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How Far Can Endorsements Carry Atiku?

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CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes on the recent spate of endorsements that came the way of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

The plethora of endorsements ahead of the general election is significant of the times. The two leading presidential candidates in the race, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), respectively, have been enjoying endorsements.

However, the endorsement of Atiku has attracted lots of attention. Recent polls have shown the PDP candidate as leading his APC counterpart. First it was the foreign polls that projected Atiku’s victory in the forthcoming election.

The London Economist intelligence Unit and the William and Associate team had in their estimation and polls forecast Atiku as winner in a prospective competitive contest.

While the release of the polls expectedly elicited responses, it however came at a time when analysts and party supporters were locked in projections based on geo-political strongholds of the two leading candidates.

Interestingly, the agency had, in a similar field work in 2015, predicted the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan in the last presidential election, using same methodology it employed now.

Shortly afterwards, the endorsements began to unfold. Rising from a joint meeting in Abuja, Northern Elders Forum, Pan Niger Delta Forum, Ohanaeze, Afenifere, Middlebelt reached a consensus on the suitability of Atiku’s candidacy.

The forum of leaders and Elders cut across the six geo-political and cultural zones in the country, resolved that Atiku is the only candidate with the competence and vision to take Nigeria out of her present economic and socio-political quagmire.

At the special summit convened by the forum, of the Northern Elders Forum; Pan Niger Delta Development Forum; Afenifere; Ohanaeze; Middlebelt Forum; as well as the Northern Leaders and Stakeholders Assembly, they knocked the second term ambition of  President Muhammadu Buhari, saying he cannot be voted for again for Nigeria to achieve unity, security and peace required for meaningful development.

The communique released at the end of the meeting and read by the forums’ spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said: “The Forum adopts the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the Consensus Candidate for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as he has demonstrated the deep understanding of the critical need of the country at this time and posseses the capacity to proffer clear solutions in that respect”

The Forum also “called on all Nigerians, irrespective of religious or ethnic background to stand in unison and vote for Atiku Abubakar on 16th February 2019 and ensure that they defend their votes.”

The leaders stressed that Nigeria is not only in serious crises of insecurity, dwindling economy, nepotism, killings, corruption but now witnessing a major constitutional crisis under the APC.

One of the leaders, who was former federal commissioner of Information, Chief Edwin Clark capped the aggregate decision of the elders when he said; “I join the Ohaneze, the Afenifere, the Northern Elders Forum and on behalf of the Niger Delta people, Atiku is our presidential candidate for a better and prosperous Nigeria. We must do away with the deceit of the President Buhari’s government.”

In the communique, the leaders and Elders Forum reminded Nigerians that “the forthcoming elections are about the type of nation we need as adults and those for whom we have responsibilities noting that  since 1999 have we been challenged with the power to shape our future as these elections do.”

In a remark at the summit, leader of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi, stated that “We in the Northern Elders Forum arrived at our decisions on the basis of strict principles.

“We later began to see that things are not going according to our expectations and our expectation is in the best interest of Nigeria.

“We had alerted the Presidency on all these but they played to the Gallery by saying that we are scuttling Northern Presidency.

“So our resolution was published that Northern politicians who had failed should not expect support from the Northern Elders Forum.

“The reality is that from the two major candidates, we go for the one with vision and capacity to deliver Nigeria. Based on our assessments etc, it is clear that a new leader should emerge for Nigeria and that leader is Atiku Abubakar.”

President of Ohanaeze, John Nwodo, lamented that Nigeria has fallen from her glorious days where ethnicity, religion, others were relegated to the background when key decision were to be taken.

He declared: “Today we have a head of state who has reminded us of our Ethnic and religious differences.

“On restructuring, Buhari said it was not the problem of Nigeria but Atiku excelled in his response to our questions on restructuring.

“In four years, the Federal government has taken more loan than the debt paid by Obasanjo.”

He also lamented the failure of Nigeria to diversify to other sources of revenue when it is now known that the US will soon be producing 12 million barrels of crude oil a day.

Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, said: “I never for see that the government of the day will become so tyrannical when we started the program. We are only asking God to confirm the election of Atiku as President.

“By voting Atiku, you are working for the survival of Nigeria. The evil tormenting us is doing everything to remain in power,” he said.

The endorsement was like tonic to the PDP. In its immediate reaction, the opposition described the endorsement of its candidate as a welcome development.

The national spokesman of PDP, Kola Ologbodiyan, observed that the endorsement of its candidate was in tune with the mood of the nation.

He added: “The vast majority of Nigerians have come to end of the Buhari presidential and they have seen that another four years under President Buhari can only sink us further into the abyss.

“Nigerians have suffered enough in the last three and half years. So, they want new thinking, new initiative which Atiku Abubakar has promised Nigerians.

“And that is why it’s not a surprise but a very welcome development that the geo-Political groups have come out to endorse former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. It validates the position of the average Nigerian and even the world today.”

But the APC didn’t hesitate to rubbish the endorsement of the candidacy of Atiku  by leaders of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum, Pan-Niger Delta forum, the Middle Belt Forum, and a faction of Afenifere.

For them, the endorsement was orchestrated by PDP sympathisers.

Director, strategic communications, APC presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, in a statement titled ‘its voodoo endorsement and voodoo projection’, said, “The so-called PDP-induced ‘endorsement’ of its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar by a few individuals claiming, albeit falsely, to represent their respective regions. These are PANDEF, Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Ohaneze Ndigbo, a tiny faction of Afenifere and Middle Belt Forum.

“Certain projections by a section of the Press that give the impression that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is in some kind of a tight race with President Muhammadu Buhari in respect of the 2019 Presidential election.

“Firstly, as regards the endorsements by the above-named socio-cultural groups, there is no fraud bigger than that of known PDP members and/or hardened PDP sympathizers wearing the apparel of socio-cultural groups, purporting to represent entire regions and endorsing their own political party.

“The impression given through these endorsements that PDP is expanding its support base is also an attempt to deceive Nigerians because these are groups that supported PDP in 2015 and lost the election along with PDP.

“Therefore, their excuse that they are supporting Alhaji Atiku Abubakar because of the bogey called ‘restructuring’ is nothing but a subterfuge. In any case, Ohaneze had said in its earlier release that the first reason they are endorsing Atiku Abubakar is that his running mate is an Igbo man.

“In the past, it used to be that some of these individuals have used the names of these groups and platforms to purport to represent their people and as such enjoyed huge government patronage. The proceeds of this patronage have never trickled down to their people they purport to represent but ended up in their pockets and benefitted only their immediate families……”

President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki said the gale of endorsements of PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is a reflection of the wishes of the electorate.

Saraki, who is the director-general of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, also described the endorsement as a validation of the results of the scientific polls by the London Economist intelligence Unit and the William and Associate team.

He said with the latest developments, Nigerians have taken a position that the false claim of integrity and anti corruption by President Muhammadu Buhari is nothing but an election gimmick.

He further stated that the three major pillars – economy, security, and anti corruption –  which Buhari hinged the campaign for his reelection on, have collapsed totally in the face of realities on the ground.

“The economy has been thoroughly mismanaged. Insecurity has become more widespread and beyond their control while the government encourages and nurtures corruption from within”, he said.

He also expressed confidence that Atiku would win the election in a free and fair contest based on the scientific forecasts by the two groups and the evident massive nationwide support for Atiku by Nigerian electorate.

Saraki urged Nigerians to take a cue from the gale of endorsements and predictions by credible groups in favour of Atiku and vote wisely.

“The endorsements are like tonic to the work of the campaign organisations to intensify our efforts as it is a testament that we are employing the right approach and techniques to market our candidate to Nigerians.

“We have been able to change the narratives. We have debunked a lot of lies and rumours being peddled around against our candidate and Nigerians are now better informed.

“Leaders of the ruling party know that they could no longer deceive Nigerians because we have allowed the people to know that they are all pretenders with their claim of integrity and anti-corruption posture.

“The fact that Nigerians expressed favourable opinions while credible private agencies were conducting their research showed that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will defeat the incumbent, President Buhari, next week Saturday”, the Senate President stated.

The back and forth between the two leading parties have since ignited issues around how relevant those socio-political organisations are on one hand and whether or not they ought to be partisan in their disposition on matters like this. But these groups had also taken positions in 2015. In a contest that had Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Northerner and a southerner, the socio-political groups had thrown their support along lines of their ethnic persuasions.

But the 2019 election has seen a realignment largely because the two major candidates, were in keeping with the zoning arrangement of the political parties.

While the debate raged, it hasnt stopped other political platforms from giving more endorsements for Atiku.

Ndigbo in the three middlebelt states of Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau also endorsed Atiku. Same way, members of the Peoples Democratic Movement, (PDM) a political organisation founded by late former Chief of General Staff (Supreme Headquarters), General Shehu Yar’Adua, adopted former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as its consensus  candidate for the 2019 Presidential election.

However, for the man in the spotlight, he acknowledges the enormity of such endorsements it would seem.

Atiku, in a statement he personally signed said he was moved to tears that in the midst of deep divisions and deliberate use of instrumentalities of state to set the people against themselves in the last three and a half years, responsible and respected leaders across Nigeria have agreed to come together for the purpose of endorsing his candidature for the February 16, 2019 Presidential elections.

He added that the endorsement signals hope for the country as it goes to the polls in a few days.

“Today we put aside all our prejudices to elect a President with religion and ethnicity playing no role in our elections.

“I profusely thank our Leaders across the country who have created this wonderful moment for us to come to the table of brotherhood. Once again, and in the words of our old  National Anthem, we can proudly sing: “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.

“This has buoyed me to lead a Pan-Nigerian team that will give practical interpretation to what has been done by the time I take leadership of our country, by the grace of Allah, on May 29, 2019.

“Many countries of the world have been led into disintegration by strongmen (one in each country) and we have seen how individuals who understand the management of diversities have rallied their people for unity.

“I have been chosen to unite our people and exactly that I will. I will run a properly federated Nigeria through constitutional reforms to bring out the best from ALL sections of Nigeria to make Nigeria work again like in the past when the Saudi Royal family came to Nigeria to access Medicare.

“We will promote an inclusive Nigeria based on productivity that every section of Nigeria will bring out the best under their soil, and in their brain to make Nigeria assume its position in Africa and the global community .

“It would be 100 percent for every section of Nigeria as I would not understand any arithmetic outside that.”

Still, the electorates will decide the outcome of the polls regardless of the nature of such endorsements and from whom they came.

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