Statesmen, politicians, ethnic nationality groups and the Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday chided Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar for what they described as fanning the embers of disunity.
They frowned at the highly divisive, ethnocentric and provocative statement made by the former vice president, which, in their views meant to score cheap political goals at the weekend.
At a parley in Abuja organized by Arewa Joint Committee, Atiku, who is from Adamawa State in the Northeast, urged Northerners not to vote for Yoruba and Igbo presidential candidates in next year’s polls.
He said the North does not need an Igbo on Yoruba president, but “someone from the North.”
Atiku stressed: “I have traversed the whole of the country… This is what the Northerner needs. He (Northerner) doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate, or an Igbo. This is what the Northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of Northern origin.”
Ohanaeze: Atiku should apologise
Apex Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, said Atiku should apologize to the Igbo and the entire Southern Nigeria for bringing divisive politics into his campaigns.
The group also urged the former vice president to withdraw the remark, describing it as divisive and provocative.
Ohanaeze spokesman Alex Ogbonnia said the remark only exposed Atiku’s mindset about the country.
He added that the statement contradicted Atiku’s claims to being a cosmopolitanism and a detribalised Nigerian.
Ogbonnia said: “That was a very provocative remark coming from a former vice president of Nigeria. His remark, perhaps, brings out his mindset about the country.
“It’s a Freudian slip. Something that slips from somebody’s mouth unintentionally, which reveals the persons deep feeling about something.
“It is provocative as a matter of fact and contradicts his claims to cosmopolitanism and detribalised Nigerian.
“From the remark that he has made, Atiku hasn’t really shown that he is a detribalised Nigerian.”
He added: “It is on record that the Igbo and the South voted for Shagari, Yar’ adua and Buhari. So, why can’t there be reciprocity?
“He should have gone ahead with his campaigns without creating unnecessary ethnic tensions.
“That remark is abysmally low. It’s an ill-advised remark. It’s not good for the former vice president. He should find a way to withdraw that remark.
“Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide is disappointed by that remark by Atiku. This is because Ndigbo had voted for Shagari, Yar’adua, Buhari and even supported all the military rulers from the North.
“So, Ohanaeze is calling on the former vice president to apologize to Nigerians and southerners in particular on that unfortunate remark. It is a divisive one”.
‘Statement has destroyed PDP’
Ohanaeze Ndigbo in a statement by factional Secretary-General Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro said Atiku’s utterances has destroyed the PDP.
He said: “We find it very weird and disappointing that an elder statesman and a presidential candidate, in the person of a one-time vice presidential candidate of Nigeria, could mount the podium at a public function and play such an ethnic card.
“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.”
Isiguzoro said the G-5 Governors, led by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, have been proved to be the true lover of the country.
He added: “We can see that the party has even suspended the presidential campaign after the flag-off in Uyo recently. All is not well with the team PDP.
“Nobody can trust a man who said he is a stepping stone for the actualization of the Southeast presidency in the future, but within 48 hours, he offered the same Presidency to Gov. Wike. It’s absurd to see how the PDP’s presidential team now hawks counterfeit promises.
“For the sake of equity and one Nigeria, Governor Wike’s group should sustain the Ayu-Must-Go campaign. We are solidly behind the G-5 Governors. Drafting David Mark, Ibori and others to pacify Wike is medicine after death. PDP is out of the 2023 contest. The battle is between Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu.”
APC Campaign Council kicks
The ruling APC Campaign Council said Atiku’s statement was a decisive attack on national unity, adding that he is an ethnic and regional champion.
Also, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode said the former vice president’s statement was provocative and self-serving.
APC National Publicity Secretary of APC Felix Morka, in a statement in Abuja, said the weekend outburst of the PDP flag bearer was a repulsive act of desperation that is capable of instigating strife and disunity in the country.
Morka said: “Atiku’s statement is a decisive attack on our national unity. It is beyond the pale for a senior citizen and a former vice president of the Federal Republic to so brazenly instigate strife and disunity in our country in pursuit of his befuddled political self-interest.”
The APC spokesman said he was surprised that such a statement emanated from “a desperate and serial failed candidate for the office of President”.
He added: “If, as Atiku believes, the average Northerner needs a Northern President now, after 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.
“Atiku’s words ring loud of extreme and mindless desperation, and such an extremely desperate man cannot and must not be entrusted with the most important job of President – a job whose core duty is that of leading, uniting and working in the best interest of all in an ethno-religious, pluralistic society as Nigeria. Our country does not need this kind of highly inflammable rhetoric now or ever.
“What is even more confounding is that this presidential candidate of the PDP has touted himself to be on a mission to unify Nigeria. The cat has finally been let out of the bag of him that pays lip service to unity while working hard to undermine our national unity. Our Northern citizens and patriots know far better than what Atiku thinks, and will not walk down that slippery slope with him.”
Morka said “Atiku 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 wrested presidential candidacy and left his party in fractious disability.”
Morka noted that in direct contrast to Atiku’s schismatic tendency, Northern Progressive APC Governors stood valiantly in support of the emergence of a Southern presidential candidate in demonstration of patriotic commitment to national unity, equity and fairness.
Morka stressed: “That is the commitment that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, our presidential candidate brings in his aspiration to serve as President. As governor of Lagos State, his executive cabinet was a rare and admirable reflection of ethnic and religious diversity. We are confident he will enthrone equity, fairness, inclusion, and unity as operating national policy when elected as President in next year’s general election, as we urge Nigerians to do.”
Atiku violated zoning, says Onanuga
The APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) said Atiku’s statement was the worst expression of ethnocentric opportunism ever uttered by a former vice president.
A statement by the PCC Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, said Atiku’s utterance demonstrated how low a man honoured with the second highest office of the Nigerian Constitution was willing to sink in search of a perennial wild goose chase after the highest office in the land.
The council observed that Atiku’s assertion confirm the argument that he 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.
Onanuga noted “Atiku who got the PDP ticket, with a similar mindset, has cast himself as a northern candidate, who should solely be supported by the people from his region.
“We view Atiku’s public declaration which framed him as an ethnic and regional champion as unbecoming for a man who was once a vice-president of Nigeria.
“But we are not surprised by his desperate position. Atiku has resorted to whipping up ethnic sentiments, knowing that his chances of being elected have 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 of being a detribalised Nigerian.
“He is demonstrably the antithesis of a pan-Nigerian politician. Nigerians of goodwill, who, daily, seek a united and prosperous nation, should reject Atiku and his party at the polls next February.
“Atiku only pays lip service to national unity, despite that it features as one of the five cardinal points of his so-called “Covenant with Nigerians”. The facade is over. He is now fully naked before the Nigerian people.’
Also flaying the PDP candidate on his Facebook page, the Director, New Media of the APC PCC, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said the country does not need an ethnic bigot and tribal champions as president in 2023.
The former Aviation Minister wrote on his verified Facebook page: “Such tomfoolery is rarely seen even from the worst among us. Atiku’s words are not only unacceptable, but also irresponsible and despicable.
“To say that the North will be better off if a Northern is in power for yet another eight years and will be worse off if an Igbo or Yoruba is in power is an insidious, provocative, dangerous, self-serving and specious lie.
“We will not allow Atiku to do to us what he did to Wike. We will not be cheated or 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 Northerns in the APC believe that. They recognise the fact that we want our nation to continue to enjoy the 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 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,”
Former Central Bank Deputy Governor Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, expressed disappointment over Atiku’s remarks.
He urged candidates for the 2023 presidential election to avoid ethnic or other divisive sentimental appeals.
Reacting on his verified Twitter page, he said: “I was very disappointed to view the video clip of H.E. Atiku Abubakar @atiku, a former Vice-President of Nigeria, telling an audience in Kaduna that what the North needs is a northerner to be President, and not a Yoruba or Igbo candidate.
“I have a lot of respect for Atiku who, despite his flaws (which all the other leading contenders also have). I have always regarded as a truly cosmopolitan politician in our country. His reference to his “building bridges” across the country does not negate his clear message
“That message was a direct appeal to divisive ethnic sentiment and a denigration of the largest ethnic groups in Southern Nigeria. I think he should withdraw the statement and apologise to Nigerians for it.
“All candidates in the 2023 presidential election must avoid ethnic or other divisive sentimental appeals.”
Dr. Hafsatu Danladi posited: “Nigerians from North to South must reject Atiku Abubakar. We all must unite to save Nigeria from politicians who are willing to destroy us for their selfish political gains. Buhari is a Northerner. The North don’t need a Northerner. The North needs a competent leader.”
Kowa Yahaya said: “Dear Atiku Abubakar, your brand of divisive politics is what keeps setting the North backward. Your statement today has infuriated a lot of Northerners.
You honestly do not embody the spirit of unity you claim to stand for. 2023 will not be business as usual.”
Jamal Jaja said: “Atiku spoke English language. We do not need translators since we also understand English language.”
Director of Public Affairs and the Chief Spokesperson of Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo tweeted: “A northerner does not need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate.’’ – PDP’s Atiku Abubakar; “Church, it is time to take back your country.” – LP’s Peter Obi; “Though tongues and tribes may differ, our diversity is a promise for prosperity.” – APC’s @officialABAT. NIGERIANS, VOTE WISELY”
@TopboyChriss said: “Atiku is playing tribal card in the North, then playing the “Unifier” card in the South. A con man is a con man!”
Investigative journalist Fisayo Soyombo said: “A self-professed unifier who says “What the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the North and someone who understands other parts of Nigeria — not a Yoruba or an Igbo candidate” Red flag An Atiku Abubakar presidency would be more ethnocentric than Buhari’s!”
United States-based Professor and social commentator, Farooq Kperogi said: “Atiku has had his own “emi lokan” moment. He reportedly told members of the Northern Elders Forum in Kaduna that northerners need him, not a Yoruba or Igbo candidate. That’s reckless ethnic baiting. They’re all the same.”