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Atiku: Obasanjo laughs

He should be in jail —Jonathan

By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Kingsley Omonobi, Daniel Idonor, Ben Agande, Umar Yusuf  & Daniel Eteghe
LAGOS—ERSTWHILE President Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday,  mocked the prospect of his former deputy, Atiku Abubakar, becoming the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

Obasanjo’s derision came as President Goodluck Jonathan asserted that Atiku should be in jail and had no moral right to speak on the economy on account of his alleged culpability in sabotaging the economy while he was in government.

Vice-President Namadi Sambo on his part dismissed suggestions of a Northern consensus presidential aspirant for the PDP affirming that the development was strange to the party and democracy.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Muhhamadu Buhari and Chief Ernest Shonekan at the during the Council of State Meeting Presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday in Abuja.

Meanwhile, Atiku was also disowned at home by the Adamawa State government which flayed the process of his emergence as ancient and anti-democratic.

Reflective of the perceived lack of enthusiasm for Atiku by Northern governors, Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, said the North would speak on its presidential aspirant in due season.

Also yesterday, South-South coordinators of the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation dismissed Atiku’s viability describing him as a regional politician in contrast to Jonathan whom they described as a national candidate.

A moment of relief for Atiku, however, was the endorsement he received from his long time associate and friend, former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu. The endorsement is believed to have been especially welcomed on the basis of claims that Ayu was preparing the ground for his own presidential campaign.

Obasanjo’s comical reaction

President Obasanjo’s comical reaction to Atiku came on the fringes of the  Council of State’s meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja during a chat with reporters.

Asked to comment on the choice of Atiku, Obasanjo after adjusting his white coloured agbada brought out his Vicks inhaler and inhaled in both nostrils and thereafter burst out laughing “I dey laugh.”

After about one minute, he again said: “I am full of joy and I wish you (journalists) and Nigerians the fullness of joy. I wish you peace and joy always.”  The reporters echoed: “Amen”.

Shema derides choice

Governor Shema who was in the same Council of State meeting equally pooh-poohed suggestions of Atiku’s choice as reflective of the Northern political establishment.
His session with State House correspondents ran thus:

“What’s your view on Atiku?
He is a presidential aspirant.

But, he is standing in for the North?

You have to ask the North

But you are a key member of the North?

Yes, I am but you have to ask the North because I am not the only person in the North.

What’s your personal view?

My view? The North will talk.”

Speaking to newsmen at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, Vice-President Sambo affirmed that the PDP would use its constitution in choosing its presidential candidate even as he flayed the process adopted by the Ciroma as undemocratic.

Sambo asked: “Who said that there is a consensus candidate for the North, who said so?

Because we are not aware of any northern consensus candidate because our understanding differs and the North has no consensus candidate for this election for PDP.

PDP has constitutional avenues, we have our constitution of the party on how we select our candidate for our different positions for election.

“And just two days ago INEC  presented the timetable which I can assure you the PDP will follow that time table. We will follow the constitutional processes for the election of our candidate.”

‘Atiku should have been in jail’

Responding through the Director of Research and Strategy in the Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation, Mr. Mike Omeri, Jonathan expressed shock that Atiku could be talking about the economy despite his role in eroding the health of the economy during his time as Vice-President.

Affirming that Atiku should rather be in jail on account of his alleged misdeeds, the campaign organisation said:

“We are all witnesses to the kind of economy Atiku ran as Vice President when he mortgaged our common heritage to himself and his cronies. Atiku is the least person to talk about economy he ran aground.

He lacked the moral standing and should be schooled on basic economies. Jonathan is only working hard to clean the mess of corruption bequeathed by Atiku.

“It is sad that Atiku who ordinarily should be behind bars for bringing the nation’s economy to its knees when he supervised the selling of our collective wealth in the guise of privatisation would have the temerity to speak ill of a hard working President like Goodluck Jonathan.”

While accusing Atiku of mischief, Jonathan maintained that the figures portrayed by his rival were contrary to facts and figures produced by international rating agencies and institutions.

“We maintained that Nigeria’s external debt at the point of exit in 2005 was $3.5 billion dollars and only rose to $4.5 billion dollars in 2010. Only this month, the IMF confirmed that the economy of sub-Saharan Africa will be among the best performing in the world this year and next, lagging only behind those in emerging Asia.

IMF also raised its growth forecast for Nigeria’s economy to 7.4 per cent in both 2010 and 2011 from seven percent and 7.3 percent respectively.

“In fact, we are the third fastest growing economy in the world today by IMF and World Bank. Anybody can go the internet and download this information. Our economy rating since Obasanjo administration till date has remained B.B rating.

We have not been downgraded. With all the respect, Atiku displayed emptiness and ignorance commenting on our economy, and such a man should not dream or contemplate managing an economy he knows next to nothing about.”

Affirming that Atiku had nothing to offer, he said: “We make bold to counsel Atiku to focus on issues as they would improve the lot of Nigerians and not resort to mudslinging. Those who resort to mudslinging are just empty barrels. It shows that they have nothing to offer.”

Adamawa disowns choice of Atiku

The Adamawa State government on its part disowned the choice of Atiku as the consensus candidate and flayed the process as ancient and anti-democratic.

Dissociating the State government from the choice of Atiku, the State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Musa Kamale said the Ciroma Committee lacked the credibility and persuasion to endorse a candidate for the North.

He said: “Is Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Elders Political Forum, NEPLF, a political structure in the PDP? No No No. The committee has no place in the structure of the ruling party.”

Kamale who doubles as the Public Relations Officer of the PDP in the State added that the existence of PDP executives at the wards, Local, State and Zonal levels in the North made it imperative for those executive members to play a role in whatever decision affecting the North.

He fumed: “Who is Adamu Ciroma and members of his committee to lay claims to the mandate that does not belong to them?  Even in the PDP who is Adamu Ciroma and his cohorts to come out with somebody that will lead the North? The North is more than the committee and its members.”

Rightful persons

Kamale noted that the rightful persons that could have done the work of the Ciroma-led committee were the 19 Northern Governors, who he said have the mandate of the northerners and they could comfortably articulate and come out with somebody that could lead the North and its people.

Repeated telephone calls and text messages to Atiku’s campaign office were , however,not responded to yesterday.

Ayu in his endorsement of Atiku said: “I received with joy the endorsement of my brother and friend, Atiku Abubakar, GCON, by the Consensus Committee of the Northern Political Leaders Forum.  His endorsement marks the beginning of the end of tyranny in our political process and a step towards genuine democracy.

It also brings to an end the first phase of the struggle to restore honour, integrity and equity in our political process.

“It clearly indicates, once more, that when dishonourable people assume power in this country and try to abuse their positions, especially by reneging on power-sharing arrangements that have kept this country together, honourable men and women would close ranks and stop them in the interest of the unity, peace and stability of this country.

I welcome Atiku’s endorsement without reservation and call on all Nigerians to give him their total support to enable him win the PDP primaries and the 2011 general election.”

S-South coordinators dismiss Atiku’s emergence

Nevertheless, South-South coordinators of the Goodluck Jonathan/Sambo presidential Campaign organization yesterday dismissed Atiku’s emergence as the NPLF consensus choice as a non-issue.

They said he was a regional aspirant unlike Jonathan who they described as a national aspirant.

Speaking with journalists after meeting with the coordinators of Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, the Deputy National coordinator of the Jonathan Goodluck Campaign organization in the South-South, Hon. Chibudom Nwuche, said what every Nigerian should be striving for is a candidate that would promote national unity and not one that would pursue regional or ethnic agenda.

“Whoever emerges as a candidate must be a Nigerian president. We should think about one Nigeria. We are one country and we must remain united and not be divided along ethnic and regional lines. I hope that whoever is chosen can truly be a Nigerian president.

What we seek to project is a president who must be president of all the country not a northern president not a southern president. What Goodluck/Sambo ticket represents is a national ticket that will unite the country.

“We are not disturbed in the least at all at the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate. We are focused on putting issues on the front burner. The records of our principal are there for every one to assess. In the short time that they have been there, they have impacted positively on Nigerians in the power sector, in the petroleum sector and in the education sector.”


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