Owerri, the Imo State capital was yesterday shut down as President Goodluck Jonathan visited the state to attend a sensitization rally organised to welcome back some party faithful who left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the past.
Early in the morning, major roads around the metropolis were condoned off, leaving only VIP movement around the city, particularly along the popular Wetheral Road that leads to Dan Anyiam Stadium, venue of the rally.
Leading the list of returnees to the PDP were former Governor
Achike Udenwa, Senators Ifeanyi Ararume, Senator Chris Anyanwu, former Secretary to Imo State Government (SSG), Chief Cosmas Iwu and Chief Mike Ahamba, who was in the ANPP.
At 11:45a.m, President Jonathan’s chopper landed at a school playground opposite the stadium from where he rode into the stadium in a presidential motorcade. Jonathan arrived in the stadium with the Chairman of South East Traditional Rulers, Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, millionaire businessman and PDP stalwart, Chief Arthur Eze, Senator Hope Uzodinma – all clad in milk colour Igbo traditional attire uniform with the red cap to match.
Before the president’s arrival, Vice President Namadi Sambo and Senate President, David Mark had arrived at the stadium by 11:15am. At 12 noon the crowd went hysteric as Jonathan went round the stadium to acknowledge cheers from thousands of party supporters who thronged the stadium before returning to the podium to observe the national anthem, which officially signaled the beginning of the ceremony. Dignitaries at the event included Governors Martin Elechi (Ebonyi), Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Godwill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), TA Orji (Abia), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, former Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, PDP Women Leader, Ambassador Kema Chikwe, PDP BoT Chairman, Chief Tony Anineh, PDP BoT member, Chief Emmanuel Iwuayanwu, PDP National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwuala, Power Minister, Prof Chinedu Nebo, Health Minister, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metu, former Imo governorship aspirant, Chief Peter Orji, Foreign Affairs Minister, Prof Viola Onwuliri, former PDP state chairman, Chief I.D. Nwoga, PDP state chairman, Nnamdi Anyaehie, among others.
In his remarks, the president thanked the people who came out to witness the unity rally. He said the day marked the reunion of party faithful in the state, saying that the PDP had come back strong again in Imo.
Jonathan said that the PDP is the only party that can unite the country, pointing out that since 1998 when the party was formed, its ideology had remained the same. He promised that the PDP would ensure that democracy in the country would be entrenched, saying that one does not need to be a moneybag to be in the party.
The president noted that consistency in the party had made it to remain intact irrespective of occasional misunderstanding.
“We are not here today for campaign but to welcome our former members who left the party because of internal wrangling in 2011,” he said, adding that the returnee members now know that there is no other place their interests would be accommodated other than the PDP, where there is rule of law.
He said that with the kind of reception given to him by the people of the state, the people had spoken eloquently.
Speaking earlier, Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Dr Godswill Akpabio said the transformation leadership of Jonathan had touched the Imo people and that made them turn out in their large number to receive him.
Akpabio said it had been revealed to him that PDP would sweep Imo in 2015 in all electoral positions. He begged Jonathan to return to Imo to commission federal projects scattered all over the place before the APC government in the state would claim them. Also the PDP chairman in Imo State, Chief Nnamdi Anyaehie said the PDP in the state was now ready to do battle to reclaim the state, thanking Jonathan for federal presence in the state.
In his remarks, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha noted that PDP made mistakes in the past and was now ready to reclaim Imo.
“Those who left the party are back to strengthen their hand; I therefore beg that they be accommodated at all levels of the party for them to launch back to the Government House in 2015.”
He told Jonathan to count on the support of the Imo people who he said had always supported him. Also Senate President, David Mark said Imo is PDP and PDP is Imo, adding that Imo has returned fully to the party kitty with the caliber of returnees. He looked forward to when they would return to the state to smoothen the move to recapture the state.
Senator Chris Anyanwu speaking on behalf of the returnees said it was a great day in the state as they returned to the PDP before all the gladiators of Imo politics. With their return, she said Imo political bigwigs are now complete under one umbrella, stating that the various tendencies had collapsed into one for Jonathan. Anyanwu urged the President and other party faithful to open their arms to welcome their brothers and sisters who were coming back and never allow them to go out again. Also, former Imo State governor, Chief Achike Udenwa said the people were deceived in 2011 with promise of a rescue mission that has been a ruse, saying they are now out to properly rescue Imo.