President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday campaigned in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, amidst heavy security deployment by a combined force of soldiers, police and the operatives of the State Security Service.
The President’s campaign train, which advance party had arrived Maiduguri since Friday, had two places in its tight schedule -visiting the Shehu’s palace and the Ramat Square, Maiduguri, which was the venue for the rally.
The president, whose aircrafts landed at the Maiduguri International Airport at about 1p.m. was accompanied by the Director General of his campaign organisation, Ahmadu Ali, his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Rufai Alkali, a professor; a former Inspector Generial of Police, Muhammed Abubakar and a host of other PDP top shots.
The President was received by the Minster of Power and Steel, Muhammed Wakil, as well as the former governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff.
More than five hundred heavily armed soldiers and policemen, as well as operatives of the SSS took charge and guarded strategic spots in Maiduguri from 6am till the president left the city at about 3:30pm.
At the Shehu of Borno’s palace, the campaign train was received by the His royal Highness, Abubakar Garbai Alami Elkanemi who lamented how Boko Haram had devastated his kingdom and most part of the state, even as he pleaded for support from the federal government to address the situation and help displaced persons return to their homes.
President Goodluck Jonathan assured the Shehu that his administration would continue to explore better means of tackling the Boko Haram insurgency, saying effort is being made to ensure the insurgency is ended and displaced people helped to return home.
Mr. Jonathan also promised that, if reelected, his administration would focus on how to revamp the neglected agricultural sector in the region by harnessing the vast abundance of land which he said is very fertile for all kind of crop production.
He also promised that if given the chance, his administration would in the next four years focus on special interventions that would create job opportunities for the people of the state, especially those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Borno state being the largest state in the country by land mass and people with about 4.1 million human population has a vast land for agriculture which by the time we are voted to office for the next four years would be harnessed to improve the well-being of the residents”, he said. “I believe Borno can support the central government in terms of agriculture and we intend to invest in that area so as to harness that natural resource that will better the lives of the people.”
At the venue of the rally, the president requested a minute of silence for all those affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Mr. Jonathan said his first priority, if elected on February 14, would be a total war against Boko Haram insurgents.
“We have a commitment to end terrorism in Nigeria”, he said. “We must defeat and bring Boko Haram to an end. Borno people deserve a return of peace; we shall ensure that all our captured territories are reclaimed and all the kidnapped persons, including our daughters the Chibok girls are rescued safe and alive.
“Boko Haram cannot come and alter the good history of the Borno people. Since when I was in form 3 in the secondary school I have been reading about the history of the great Borno people who were known for commerce and horsemanship. Borno people deserve the peace that has eluded them and other parts of the country because of the activities of our common enemies, Boko Haram.
“I feel sad each time I hear some unpatriotic people accusing the president or the federal government of being responsible for Boko Haram. It is sad and disturbing because no where in the world would a leader bring pain to his people. It is never heard anywhere. But that will not deter us in our commitment to help our citizens regain peace.”
The president added: “The federal government has special plans to help the people of northeast Nigeria through the provision of potable water, and improved support for our local farmer with soft loans to enhance their businesses. And immediately after we recover our captured territories, we will ensure that we give special support for these communities to enable them bounce back.
Speakers upon speakers commended the president for his love and concern for the people of Borno state even as they used the opportunity to lambast those accusing the president of being a Boko Haram accomplice.
The Minister of Power and Steel, Mr. Wakil, who is the chief host of the campaign train, said the federal government’s intervention in terms of electricity was part of the reason the president deserved a second chance.
According to him “the approval and construction of 330 KVA substation, which is almost at the 95 percent stage of completion by Mr President had endeared our party to the good people of Borno state who are ready to give their support for the PDP on 14th February. The mood in Borno state today is of massive support and massive vote for the president Dr Goodluck Jonathan come the February 14th election.
“Mr President as you can see, this is just less than 30 percent of the total support you enjoy in Borno state, because many of our supporters could not make it to this venue due to the tight security organised for today and many people here trekked more than 5kms to get here”, said the minister. “But be rest assured that come 14th February this year, you will be massively voted here in Borno state because the people love you so much.”
Although the campaign was generally peaceful, especially within the precinct of the large Ramat Square, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that soldiers battled to keep at bay some anti-Jonathan youth, who converged some distance away from the venue and chanted pro-Muhammadu Buhari songs.