Indication emerge at the weekend that three of Nigeria’s most influential socio-cultural groups will soon announce their support for the candidacy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, come 2019 general election.
The groups which are Afenifere, Ohanaeze N’digbo and the Pan Niger Delta Forum, stated that they made the choice to support the candidacy of Atiku due to his commitment to restructuring, and also because he chose a running mate who is also passionate about the subject.
Speaking on the matter, Afenifere, who spoke through its spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, said:
Atiku has been very strong on restructuring and he has also picked a running mate (Peter Obi) who has also expressed very strong opinion about the issue of restructuring. Obi is from a zone where the people are clamouring for restructuring.
“We have reached out to the Presidency through some of the governors who are close to him (Buhari) from the South-West. We drafted a list of leaders across Nigeria that the President should summon across Nigeria to discuss the issue of restructuring. Many months after, the governors did not get across to us probably because they met a brick wall.
“There is a consensus among leaders of the South-West, South-East, South-South, the Middle Belt and Arewa. We have said we will wait for the consensus candidate that would be produced by the CUPP to enable us to make our choice among the candidates.”
Also, Ohanaeze N’digbo stated that the issue of restructuring is vital in their decision to support a candidate for president come 2019.
Speaking on the matter the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu stated that the issue of marginalization will also be looked at before choosing a candidate to support.
“Ohanaeze is not a political party but we are going to support and identify with anyone that will restructure Nigeria. Any of the presidential candidates that is genuinely and sincerely ready to restructure Nigeria will have our votes.
“Besides restructuring, there are other demands. Our youths are agitating for Biafra and that is due to the marginalisation of the Igbos over the years. We are politically, economically and infrastructurally marginalised and we want these issues addressed effectively.”
Maintaining the drumbeat of restructuring, National Secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Dr. Alfred Mulade said:
“PANDEF met with 16 presidential aspirants before the parties concluded their primaries. What we put on the table is that we will support any candidate that has restructuring as the backbone of his administration.”
The entrance of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar into the 2019 presidential contest has changed the political atmosphere in the North which highly favoured President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 Presidential elections. This is according to the President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), a coalition of youth groups in the nineteen (19) states, Alhaji Yerima Shettima.
Shettima, who was in an interview with newsmen on Sunday, said the northern elite would not force somebody the youth do not deserve on them. He said that the North voted Buhari in 2015 because it was a race between him, a northerner and former President Goodluck Jonathan, who is a Christian from the south, saying that the game had changed totally now with the entrance of Atiku Abubakar.
In his words, “It is a welcome development because from all indications, he has the capacity to face these monsters who are against the collective interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. From all I know about him personally, he has the capacity. We will rally round him and give him all the supports he needs because this is all about democracy. It is not a fight against APC and Buhari alone, it is a fight for democracy and with his emergence democracy has come to stay in Nigeria. Election is about winning or losing, you don’t expect to win all the time.”
“The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum is not a partisan organization. But in my capacity definitely I will work for Atiku. I will also work in my capacity to ensure that el-Rufai is also shown the way out and ensure that we have a pure democrat in that system. Specifically, I have interest in Kaduna and the Federal Government. That is my interest right now and I will use anything at my disposal, my contacts, my connections”
Shettima then revealed why he was going to support Atiku.
“The only thing I find in him is that capacity, intellectually and also he is an experienced politician. He is somebody whom I have come to discover that he believes in Nigeria without taking sides, without being nepotistic. He is also creative; somebody I believe if you give him the opportunity he would turn things around for the best interest of this country. That is my conviction about him. For Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai must go and Isah Ashiru should take over. Democracy has come to stay in Nigeria.
When he was asked if he knew of any plan by the Northern elite to vote against Atiku, he replied, “Well, I do not know of those elite. But if you can mention their names I will tell you their reasons because the game is over. The game has changed. It has never happened like this. If in 2015 the assumption is that Goodluck Jonathan is from the South and a Christian and the votes went one way, this time around two of them are sons from one place and the votes will be shared.
“What I mean by the game is over is that people will have to decide and we have taken our position. We have decided that democracy has come to stay and we will not allow anyone to treat us like animals. It is not going to be business as usual anymore.
“Look at the massive corruption going on under this government. Look at those characters who succeeded in the last 16 years who have suddenly become actors in the APC. Today, they are the fate deciders. They decide the fate of over 180 million Nigerians. This is not right. This must be resisted by all Nigerians. This is a clarion call that all Nigerians must put their hands on deck and stand by democracy,” he ended.