President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari commenced the last lap of their campaigns, reaching out to the electorate in different parts of the country to canvass for votes.
General Buhari spent time with groups of the physically challenged in Lafia, Nasarawa State to give them words of encouragement while President Jonathan inagurated a N2.5 billion fly-over in Kano and named it after the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
He later visited Daura, Katsina State, Buhari’s hometown for a whistle stop.
The various security agencies, meanwhile, are busy perfecting their arrangements for the elections.
Reports from across the country said Nigerians have been stocking their homes with food items and other needs ahead of the elections.
Buhari at the Lafia meeting with the physically challenged told them to refuse to be discouraged by their conditions.
He promised to appoint a federal ombudsman for people with disabilities to combat discrimination against them.
The Ombudsman, according to him, will take care of rehabilitation, employment of disabled persons and participating in public life, among other assignments.
He narrated the stories of the late American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Professor Steven Hawking, astrophysicist of Cambridge University, England both of whom he described as very outstanding people who not only fought incredible physical disability but became known throughout the world “because of their determination, will power, incredible resolution.”
Of Roosevelt, Buhari said: “he was crippled in both legs with polio and throughout most of his adult life was consigned to a wheelchair and had to be helped to bathe, to get into bed, to get out of bed, to dress and to be wheeled into his office or to address a political meeting. Roosevelt won four consecutive presidential elections, led the Allied Powers in the Second World War to defeat Hitler’s Germany and imperial Japan.
“His most significant achievement on the domestic front was to start massive public construction works to build roads, bridges, dams which employed millions of Americans and helped to alleviate the economic depression following the Great Crash of 1929. Roosevelt is regarded as the greatest American president of the 20th century. He overcame disability and proved to his countrymen and the world that physical challenges could be circumvented with the right spirit.”
He said Hawking, on the other hand, was “just walking around in his university compound when he collapsed on the ground and had to be helped to his rooms. Eventually, he was diagnosed as suffering from a motor neuron condition.
“In spite of this disability, can’t walk, can’t talk, can’t eat on his own, he wrote a masterpiece doctoral thesis and is now a professor in Page 1 astrophysics and is even improving on Einstein’s theories. He can only nowadays communicate by using a speech generating device operated by a small sensor in his cheek. He is completely physically incapacitated but because of his indomitable spirit, he keeps on living, teaching and engaging in research.”
Buhari said physical disability, therefore, should “not be the end of our usefulness.”
The APC in Yobe State yesterday held a grand rally in Damaturu, the state capital, to spread the Buhari- for- president message.
Governor Ibrahim Gaidam said at the rally that Buhari was advised not to attend because of the insecurity in the area.
The governor said contrary to rumours that he was not on good terms with Buhari, the insecurity of the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway accounted for Buhari’s absence at the rally.
He said he was amused by the “fabrication of falsehood” by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party that Buhari’s absence at the rally was due to the alleged sour relationship between him and the APC presidential candidate.
Gaidam said the APC standard bearer remained the candidate with proven integrity.
“Buhari is a straight forward person, whom Nigerians will benefit from under his leadership,” he said,
He called on Nigerians to come out en mass to ensure victory for the APC during the forthcoming elections.
President Jonathan on a visit to Daura threatened that those advocating interim national government in the country would be arrested and prosecuted for treason if they did not desist.
He paid a courtesy call on the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Umar Farouk, and said he had built 28 Almajiri schools and a federal university in the state.
He had earlier in the day inaguarated a N2.5 billion flyover built in Kano by the federal government, he promised that if reelected as president, he would correct everything that has gone wrong in the country and the PDP.
He said the decision to name the fly over after Alhaji Ado Bayero was because he “was not known for controversy, he never played with his throne.” He held that office with extreme dignity, he gave colour to that office. He brought dignity and respect to the office. He left us but we live to continue to remember him.”
The election delay has hurt the economy, which has been battered by the global oil shock, creating investor uncertainty and an urgent problem for whoever wins.
With tension building up ahead of the election credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s at the weekend downgraded the economy further into junk territory, blaming falling crude prices, political instability and Boko Haram.
Security on polling day remains a major concern after the military authorities asked for the postponement of the elections from February to enable them deal with the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast.
The opposition does not want soldiers deployed during the polls for fear that they may be used to rig in favour of the ruling party.
Nnamdi Obasi, senior researcher at the International Crisis Group, said Boko Haram is still able to carry out its threat to disrupt elections, which it views as “un-Islamic”.
“Its fighters may not be able to seize new territory but they could certainly still send suicide bombers to public places, including polling centres,” he told AFP.
“In many parts of Borno State, the security situation is still tenuous and displaced persons have not returned or settled down well enough to participate in elections.
“Elsewhere in the region, the polls will go but very much in an atmosphere of unease and insecurity.”
Last Friday, suspected cultists unleashed terror on Port Harcourt killing no fewer than eight persons in different parts of the Rivers State capital.
Five persons were allegedly shot dead by the cultists at a popular bar close to Amadi-Ama roundabout.
A report said the incident occurred at about 11:30 p.m. Among those killed was a lady.
Eye witnesses said that three corpses, which were not identified that night were kept outside the bar till morning, and expended bullets littered the vicinity of the drinking bar.
The warning by Police Inspector General Suleiman Abba that voters should steer clear of polling booths after casting their votes has provoked sharp reactions from several quarters including the APC which asked Nigerian to ignore the warning which, according to it, is not backed by the law.
The army and the police have stepped up security around the country with attention being paid to public buildings. More than 68.8 million people are registered to vote in the elections.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chair Prof. Attahiru Jega said on Monday that 67.8 million cards or 98.5 percent of cards had been sent out – up from 66.5 percent a week before February 14 – but some 20 million had not been collected.
A further delay has been ruled out, with Jonathan’s mandate due to expire on April 30 and a formal handover of power set for May 29.