From Christian Chime, Onitsha
The federal government appears to have opened a new page in its relationship with former Niger Delta militants with an agreement for militants in the region to protect and ensure safety of the nation’s oil and infrastructure, comments by President Muhammadu Buhari seem to suggest.
The hint of such an agreement came from the President as he led his 2019 presidential re-election Campaign Council, to storm the South East commercial nerve – centre of Onitsha Thursday, in continuation of their series of tours and political rallies for the next month’s general election.
The team was received by a mammoth crowd of supporters, candidates and party members massive who besieged the Basillica of the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Cathedral field in Onitsha, venue for the campaign flag-off rally.
President Buhari, whose helicopter touched down in Onitsha shortly before noon paid a courtesy visit to the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Afred Nnaemeka Ugochukwu Achebe and his cabinet.
Welcoming the President, Obi Achebe, appealed to the Federal Government to make the Zik’s facility truly functional by appointing its governing board and recruiting the complementary staff.
Thereafter the president and his entourage drove straight to the Inosi Onira home of the late sage and first president of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik), to commission the recently completed and much-talked about Zik’s Mausoleum.
The nation’s leader immediately left the mausoleum for the campaign rally at the Basillica, acknowledging cheers from enthusiastic crowd that included school children who lined up the streets of Onitsha.
But while commissioning the facility, President Buhari urged Nigerians to imbibe the virtues of patriotism, nationalism and dedication which were the legacies of the late Zik.
A visibly cheerful Governor Willie Obiano pointed out that with the completion of the mausoleum, the great Zik of Africa can now rest in peace with the full honour he deserves from a country he lived, loved, served and died for.
The Governor also called on the Federal Government to further honour Zik by declaring his birthday – November 16, a National Day holiday. He said that if granted, the day will be set aside for reflection on the life and times of the great Zik and his Pan-African struggles, thoughts and philosophies.
Obiano commended President Buhari for completing the mausoleum after over 20 years of abandonment by successive administrations. He said the facility has become an important landmark in Eastern Nigeria and an addition to the numerous tourism sites and locations in the state.
One of the sons of the late Zik, Ambassador Emeka Azikiwe, thanked Buhari for completing the project eventually, and acknowledged that it would add value to immortalize his late father and great nationalist.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, popularly called “Zik of Africa” was born on November 16, 1904, at Zungeru in the present Niger State. He grew to become one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists, and also made significant contributions towards the nation’s independence from Britain in 1960. He continued fighting for the unity of Nigeria until he passed.
Security was tight within Onitsha and all the suburb areas as President Buhari visited, apparently in response to initial threats by the multiple pro-Biafra organizations.
Buhari stated that with the commissioning of the Zik’s mausoleum Anambra was now his home and remained one of his strongholds.
According to him, “I have nothing to say than to remind you of the situation we met this country and the promises we made to you. So the best we can do for our country is to return the APC to power. The biggest gift we can give to our country is security and sufficiency and economic prosperity”.
He thumped his chest saying the APC administration had so far addressed the security situation in the country, regional development and equal ministerial appointments.
“We have stopped spending our foreign reserve to import rice; there is sufficiency in rice and we now produce it locally, including the Anambra rice,” he said.
The President pointed out that the mandate given to him willingly by Nigerians in 2015 required their full support, especially for peace and economic development of the country and assured that his administration would use all the recovered looted funds for the well-being of citizens.
Buhari promised he would continue to make life easier for all Nigerians, if re-elected in next month’s general elections,
He noted that just as he did in 2014, his administration would continue the fight against corruption and insecurity in the country. The anti-corruption fight, he observed, was difficult in the current democratic dispensation, compared to the period he was a Military Head of State, “when those who looted the economy were arrested and prosecuted”.
On the nagging issue of kidnappings, the president assured the government was tackling kidnap-for-ransom incidents, herders/farmers clashes, armed banditry as well as the menace of Boko haram.
He called on citizens of Anambra State to vote massively for APC in the 2019 general elections to enable the party complete all ongoing development projects across the country, particular in the south east region, adding that the ruling party would not betray the mandate and trust of Nigerians.