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Atiku canvasses unity as Wike camp shuns campaign flag-off

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja), Seye Olumide and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
29 September 2022   |   4:10 am
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, flagged off his campaign with an appeal to all party members to join him in the task of seeking the mandate..

FILES] Wike.<br />Photo/facebook/GovernorNyesomEzenwoWikeCON

Wike: We’ll remain in PDP to fight for inclusivity, to tell our own side of the party crisis, Friday
• NEC member reveals plot to unseat Ayu, derail Atiku’s campaign
• Bagudu: No cause for worry over the postponement of the APC presidential campaign
• I will campaign in every part of Nigeria, says Tinubu
• Obi meets Afenifere leaders in Ijebu, promises not to let Yoruba down
• Falae, Olajide, DAWN Commission kick against Afenifere

Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, flagged off his campaign with an appeal to all party members to join him in the task of seeking the mandate of Nigerians to rebuild the nation.

Atiku made the appeal in his address to the 600 members of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), during their inauguration, in Abuja.

In a veiled reference to the absence of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and his allies, Atiku said the party required serious and collective efforts of all leaders to win the election.

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom; Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde; Abia State governor, Okezie Ikpeazu and Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi were absent from the inauguration of the PCC.

Atiku said Nigeria was in such a bad state that it would require the support of all party members as well as Nigerians to achieve the daunting task of rebuilding the nation.

The inauguration of the party’s PCC, which was preceded by the launch of three books about Atiku, attracted the presence of other PDP leaders like former Vice President Namadi Sambo, Vice Presidential candidate and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, Bayelsa State governor, Douye Diri as well as Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State.

The books that were unveiled included ‘Landmark Constitutional Law Cases in Nigeria (2004-2007): The Atiku Cases,’ ‘Atiku: The Story of Atiku Abubakar’ and ‘Restructuring as a Pathway to Unity and Development.’ They chronicle Atiku’s journey into the nation’s political firmament; the well-documented feud with his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his interventions in the nation’s governance narrative.

And just as the PCC inauguration was held, it emerged that some members of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) have intensified efforts at removing the national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, who was absent on health grounds.

The crisis in the party assumed a fresh dimension, as an NEC member, Chinemerem Madu, raised the alarm over an alleged plot to scuttle Atiku’s campaign.

Addressing newsmen at the venue of the inauguration, Madu fingered an unnamed National Vice Chairman of the party as the brain behind the plot.

He further alleged that the National Vice Chairman, whose name he didn’t mention, has confessed to having been heavily bankrolled and is approaching and offering NEC members sums ranging from N25 million to N28 million each to address a damaging press conference with fabrications aimed at derailing the presidential campaign and thereafter mobilise to convene an emergency meeting to remove Ayu.

In a speech punctuated with applauses, Atiku reminded his party members that “to rescue and rebuild our country, we must first take over the mantle of leadership from the party that has driven us into this mess. To do this, we must all be united in purpose and come together to fight and win all the elections slated for next year.

“Our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust, to mention a few. To start with, the current government has failed at the very essence of what makes a government: the security of life and property of its citizens.

“Our economy is in shambles, growth has stagnated and our people are facing massive existential challenges daily. Our nation is in disarray. The fabric of unity that binds our country is today, being torn apart by mutual distrust, and ethnic and sectarian strife.

“Our educational system is comatose. Nothing more underscores this than the twin embarrassing facts of the number of children that are currently out of school and the length of time that university students have been kept out of their classrooms this year as a result of ASUU strike.

“Our system of government is broken. Our current system is unfair, unwieldy, skewed towards favouring the Federal Government at the expense of the other federating units, and has in itself, become a willing tool for underdevelopment. This kind of system of government is no longer suited to the challenges of a 21st-century economy that works for everyone and that is needed to bring development closer to our people.”

Chairman of the PDP PCC and governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, assured that the party would overcome its crises and win the 2023 elections.

“I want to assure you that as a campaign council, we have the seriousness and unity that is required. It is our duty to the campaign, to carry and publicise the message on how to rescue and restore the hope of Nigerians. It is for Nigerians to vote and for the Almighty to give victory.

“I want to say here, don’t mind the doomsayers, PDP is a solid rock and we know that no matter the wind, it will not move the rock. So, irrespective of the wind you see around the rock, it will not move the rock. The rock remains as solid as ever. We are campaigning to win. Nothing is acceptable to PDP outside victory.”

In his remarks, the Director General of the campaign and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide a level playing field for all parties.

While noting that the whole world was watching Nigeria, Tambuwal assured the party and the candidate that his committee would put in all the work needed for victory at the polls.

WIKE has, however, reiterated that he has no reason to leave PDP no matter the situations threatening the unity of the party ahead of the general elections. Speaking yesterday at a Rivers PDP stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt, he also promised to, on Friday, keep his promise to tell his own side of the story over the contentions since the primaries.

The governor said he was interested in preserving the sanity of the party and would stay back to fight for the enthronement of unity, inclusivity, equity and peace in PDP.

“We are not like them when in 2014, they walked out of Eagle Square. They’ve forgotten. They walked out and joined APC. Is it not correct? Did they remain to fight inside the party? But we remained, they ran away. Now, there is a fight at the party, we will not run. We will fight it at this party. Those who run away from the fight are weak people. We will not,” he said.

MEANWHILE, chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, has said there is no cause for worry over the indefinite postponement of the presidential campaign of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Ibadan, yesterday, Bagudu said the development is not a setback for his party.

“It is not a setback. I have read a lot of misunderstandings about this issue. The law says parties are free to start campaigning today (Wednesday) for the presidential and National Assembly elections. So, that is what the timetable of INEC provides. It is not mandatory to start immediately. It is just to say that from today, parties can start campaigns.”

The party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday, said he would take his campaign to every part of Nigeria.

Speculations have intensified in recent weeks over Tinubu’s physical health ahead of a demanding campaign schedule. However, in a statement, the former Lagos State governor said he plans to take his presidential message to every part of the country.

“Today marks the official commencement of 2023 presidential election campaign activities across this country. I invite all Nigerians to join me and Senator Kashim Shettima on this exciting and important journey as we set our shared vision of renewed hope for the people of our dear country, Nigeria.

“We will, in the weeks and months ahead, be taking our dream of a functional, safe, secure and prosperous Nigeria to every part of Nigeria and we will continue to put forward our plan to lead this country towards its best future.”

PRESIDENTIAL candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, has promised never to let down leaders and entire members of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere if he wins next year.

Obi made the promise during his meeting with Afenifere leaders at the monthly meeting held on Tuesday evening at the country home of Pa Ayo Adebanjo, acting leader of the group, Isinya-Ogbo, near Ijebu Ode in Ogun State.

Obi also assured the Afenifere leaders that their aspiration for Nigeria would top the agenda and policies of his administration. He further promised not to let the Yoruba people down as well as Nigerians, especially the youths, who currently form the bulk of his loyalists across the country if he is voted in as president.

Obi, who expressed confidence in the integrity of Afenifere and the commitment of the leaders to a progressive Nigeria, also appreciated the non-ethnic sentiment the Yoruba leaders of the Afenifere group have demonstrated so far since the Fourth Republic started in 1999.

Highlighting some of the discussions at the meeting to The Guardian, the Chairman, 2014 National Conference Advisory Committee, Senator Femi Okunroumu, who is also the leader of the Ogun chapter of Afenifere, said: “We had Afenifere meeting at Ijebu at Pa Ayo Adebanjo’s house on Tuesday and Mr Peter Obi came there to meet us.

“He explained his vision for Nigeria to us basically and how he plans to revive the country. He also expressed appreciation to Afenifere for supporting him, with a pledge not to let us down if he eventually wins the presidency next year.

“He also promised to look into Afenifere’s aspirations, which is basically on how to restructure the country. We didn’t know in advance that he was coming to see us, but before the meeting started we heard he would come and he came.”

Okunrounmu dismissed the insinuation that Afenifere’s position to support Obi is already dividing the organisation. He said the decision to support Obi, as presented by Pa Adebanjo, was unanimous and not unilateral as some people, even elements within the group, are saying.

Okunrounmu also dismissed as untrue that some state chapters of Afenifere had severed themselves from the organisation because of the Obi project. “That is not true because all the leaders of our state chapters were present at the meeting with Obi on Tuesday.”

Pa Adebanjo on his part appealed to the media not to blow the issue out of proportion. He said: “There was nothing new in supporting whoever we felt could unite and restructure Nigeria. We, as a group, once supported President Muhammadu Buhari when he contested but lost to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, then-candidate Buhari promised us he would restructure but now that he and his party failed when they have the opportunity, there is no reason to continue to support them.

“Obi has continued to promise us he will restructure if elected. Let’s give him the chance as we gave Buhari before.”
BUT in sharp contrast to Afenifere’s position, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae and Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, disagreed with Pa Adebanjo and Afenifere over the endorsement of Obi.

While Falae said he had repeatedly said the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has the best manifesto of all the political parties in Nigeria and its presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo is the best choice on merit, Olajide said Tinubu has the best political track record and national spread to be backed.

Falae also denied the report, which claimed that he threw his weight behind calls for a Southeast presidency or Peter Obi.

Falae, who is the deputy national leader of Afenifere, also said he was not aware that Afenifere had taken any position to back or support Obi.

He said Yoruba are not morally obliged to vote for an Igbo presidential candidate or Obi because in 1999 when the rest of Nigeria conceded the presidency to Yoruba because of the MKO Abiola issue, it was only the Igbo, who did not accept.

Falae recalled how he had to defeat Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife in the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to become the candidate of the AD/APP alliance. He added that Chief Obasanjo had to defeat Dr Alex Ekuweme in the PDP to become a candidate.

“The Igbo were the only ones that opposed both of us in our respective parties; they did not concede to us along with other Nigerians. However, the Yoruba are fair-minded people and some of them could vote for Obi.”

Also taking a different position, Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Mr Seye Oyeleye, said the decision of Afenifere to back Obi was personal and not that of the entire Yoruba people.

Speaking on the development, a retired Archbishop of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Ayo Ladigbolu, refrained from either supporting or opposing the position of Afenifere. He, however, said there are more to what the leaders of the Yoruba organisation are doing that they probably would not want the public to know or which they wanted the public to probe.
 
The octogenarian said: “I think there is a kind of irreconcilable differences, which some of the leaders of Afenifere might be nursing with whomsoever. There are other issues behind the scenario not known to the public, which they either wanted to hide or exhume.”

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