The political elite in Northern Nigeria are propping up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of the region in the 2023 presidential election.
In this wise, former national security adviser, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau (rtd), is set to present Atiku Abubakar to former military head of head, General Ibrahim Babaginda tomorrow as the anointed northern candidate for the 2023 presidential election.
This follows Atiku’s emergence as the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate for the election over the weekend after defeating governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike, Bauchi State governor Bala Mohammed, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and other candidates at the just concluded PDP primaries.
Top sources, who confirmed the move to LEADERSHIP, said some powerful northern elite, led by former military president Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and Gusau, met before the primaries and asked all northern candidates to step down and support the Atiku’s candidature, but that Bala Mohammed and Bukola Saraki insisted on going on with the election, which did not please the group.
It took the intervention of General IBB, who personally called the Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal to step down for Atiku and that was why it was done openly at the convention as a sign of allegiance to the group and the grand plan of having a united northern candidate for the 2023 general election.
The sources also stated that the group was annoyed with Governor Bala Mohammed and was determined to punish him by ensuring that he does not get an opportunity to go back to his position where a proxy had obtained a ticket for him.
Gusau was said to have been the middle man who negotiated and lobbied to ensure that all candidates from the North came together to support the candidature of Atiku Abubakar for the PDP general election in 2023.
Meanwhile, it was also alleged that Wike felt betrayed by his Southern counterparts who pushed him to contest for the election with the promise of voting for him. He also had high hopes mainly on Kano delegates, where he had lobbied a former governor to organise the delegates to vote for him.
The intrigues behind the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate also involved the collaboration of a majority of the northern groups as some of the delegates lists were even doctored to ensure that the delegates vote for the preferred aspirant.
However, after the convention, the group is currently working to ensure that Wike is given the choice of providing a running mate to Atiku Abubakar if he wishes not to contest himself. This is aimed at pacifying him to continue to support the party.
Other choices that may emerge if Wike refuses to contest as vice president include the governor of Enugu State Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, who is a strong supporter of Wike, and the governor of Abia State, who has shown commitment to work with Wike. Delta State governor will also be a possible candidate for the vice-presidential slot. All the options will be discussed by the Northern elite in order to pick a suitable candidate that can ensure they win the election in 2023.
Meanwhile, Atiku yesterday moved to calm frayed nerves in the aftermath of his victory at last Saturday’s presidential primary as he met with some top contenders for the party ticket in Abuja. He met with Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, former Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Akwa Ibom State governor Udom Emmanuel and former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim.
The former vice president personally went to the residences of the aspirants in Abuja to plead for their support ahead of the main election.
He had shortly, after his emergence, met with former Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, to thank him for withdrawing from the race and urging his supporters to vote for him (Atiku).
Some of the aspirants, like Anyim, had lamented the voting pattern of the delegates even though he congratulated Atiku on his victory.
Atiku emerged PDP candidate for a second time in four years at the Velodrome of the MKO National Stadium late Saturday, scoring a total of 371 Votes to defeat his closest rival, Wike, who scored 237 votes.
Speaking on Atiku’s visit to the aspirants, Senator Dino Melaye, who served as one of the electoral officers for Atiku during the convention, said the visits to the aspirants was “cordial.”
Dino, while speaking on a political and current affairs programme on TVC named Journalists Hangout, also said he believes Wike, as a committed party man, would support Atiku to win the election, having promised to support whoever emerges as the party candidate.
He further dismissed insinuations that delegates voted along ethnic lines, revealing that Katsina and Kano delegates voted for Wike while Delta delegates voted for Atiku.
He accused the APC of masterminding the insinuation that delegates voted along ethnic lines.
“People voted their conscience at the convention. It was not a Northern affair, nor a Southern affair. There was no tribal or regional sentiment in the voting process,” he said.
Reacting to why the party refused to zone its presidential ticket, the former lawmaker said the 2023 election provided a peculiar situation where the party had to decide between winning or zoning.
Noting that the party settled for winning the election, he added that “it would be parochial and stupid to share what you don’t have.”
Wike Accuses Southern PDP Governors Of Betrayal
In a related development, Wike declared that some PDP governors ganged up with some vested interest groups to derail the quest of Southern Nigeria to produce the next president.
He said it was the agreement of the governors of Southern Nigeria that the presidency should come to the South, and he did not betray that agreement.
Wike spoke yesterday during a grand reception organised by the people of the state at Government House, Port Harcourt, to welcome him back from Abuja after the PDP presidential primary.
The governor described as shameful the inability of some of those who were part of the agreement to stick to it when it mattered.
He accused them of selling out and thereby frustrated the collective efforts that would have secured the PDP presidential ticket by him for the South.
Wike said: “I contested in an election (primary) based on the principle and agreement with all Southern governors and leaders of the South that Presidency should go to the South this period.
“We have done our part. We never betrayed anybody because it is not in our blood to betray. But it is a shame to those people, some of the governors from the South, they are the people that were used to sabotage our cause.”
The governor stated that it was disheartening that some governors from the South due to their inordinate ambition could jettison the collective interest of the people they claim to represent.
Wike explained that he was propelled into the race to offer service and advance the interest of Nigeria. In the process, he was confronted by a few individuals who wanted somebody they will control and he declined to be such puppet.
The governor said: “The winner (of the ticket) also saw it. They underrated us, but now they will not underrate us again. We have all it takes to do whatever we want to do.
“It is a matter of you being firm; it is a matter of you being hopeful. There is nobody that is born greater than us in this country, therefore, we cannot answer second class citizens. We can’t.
“We just used this one to tell them that enough is enough. This country does not belong to one particular zone. If people are afraid of talking, it is their business. I cannot be a second-class citizen in my country.”
Wike stated that with the presidential primary over, and given his pledge to work for whoever emerged, Rivers State will work to deliver PDP and all its candidates in the 2023 general election.
The governor recalled that in 2019, despite the failure of the candidate he supported to clinch the ticket, Rivers State gave PDP massive votes and refused to negotiate with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to give them 25 per cent votes in the state.
He said: “In 2019, I was the only governor from the South-South who never negotiated with the present government. They came, I said no, I was not going to be party to that. And that is why APC never had 25 percent in this state (Rivers).
“But, all the other states in the South-South, the president got 35 percent to 40 percent. I said I was not going to sit down with them and negotiate.”
Wike said he has even told the winner of the PDP presidential primary, Atiku Abubakar, that most of those hanging around him do not have electoral value.
The governor stated that it would be imperative on such people from states, whether in the North or South, to deliver the kind of votes that Rivers State will deliver in the 2023 general election in order for PDP to win the presidency.
PDP chairman in the state, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, commended Wike for his resilience, adding that the entire state and the Niger Delta were happy that he spoke for them.
Ohanaeze Denies Blasting Atiku Over Emergence As PDP Presidential Flag bearer
Meanwhile, the apex Igbo social-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, yesterday said its attention had been drawn to a publication currently circulating in the media indicating that Ohanaeze Ndigbo had blasted Atiku and vowed to work against his PDP candidacy in the 2023 polls.
The national publicity secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, referred to a release claiming “the Igbo would rise up against Atiku, and that his presidential campaign would be rejected in the South-East” as not a ruse.
Ogbonnia said, ordinarily, Ohanaeze Ndigbo would have ignored the said press release, but said silence in this circumstance will tend to give validity to such fallacy by the unsuspecting public.
He said it was therefore imperative to state that those behind the press release were mischief makers, impostors, charlatans and unscrupulous social climbers who had shamelessly leeched on the invaluable footprints of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to issue press releases for narrow, perverse and illicit pecuniary interests.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural body, led by Ambassador Professor George Obiozor has not issued any press statement on the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“Ohanaeze awaits with keen interest the full outcome of the ongoing primaries by all the political parties before it can issue a press release with respect to the Igbo position on the 2023 general election,” he said.
He added that the secretary general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide is Ambassador Okey Emuchay, and any claim to the contrary was devious and irresponsible.
Peter Obi Emerges Labour Party Presidential Candidate
Former Anambra State governor, Mr Peter Obi, has won the primary election of Labour Party to become the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
Obi at the party primary conducted in Asaba yesterday polled 96 votes to pick the presidential ticket after three other aspirants, Prof. Pat Utomi, Mrs Olubusola Emmanuel and Mr. Joseph Faduri, withdrew from the race.
A total of 104 delegates from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory were accredited to vote, but the actual votes cast were 98, with one void vote .
Having secured the highest number of votes cast, the returning officer, Usman Aliyu Abdullahi, declared Peter Obi the winner of the primary election, after which the party’s flag was presented to him.
The former vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last week defected to the Labour Party after resigned from the PDP, despite being one of the party’s presidential aspirants.
Obi had said he resigned in consonance with his belief of growing a nation of producers rather than consumers.
In his acceptance speech, Obi thanked the leadership of the party and the delegates for electing him, adding however that the task to rebuild Nigeria was the responsibility of all.
Obi urged Labour Party faithful to go to every nook and cranny of the country to bring out the votes during the presidential election.
He urged the three aspirants, including Prof. Pat Utomi, Joseph Faduri and Mrs. Olubusola Emmanuel Tella, to join hands with him to have a robust campaign across the country.
Earlier while addressing the delegates, Obi identified the problem of Nigeria as leadership failure, saying that his simple mission to Aso Rock was to remove Nigeria from a consuming nation to a productive one.
According to him, the number one solution to insecurity is pulling people out of poverty, adding that if elected, his administration would invest in education.
He said his administration would address the issue of power, curb waste in public expenditure and end the stealing of government assets.
“I have got a simple mission: Nigeria is not a productive country; I just want to remove it from consumption, from sharing to production.
“If you listen carefully, you hear people talk about 100 million Nigerians living in poverty. Why do we have insecurity as a problem? The number one solution to fight insecurity is to pull people out of poverty.
“When you have over 20 million out of school, then we have a problem, we will invest in education.”
On lack of electricity, Obi insisted that the leadership of Nigeria was not sincere about addressing it, noting that solving the problem of power was not rocket science.
“The first time this country borrowed money in September 1964 was when Tafawa Balewa wrote the World Bank for $82 million to build the Kainji Dam.
“And he said it then that he was applying it to build the facility to generate 760 megawatts of electricity for the growth of the country.
“58 years after, we are still struggling with 4,000 megawatts. As of today, Nigeria is owing $120 billion. Imagine if we had used that money for power, we would have been generating over 40,000 megawatts of electricity, but we consumed the money, and that is why we find it difficult to service debt.
“If you have 40,000 megawatts of electricity, you will be able to set up industries and factories in all the local government areas.
“We are a people of 200 million and we are generating 4,000. South Africa is just 60 million but they are generating 54,000 megawatts. Egypt with a 100 million population is generating 54,000. What will shock you is that Egypt doubled their own between 2016 and 2020. It was 22,000 in 2016.
“It can be done in Nigeria, it is not rocket science, what we need here is a leader with a vision, capacity, competence to deliver.”
Part of his acceptant speech reads: “Painfully, our current dysfunctional system rewards unearned income and conspicuous consumption; allows university lecturers to remain on strike for months; keeps our youths at home; and owes pensioners, who gave their patriotic sweat and their youthful energy to serve this country.
“The despicable contrast is that those responsible for the mess -those elected to take care of them – have abandoned the national currency and are living in opulence and like kings; they spend dollars to buy delegates as well as houses all over the world. Meanwhile, they owe most workers, lecturers and retirees.
”Yes, our country stands hijacked by forces of retrogression. We are almost zero in all indices of development. As a result, our future, especially those of the youth and generations unborn, is in ruins.
“As a party that represents the workers and masses of this great nation, we are people organised and working for our economic rebirth. As I am nominated today, I humbly proclaim that the journey towards the emancipation of the country has begun.”
“In the battle to re-take Nigerian, the odds are great and seemingly insurmountable, but with our commitment, patriotism and understanding that we are doing what we are supposed to do for our country, lest she shall die, we shall move on discontent with what is and focused on enthroning what ought to be. In doing this, our battle cry shall remain: get your PVC and become part of this great liberation!
Obi was the running mate to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election. Both of them will now face off at the presidential election in 2023, as Atiku on Saturday emerged as the presidential candidate of the PDP.