By Doris Obinna
Even though former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has not formally made his intention to contest for next year’s presidential election public, opposition has started mounting against his aspiration.
From within the PDP, a chieftain and one of the spokesmen in Atiku’s campaign organisation during the 2019 presidential election, Prince Kassim Afegbua, has listed why the former vice president should not be considered to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement yesterday, entitled “2023: Atiku and the age of Methuselah politics”, Afegbua, who will be remembered for amplifying the campaign that led to the exit of ex-PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said it was wrong for Atiku to always present himself for the presidency any time general election comes.
He said with Atiku’s age and other shortcomings, he should not be considered in the next presidential election. Talking to the PDP leadership pointedly, Kassim, commissioner for Information in Edo State under Governor Adams Oshiomhole, said the party should not consider an old man but instead look for a younger candidate from the southern part of the country to fly its flag next year.
“With the abysmal performance of President Muhammadu Buhari on account of age, incompetence and lack of capacity and political will to take deliberate and sustained action to bail out the country from all manner of challenges, it will be immoral for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to continue to express interest in seeking election in the 2023 presidential election having attained the retirement age.”
He said the former vice president should not be encouraged to assume the role of a perpetual candidate or professional aspirant year in, year out, of the party as though the party was established for him alone.
Afegbua said it defeats all sense of logic for such an old man to attempt another round of political contestation at a time the general feeling and mood in the country supports a younger Nigerian from the southern extraction of the country.
He said if the argument were to suffice for an Atiku presidency, “he will be finishing his first term of four years at age 81. And were he to become a candidate in 2023 again, and per adventure he loses the election, are we, as PDP, going to reserve the position for him or any other northerner in 2027? These are very curious scenarios which cannot be overlooked. For 2023, an Atiku candidacy will be like promoting an expired product in the face of very compelling reason to look down South in our quest to wrestle power from the fractured APC.”
Urging Atiku to quit his quest for presidency and support a southern candidate, “in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice, that will assuage the feelings of stakeholders from the southern part of Nigeria,” he said it would be “against the run of play and natural justice for any aspirant of northern extraction to show interest in the 2023 presidential election within the Peoples Democratic Party threshold.”
The PDP chieftain from Edo State said Nigerians were tired of seeing the “faces of persons who have dominated the political space in the last 40 years and yet, unwilling to take a bow. In the spirit of the new thinking and paradigm shift, please tell them to allow us to breathe it.”
He accused Atiku of always abandoning his supporters after each election, only to resurface in the next contest. Citing an example, he said: “After the 2019 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar abandoned all of us in Nigeria and sought refuge in far away Dubai, thus exposing us to the intimidations, harassment and threats posed by the desperate APC’s power oligarchs. It was a case of a General abandoning his troops in the battle field. Rather than draw strength from his presence, his absence exposed us to all manner of challenges.
“He was in Dubai and left us to our fate. When it mattered most for us to reach out to our candidate for motivation and necessary encouragement, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar vanished to thin air. Knowing fully well that political activities were to take off, he suddenly resurfaced and became a frontliner in his quest to fly the party’s flag once again. That, to me, amounts to gross political selfishness and greed, which must not be allowed to flourish in our contemporary engagements. Even those who are promoters-in-chief of Alhaji Atiku’s aspiration, know in their heart of hearts that it is a project that is dead on arrival.”
Confessing that he earlier bought into Atiku’s quest to run for the presidency, Afegbua said his conscience pricked him that he opted out.
“Earlier last year, I was conscripted into the technical committee for Atiku presidency. Having attended three meetings of the group, I found my spirit and conscience permanently in conflict with the ethos of justice, fairness and equity, which the south deserves.”
Afegbua said it “will offend national sentiments, emotions and logic for anyone from the North to show such interest given our diversities and hetereogenous political configurations,” pointing out that “given PDP’s doctrine of political power balancing and fairness, it will be against its own unwritten rule to cede the ticket to any northern aspirànt least of all Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.”
He said southerner deserved to be given opportunity to represent PDP in the 2023 presidential contest, insisting: “Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his northern aspirànts should support the aspiration of an upwardly mobile and younger elements from the South to fly the PDP flag. Anything short of such will be tantamount to standing logic on its head, and a deliberate attempt to undermine the collective interest and aspirations of the Southern aspirànts.”
The PDP chieftain urged the new leadership of the party and members of the National Executive Committee and the National Working Committee to speak with one voice in ensuring that the “South is given what is due to it. Doing that, will mean promoting the fundamental principles of democracy of all inclusiveness and participation.”
He vowed to commence the process of “mobilising, sensitising and conscientising like minds and team up with other stakeholders to drum up the necessary support that will birth a southern candidate for the party. Justice should not only be served, it must be seen to have been served.”
On why he insists for a candidate from the South, Afegbua said: “The Southern geopolitical zones of Nigeria has eminently qualified Nigerians and parade great minds who are competent and ready to take a shot at the number one job. Those who are advancing very nebulous theory of seeing the northern population as a stimulant to win the sympathy of the North against the South are either ignorant of the real demographics or at best, just playing the ostrich. No one in the North should take away what belongs to the South.”