By Chidiebere Onyemaizu
Party insiders have informed this magazine that save for deft moves by strategic thinkers in the party, President Muhammadu Buhari would have met empty stadia Wednesday, January 30th, 2019, during APC’s presidential rallies in Abakaliki and Calabar, capitals of Ebonyi and Cross River states respectively.
The Source learnt that the initial plan of the APC presidential campaign council was to hold the rally first in Calabar before proceeding to Abakaliki. This allegedly was the reason the President arrived the Cross River state capital early. However, upon arrival, words got to the organizers about the scanty crowd at the UJ Esune stadium, venue of the rally.
To allow time for the arrival crowds alleged to have been hired from neighboring Akwa-Ibom and Benue states, it was thus decided that the President proceeded to Abakaliki first where frantic efforts at sourcing for crowds had culminated in the successful co-opting of hawkers on the streets into the welcoming party as well as renting of crowd from the near-by Enugu.
Returning to Calabar later in the day, the alleged hired Akwa-Ibom and Benue Crowds had joined already waiting Cross River party supporters in the stadium to make it capacity-filled. However, the campaign train and the cheering crowd were jolted when President Buhari handed the Cross River APC gubernatorial flag to former PDP Senate Majority leader, Senator Ndoma Egba, instead of Senator John Owan Enoh, the governorship candidate.
This was despite the fact that Senator Enoh was standing right beside the President. Bemused and flustered, Senator Egba who is angling to return to the Senator and now APC senatorial candidate for Cross River Central, quickly showed Senator Enoh to Buhari. While President Buhari was handing over the governorship flag to the wrong person, supporters of Senator Enoh and Niger- Delta Minister, Pastor Uguru Usani engaged in a bloody show of might outside the stadium. At the end of the melee scores of people from both sides sustained varying degrees of injuries.
Senator Enoh and Pastor Usani are both claimants to the Cross River APC governorship ticket. Campaign posters and banners of both men with Buhari and vice President Osinbajo saturated in and around the stadium with their supporters separately singing their praises. The two APC bigwigs lead factions of the party in the state. The national leadership of the party as well as INEC however recognizes Senator Enoh as APC’s gubernatorial candidate.
The Minister insists he is the rightful candidate and is optimistic that sooner than later, he will retrieve the ticket from his rival.
Meanwhile, APC chieftains in Ebonyi and Cross River who spoke to this magazine have denied crowds were rented for the party’s presidential rallies in both states. “You can see that PDP is intimidated and desperate. The crowd that welcomed Mr. President at Abakaliki was beyond their imagination and comprehension hence the invention of the defeatist story of renting supporters”, an Ebonyi APC stalwart told The Source.