From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday that Governors Ben Ayade of Cross River and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara who recently left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC) are their people’s heroes for dumping the opposition party.

The president said this when he received Ayade and Matawalle, accompanied to the event by the Chairman Caretaker Committee of the Party and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State who is the Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum, and Governor Muhammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State.

According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Buhari handed the flags of the party to the two governors, raised their hands aloft, and declared:

‘This is one of the happiest times for us in this party. For you to have the courage to leave your constituencies speaks a lot. I wish Nigerians will reflect about it.

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‘I congratulate you for leaving your constituencies for our great party. We lost many states at the last election, which is unusual for a ruling party. But we did it to prove that we are a tolerant group. We wanted to demonstrate that we respect individuals.

‘We emphasised that we respect our people. That was why we insisted on free and fair elections. Leaders should show honesty and respect for their followers.’

President Buhari added that the coming of the two governors to APC was very important to the party, adding: ‘To be principled and identify your objectives is a great quality that should endear us to our people. Your people will respect you more for having the courage to come to APC at your own time. Nobody forced you, but you believe it is the best way to serve your people. I value your decision.’

Governor Mai Mala Buni said the governors joined APC in appreciation of the good works the president was doing for the country and also announced that ward, local government and state congresses of the party would start from July 31.

He said the congresses were shifted for one week because the initial dates clashed with Sallah festivities.