It was like the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem when the people came out in their thousands on Saturday to welcome the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole at the Benin airport to the city centre.
National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole at the Benin airport to the city centre.
Although it was not an official welcoming rally after his election as the national chairman of the party as he was on transit to Delta State for a function, party faithful thronged the airport to catch a glimpse of their Comrade who has not lost his popularity among the people of the state.
It was first rumoured that he would be in the ancient City on Friday, but he was later to appear in Bauchi for an APC rally.
Doubting Thomas, who did not want to be told the story were at the airport for the whole Friday waiting for their Comrade.
Thousands of supporters, mostly youths were at the Benin Airport for hours awaiting the arrival of Oshiomhole.
The large crowd, made up of supporters of the APC and other well wishers, started arriving the airport as early as 11am on Friday when the news of arrival of the chairman filtered into town.
Every available space at the airport was taken over by the crowd, even as the car parks were filled vehicles.
A former Youth leader of the party, Mr Osakpamwan Eriyo said the crowd at the airport showed the depth of love they have for the immediate past Governor of the state.
Eriyo said when the news of his impending arrival got to him in the Morning, he drove down to the airport thousands of his supporters
He said he was pleasantly surprised with the crowd he meant at the airport when he arrived.
As one that is used to cashing on available opportunity, the former youth leader used the opportunity to denied the rumour of his planned exit from the APC.
“I heard about it and I can tell you without mincing words that I have not such plan; I am with APC body and soul, PDP is not a party for me or any right thinking person,” he said.
On Saturday, party faithful and media practitioners had started arriving the airport as early as 7. Am as Oshiomhole’s Chief Press Secretary, Simon Ebegbulem had sent a message that they would touch down by 8.30 am, it was however not to be until few minutes after nine when Oshiomhole accompanied by his aides, including the lawmaker representing Egor/Ikpobha-Okha federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Ehiozuwa Johnson Agbonayinma arrived.
Oshiomhole was received by some members of the APC in the state, including the state chairman, Anselm Ojezua, Edo North Senatorial leader Chief Sunny Okomayin, state youth leader, Valentine Asuen and other party leaders from Delta who had arrived Benin to escort him to their state.
It was hectic controlling the surging crowd that welcomed him as he was mobbed by the thousands of market women and young people who continuously chanted “Na you we know, Na you we, Oshiomhole Na you we know”.
His address to the crowd was intermittently interrupted by this chants as he used the opportunity to calm members who have become agitated recently accusing the administration of Godwin Obaseki of not being interested in their welfare and also accused him abandoning them and bringing “strangers” to become beneficiaries of a government they did not work to enthrone.
They had also accused him of “importing” contractors to carry out jobs they could easily do thereby encouraging capital flight from the state which they said is impoverishing the economy of the state.
The National chairman of the party promised to ensure that the tradition of carrying everybody along is sustained in the state.
“And to our people here I want to assure you that I will work together with our governor and ensure that any error, any concern that you have that they are addressed satisfactorily. And I want to assure you that the tradition of carry our people along will be sustained; you represent what I call our infantry division, you are the ones on election day who ensure that our voters come out, you are the ones who ensure that the PDP rigging machine was defeated.
“We must keep you as a standing force; together we will match on and we will ensure that everyone who works is looked after. I know there are people with all kinds of stories but let me assure you that after the storm the weather will settle. Trust me, as you have not abandoned me, I will never abandon you and to our youths, I want to particularly appeal to you; don’t lose faith.”
He added that, “There will be work, there will be participation; there will be involvement, there will be inclusivity we will not throw away anybody. Nobody will be used and dumped.
“If yesterday has come beautiful, tomorrow will be better, I am back home as they say; then to our market women, you know you are my wives and I am your child; together we must sustain that oneness. To our APC women, you know my position; together we will work to sustain this tempo,” he said.
The former labour leader did not also spare those who have been critical about his leadership style as national chairman of the party said there must be a new style in the party and the country to get desired results.
He said he was aware of the challenges facing the party and the country and believed that he would provide the needed leadership to change the situation. “I will represent the feelings, the aspirations and I will meet your expectations as far as the running of the Al Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned and at this point I am very clear, we will have to fight on the basis of our conviction and we will adopt our style, we will not borrow other people’s style and we will bring those values into the leadership and management of the APC.
Working together with President Buhari that government will focus on the people, that government will not focus on the welfare of the few at the expense of the majority, that government must do everything possible to ensure that those who work have something to show for their labour.
“We must support the president and the APC to remove all those thieves, all those looters who believe it is their birthright to continue to loot. Those who say that their purpose in government is for juicy positions and not for the welfare of the people.’
Oshiomhole later rode in an open vehicle in long convoy through airport road to the City center otherwise known as Kings Square as people and admirers cheered him up amid fanfare.