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Atiku, Okowa meet CAN, insist on restructuring

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
23 November 2022   |   4:25 am
Presiential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, met with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the Christian body’s interaction with presidential candidates...

Former Vice President, Namadi Sambo (left); PDP vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa; PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar; President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Archbishop Daniel Okoh; General Secretary, Joseph Daramola and PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, during an interactive session between the leadership of CAN and presidential candidates at the Ecumenical Centre, Abuja…yesterday.<br />

Atiku: Nigerians wanted change in 2015 but ended up in failure
• Atiku pulls out of the presidential town hall meeting
• Obi, Adewole pledge to secure, and unite Nigeria if elected
• CAN: We have not endorsed any presidential candidate, and remain opposed to single-faith ticket
• Wike: Atiku rejected Jonathan’s pleas in 2015

Presiential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, met with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the Christian body’s interaction with presidential candidates.

Atiku arrived the CAN headquarters with his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, and PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, to present his proposals.

At the interaction, the former vice president vowed to restructure the country if he gets elected. According to him, states will be made to take ownership of mineral resources in their domains and then pay taxes to the Federal Government.

He said: “The fundamental fault lines we have seen in the last seven years only occurred because you wanted a change in 2015 and elected a change you are seeing now. It is your responsibility, if you want this CAN charter to be implemented, the only route is to have another change.”

He noted that the ‘Charter for Future Nigeria’ presented to him by CAN is in conformity with the policies he advocated in the book he published as a vice president when he had a fundamental disagreement with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He observed that the present government promised to restructure but failed to restructure the country. “They told Nigerians what Nigerians wanted to hear, and did a different thing when they got the opportunity. PDP never behaved like that. Brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you the truth, what you have presented to us is what I have always believed in and if I have the opportunity, I swear to God, I will do it. People are talking about resources, oil did not send me to school, my parents paid fuel tax, cotton tax, bicycle tax, radio tax and so many other taxes, these were the taxes that sent me to school from primary up to the university free of charge. So, if God has given you oil, take your oil, but I will tax you.”

Atiku, who promised to tackle the problem of insecurity by increasing the number of policemen in the country, said he is going to institute a constitutional reform, to provide for state police.

“You can’t have state police unless there is a constitutional amendment so that you can have different levels of police like state police, local government police and city police to deal with the security challenges we are having.”

On his position on indigeneship, Atiku said: “I am a supporter of removing the provision of indigeneship in our Constitution. Once you reside in any part of this country and you pay your taxes, you should be entitled to everything the location offers.”

Earlier, the CAN President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, observed that the Charter for Future Nigeria makes genuine recommendations for resolving Nigeria’s recurrent crises that border on justice and fairness, equality of all ethnic and religious groups, equal access to basic economic and social rights, political freedom and an egalitarian and just social order.

Okoh stated that the document begins with a diagnosis of Nigeria’s problem and locates it primarily in an incoherent constitutional and institutional framework that defines governance and social and economic interactions in Nigeria.

Others in Atiku’s entourage included the governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; former Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Chief Tom Ikimi; Chairman Emeritus of Daar Communications Plc, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi; former governor of Cross River, Liyel Imoke; Senator Philip Aduda, Senator Dino Melaye, Timi Alaibe, Kenneth Imasuagbon, Dele Momodu, Boni Haruna and some other party chieftains.

In a related development, the PDP flagbearer and his running mate have pulled out of a town hall meeting organised for those vying for the office of the President. This was disclosed in a tweet by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

The presidential town hall series titled ‘The Candidates’ is organised by Daria Media in partnership with News Central and NTA, among others.

“Due to unavoidable conflicts, Atiku and his running mate, Okowa will not be participating in The Candidates Presidential Town Hall Series,” NTA said in the tweet. There are no details yet to explain why the duo are pulling out of the debate.

ALSO yesterday, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, promised to secure and unite the country if elected into office come 2023. He stated that his priority is to move Nigeria from a consumption to a production economy in his interaction with CAN leaders.

Meanwhile, CAN has said it remains non-partisan and will not endorse any candidate or political party in the 2023 presidential elections.

The Christian association also said it remains opposed to the same faith ticket of the APC and has not changed its position in any way whatsoever.

Speaking in Abuja, Obi observed that Nigeria is faced with myriad of challenges including insecurity, unemployment, drug prevalence and others.

He said: “We must secure and unite the country. When you secure the country, you are able to bring your famers to go back to the farm. That alone will start addressing food inflation. By moving the country from consumption to production you are moving people from poverty. The more you pull people out of poverty, the more you address criminality.”

The Labour Party candidate noted that moving Nigeria to a production economy would help address unemployment and rate of drugs prevalence in the country as Nigerians will be gainfully employed, thereby reducing the rate of crime and criminality.

Obi observed that all the 18 presidential candidates will make the same promise and urged Nigerians to check the sincerity of their promises and support those they can trust.

Also speaking, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Adewole Adebayo, pledged to unite the country and ensure justice and equity for everybody if elected, stating that the most critical problem confronting Nigeria today is leadership.

Adebayo observed that the country needs an honest and truthful leader who has the capacity to lead it into prosperity and called on Nigerians to look out for qualities such as honesty, capacity, competence and a leader with the right passion to lead the country out of the present situation.

He said the CAN roadmap was very timely coming at a time the country is preparing to elect a new crop of leadership to run the affairs of the country.

He assured that if elected, his administration will discourage certain unconstitutional actions such as the denial of churches, and mosques of the right to a certificate of occupancy for their buildings and places of worship.

In his concluding remarks, the CAN President explained that part of the reasons the association initiated the engagement was to ensure that righteousness is taken into governance, adding that CAN is not doing it because it wants to endorse any candidate.

MEANWHILE, the leader of Integrity Group in the PDP, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, yesterday, said former President Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with Atiku to support his re-election bid in 2015, but the Adamawa-born politician rejected all entreaties and abandoned the party and Jonathan lost his re-election to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Wike stated this when Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State commissioned the Akpabu-Itu-Umudiogha road in the Emohua Council of Rivers.

According to him, Jonathan travelled to Dorchester Hotel in London in 2015 to meet Atiku but rather, but the former VP ‘embarrassed’ Jonathan and told him to relinquish his ticket to him.

Wike, who contested the PDP presidential primary won by Atiku in May, said he is not asking Atiku to step down as the party’s flag bearer. He said, instead, Atiku should ensure the removal of Ayu as national chairman for a Southern replacement.

The Rivers governor said: “We forget history. In 2015, when Jonathan, as a sitting President, won his primary, Jonathan went to London to plead with Atiku to come back to the party and support him.

“You know the condition he (Atiku) gave Jonathan? He should relinquish his ticket not to run as the President of Nigeria. That was the presidential candidate of a ruling party. He gave him a condition, telling him to relinquish that ticket.

“Today, we are not saying the presidential candidate should relinquish his ticket; we are not being selfish, we are saying since you are now the presidential candidate, let our people take the chairmanship.”

Atiku and his running mate, Okowa, had visited Jonathan at his Abuja residence on November 17 to resolve the crisis within the PDP, but nothing has been heard of the former President.

With the 2023 presidential poll less than three months, there are fears that the intra-party squabbles between Wike and Atiku over the chairmanship of Ayu could affect the chances of the Adamawa-born politician at the polls next February.