• Delegates’ inducement with money forced Tambuwal to step down – Gov’s aide
Organisations clamouring for power shift to the South on Sunday expressed anger over the emergence of a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the 2023 presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
The groups and individuals, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, said Atiku’s emergence negated the zoning principle entrenched in the PDP constitution.
During the PDP presidential primary held at the Moshood Abiola Stadium on Saturday, Atiku polled 371 votes to defeat the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who got 237 votes; a former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, 70 votes; the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Emmanuel Udom, 38 votes; the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, 20 votes; a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, 14 votes and an ex-President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Sam Ohuabunwa, one vote.
But delegates were surprised when the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who was one of the front runners for the presidential ticket, stepped down and directed his supporters to vote for Atiku as a result of what sources said was due to the intervention of the northern elders, who were pushing for a northern consensus aspirant.
Ahead of the expiration of the President, Major General Muhammadu’s (retd.) eight-year tenure on May 29 next year, interest groups, including the Southern Governors’ Forum, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and the Southern and Middle Belt Elders’ Forum have been calling for the zoning of the presidency to the South.
On Sunday, some of them slammed the PDP over the emergence of Atiku, particularly what they described as a gang-up by the North against the South.
The Nigeria Equity Group, in a statement by its National Convener, Emeka Nwosu; and National Secretary, Mohammed Mubarak, criticised the candidacy of Atiku, saying power should shift to the South after the two-term tenure of Buhari.
The statement partly read, “We wish to respond to the emergence of the former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate of the PDP for the 2023 presidential election. Alhaji Atiku, a northern Muslim, defeated a plethora of the PDP presidential aspirants in a contentious primary election in Abuja to lead the PDP charge for the general elections.
“We wish to draw attention to the fact that the NEG has campaigned vigorously for equity, fairness and inclusion in our body polity. In our several interventions over the years, we have appealed to the major political parties to be mindful of the complex heterogeneous Nigerian society and to work out a political solution that will be fair, inclusive and equitable to all.
“In this case, we believe what is just and fair is for presidential powers to be zoned to the South, specifically to a southern Christian, after the eight-year rule of President Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim. We consider it to be very inequitable, unfair and potentially dangerous for the presidency to remain in the North after President Buhari’s tenure.”
Ohanaeze says North has conspired against South
Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned what it called the northern conspiracy against the South and South-East in particular.
In an interview with one of our correspondents on the telephone, Ohanaeze spokesman, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, condemned the northern conspiracy against the South-East.
Ogbonnia said that the North through the instrumentality of the National Assembly had finally skewed the presidency to itself with the imbalance in the local government creation.
He said, “Ohanaeze is not happy about the conspiracy against the South and South-East in particular. Southern people that are struggling for the presidency they will not get especially when they can’t read the handwriting on the wall.
“You know the North has conspired against the South and the South should understand it. Instead of all the South-South and South-West giving validity and support to the South-East, they have been very busy struggling for it, therefore disarticulating themselves. So, where the North is united, the South is disarticulated.”
Tambuwal withdrawal dubious – PANDEF
On its part, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum alleged that the manner Tambuwal withdrew from the contest was dubious.
PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said this in a statement sent to one of our correspondents in Port Harcourt.
The statement read, “The outcome of the presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party was predetermined.
“We knew long ago that this was what it would be. That is why they violated their zoning principle and left the party’s presidential ticket open.
“The southern aspirants, particularly, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, we would think had justifiable reasons not to have joined the “programmed” winner on the stage while he was giving his acceptance speech.
“Though the conduct of the primary election in terms of the accreditation of delegates, voting and counting of votes was transparent, orderly and unquestionable, the way and manner Governor Aminu Tambuwal was allowed to announce his withdrawal and support for the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, was, to, say the least, dubious and most unfair.
“Why was Tambuwal allowed to do that after all aspirants had made their speeches and voting was about to commence?
“It is also essential to note that the exercise was rigged ab initio; there was no level playing ground.
“The scale was skewed; they had one delegate from each of the 774 local government areas of the country, and of course, we know there are more local government areas in the North than the South, and given the swerving undercurrents of politics, the former Vice President was guaranteed to win the primary election.
“It is these situations that informed our insistence on the zoning of the presidential ticket for fairness, equity and balance.”
We will work against Atiku – M’Belt Forum
The Middle Belt Forum on its part said it would work against Atiku during the 2023 general election.
The National President of the Middle Belt Forum, Dr Bitrus Pogu, made the position of the regional body known in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Sunday .
Pogu said, “We had made it clear before now that we would not support any political party that fields a northerner as its presidential candidate during the 2023 election and we still stand by that position.
“So, the PDP has lost our support by fielding the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, as its flag bearer and we will surely work against him. “
Also, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum described the emergence of Atiku as a brazing affront on the people of the PDP
In a communiqué jointly signed on Sunday by leaders of the groups that make up the forum, the group also asked politicians in the region to reject any nomination for the office of the Vice President.
The signatories to the communiqué included Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw (PANDEF/South-South); Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide/South East); Jare Ajayi (Afenifere/South West); Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum), and Ken Robinson who is the acting coordinator of SMBLF.
Don’t vote for Atiku, other northern candidates, SMBLF tells Southern, M’Belt people
“SMBLF, therefore, totally REJECTS the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and calls on our people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt as well as all true lovers of peace and unity not to vote for him or any other Northerner in the 2023 presidential election, in the interest of posterity.
“SMBLF further urges all aspirants for the office of President from Southern Nigeria to shun the conceited attitude of individualism and self-confidence, and work collectively to achieve the shared objectives. Again, SMBLF calls on all politicians of Southern extraction to refuse the position of a running mate to any Northern Presidential candidate, which will equally be viewed as subjugating their people to political slavery.”
Wike keeps mum
Attempts to get Wike’s comment on the PDP primary did not succeed on Sunday.
Efforts to reach the governor on his mobile telephone proved abortive, as his line kept saying calls forwarded.
A text message sent to Wike by one of our correspondents had not been responded to as of the time of filing this report on Sunday at 7pm.
Wike while speaking before the commencement of voting had said he would support any candidate that emerges.
But he was conspicuously absent from the stage when Atiku was giving his acceptance speech.
No region has absolute monopoly on politics – Rivers PDP
But the Rivers State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Sydney Gbara, in an interview with The PUNCH said what happened at the primary was part of politics.
On whether the last-minute withdrawal of Tambuwal was a gang-up against the South, and particularly Wike, he said he would describe it as politics.
“Well, this is politics and in politics, anything is expected. Whatever the candidate will do to carry the day, that candidate will do it.
“But for me, our candidate fought a good fight and will make a mark and an impression that will go down in the annals of history in Nigerian politics that a South-South man came up.
“And indeed, he was the first person from the South-South that indicated interest in this number one position in the country that fought to this level.
“You ask if it was a gang-up, I will say it is politics. All I know is that our leader fought a good fight and he has written his name in gold in the annals of the Nigerian politics that a person from the South-South can come up and make a mark in the politics of Nigeria. You know no region has absolute monopoly of politics.”
“Going forward, we are going to see a lot of things coming out because this feat will be a stepping stone and an encouragement to the younger generation to join politics and be courageous,” Gbara stated.
I have no comment for now –Fayose
When contacted, a friend of Wike and ex-governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, who participated in the exercise, said, “I have no response on any matter for now, sir.”
Attempts to get a response from the PDP proved abortive as its spokesman, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, neither responded to repeated calls nor a text message on Sunday.
Atiku will enthrone regime of unity – Aide
In his reaction, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, said the former Vice-President would promote unity and inclusiveness.
“The situation that we have found ourselves in Nigeria today should teach us the morality of inclusiveness. Atiku as the candidate of the PDP has the whole Nigeria as his electoral constituency.
“It will be good if leaders across the board can join hands to support a candidate who is ready to unify the country, enthrone a regime of security and restore peace and prosperity.”
Tambuwal stepped down for Atiku because of large scale delegates’ inducement with money – Sokoto gov’s aide
But Mohammed Bello, the Special on Media and Publicity to Tambuwal, dismissed the statement credited to some groups, which alleged a gang-up by the North.
He said the ambition of his boss was never a do-or-die affair but to save the country from bad governance of the All Progressives Congress-led administration in the country.
He stated, “What happened was when he realised some aspirants were using money to induce delegates which he believes is not the best for the country; that was why he took such a decision.
“If they accuse Tambuwal of gang-up, what then happened to all the 92 votes from the South-East delegates? Why couldn’t the former Senate President, Pius Anyim, garner up to 20 votes out of 92?”
He said the governor believed in the process of rescuing the country which was the reason he stepped down and asked his delegates to vote for a particular aspirant of his choice.
You can’t blame North – CNG
The spokesperson for the Coalition of over 52 Northern Groups, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, slammed PANDEF and Ohanaeze,
He said, “You see, we are not card-carrying members of any of the political parties and moreover we did not have any influence over the process. It was purely a delegates’ affair which we have never been comfortable with.
“We have been strong advocates of direct primary. Everyone has seen the blatant and shameful commercialisation of the process. We’re more concerned about the credibility of the process because that is what will ultimately determine the quality of the outcome. As for PANDEF and Ohanaeze turning around to blame the North for their miscalculations, it is quite predictable. These people tend to derive pleasure in making the North the target of their accusations and abuse for everything that is wrong with Nigeria.”
But a former Governor of old Anambra State in the defunct Second Republic, Senator Jim Nwobodo, urged Atiku to bring back former members of the opposition party.
The elder statesman, in a statement he issued on Sunday, titled, ‘Jim Nwobodo Congratulates Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,’ congratulated the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu; and former President of the Senate/Chairman, 2022 Peoples Democratic Party National Convention Organising Committee, Senator David Mark, for spearheading a successful primary.
Elumelu hails Atiku
The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, hailed the emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the PDP.
Elumelu, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, commended all other presidential aspirants for their “courage, patriotism and remarkable spirit of sportsmanship,” which he said they displayed throughout the consultation period up to the National Convention of the PDP held in Abuja on Saturday.
Probe PDP’s 767 delegates, HURIWA tells EFCC
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, on Sunday, faulted the process that produced Atiku.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, alleged that Atiku’s emergence was heavily compromised by undue monetisation, adding that the PDP delegates gave their candidate slot to the highest bidder.
The group said it was disappointing that officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission showed up at the venue of the primary in Abuja but failed to arrest anyone.
The group also warned the ruling APC to move against a northern candidate and make a southerner its presidential candidate “in the spirit of fairness and to preserve the unity of Nigeria.”
With the extension of the deadline for the submission of names of presidential candidates by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the APC moved its presidential primary from the end of May to the first week in June while Nigerians keep a watchful eye to see who the party will put forward.
“According to reports, each of the 767 national delegates that voted at the MKO Abiola Stadium, venue of the presidential primary, allegedly got at least $35,000 from the aspirants. This allegation has yet to be debunked by the individuals so accused.
“HURIWA condemns the conspiracy of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that pretended that it doesn’t know that bribes exchanged hands. The anti-graft agency sent its operatives to the primary venue but the exchange of dollars still happened as seen in several media reports. How shameful! HURIWA urges the EFCC top echelons in Abuja to prosecute the over 700 delegates that voted on Saturday/Sunday.
“HURIWA urges the APC to give its ticket to the South-East or at least the Southern region to preserve the unity of Nigeria or else if APC goes North like PDP, it is a vote of no confidence on the continuous existence of Nigeria.”
Obaseki hails Atiku
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, congratulated Atiku on his victory.
In his message, the governor hailed other aspirants who submitted themselves to a transparent democratic exercise that had set the PDP as a worthy example to all other political parties in the country.
A former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, an aspirant who contested the presidential primary under the PDP, has congratulated Atiku Abubakar for emerging as the candidate of the party come 2023 elections.
By Gbenga Adeniji, Leke Baiyewu, Tope Omogbolagun, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Animashahun Salman, Adeyinka Adedipe, Raphael Ede, Dennis Naku and James Abraham