Eight All Progressives Congress (APC) Christian leaders in the northern part of the country, led by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and Prof Doknan Sheni, have dissociated themselves from former secretary to government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, over his public declaration of support for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi.
The APC northern leaders said Babachir Lawal was expressing a personal choice and not that of the group.
The group, in a statement jointly signed by Simon Achuba, Albert Atiwurcha, Prof Doknan Sheni, Mela A. Nung, Gen Ishaya Bauka (retd.), Prof Ibrahim Haruna and Mrs Leah Olusiyi last night said the group was yet to endorse any presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 polls.
The statement, which was in a reaction to a story entitled ‘Dogara, Babachir Lawal-led Northern APC Members Endorse Peter Obi,’ reads in part: “We wish to state that necessary consultations have been concluded, and based on manifestly unassailable empirical data, the group is poised to adopt a position which will be made known to the public at an interfaith event to be held very soon.”
According to the statement, no one in the group, including the chairman, Engr B. D. Lawal, had been mandated to speak to the public about the group’s position at the moment.
It said based on its modus operandi, the group’s position was meant to be presented to the general public at the inter-faith event referred to above.
“Consequently, the decision to endorse a particular candidate and the statement credited to the chairman are solely the decision and views of the chairman which he is absolutely entitled to but not that of the group. We hope this statement clears all the queries most of us have been inundated with on this all-important subject matter.”
LEADERSHIP reports that earlier yesterday, former SGF Babachir Lawal, had released a statement which purportedly conveyed the decision of aggrieved Northern APC Christian group to support the Obi/Datti ticket of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election.
The statement declared the Muslim-Muslim ticket fielded by the APC as satanic and called on all their members to reject both the APC presidential candidature, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar.
The statement, entitled “Why we have chosen to endorse the Obi/Datti ticket” and signed by Babachir Lawal, said it came to the decision to support Peter Obi and his running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed after a painstaking analysis of the alternative tickets.
The group described the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket as a deliberate and well-calculated plan to sow a seed of religious discord among Nigerians, adding that Northerners are their intended target.
“As one of the foremost critics of APC’s single-faith presidential ticket, and also in deference to those who have patiently waited for our guidance as to where to pitch our tent, after a painstaking review and analysis of the alternative presidential tickets, we now wish to recommend the Obi/Datti presidential ticket.
“We wish to briefly narrate some few reasons among many why we have endorsed this ticket and commend it to all Nigerians of good conscience who desire justice, equity and a harmonious co-existence of all Nigerians across tribes, religion and geopolitical regions. Moreover, there is currently in circulation the fake news that I have thrown in my towel with the PDP. Nothing could be further from the truth. To me the PDP and APC are different sides of the same coin.”
He pointed out that Northern Nigeria is currently mired in several intractable socio-economic problems due to the activities of several nebulous criminal groups and agriculture, the mainstay of the northern economy, has been almost abandoned due to the nefarious activities of kidnappers and bandits, among other challenges like the high number of out of school children, with schools shut due to fear of terrorists.
According to Babachir Lawal, government-owned universities also had to close shop, depriving the children of the already impoverished Northern masses access to affordable higher education, with out-of-school and idle children becoming easy targets for recruitment by bandits and kidnappers and no solution in sight.
The statement went on: “Then, out of nowhere this man, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a renown Yoruba-hegemonist, a man who championed the establishment of a Ministry of Regional Integration in each state government of the South-west geopolitical region which he bestrides as an emperor, and a man who was once quoted as saying “I do not believe in one Nigeria” (THISDAY, The Sunday Newspaper, April 13, 1997, page 9) comes up with a Muslim-Muslim ticket knowing fully well that religion is the underbelly of Northern Nigeria. APC’s same-faith ticket is a ploy to further sow discord among Northerners using the most potent weapon of social discord- religion. As Karl Max once said, “religion is the opium of the people”. Nigerians from all shades of the society must see this Tinubu/Kashim same-faith ticket as a proposal from the pit of hell that can only be conjured by the most Machiavellian minds known to man and therefore must be rejected wholesome by all lovers of our country and its nascent democracy.
“On the other hand, Alhaji Kashim Shetima, Tinubu’s Vice-Presidential running mate, is a man who once said “restructuring my foot, let’s restructure our minds”. For eight years he presided over Borno State at a time when Boko Haram was overrunning the state almost at will and restructuring the minds of its victims against Christianity and western education. The kidnapped Chibok and Dapchi girls and many more are now slowly trickling out of captivity in the Boko Haram indoctrination camps fully Islamised and carrying children born into Islam in captivity – a true example of “mind restructuring” if there ever was one.”
The statement also pointed to an allegation of a very close relationship between Kashim Shettima and Boko Haram.
He said: “And, which Christian can forget one Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged Boko Haram kingpin accused of complicity in the Christmas bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla, that resulted in 44 deaths and 77 injured Christian worshippers? Or that the said Kabiru Sokoto was eventually arrested at his hiding place in the Borno State Government Lodge, Abuja? Are Christians not justified in being scared of a government run by this duo?
“Surely, APC’s same-faith ticket is intended to shame Christians and bestow on them and their religion a second-class socio-political status in their own country. In particular it is a validation of the discrimination and oppression being meted out on Northern Nigerian Christians where they are now denied employment, promotion, contracts, and admission to read prestigious and marketable courses in government-owned schools simply on account of their religion.
“It is no wonder then that Alhaji Bola Tinubu thinks that the Bible is a book of jokes from which he can freely construct his “jokes” like his “Poisoned Holy Communion” and “Speaking in Tongues” jokes. If he is man enough, I challenge him to ridicule the Holy Qur’an even once as he freely does the Holy Bible. This guy has no respect for Christians and Christianity at all.”
According to Lawal, the APC same faith ticket goes against the grain of Nigerian politics which in practice had always sought to achieve a religious balance in its politics and governance.
He noted that all the other 17 political parties fielding presidential candidates have gone the way of established conventions and practices by fielding different-faith tickets.
He further said in their quest for justice and equity in the socio-political and religious space of the country, it is obvious that only the Obi/Datti ticket has the potential of speaking to the genuine clamour for power shift to the South-East and at the same time speak to the cry of marginalisation by people of the South-East.
The former SGF cautioned Nigerians against the temptation of being ruled by politicians recycling themselves, their children and their friends in a monarchal fashion, in and out of government to the exclusion of other segments of the society.
He further stated that “the Obi/Datti will give us a breath of fresh air and the greatest opportunity to redeem our country from the quagmire into which we have been plunged by a recurring group of self-centred reactionaries.
“There is also this palpable fear and anxiety over a possible transition of the current presidency from one Fulbe to another – same tribe, same religion, same region, same courtiers. This has given rise to a heightened fear of a possible perpetuation of a Fulbe hegemony in the country. Besides, there is the perception by many Nigerians that the Fulbe are the main actors in the banditry and kidnappings currently ravaging the country. Therefore, there is a widespread perception that another Fulbe-led government will not have the inclination or political will to address the country’s security challenges as a majority of the perpetrators are its kindred.”
Obi-Datti Campaign Welcomes Babachir’s Support
Meanwhile, the Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party has said that the decision of the APC Northern Christians leaders to support the Obi-Datti ticket is a good development and a major boost for their victory in the 2023 presidential election.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday last night, the spokesman of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, said every right-thinking Nigerian knows that Peter Obi is the most competent person to lead the country come 2023.
“The decision they have taken is the best decision. It has shown that they are working for the progress and development of Nigeria.
“The endorsement of Obi by the APC Northern Christian leaders is a boost to our campaign and a boost to the Labour Party Victory come 2023,” Tanko, a former Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) national chairman said.
… Say ‘We Won’t Force Dogara Group To Support Obi’
Meanwhile, following the reaction to Babachir’s declaration by other Northern APC Christian leaders, the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council has said that it will not force the former speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara to support its candidate.
According to the campaign council, it was satisfied with the support of Nigerians towards ensuring that Peter Obi emerges as the next president, adding that people who have been benefiting from a corrupt system may want to remain in it.
“We won’t hold anybody on the throat to support Peter Obi. We will continue to thank and appreciate people who have taken the bold decision to support our candidate, Peter Obi. We hope and believe that those who are yet to see the light will have a change of mind.
“Obi is the most qualified candidate for the election and we appreciate people, including the former SGF Babachir Lawal, who have taken the lead on this.
“We know and we are confident that many people will join us before the election,” Tanko said.
Tinubu Vows To End DisCos’ Extortion, Estimated Billing
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday expressed concern over what he described as extortion by DisCos across the country and vowed to end estimated billing across the country come 2023.
Tinubu who described the DisCos across the country as extortionist said that Nigerians will no longer go through the agony of the extortion through estimated billing if elected President come 2023.
The APC standard bearer said the 16-year misrule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) brought Nigeria to its knees, adding that the APC government is rebuilding the nation’s sectors destroyed by the PDP.
Tinubu made the observation at the Pa Ngele Orunta Township Stadium, Abakaliki, during the Ebonyi State presidential rally and Ebonyi governorship campaign flag-off.
He promised to revamp the education sector, the health sector and restore the country’s economy, adding that as president of the country, Nigeria will witness a great turnaround.
Tinubu said his administration will also focus more on the transport sector of the country, noting that the transport sector would enable traders, farmers and other businesses in the country to thrive.
The former Lagos State governor disclosed that the education of the Nigerian child is important for today and tomorrow, saying education is the greatest weapon against poverty.
He stated that he will hold talks with all the agitators in the country and find a lasting solution to the wave of insecurity in the country which, he said, had affected the country greatly.
Tinubu urged Nigerians to elect visionary leaders that will lead the country to become a viable nation and assured the people of South East of transforming the region to the Taiwan of Africa.
Earlier in his address, Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi had urged Nigeria to eschew all
forms of tribal -religious and sectional politics and assured the South East that the emergence of Bola Tinubu as the president of the country will benefit the South-East region.
The rally also witnessed the defection of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate in Ebonyi State, Chief Ikechukwu Nwankwo, and that of the former Minister for Culture and Tourism who was also a Senatorial aspirant under the PDP, Ambassador Franklin Ogbuewu.
Tinubu was accompanied to the rally by the governors of Imo, Cross River, Borno, Jigawa and Kebbi. Others at the rally included the national chairman of the party represented by the deputy national chairman, South, Chief Emma Eneukwu, among other national officers of the party.
Atiku Unveils $10bn Youth Employment Scheme
Also yesterday, the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said he would earmark the sum of $10 billion to tackle youth unemployment if elected as Nigeria’s president in the 2023 general elections.
Atiku disclosed this in Ilorin, Kwara State, at the flag- off of the PDP North Central campaign rally, at the Metropolitan Square, Ilorin.
The former vice president said that the money would be used to help Nigerian youths in establishing micro, small and medium=sized enterprises.
“I want to assure you that the youth unemployment which is all over the country is not peculiar to Kwara State or the North Central zone. Most of you here are under the age of 30 and most of you here have no jobs or businesses. We will make sure that in our programme, I’ve promised that I’ll set aside $10billion to make sure that youth unemployment is catered for in micro, small and medium enterprises to empower you and to make sure that you are gainfully employed so that you have a decent living.
“We’re not here to tell you lies. We’re your parents. We want you to be like what we are. We will bail you out. We will bring you up. We will make sure you obtain your objectives, whatever your lofty ambitions. That’s why we are here. Don’t vote for APC again. Vote for all candidates of the PDP come 2023.”
Atiku also promised to restore security all over the country if elected.
“When they came, they said they would tackle insecurity in six months. But what do we see? We now see insecurity all over the country. It’s a total failure by the APC in all its ramifications”.
The presidential hopeful urged Kwarans to elect all PDP candidates during the 2023 general elections.