Muhammad Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) today delivered a widely anticipated speech at the Chatham House in London, affirming his readiness to run and win the postponed 2015 presidential elections.
Mr. Buhari arrived at the Chatham House venue of the event accompanied by several APC figures, including former Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the party’s national chairman John Odigie Oyegun, and Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State as well as former Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi.
The event had its dramatic sideshow as a group of Nigerians sponsored by the Nigerian government showed up to heckle Mr. Buhari in order to disrupt his talk.
Mr. Buhari’s appearance to give the lecture squelched a media frenzy driven by claims by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State to the effect that the APC’s presidential candidate was very ill and hospitalized in a UK hospital. Several party officials had dismissed the speculations, insisting that those spreading them, including Mr. Fayose, were desperate to use such insidious schemes to slow the APC’s political momentum.
Mr. Buhari, a retired army general, looked fit and healthy and made a few jokes in response to the rumors about his health. He said he had received calls from Maiduguri that a woman was in tears, thinking he had died. He said his doctors had declared him fit and vowed to return to Nigeria to lead his party’s “final onslaught” against the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
The APC candidate took notes and stood up during parts of the event as he responded to questions posed by participants during the session.
Prior to Mr. Buhari’s arrival to give his speech, a group of protesters reportedly hired by President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign stood outside the venue chanting anti-Buhari songs. SaharaReporters had revealed that Mr. Jonathan’s campaign had spent $20,000 to hire a group of Nigerians in the UK to stage protests against Mr. Buhari at today’s talk. As the event proceeded inside, members of the APC in the UK mobilized to the scene to confront the hecklers and support their candidate. The verbal clash between the two groups created a tense atmosphere at the venue.
Officers of the UK Metropolitan police later patrolled the area to calm down the feuding camps.