By Emma Ujah, Emeka Mammah, Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru & Umar Yusuf
As IBB, Gusau, Saraki groups fuse into Atiku camp
ABUJA— A DAY after he was chosen as a consensus presidential aspirant by the Northern Political Leaders Forum, NPLF, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, drew the battle line with President Goodluck Jonathan on what he described as the President’s failures in managing the economy and upholding the zoning principle of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Atiku who addressed his first major press conference since his emergence as the NPLF presidential aspirant, accused President Jonathan of threatening the cohesion of the country with his determination to contest the presidency.
The agreement by campaign organisations of the erstwhile aspirants to support Mallam Adamu Ciroma-led NPLF’s choice, nonetheless, Atiku was, yesterday, flayed by the Senate Majority Whip and Deputy Director General of the Ibrahim Babangida Campaign Organisation, Senator Kanti Bello. Senator Bello described the choice as irrational and unthought of.
Tinubu opposes emergence of Atiku
Erstwhile Atiku political associate and leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described the zoning of offices as cancerous as he expressed opposition to the process of the emergence of Atiku as a consensus aspirant.
The Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation, on its part, dismissed Atiku’s assertions on the President as hypocritical as the campaign described Atiku as a disloyal politician with no respect for agreements.
Atiku was flanked by several political associates including directors-general of the campaign organisations of his three rivals for the consensus candidacy. Director-General of the campaign organisation of the Ibrahim Babangida Campaign Organisation, Dr. Raymond Dokpesi, announced at the occasion that three presidential aspirants who did not get the nod of the Ciroma committee would immediately merge their structures into the Atiku Campaign Organisation.
Noting that the unity of the country had been threatened by President’s Jonathan’s alleged disrespect for zoning, Atiku said: “The unity of this country, equity and justice require that existing agreements freely entered into by individuals and groups be respected.
This is not a North versus South thing as some dishonest people would like to frame it. It is about honour, trust and fairness. Our words must be our bond. We must learn to respect agreements so that the unity of this country may endure.
“We are a diverse people who recognized early in our history that national unity, fairness and equity require that we share positions of power among our diverse peoples. That is what we call zoning/rotation of public offices.
“Zoning has become part of our political culture. That is how the PDP zoned the office of President to the South in 1999. In 2002, an expanded caucus of the PDP reaffirmed the zoning of the Presidency to the South for another four years after which it would be the turn of the north for eight years.
“Our current President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was present at that expanded caucus meeting and voted in support of zoning. It, therefore, came as a rude shock to most Nigerians, including northern leaders in the PDP, when indications emerged that Dr Jonathan, would, in utter disregard of the PDP constitution and extant agreements, offer himself for election to the office of President in 2011. We were alarmed that the progress that we have made as a nation to address our diversity in relation to power_sharing would be jeopardized, with consequences that may be catastrophic.”
Flaying the economic direction of the country, Atiku particularly flayed President Jonathan’s stewardship of the economy and the increasing debt load of the country which he claimed was nearly wiped out when he served as Vice-President to President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He said: “Why are our budgets not being implemented? Why has the money in our Excess Crude Account disappeared at a time when oil prices have been way above the benchmark used for our budget estimates? Why are our foreign reserves being depleted to dangerous levels leading to rating agencies downgrading our status?
“Why is this government quickly dragging us back to indebtedness after we worked so hard and sacrificed so much in the past to pull ourselves out of debt slavery? Clearly we need a new leadership in this country. That is why I am in this race.”
Reacting to Atiku’s assertions, the Jonathan-Sambo campaign organisation described him as an inconsistent politician with a known record for disloyalty and incapacity for keeping of agreements.
Atiku doesn’t respect agreements —Sully Abu
Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Sully Abu, said that Atiku’s statement calling on President Jonathan to respect PDP’s agreement on zoning was misplaced since the PDP to which Atiku belongs, decided that President Jonathan was free to run.
He said: “Atiku principally spoke on two issues which were zoning and the economy. The PDP to which Atiku claims to have allegiance, decided, having weighed all the circumstances, operating factors, that President Jonathan was entitled to run for the 2010 Presidential elections if he so desires.
“Now, every loyal member of a political party ought to abide by the decision of that party but perhaps, it is too much to expect such behaviour from Atiku since he has been jumping in and out of political parties.
“As for the economy, what he talked about is the same song he has been singing for a long time. Though the Nigerian economy has been improving steadily as attested to by Nigerians and by at least one internationally reputable rating agency.
But for our political opponents, all is fair in politics including the selective use of facts and outright falsehood to score cheap political goals. However, Nigerians will not be deceived this time”.
Senator Bello kicks
Senator Bello said the process which produced Atiku was undemocratic and could well spell doom for the party.
Bello who spoke on the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Hausa Service monitored in Kaduna, said it was a mistake for the North to have gone into the arrangement of trying to get a consensus candidate.
Bello said: “We never contemplated that the committee would choose Atiku. Babangida is my choice because I believe in Allah, he is the one that I believe, can do things that will lead us to success.
But as I said, when someone was assigned to be an arbiter and they did what supposed not to be the case, then what is mine in that?”
National Vice Chairman of the PDP Youth Vanguard, Rilwan Abdullahi, said at a news conference in Kaduna, that the Ciroma committee lacked the competence to speak for the North since some of its members were not in the PDP.
He said: “We as the youth want to make our position clear that such contribution by the wise men will do no good to the country. The selection of Atiku by the wise men negates the principle of true and genuine democracy.
“Sectionalizing the issue of Nigerian presidency is undemocratic, unfair and unjust and because the Nigerian Constitution has given every Nigerian the right to aspire to any office in the country.
We believe that this decision by the Ciroma_led wise men will not be in the interest of the North and they are not speaking for the North.”
Former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu equally frowned at the emergence of Atiku as the consensus candidate of the North in the 2011 presidential elections, under Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, platform.
Tinubu who described the selective process as a system which was not effectively arranged and done on the basis of democratic principles, said: “I am opposed to the cancer of zoning of political offices; I would rather urge Nigerians to work towards uniting the country rather than tearing it along sectional lines.
I am not a PDP member, neither do I subscribe to the principles of zoning as they are arguing in PDP, I want a united Nigeria, I do not want a sectional Nigeria.”
Arewa Youth Forum
Atiku’s choice was equally flayed by the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, AYCF, which said the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate for the North was a PDP affair. AYCF president, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said: “Atiku’s emergence as consensus candidate for the PDP does not translate to a northern candidate.”
The Arewa Youth President noted that Ciroma and his committee could not speak or choose for the North, but for the PDP alone, adding: “Even as PDP members, their committee is limited to a clique and do not reflect the choice of all PDP members in the North. Atiku is not a popular personality that has the Northern acceptance. Soon, we will be meeting to make a choice on the presidential aspirant we’ll endorse, irrespective of ethnic or party lines.”
However, Atiku’s choice as the consensus aspirant of the NPLF was received with jubilation in Yola, Adamawa State, Atiku’s home base.
Moments after the news of Atiku emergence filtered into the state, Yola the state capital was agog as thousands of his supporters thronged the main streets jubilating and chanting.
Senator Ben Obi
Dr. Udenta Udenta
Chief Raymond Dokpesi
Dr. Ojo Onukaba
Alhaji Lawal Kaita
Dr. Shettima Mustapha
Professor Sam Oyovbaire
Meden Teneke, Factional Chairman, PDP Adamawa
Bello Sabo Abdulkadir
Prof. Chukwuma Soludo