The impression they had created out there was that the South East zone was against the Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi Presidential ticket. They hinged this assertion on the alleged misgivings by some key stakeholders in the zone over the picking of Peter Obi as the Presidential running mate to Atiku Abubakar, without proper consultations.
For them, since the South East “leaders” had developed cold feet over the Atiku/Obi project, it was therefore going to be a nunc dimitis for the PDP in the zone this time around, thereby suggesting that the South East would not be rooting for the APC.
It was on that premise that President Muhammadu Buhari had set out to canvass for votes in the South East for his reelection, hoping thereby, to win many converts from the area.
In truth, many people did come out, not necessarily to admire or appreciate their President (for that would be the first time they would be seeing him since he came to power more than three years ago), but more importantly, to hear what the man had in store for them, what he was going to tell them that would make them to vote for him on February 16.
Unfortunately, rather than hear some good news from their President, what they got were real bad news. Specially, when the people complained to their President that they were not represented in his security council, and appealed to him to consider having one of their own in the council, the unrepentant President Muhammadu Buhari categorically told them that he had been appointing members of his security council strictly on “merit”, implying therefore, that since the past three and half years he has been in office, he did not see any Southeastener who merited to be appointed to the council!
The President did not end there. He berated Chibuike Amaechi, Minister of Transportation and Director General of his campaign council, for putting him “into trouble” with the people of the South East.
According to our President, Amaechi had told the people of the South East that they were going to benefit from the new railway scheme, when he, the President, had already excluded them from the scheme, or as he put it, when the Minister had not presented the scheme to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
It was then that those who were on the border line, those who had been sitting on the fence, those who initially did not read the handwriting on the wall, those who were blinded by self interest, had come to realize where they were.
They also did not hear President Buhari say that he would give Ndigbo, President, after his tenure, as some of our APC brothers have been drumming into our ears – “Buhari chichaa onye Ndigbo”.
The people then began to reason that if President Buhari could not find any Igbo man qualified to sit in his security council, if he did not consider it necessary to have the new railway scheme pass through the South East, how then would he find any Igbo man qualified to take over from him at the end of his tenure? And they were not happy.
Then, came the PDP campaign train to the South East. From 6.00 am, they started trooping to the stadium arena and waited till 6.00 pm. Markets and private offices closed. Dancers and various support groups tried to outdo each other. The people went frenzy and almost got mad.
When you looked round the arena, you saw that every available space was occupied, thousands more milling outside. When you looked at their faces, you saw that they were enthusiastic, full of hopes and expectations, you saw that nobody was coerced or bribed to be there, that they had all come on their own, to witness and to listen to what the team would have for them.
Even when the campaign train failed to arrive as scheduled, you saw them continued to wait patiently. When you talked to them, you saw that none of them came from Chad, Niger Republic or the Cameroun, but from the towns and villages in the South East.
To their utmost surprise, and contrary to what they had heard and read from the papers, when the campaign team actually arrived, they saw their governors, traditional rulers, opinion leaders, those they were told were opposed to the Atiku/Obi ticket, hug themselves in public, speak glowingly about the ticket, and promise to deliver 100% votes to them.
They heard these leaders catalogue what the PDP had done for the South East when they were in power, that the party gave the people of the South East, accommodation, real sense of belonging, and did not talk about 97% versus 5% votes and appointments.
They told them that the PDP gave the South East Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Minister of Finance, Chief of Army Staff, Inspector General of Police, built an International Airport, etc., and has now appointed one of their sons, Vice Presidential candidate.
Above all, they heard the PDP Presidential candidate himself promise them that if elected, he would not only deliver critical infrastructure, but also restructure the country to enable every section grow at its own pace. He equally had assured them that his becoming President would be an inch nearer to the Igbo Presidency!
That was a much more reassuring message, and the people went home satisfied because the difference was clear.