Prior to his coming to Ondo State, last week, the belief in the state was that Saturday’s presidential election is a two-horse race between the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, the visit of the presidential candidate of the People’s Trust (PT), Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, to the state’s capital was historic as it clearly changed the perception of the people and also reshaped the opinion of some electorate in the state about his political party. Olawepo-Hashim, did not only sell his candidacy to the people, he was also able to draw their attention to his programmes and plans for the state, nay the country, if elected as the president.
Apart from this, the People’s Trust presidential hopeful displayed his preparedness for qualitative governance and his determination to give the two major contenders for the presidential seat a good run for their money ahead the election. Hashim-Olawepo, during the visit, gave an impression of himself as a candidate who is better positioned as a credible alternative to the old order. He also exuded confidence that he looks set to pull surprises in the forthcoming election, especially in the northern part of the country where the other two leading candidates hailed from.
Addressing the crowd at the popular Oba Adesida Road, the venue of the campaign, Olawepo-Hashim, noted that the people are angry because there is a pervading hunger in the land. He therefore promised to change the face of the Nigerian economy within his first six months in office by using his experience to resuscitate and improve the economy.
Reeling out his programme for the people of the country, the People’s Trust presidential candidate promised to tackle the security challenges in the country by establishing the National Guard as part of measures to address the challenge, if elected as president.
He blamed the APC administration for allegedly failing to address the continued internal security breaches, while promising that he would overhaul the security architecture to make Nigeria a safer place for all.
“Security is not just a question of spending bigger budgets but about having the right structures and strategies. As it is, the armed forces of the Nigerian Federation is overstretched and distracted by deployments for internal security operations.
“I think it is time for Nigeria to have a National Guard. I am going to put up a National Guard as president of Nigeria. My reasons and justifications are self-evident. Our internal security questions have graduated to the level of insurrection. We are now having well-trained militias perhaps, having more training than the police. But, probably, you may not need full scale military action to handle them,” he said.
He also promised to create four million jobs annually, if elected and vowed to eradicate cancer by establishing a special programme to fight the menace. He said, “I am somebody who knows how to create jobs. I will create jobs for your children. I will create jobs for the youth and women. I will create four million jobs every year by removing the obstacles to investment in Nigeria because it is only the private sector that can create jobs, not the government.”
The presidential candidate, who urged Nigerians to support his candidacy for rapid economic development that would lift the masses out of abject poverty, noted that about 70 per cent of Nigerians voters are yet to decide on whom to cast their vote for among the presidential candidates, few days to the elections.
He however said his party is banking on the undecided voters and youths who he said would be voting for the first time for his victory. According to him, “there are 15 million Nigerian youths who are going to be voting for the first time and they don’t have affinities with these two parties [APC and PDP].
“Some few days to the elections, more than 70 per cent of the electorate are still wondering who they are going to vote for. They have been examining the candidates they are going to vote for and what these candidates promised to offer. Among all the alternative parties, the People’s Trust is the biggest. But I tell you that this election is still very open even though its 10 days (then) to the election.
“These parties also have number of dissatisfactions while some of them are in these parties to only vote for their governorship candidates and National Assembly candidates and not necessarily to vote for their presidential candidates because not every person that are in APC or PDP are bad people as we still have some good people within these parties. This is one of the reasons I said, if elected, we will form a Government of National Unity which will include the good people in APC and PDP.”
He urged the people not to allow the various endorsements by some major groups across the country to alter their choice of candidate, saying these endorsements would not translate to victory, adding “to go and corner two or three people and get them to make a statement on your behalf cannot be taken seriously or transform to votes. I don’t see these endorsements as solid one. Don’t be deceived by these endorsements, but vote for the right candidate.”
He also cautioned Nigerians against voting for neither PDP nor APC in the forthcoming election, claiming that both parties have failed Nigerians. He further described the two major political parties as “failed alternatives” and not the best for the country at this critical period. He advised eligible voters to secure their future by voting for his People’s Trust party in the coming elections, as he pledged to reposition the country and turnaround the nation’s fortune.
“The presidential election is not about party, but about candidates and the future of this country. The two parties have failed in that regard, but we give hope that, if we come in, Nigeria will be better”, he said as he urged the people not to sell their conscience. He noted that the hunger in the land, which he said was designed through some policies of the government of the day, can push the voters to the wall to want to sell their vote.
He told the people that “vote buying is very criminal and immoral because some people, through their policies, drive the people of the country to poverty and then start to entice them with money during election time. It is a very horrible thing and highly immoral. The money they are bringing out is the legitimate money of the people. If the people cannot refuse or reject their money, they are not under any obligation too to vote for them.”
Olawepo-Hashim also disclosed that he had no plan to step down for either the APC presidential candidate, President Buhari or Atiku Abubakar of the PDP or form any coalition with the political parties the duo are representing. He expressed confidence that the two candidates are beatable because of their parties’ woeful performances since the inception of democracy in 1999. He said, “Nigeria is a very interesting country and I don’t know any country where other parties candidate are pressured to step down. I think it is a coinage here because in a multi-party democracy, nobody steps down; you win some seat and, on the basis of this, you can form coalition, based on a common programme after the election.”
The Director General of the People’s Trust Presidential Council, Alhaji Habu-Fari, who is also a former Transport Minister, also noted that the country is well-endowed with natural resources and it is abnormal for the citizenry to be wallowing in poverty. He vowed that his party would introduce policies that would end insecurity and economic hardship, if the party’s candidate is elected as president. He said the party was fine-tuning its strategy in all geopolitical zones on how to wrestle power from the ruling APC, adding that the People’s Trust had the highest number of representation in constituency nominations.