By Dirisu Yakubu, ABUJA
Former Edo state Commissioner of Information, Prince Kassim Afegbua has taken exception to a remark credited to ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar that he will always get the Presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Atiku had while fielding questions from journalists shortly after a meeting with former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on Friday, expressed confidence in his chances of picking his party’s ticket ahead of the 2023 Presidential election.
Responding to Atiku’s comment, Afegbua called on the former Vice President to demonstrate sufficient commitment to the wellbeing of the PDP, rather than be fixated on his personal political objectives all the time.
“I read with dismay the statement credited to former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar where he boasted that he would always get the presidential ticket of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP.
“At a time when the former Vice President should be working towards strengthening the structures of the party for more electoral victories, the only thing that bothers him is all about his selfish aspiration. The party did bye-election in Cross River state, we didn’t see Alhaji Atiku Abubakar during the campaigns.
“There was bye-election in Akure, Ondo state, yet, we did not see Alhaji Abubakar there. There was a by-election in Imo state, we didn’t see Alhaji Abubakar at the campaigns. All that matters to him is all about the presidential ticket of the party.
“Let me remind the former flag bearer of the PDP, that since formation, he has only represented the party once; in the 2019 Presidential contest. So the claim that he had always gotten the ticket to the party is a big lie.
“In 2007, when he attempted the ticket of the party, he was shown the exit door. In 2011, he used another party platform to pursue his ambition. In 2015, yet again, he tried to use the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and he was beaten soundly at the Lagos convention. That was the primary election that saw the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the APC.
“It was only in 2019 that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as the candidate of the PDP at the Port-Harcourt convention when it was decided by the Southern aspirants to allow All-Northern aspirants to contest the primary election. So the claim that ‘I will always get the ticket of the PDP,’ flies in the face of logic, fact and reality,” Afegbua said in a statement issued yesterday.
He reiterated his earlier call for the zoning of the Presidential ticket to the South, saying, “The fact of the matter is that it is the turn of the Southern part of Nigeria to produce the candidate of the PDP in 2023. Anything short of that will amount to usurping the opportunity, position and chance of the Southern axis to produce the party’s candidate. That will be a direct assault on our collective sensibilities.
“In 2023, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should be thinking of how to support younger Nigerians from the South of the country to pursue the presidential aspiration of the opposition party.
“Alhaji Atiku has always supported zoning and should not play the ostrich this time because of his selfish aspiration. Power cannot reside in the Northern axis for 16 unbroken years. That will be against the normative order, against justice, fairness and equity. The opposition PDP must copy from the ruling APC in ceding its ticket to the South as a form of gentleman agreement that will promote peace, unity, cohesion and collective responsibility within the party.
“We cannot afford the mistake of 2019 when Alhaji Abubakar abandoned all his foot-soldiers and sought refuge in faraway Dubai. A true political general ought to secure his troops and return them to the barracks after the war to carry out a critical assessment before knowing the next step.
“Rather than borrow a leaf from the Ukrainian President, Zelensky, who has been standing by his Ukrainian nationals, to the extent of carrying AK-47 to the battlefront to secure his country from Russian invasion, Alhaji Abubakar ran away to Dubai and exposed all of us to the threats and intimidation of the monstrous APC in 2019.
“Such a leader cannot be trusted with the responsibility of representing our aggregate interest in the struggle for 2023. No amount of closed-door meetings with former leaders can change the oscillation of the political pendulum in 2023. Except he is being deceived, no former president would support an Atiku Presidency, at a time they all have spoken loudly about fielding a younger President in 2023.
“Alhaji Atiku Abubakar should statesmanly subscribe to the mood of the nation by jettisoning the selfish pressure from those hangers-on and political coupon clippers and rentiers. This is the age of new ideas espoused by upwardly mobile and vibrant Nigerian leaders who are ready to enter the forest to chase bandits or carry AK-47s to secure our dear fatherland.
“Instead of saying youths should compete, he should gloriously pull out and announce his retirement from partisan politics. We want vibrant young leaders like President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who will lead from the front and not those who will run away when they hear the sound of the bayonet,” he added.