Presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, were at each other’s jugular, yesterday, over alleged divisive politics and threat to national harmony.
Tinubu fired a salvo at Atiku Abubakar, saying the PDP flagbearer belongs to a dying breed of politicians who resort to ethnic and regional sentiments in their desperate bid to capture power.
Atiku had at the weekend in Kaduna, during an interactive session with Arewa Joint Committee, allegedly said that Northerners needed someone of his stature and not a Yoruba or Igbo president.
Head of New Media at the APC Presidential Campaign Council PCC, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode in a statement, said Atiku’s words were not only unacceptable but also insulting, irresponsible and despicable.
“This is especially so, given the fact that by next year, we would have had eight years of Northern/Fulani rule and now this man (Atiku) says we must have another eight years of it because that is what is ‘best for the North’.
“Most Northerners do not believe this and thankfully, they, unlike Atiku and members of his divided party, do not see Southerners as slaves and they regard us all as being equal.
“We will not allow Atiku to do to us what he did to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. We will neither be cheated nor denied.
“It is time for power to shift to the South and an overwhelming number of the people in the North and certainly all the Northerners in the APC believe that. They recognize the fact that if we want our nation to continue to enjoy peace and remain united into the distant future, we must be fair in our dealings with one another.
“Atiku is a dying breed who still sees things from a regional, ethnic and religious prism. Nigeria has moved on from that and she deserves better. Our nation will not accept an ethnic bigot and tribal champion as their President.
“Atiku Ibn Dubai does not speak for the North, he speaks for his deluded and blind PDP supporters and his PCC. Nigeria does not need a Northern or Southern President, she needs a Nigerian President and Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that President,” added Fani-Kayode.
‘It’s ethnocentric opportunism’
Tinubu in a separate statement by the Director, Media and Publicity of his campaign council, Mr Bayo Onanuga, noted that Atiku’s declaration to the effect that Northerners don’t need a Yoruba or Igbo president was the worst expression of ethnocentric opportunism ever uttered by a former Nigerian Vice President.
According to him, this clearly demonstrates how low a man honoured with the second highest office of the Nigerian Constitution is willing to sink in search of a perennial wild goose chase after the highest office in the land.
He said: “It confirms the argument that Atiku has feasted on such base, cheap, primordial sentiments to use the masses and the elite of the North as the ladder to ascend to power since 1989 without any dividends to show.
“Doubling down in his now infamous speech, Atiku said: ‘What the average Northerner needs is somebody who is from the North and also understands that part of the country and has been able to build bridges across the country. This is what the North needs. It doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate. I stand before you as a Pan-Nigerian of Northern origin.’
“In clear terms, Atiku who stole the PDP ticket, by a similar mindset, has cast himself as a Northern candidate, who should solely be supported by the people from his region.”
Tinubu noted that Atiku’s public declaration which framed him as an ethnic and regional champion is unbecoming of a man who was once the Vice-President of Nigeria.
The APC standard bearer, however, said he was not surprised by Atiku’s desperate position, adding that the former vice president had resorted to whipping up ethnic sentiments, knowing that his chances of being elected had become a mirage.
“He has himself, not anybody else, to blame for his expected electoral misfortune. First, he broke the fundamental rules of power rotation in his party and the country.
“As if this cardinal sin was not enough, the PDP candidate has remained defiant in the face of pressure by preserving the two topmost posts in his party for people from his region.
“The Nigerian public now knows better that a man, who has been campaigning as a so-called unifier of our disparate groups, is a tribal jingoist, who has now totally eviscerated all pretensions to being a detribalised Nigerian,” Tinubu added.
Tinubu, greatest threat to national cohesion, democratic norms — Atiku
Reacting to Tinubu’s attack, the spokesperson of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said Tinubu best fits the allegations of the APC PCC and its standard bearer.
Ologbondiyan said: “Atiku is known across the length and breadth of our nation as a symbol of cohesion, unity and purposeful collaboration.
“If anything, Tinubu has been an apostle of regional politics where ethnicity and division along religious lines are dominant.
“As a matter of fact, his contemporary politics showcases a blatant disregard for ethnic groupings other than his.
“Nigerians have not forgotten past elections where compatriots who did not share in Tinubu’s ethnic-based political beliefs and proclivities were threatened that they will be chased into the ocean.
“Neither have Nigerians forgotten the threats of ejection from Lagos on the political opponents of Tinubu and the wanton destruction of electoral materials in areas where the former governor’s party would not do well.
“It is imperative to state that the campaign of calumny against Atiku notwithstanding, he is the pan-Nigerian leader loved and respected across the six geo-political zones of our nation.”
Atiku trying to divide Nigeria as he divided PDP, says APC
Indeed, the APC also slammed Atiku Abubakar for his comments at the weekend in Kaduna where he reportedly said the average northerner needs a northern president and not a president of Yoruba or Igbo extraction.
According to the ruling party, Atiku evidently seeks to inflict on Nigeria discord and strife of a worse kind than he has inflicted on his PDP.
“Against the dictates of his party’s constitution on the principle of power rotation between and North and South of Nigeria, Atiku wrestled Presidential Candidacy and left his party in fractious disability.
“In direct contrast to Atiku’s schismatic tendency, our Northern Progressive APC Governors stood valiantly in support of the emergence of a Southern Presidential Candidate of our Party in demonstration of patriotic commitment to our national unity, equity and fairness. That is what Nigeria needs, now and ever”, APC said in a statement on Sunday by its spokesman, Felix Morka.
Atiku should withdraw from race, apologize to Nigerians—Group
National Coordinator of The Patriots Roundtable, Prince Uthman Shodipe-Dosunmu, yesterday, called on Atiku Abubakar to withdraw from the race for urging Nigerians to vote for a northern candidate and disregard any candidate coming from the South.
Shodipe-Dosunmu, in a statement, described the PDP candidate’s remarks as outrageous, “a nasty faux pas of the worst order.”
The statement reads: “Yesterday (Saturday) the PDP presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar who falsely claims to be a unifier urged Nigerians to vote for a northern candidate and disregard any candidate coming from the South. This is just putting it mildly. What Atiku actually posited is that both Yoruba and Igbo candidates are unreflective of the Nigerian Union.
This is outrageous, a nasty faux pas of the worst order.
“In a nation of multi-ethnic groups, Atiku has stacked himself up there as the defender of a super group. This is hardly ennobling. It is in fact a Freudian slip. Surely Nigeria does not need a divisive candidate who is selling his tribal origin as the only marketable tool to win the presidency. This is quite sickening and unacceptable.
Tinubu meets Northern leaders today
Meanwhile, a few days after his counterpart in the PDP met with Northern leaders, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC will meet with the same group, today.
A statement from the Tinubu Media Office signed by Tunde Rahman, noted that the interactive session is at the behest of leaders from northern Nigeria under the auspices of Arewa Joint Committee.
According to Rahman, the meeting is part of a wider interaction with selected presidential candidates to discuss their plans for the region, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The event, which holds at the Arewa House in Kaduna, is organised by a coalition of six groups and institutions from the North. They include the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa House, Jam’iyyar Matan Arewa and Arewa Research and Development Project.
The statement added that the APC presidential candidate would attend the event as part of his decision to engage all segments of Nigerian society with his campaign message of hope, national unity and prosperity.
“The open interaction, scheduled for 1 pm on Monday, will be televised live on Television Continental, TVC,” said Rahman.