Atiku must resolve the internal PDP crisis and apologize to Nigerians to get his political campaign back on track.
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has come under heavy criticism over his ethno-centric comments, urging northerners to vote for him in the 2023 presidential election.
The former Nigerian vice president made the remark on Saturday, October 15, 2022 during an interactive session in Kaduna with the Arewa Joint Committee. During his speech, Atiku advised the north against voting for an Igbo or Yoruba presidential candidate because a northerner should become the country’s next president.
“What the average Northerner needs is somebody who’s from the North and also understands that part of the country and has been able to build bridges across the country. This is what the Northerner needs. It doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.’’
Following Atiku’s comments, five governors from the southern region led by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, withdrew their support for the Adamawa politician’s presidential campaign and insisted that he must apologise to the entire nation to get back their support.
The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Labour Party, also released statements condemning his remarks.
APC believes Atiku’s self- interest overrides his national interest regarding the 2023 presidential election and noted that the country “does not need this kind of highly inflammable rhetoric now or ever.’’
Part of the ruling party’s statement said:
“It is beyond the pale for a senior citizen and a former Vice-President of the Federal Republic to so brazenly instigate strife and disunity in our country in pursuit of his befuddled political self-interest. But it is not surprising coming from a desperate and serial failed candidate for the office of President. If, as Atiku believes the average Northerner needs a Northern President now, after a Northern President, when will they ever not need a Northern President? What does Atiku think the average Southerner needs? Why is it about what the average Northerner needs, or even what the average Southerner may need? Why is it not about what Nigeria and Nigerians need? Nigerians need bold and visionary leadership anchored on a firm commitment to transcendental national unity, over and above ethnic or sectional obsessions”.
Labour Party’s Chief Spokesperson, Yunusa Tanko, asked Atiku to prove himself as a true leader by tendering an unreserved apology to Nigerians over his comments. Tanko noted that it is unfair for someone at Atiku’s political level to use ethnicity as a base to generate support.
“Our principal has made it clear long before now that even when people are trying to play ethnic agenda, nobody should look at him as an Igbo candidate. Our movement is a Nigerian project for the Nigerian people. So, in the interest of our democracy and unity of this country, which of course we represent, I think the former vice-president should apologise to Nigerians in such a way that it would show him as a true leader of a free country.”
Socio-cultural groups such as the Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndi Igbo has also criticized Atiku over his comments. Ohaneze labelled Atiku’s comments as poignant and provocative.
Further, Atiku’s statement might have breached Section 97 of the Electoral Act. The section says:
“A candidate, person or association that engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal or sectional reason to promote or oppose a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate, commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to (a) a maximum fine of N1m or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both and (b) in the case of a political party, to a maximum of N10m.’’
It is left to see if Atiku will apologize for his comments.