By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA – Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the 2019 election has described the argument by the All Progressives Congress, APC at the election petition tribunal that he is not a Nigerian as a “verifiable and incontrovertible evidence that the elections were not credidible and did not reflect the will of the Nigerian people.”
This is even as Atiku insists that his stand is based on “facts and statistical evidence and challenged both the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the APC, to disprove his factual submissions.”
The APC had on Friday in a processes it filed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, urged the panel to dismiss Atiku’s petition challenging the election of President Muhammadu Buhari on the ground that the former Vice President is not a Nigerian but a Cameroonian and thus, ineligible to contest the February 23 election.
However in a statement by his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku said “The fact that the APC chose to base its defence on the ridiculous assertion that the Waziri Adamawa is not a Nigerian should show to Nigerians the type of characters we have in the APC and its government, whose legitimacy runs out on May 29, 2019.”
The statement continued: “The position of the APC is so pedestrian and shows such straw clutching desperation on their part, that I shall not dignify it with an answer. Our lawyers would, of course, do the needful in court. But the point I want to draw the attention of Nigerians to is that both the APC and its candidate have by this infantile logic admitted to the fact that they trampled on the will of Nigerians and that their only defence is to attempt an unconstitutional redefinition of the term ‘Nigerian’.
“I am, however, confident in the Nigerian judiciary, as well as in the Nigerian people. I trust that the tribunal will treat such a claim with the contempt it deserves. We must maintain our fidelity to the rule of law and to our fountain of origin, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended).
“Atiku Abubakar has served our nation diligently in various capacities, form the civil service, where he rose through merit, to the top of his chosen field, to public service, where, by the grace of God, he was the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Moreover, he has committed his assets and talents to developing our nation through the provision of tens of thousands of direct jobs and hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs.
“I make bold to state that those who have made Nigeria the world headquarters of extreme poverty are the very people whose Nigerianness should be in doubt, and not a man, who worked with President Olusegun Obasanjo to double the per capita Income of our nation in less than eight years.”
Also reacting, the PDP described the position of the ruling party as “complete rubbish,” even as it urged Nigerians to dismiss the stand by the APC because “they have run out of smart arguments.”
Speaking with our correspondent on the issue, PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi wondered why it took the ruling party this long to suddenly realize that the former Vice President has a questionable nationality.
He said: “Nigerians should ask the APC why they are coming up with this complete rubbish. Their position clearly shows that they don’t have any defense to give in a matter brought before the election tribunal.
“So Atiku was not a Nigerian when he was Vice President for eight years? He was not a Nigerian when he joined late General Musa Yar’ Adua to fight military occupation of power? These people do not deserve a response but all we can say for now is that they should be prepared give up the mandate Nigerians freely gave to our candidate, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
Adding his voice to the discourse is a famous constitutional lawyer and renowned Human Rights activist, Mike Ozekhome.
Describing the claims by APC as a joke taken too far, Ozekhome said the characterization of the former Vice President as an alien is an insult to the people of Adamawa state.
“Their claim is hogwash, balderdash, and a gibberish of no consequence. So,the entire Adamawa state is not part of Nigeria? The people will feel insulted.
“So,we had a foreigner as Vice President for eight years, a Presidential aspirant of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and a former elected governor in Nigeria? Haba! There is a limit to which political jokes can be carried,” he submitted.
For Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, APC should as a matter of urgency, apologize to the former Vice President without hesitation.
“I think the APC are not serious with their argument at the tribunal. How can you be questioning the nationality of someone who was Vice President of Nigeria for eight years and one who was a former member of the same party in power today? I don’t think people should take this kind of position serious.
“But we cannot ignore this because this is part of the problem we have with our constitution. There is the issue not just of nationality but also of indigeniety which we are still battling to resolve.
“If the APC can say this, it means they don’t want national integration. APC should as a matter of urgency withdraw this position and apologize to the former Vice President because this is not really good.
“The settlers/indigenes crises we are having today started like this. If we continue with this kind of situations, we will be encouraging hostilities even among the younger generation,” he said.
The CISLAC boss further expressed worry that while some Nigerians have had cause to seek the citizenship of other countries in the past, those who stayed put to contribute their quota to the development of the nation are having theirs questioned due to political differences.
He continued: “Some people left this country to obtain European and American passports but you are investigating a fellow Nigerian because of politics. We must separate politics from issues that will divide us in order not to create a wrong impression about our country. Everyone knows that the former Vice President is a Nigerian.”