- Buhari, APC Governors reiterate support
- UK uncovers plots to rig polls, orders closure of Visa Application Centres in Nigeria
- Northern group asks INEC to suspend elections
BY BRIGHT JACOB
The nationwide presidential campaign rallies of All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, peaked in Lagos State – the political base of the ruling party’s presidential standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The metropolis witnessed what appeared to be its largest political parade; elegantly dressed residents and party supporters trooped into streets with various shades of campaign banners, dancing and chanting APC slogans. They walked to the rally ground – Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere – to wait for the presidential candidate and members of the campaign council.
Tinubu, who flew into Lagos from Abuja, was received by a tumultuous crowd of residents, and rode in a large motorcade from the airport through the city. The crowd grew stronger as the political procession moved from Ikeja to Oshodi, Mushin and Ojuelegba.
The physical presence of President Muhammadu Buhari sent a message of reassurance to the crowd of party supporters that thronged the rally ground.
The campaign’s grand finale was attended by all APC Governors, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, members of Lagos State Executive Council, party leaders in Lagos and other states in the South West.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while declaring the rally open, said the sight of a massive crowd that accompanied Tinubu’s motorcade to the stadium further demonstrated that Lagos remained a stronghold of the progressives, thanking Lagosians for supporting and keeping faith with the party.
Sanwo-Olu said Tinubu had not only traversed the country to canvas for the support of all Nigerians, the Governor said the candidate had shown his commitment to lead the country on a new path to peace, stability and prosperity.
He said: “From Ikeja down to this rally, we witnessed an overwhelming show of support and love for Asiwaju on the streets, which is an acknowledgment of the love Lagos people have for the City Boy (Tinubu). Thank you Lagosians for believing in the progressives party and for rising to receive our leader.
“On Saturday, we have another opportunity to consolidate the support which you have shown our party. I urge you all to troop to your polling stations and massively vote for the man who has the capacity to bring the country to another level of development. With your support, I have no doubt APC will be victorious.”
Tinubu, apparently moved by the massive turnout at the rally, said he heard the message from the electorate “loud and clear”.
He expressed his readiness to offer his intellectual ability to lead the country and chart a new future for the youth.
The APC presidential candidate described the level of support he received throughout the electioneering “as extremely remarkable”, pledging to deploy his physical and mental energy to work out his vision for Nigeria and renew the citizens’ hope.
He said: “I am coming to give Nigerians renewed hope, because there is hope in the country. The level of support I have received throughout the campaign is extremely remarkable. I assure you all that, as you work hard for my victory, I will work hard for Nigeria.
“I will sustain that hope by prioritizing your wellbeing at all times. Those who are feeling helpless today will have their expectations revalidated. All the agenda set out in our manifesto will be pursued vigorously with all our energy.”
Explaining why the choice of his running mate, Tinubu said Kashim Shettima stood out among the list of qualified party members he had in mind. Aside from possessing knowledge, attitude and capacity, Tinubu said Shettima faced Boko Haram crisis as Borno State Governor with perseverance, determination and grit to overcome the challenge, while protecting citizens of his state from the effects of terrorism.
The APC presidential candidate expressed gratitude to Buhari for allowing internal democracy within the party and freedom to choose the party’s flag bearer.
Tinubu said: “Mr. President, thank you in a million time. You set our feet on the path to the future, to work on and achieve greatness because it is desirable for Nigeria to be great.
“You said, for anyone to succeed you, he or she must work and follow the guidelines for nomination and that the primaries must be very transparent. You said our party will be a shining example like dew on the mountain.”
Buhari raised the hands of Tinubu and Shettima in demonstration of his commitment to APC victory at the election.
Director General of APC Presidential Campaign Council and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, hailed Lagosians for trooping out for the rally, saying: ”The crowd that welcomed us looked like we were already celebrating the victory of our party.”
Lalong said a new president was already in place, adding that the country was only waiting for the presidential election to ratify the party’s victory.
He thanked Nigerians in advance for electing Tinubu.
APC chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, said the party and its standard bearer traversed the length and breadth of the country, and organised successful campaigns.
“By the feelers we got across the country, we are sure of victory. I believe by this time on Saturday, we would be celebrating. The die is cast; Tinubu will be sworn in on May 29, 2023,” Adamu said.
UK uncovers plots to rig polls
Meanwhile, the UK government has revealed that some elements are attempting to undermine democratic processes in Nigeria.
The UK’s Minister of State for Development & Africa, Andrew Mitchell, explained the importance of Nigeria to the UK in a statement released on Tuesday in Abuja by the British High Commission ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The United Kingdom is aware of attempts to undermine democratic processes at the national or state level. We are prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence, as well as those who engage in other anti-democratic behaviour.
“These actions could include denying people UK visas or imposing sanctions under our human rights sanctions regime,” the Minister explained.
The UK government reaffirmed its commitment to supporting credible and inclusive elections, noting that election success was critical to Nigeria’s continued democratic growth as well as the future of regional and global democracy.
“Nigeria is important to the UK, and we are closely monitoring the run-up to the Presidential, National Assembly, and Gubernatorial elections,” Mitchell said.
The UK Government has pledged to continue working closely with INEC and Nigerian civil society partners to provide advisory support on electoral and legal reforms, assist in the strengthening of democratic institutions, and advocate for the importance of civil society engagement in electoral and democratic processes in order to deliver credible elections.
While calling for free, fair, and credible elections, the United Kingdom urged all actors in Nigeria to intervene proactively to reduce tensions and prevent violence in the run-up to, during, and after the elections.
UK orders closure of Visa Application Centres in Nigeria
Consequently, the United Kingdom has said that its Visa Application Centres in Abuja and Lagos will be closed on Friday and next Monday, following the general election scheduled for February 25.
The UK Visas and Immigration disclosed this via its Twitter handle on Tuesday.
According to the UK, customers can purchase the Keep my Passport in order to retain their passport during the period of closure.
It read, “The Visa Application Centres in Abuja, Ikeja and Victoria Island will be closed on Friday, February 24 and Monday, February 27.
“No VAC appointments will be booked on these days and customers will not be able to access the VAC to collect documents/passports.
“Customers have the option to purchase the Keep my Passport and Courier return services in advance of the VAC closure, in order to retain their passport during the period of closure.
“UKVI will continue to make decisions on all visa applications.
“Priority Visa services remain available. Super Priority Visa services will be suspended on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd because the next working day opening is not until Tuesday 28th.
“The British High Commission offices are not involved in visa decision making and do not hold passports and so are unable to assist.”
Northern group asks INEC to suspend elections
However, the Arewa Youth Assembly has called for the suspension of the general elections scheduled to be held in the country on February 25 and March 11, 2023.
The northern group made up of youths from the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory, on Tuesday, called for the suspension because of the lingering fuel scarcity and naira crunch in the country.
According to the speaker of the group, Muhammad Danlabi, in a statement made available to newsmen in Kaduna State, it was necessary the election was also suspended to allow menial workers from the north in other parts of the country, return home to vote.
The group further said that harmless, innocent Nigerians would be prone to attacks during the election, judging by the increasing spate of carnage and attacks on banks and security personnel and formations in the South East and South West, respectively.
The group also said that it didn’t want to deny Nigerians the privilege of voting who would be in charge of the country for the next four years, hence the call for the suspension of “all processes leading to the election.”
The statement reads, “It has become imperative for the Arewa Youth Assembly to call for the immediate suspension of the 2023 general elections to enable Nigerians, especially menial workers from our region who are all over the country in search of greener pastures to return to where they registered to vote.
“We are worried that even those in the city, whose polling units are far away from their homes, won’t be able to transport themselves to cast their votes.
“We are particularly worried over the increasing spate of carnage and attacks on security formations in the South East and other private businesses in the South West part of the country.
“If security personnel and formations and banks can be attacked with ease, what more harmless innocent Nigerians?
“In order not to deny Nigerians the privilege of electing who will be in charge of our beloved country in the next four years, we wish to call on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission to suspend all processes leading to the election,” the statement added.