Arewa Joint Committee has distanced itself from the ‘don’t vote Yoruba, Igbo’ comment by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar in Kaduna at the weekend.
The committee, which comprises the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Arewa House, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), and Jamiyyar Matan Arewa, said the views expressed by all the candidates that appeared at its interactive session were purely theirs.
”Atiku should clear himself. The same question asked by the committee was administered to other presidential candidates too. So, we have no business with the opinion expressed by our guests,” said the Chairman of the session’s Steering Committee, Murtala Aliyu, told reporters in Kaduna yesterday.
Aliyu, who warned that “the exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is extremely dangerous,” expressed concern that “the nation is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.”
Atiku had while responding to a question by Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Spokesman. Hakeem Baba on why he thinks the North should vote for him in 2023, said: “An average Northerner does not need a Yoruba or Igbo president, but a northern president, who is a pan Nigeria.”
His comment generated reactions from different quarters with many demanding an apology from him.
But on Monday, Atiku’s Media Aide, Paul Ibe, clarified that his principal was jokingly responding to a question that generally centered on the North. Ibe added that Atiku would not play to the gallery to score political points.
Aliyu had also at the news conference where he asked Atiku to defend himself, explained that the interactions with the presidential candidates were not planned to endorse any of them.
He said that the primary goal was to hear from the candidates how they intended to address the challenges of the North if any of them was elected President.
The chairman said: “These interactions in themselves were not planned with the goal of endorsing a candidate. They are part of a longer process that plans to generate commitments to address the challenges of the North by candidates, and which covers a substantial part of the campaigning period.
“We plan to extract and publish these commitments so that Nigerians may measure and evaluate candidates against them. Our goal is to afford citizens an opportunity to match candidates against their commitments to matters that are central to the interests of the North.
“Until the elections in February 2023, the North will be challenged to raise its vigilance over all electoral activities. It is vital that we prioritise evidence of competence, integrity, quality of preparation, and commitment to address the challenges of the North among candidates.
“We will continue to invite the attention of the government to the security of the electoral process, and in particular the vulnerability of many parts of the North to organise crime which may pose a serious threat to their right to participate in electing the next set of leaders in 2023.
“The need to show restraint and discipline as politicians canvass for our elections has never been more pressing. The entire Nation must be open to all contestants and free from violence.”
In Bauchi, youths under the aegis of the New Northern Initiative for Growth (NNIG) warned the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) to avoid endorsing any presidential candidate for the North.
They were reacting to the alleged adoption of Atiku, a former vice president by the ACF as its sole candidate.
The youths, at a news conference by their National President, Lawal Sahab, said that supporting Atiku based on sentiment would put the region out of political circulation.
They challenged the ACF to tell Nigerians what Atiku had in the interest of the well-being of the North and its people.
The youths said: “We use this opportunity to ask the so-called elders to explain to Northerners where they derived their mandate to impose a single candidate on the entire region.
“We also challenge them to explain what criteria they used to arrive at Atiku as a consensus candidate for the North and to define his contributions to the growth of the region that qualifies him as such.
“By every reasonable assessment, Atiku has never had any concern for the North beyond exploiting the region’s resources, its goodwill for his political capital.
“Atiku who has risen on the goodwill of the northerners can today not boast of any development project he has ever influenced personally or through the high offices he has held, courtesy of the North.
“It is in his blind desperation to secure the Presidency that Atiku is sponsoring capitalist Northern leaders with no record of achieving anything for the region to manipulate the conscience of the northerner into believing that lies that he is a true northerner with good intentions for the region whereas the opposite is the case.
“The capital-minded northern elders are so blinded by their acquisitive tendencies around ripping the nation with Atiku’s main agenda for privatising major public assets.
“It is important for the people of the North to refuse to be drawn into the lost battle of putting all its eggs in one basket, especially since Atiku’s antecedents of non-performance throughout his tenure as vice president have made him unreliable and a major risk for the North to take.”
Meanwhile the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Organisation has cautioned Nigerians against voting for any presidential candidate with overly selfish motives next year.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan, charged Nigerians to look out for candidates who can address critical national issues.
Ologbodiyan, in a statement yesterday, also urged voters to challenge candidates on issues of transparency, accountability, and answerability in government.
He said that devolution of power, state police, federal character, and other key issues that would benefit Nigerians should be the selling points for viable candidates.