From Fred Itua, Romanus Ugwu, Ndubuisi Orji and Ada Nnamani, Abuja
Ahead of the conduct of the presidential elections in February 2023, major candidates are taking their campaigns to key regional ethnic groups, as part of moves to secure their support.
While the presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi are intensifying the lobbying, their key rival of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, is exploring other options.
Already, Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) have endorsed the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi. APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has secured the endorsement of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the Fulani socio-cultural group.
Chief Spokesperson, Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Mr Yunusa Tanko, in a chat with Saturday Sun, said the campaign organisation has written to leaders of various ethnic groups to sell their manifestos.
He said the recent endorsement of Obi by Yoruba apex socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, is a pointer to what to expect in the coming weeks leading to the elections.
He said: “If you remember at the beginning, on the 28th of September when the campaigns started, we started with a bang from endorsement from the Middle Belt Forum which of course represents some of the ethnic groups in the Middle Belt central. That one we secured, and then we are working very hard to secure other endorsements. We have written out to all ethnic groups, through PANDEF, Afeniferi and the rest of them.
“Afeniferi has endorsed us and then we are also looking out for northern groups too to endorse us because we believe that it is time for us to rescue Nigeria and every hand must be on deck. We have reached out to the Northern Elders Forum of Arewa Community and the other ethnic groups within the country in order to find a synergy.”
APC’s vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, on the other hand, is the one currently leading the charge and spearheading the consultation as part of the engagement by the ruling party to retain its position at the presidency.
A member, Directorate of Strategic Communication, APC PCC, Temitope Ajayi, who made the disclosure, said that the ruling party has sacrificed the festive period to reach out to the leaders of thoughts and heads of traditional institutions.
“Our campaign has a full directorate in charge of contact and mobilisation for each region of the country and in each state. We are reaching out to critical stakeholders across all the spectrum of the society, not just socio-cultural organisations.
“Our candidate and his running mate continue to have direct engagements with leaders across the country one on one and in groups. Over this holiday period, Kashim Shettima has been moving round to meet influential traditional rulers in the North and leaders of thought in business and faith to secure their support. Asiwaju Tinubu and Shettima will continue such engagements till the day of election and bring out the votes.
“And on the specific issue of socio-cultural organisations, our candidate has held consultation with six of such organisations from the North in Kaduna, Arewa Consultative Forum, Northern Elders Forum etc. He attended their townhall in Kaduna.
“He has gone to Akure to meet leaders of Afenifere, he has gone to Gbaramotu Kingdom in Delta State to meet the traditional rulers. It is going to be continuous engagements till election time. Just last week, Asiwaju had a business luncheon with young entrepreneurs in Lagos.
“He has met big business owners in a townhall in Lagos. On artisans, trade unions, our candidate has met various groups of artisans and traders in Minna, Lafia, Kano, Kaduna and Abuja. He has already engaged or had a parley with NLC and TUC.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party has stated that it was reaching out to all Nigerians, not seeking ethnic endorsements.
Spokesman of the party’s Campaign Council, Charles Aniagwu, told Saturday Sun that one of the challenges the country has had in the last seven years is that some persons were ignored.
“We are not looking for ethnic endorsements. We are looking for endorsement of Nigerians. We want Nigerians from all walks of life to come on board with us, because our desire is that we want the country recovered from where we are.
“It is not just reaching out to a group and soliciting endorsements. We are reaching out to all groups, letting them understand what we stand for, which is to have a country that works. Once they agree with our desire to rebuild our country, it means they have endorsed us. That is what we believe in. We do not want people who say ‘okay we have endorsed you’ and yet they do not believe in what we are preaching.”
“We don’t want to do divide and rule, we are meeting all Nigerians- cultural groups, religious groups, professional bodies, we are meeting with all of them. We are interfacing with all groups.”