Harder times for the opposition as campaigns kick off

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    By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Wole Mosadomi & Peter Okutu
    The All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP is in dire straits. While the other major political parties have commenced the process of seeking votes from the electorate, the party is yet grappling with the process of putting its message across.

    Its presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau almost two months after picking the presidential ticket is yet to commence the process of disseminating his plans and policies for the citizenry.

    While some affirm that the presidential flag bearer is increasingly overwhelmed in his native Kano State by the growing local opposition, others cite a tardiness and incoherence in plans by the once strong party.

    The party’s plans to commence its presidential campaigns anytime soon were immediately put on hold after the Ebonyi State government stopped the party from using the State as a launch pad for the party’s presidential campaign.

    Governor Martin Elechi in a broadcast to the State on Wednesday cited security concerns saying that the proposed rally was a deliberate effort by the ANPP national chairman, Chief Ogbonnonya Onu to cause mayhem in the State.

    Onu was a one time Governor of the State and a one time presidential aspirant on the platform of the ANPP.

    “The protection of lives and property of citizens and prevalence of law and order constitutes the primary assignment of every Governor and become the purpose of every government. These are, for us, a higher premium against the need to allow a free political interaction.

    Let the ANPP chieftains hold their rally elsewhere. In the face of these developments, the proposed rally, at this particular time is therefore an open but avoidable invitation to anarchy knowing that the Governor will be unable to restrain the angered and embittered youths of Ebonyi State from a man whose track record has been a recurrent tale of anguish and suffering for Ebonyi youths.”

    “The truth is that Abakaliki is a small provincial capital struggling to measure up to the status of a state capital. The facilities available, therein have always proved inadequate for state functions despite our efforts to expand the scope of facilities there,” adding that the lack of facilities were known to Onu.

    While it is shocking to some that a Governor would deliberately deprive his state the expected economic boost that would have flowed from such a mega event, the fact that Governor Elechi is the Southeast coordinator of President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign was not lost on many. Was the Governor seeking to save himself the embarrassment of playing host to a major opposition rally?

    There were indications, however, that Governor Elechi facing serious internal challenges especially from the ANPP gubernatorial candidate, Senator Julius Ucha may have decided to use whatever reasons to fight the local insurgency. Ucha was quick to flay the Governor’s action as an expression of fear of the kind of crowd the local opposition could mobilize.

    “I will tell you that the reason for this misplacement of priority by Ebonyi State Government, the reason for this intimidation, the reason for this blackmail, the reason for reducing our state capital to a village square by the state government is the fear of the crowd that the ANPP rally will attract.”

    “It is that fear that has resulted to this reckless statement that is in total breach of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So the broadcast is a product of fear by the PDP, a sign of weakness on the side of the government of Ebonyi state, it’s a product of recklessness and it is a product of frustration.”

    “I think it is time for the security chiefs, for the security operatives, for the government of the federation of to intervene in what is happening in Ebonyi State. For the first time in the history of democracy, political parties are prevented by a sitting government from conducting their political affairs in peaceful and orderly manner.

    We have just been told today by Ebonyi state governor that he cannot guarantee the security of members of ANPP in Ebonyi State; if he cannot guarantee the safety of our presidential candidate, he cannot guarantee the safety of the national chairman of ANPP, he cannot guarantee the safety of other members of ANPP; it then means that it is the government of Ebonyi state that has decided to use thugs to intimidate, to harass, to maim and wound the members of ANPP,” he complained.

    Besides Ebonyi, Niger Sate which suffered a major bomb blast at a rally organized by the PDP on Thursday is also another place where the local opposition is crying against harassment.

    After much exchange of hard words the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) on Thursday dared the Nigeria Police as the party held its presidential campaign rally despite the earlier order by the command to the party not to organize the rally.

    While the state Chambers of Commerce and Industry disallowed the party from using the Trade Fair Complex, the police also directed the party to postpone the rally in order to avoid clash between its supporters an that of Peoples Democratic party (PDP) which also held its now fatal zonal rally in Suleja, a distance of about one hundred kilometers away from Minna where the CPC held its own rally.

    The Chambers had earlier in the week affirmed its rejection of the application of the CPC to use the fair complex citing security concerns.

    The rally was eventually held at the Polo Ground Minna where the presidential candidate of the party, Gen. Muhammdu Buhari addressed the party supporters who turned out in larger number to receive him. Meanwhile last Tuesday the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN held four zonal rallies in Lagos preparatory to the kick off of its gubernatorial campaign scheduled for today.

    The ACN rallies spread across the three senatorial districts were seen in some quarters as provocatively timed to coincide with the PDP presidential campaign rally that took place in Lagos the same day.

    But whatever may have been the plans of the ACN to embarrass the President, the PDP apparently had the last laugh on the opposition party as the godfather of the ACN in Lagos Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was held back from the rallies in Abuja forinterrogation with the State Security Service, SSS.

    Asiwaju was supposedly interrogated over some hard criticisms hurled against the PDP government.

    Claiming political persecution, the ACN in a statement issued by Alhaji Lai Mohammed the party’s national publicity secretary last Thursday said: ‘’Threats of arrest and prosecution over some phantom foreign accounts that Asiwaju supposedly operated when he was governor have been thrown out there in the media, with the hope of distracting a man whose courage and determination have once again gingered the progressive camp into action to save the country from the big-for-nothing ruling party.”

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    Harder times for the opposition as campaigns kick off