APC, Ohanaeze tackle Atiku over comments at Arewa forum
• Atiku: APC disingenuous, turning fact on its head
• Tinubu, Obi sell candidacy to Northern leaders
• Kwankwaso declines invitation, alleges Arewa’s plan to endorse candidate
Controversy yesterday trailed comments of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who reportedly advised Northerners to reject Yoruba or Ibo candidacy in the 2023 polls.
Atiku was responding to questions posed by Northern leaders during the Arewa joint committee interactive session, comprising Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa, Arewa Research and Development Project and other bodies’ parley with presidential candidates at the Arewa House, on Saturday.
The PDP flag-bearer, while appealing for support of the Arewa leaders, said: “I have traversed the whole of this country, I think what an average Northerner needs is somebody who is from the North, and who also understand the various parts of Nigeria and who has been able to build bridges across the various parts of the country. This is what the Northerner needs, it doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a Pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
Reacting, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, in a statement, on Sunday, by its Secretary-General, Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, said by Atiku’s utterances, he had finished whatever was left of the PDP.
“We are worried that at such a time Nigeria is seeking for a unifier, Atiku is further pushing the country into disintegration; he has shown that he lacks the capacity to lead and unite this country.
“His ambition has already destroyed the PDP and pushed it from number one to third if not fourth force. Now, he wants to bring the same division into the affairs of the country. We ask Nigerians to say no by rejecting him stoutly at the polls,” Ohanaeze said.
The apex Igbo group added that the G-5 Governors, led by Nyesom Wike, have been proved to be the true lovers of the country.
“Nobody can trust a man who said he is a stepping stone for the actualisation of the Southeast presidency in the future, but within 48 hours, he offered the same presidency to Wike.”
APC also upbraided Atiku over his comments. The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, remarked that Atiku’s position spoke volumes that he is unfit to administer the country, arguing that Atiku’s posture at the Arewa town hall policy dialogue in Kaduna is an attack on national unity.
It noted: “If, as Atiku believes, the average Northerner needs a Northern president now, after the eight-year tenure of a Northern president, when will they ever not need a Northern president? What does Atiku think the average Southerner needs?
“Why is it about what the average Northerner needs, or even what the average Southerner may need? Why is it not about what Nigeria and Nigerians need? Nigerians need bold and visionary leadership anchored on a firm commitment to transcendental national unity, over and above ethnic or sectional obsessions.
“And that is the commitment that our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, brings in his aspiration to serve as president.” But in a stout defence, Atiku explained what he said, wondering why APC is turning fact on its head.
In a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, he said: “For the benefit of the innocent public who might be hoodwinked by the usual behaviour of APC in telling a lie, what transpired was a direct question to Atiku to address the Northern audience on why he should be voted for by the Northern electorate.
“In answering this question, Atiku started with a joke by addressing the questioner as ‘Mr. Northerner’ which is a veiled criticism of why he limited his question to the Northern audience in the first place.
“Continuing, Atiku explained without a slur, unlike the APC candidate would, that what matters the most to the Northern electorate is a candidate who has built bridges of unity across other parts of the country and not necessarily a Northern candidate who lacks the credentials of national spread and acceptability.
“Those were the unambiguous remarks of the PDP presidential candidate. But because the APC does not possess any tangible ideas to campaign on for their candidate, they resorted to dubious tactics of diverting public attention, first, away from the failures of their party in the past seven years plus and, secondly, to shift attention away from the embarrassing gaffes of their presidential candidate in his public communication which they frequently shy away from.
“Of course, a failed political party and a presidential candidate who cannot withstand five minutes of unscripted speech would not have anything tangible to talk about other than to resort to irritating scavenging like they have done in this case.
“On the same day when Atiku stood agile and cerebral before his hosts at the Arewa House, the APC candidate whose only entitlement for president is because of an ethnic identity claim was also at a public function in Kaduna and publicly embarrassed his host, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, by saying that he should not contemplate pursuing higher educational qualifications and likening him to ‘a rotten case that has turned into a bad situation.’
“Are we to play to the gallery, we could have rushed to the press to make a bad case for such rotten remarks. We did not because we know that the upcoming election is not about scoring cheap political gains, but about ensuring that Nigerians have a fair deal in the next president that they will be electing.”
MEANWHILE, Tinubu will meet with Arewa leaders today in Kaduna on his plans to reposition the Northern part of the country.
A statement by Tinubu Media Office on Sunday said the APC presidential candidate would attend the event as part of his decision to engage all segments of the Nigerian society with his campaign message of hope, national unity and prosperity.
The programme, which started on Saturday, was by Atiku, Kola Abiola of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Adewale Adeboye of Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Tinubu, Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) are expected to be in Kaduna today for the event.
But Kwankwaso, in a letter addressed to the organisers, declined the invitation, saying besides the fact that the date given was not convenient, it had credible information that the event had been compromised.
Spokesman of the Kwankwaso campaign, Abdulmumin Jibrin, warned the organisers that endorsing a candidate from the region “will only result in further polarising than uniting the North.”
He noted that such endorsement was a ridicule to the memories of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, and J.S Tarka.
“We have credible information in our possession that shows that some people have been compromised and these people have concluded plans to turn the event into an endorsement platform for a particular candidate.
“We are therefore advising you not to do anything that will ridicule the legacies of Sir Ahmadu Bello and other famous Northern Leaders like Sir Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Sir Kashim Ibrahim and JS Tarka etc. by attempting to endorse an unpopular candidate at the expense of a more competent, more experienced and more credible one.
“We believe that it is very wrong for any group to clandestinely plan to endorse any candidate in the name of the North, especially when we have more than one candidate from our region. And our candidate enjoys more acceptability amongst the Northern masses and across the country than any other candidate,” he said.