By Ori Martins
This month makes it exactly 30 years His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, officially started campaigning for the the presidency of Nigeria.
It was in the Jos, Plateau State, Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) convention of 1993 however that many Nigerians came to hear and know about him. But the idea was nursed before the Jos occasion.
Atiku’s PDP presidential campaign trail touched down in Owerri, Imo State, Saturday, December 17, 2022, and was received by thousands of enthusiastic and cheering crowd that had thronged out to receive him at the Commodore Ndubuisi Kalu Square.
Imo masses and their voters do not suffer from short memories – they are not challenged by a collective amnesia disorder.
A major part of the reason they gave Atiku a red carpet was short, simple and verifiable.
As a visionary leader, Atiku played a leading and heroic role in the rehabilitation of the once notorious and death trap road called the Onitsha – Owerri Highway.
For several years that road was nothing but a Golgotha of sorts for Ndigbo and other Nigerians who plied it. It was never a dream but nightmare.
The military administrators that supervised the country for years ruthlessly looked the other way while their compatriots were killed, burnt or buried alive on that hellish highway almost on daily basis.
It took the intervention of Atiku, then the vice president, to make a personal plea that attracted the attention of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration for the rehabilitation of that road.
Some prominent Igbo leaders led by the late Chuba Okadigbo had approached Atiku and explained to him the strategic importance of that highway and requested he gave it urgent attention. There were other roads that the Okadigbo group also called the then deputy president’s attention.
Of course, that road was fixed. The pains and trauma experienced by commuters gone. The daily fatal and ghastly accidents that were the signature of that road disappeared. It became smooth. A journey of minutes or an hour no longer took the entire day. Atiku had a hand in this beautiful project.
Expectedly, most of the PDP followers and supporters who gladly came in their numbers to welcome Atiku were aware of his involvement in the rehabilitation of the once dreaded Owerri – Onitsha Express Road. What is more, most of them have been traders, transporters and industrialists all this period. So, they can say better.
Indeed, Atiku is a true Nigerian in the real sense of the word. Particularly, the Turaki Adamawa puts Ndigbo in all his considerations. It is general knowledge and an open secret that Atiku’s most trusted political ally was the inspirational and democratically charming Okadigbo who he worked closely with.
Notably, one of those Atiku mentored, inspired and molded into national stardom is the equally ingenuous and enterprising Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha.
Ihedioha proved his mettle when he was in the federal house of representatives where he ultimately emerged deputy speaker. He was also, in the eyes of overwhelming majority of Imo people, highly outstanding during the seven months he worked as Imo State governor.
Obviously, Imolites would automatically remember that Atiku’s name deserve an appropriate mentioning whenever Ihedioha’s political ascendency is fully documented.
To that effect, Imolites had every reason going out en masse to receive and welcome the man who had the vision of encouraging thier son who ultimately emerged governor and did wonderfully.
When Imo people lined -up and beheld Atiku’s PDP presidential campaign team, they did that with minds coloured in nostalgia, gratitude and happiness.
When Atiku arrived Imo, the people remembered when local government administration worked and it helped to ameliorate poverty at the grassroots. They recollected when sons and daughters of South East extraction used to be in the commanding heights of leadership.
That is, senate president, deputy speaker of the federal house of representatives,
chairman or secretaries of PDP, police IG, general officer commanding the army, DG of prisons, executive secretary of pilgrims board, ministers of aviation, education, finance, health, etc. It was Atiku that either recommended, suggested, advised and even stood his ground for most of those appointments to made or the projects to be established in South East. He did it for the sake of equity, justice and fairness.
As Atiku left federal government, Ndigbo that were third in the ranking were derogatorily demoted and quacked down to the last leg of the ladder. This was why Imolites thronged to receive Atiku today. They want a president who will give them thier pride position in the national scheme of affairs and Atiku, based on his noble achievements in the past , is the man.