By John Alechenu, Abuja
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has revealed that his refusal to agree to a Muslim-Muslim ticket as suggested by Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu was the major reason they parted company politically in 2007.
Atiku who spoke in his first major interview since emerging as the 2023 presidential candidate of the PDP, also faulted Tinubu’s choice of Senator Kashim Shettima from Borno State as running mate. Atiku said this in an interview on The Morning Show on Arise TV Friday morning.
In response to a question on his thoughts on the Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC , Atiku said: “My fundamental disagreement with Asiwaju since 2007 was on the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. That was my fundamental disagreement and departure from Asiwaju.
“Together with Asiwaju, we formed ACN and I was given a ticket in Lagos and he insisted to be my running mate and I said no, I am not going to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket and because of that he switched his support to the late Umaru Yar`Adua and that was the departing point, of course.
“It is also a fact that when Buhari emerged in Lagos in 2015 that I also opposed a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I opposed it and my opposition actually reinforced the decision of President Buhari to pick a Christian running mate.
“So, I have all along opposed that. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe it is right for a country like Nigeria that is multi-ethnic, multi-religious. There should be balancing of interests, whether religious or otherwise.”
Director Media and Communications of the Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanu-ga said last night that the APC Presidential candidate will formally reply Atiku today but quickly noted that “Atiku overrates himself and that’s why he keeps running and losing. In 2007 he came a distant third behind Yar’Adua and Buhari, yet he overrates himself. Asiwaju will reply to his comments on television tomorrow.”
Asked in the Arise interview whether the choice of Shettima would not damage his chances in the Northeast, Atiku said, “certainly(my) prospects are much higher.
“If you know the composition of the Northeast, you have Borno and Yobe these are essentially two Kanuri states, then you have the other states which are essentially Hausa-Fulani. So, even if people are going to vote on that basis I think I have a more favourable (support) from the Northeast.”
Speaking on the rift within the PDP over his choice of running mate, Atiku revealed that he and the party hierarchy were reaching out to aggrieved persons especially the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
He said, “We are reaching out to Governor Wike and we are talking with him and I believe very soon we will find a reconciliation. In fact, very soon, because we are talking to him “We are talking to his governor colleagues. I am very optimistic we are going to resolve our internal crisis and move on.
He, however explained that contrary to the perception that he ditched the report of the committee he set up to assist him find a running mate, he did not act outside its recommendations.
Atiku said, “The committee that was set up at my own instance deliberated. There was no vote, and they recommended three names, because they knew it was my prerogative to pick anyone of the three. So, there was actually no vote. It’s not true… I chose somebody who has experience, calm and who can be President.
“He, Governor Ortom himself chaired that committee. He knew there was no vote taken, and I have the report of that committee. The committee recommended three people and I picked one. I did not go out of that recommendation. So, I think people should be fair to me and should also state the fact.”
Atiku also dismissed claims that the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi could pose a threat to his chances at the polls come 2023.
According to him, the LP had an opportunity to prove its mettle during the just concluded Osun Governorship election but was unable to do anything because it does not have requisite structure and spread to challenge the PDP.
Atiku said, “What is the performance of the Labour Party? This is a party that does not have a governor; doesn’t have members of the national assembly; doesn’t have state assembly members.
“Politics in this country depends on the structures you have at these various levels – at the local government level; at the state level; and at the national level. So, it is very very difficult to expect a miracle to happen simply because Peter Obi is in the Labour Party,”
“After all, they were saying through social media they have more than 1 million votes in Osun State. But how many people turned out to vote for the Labour Party.”
Atiku, equally said 90 percent of Northern voters are not into the social media.