates in the coming elections.
Progressives Governors’ Forum leader and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who led his colleagues to the campaign ground, told the people to continue to support the APC administration and vote for the party candidates in the general election despite the current challenges of fuel and new Naira notes scarcity caused by saboteurs.
Bagudu said: “The current challenges of the Naira and fuel scarcity are transitional issues. The opposition wants to cash in to demarket our party, but we are proud of President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievements and the achievements of APC governors in their states.
“We are proud of our party, our presidential candidates, Asiwaju Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Shettima, and we know they will win the election in the next 21 days.”
Tinubu Responsible for Nigeria’s Economic Setback, Says PDP
Meanwhile, the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation has said Tinubu set the stage for the nation’s national economic setback.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Spokesperson of the campaign, Kola Ologbondiyan, recalled how Tinubu led a vicious anti-people movement against the introduction of gradual removal of fuel subsidies, which had accompanying palliatives that were cushioning the effects of the subsidy on Nigerians.
He said PDP was aware that Nigerians knew that Tinubu was not worried about fuel and new Naira notes scarcity, but was concerned that the situation was affecting his life ambition of turning Nigeria into his economic empire and fiefdom.
“If Tinubu was ever concerned about Nigerians, what effort did he make to get the government, where he is the national leader, to address the worsening economy, the abysmal living standard, and our national descent as one of the fastest growing economies of the world under the PDP to the poverty capital of the world under his APC?
“It is on record that under this government, which he brought into power and made many appointments, inflation and unemployment have galloped; millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs, and many more can no longer afford their daily meals due to the astronomical cost of living. What were the consoling words of Tinubu to Nigerians?” Ologbondiyan queried.
He also recalled how Tinubu reportedly engineered and masterminded the reckless and shady increase in the subsidy paid by the Buhari administration without evidence of a corresponding increase in the volume of fuel consumed by Nigerians.
Ologbondiyan challenged Tinubu to disclose the advice he provided his government when Nigerians began to take their own lives by jumping into the lagoon in Lagos State out of frustration. In contrast, others were forced into slavery missions abroad as an option to dying of hunger and acute poverty.
He noted that Tinubu only remembered the cost of the Naira, the non-availability of fuel, and the new cash crunch when he mounted a soapbox to campaign for his ambition.
He said it was clear that Tinubu was not interested in the national challenges, but in the presidential race for his “Emilokan” agenda.