Feb 16 poll: Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, PANDEF, NEF endorse Atiku

…Ex-VP accepts endorsement, promises all-inclusive govt

Tunde Opalana, Abuja

Leaders of thought across geo-political zones in the country rose from a meeting in Abuja on Sunday to endorse Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as most preferable for candidate in the February 16 Presidential election. The socio- cultural groups – Ohaneze Ndigbo (South East), Middle Belts Forum (North Central), Afenifere (South West), Pan Niger Delta Forum (South South) and Northern Elders Forum (NEF) under the umbrella of the Summit of the Forum of Nigerian Elders and Leaders at the end of its Third Summit held at Sheraton Hotel Abuja on Sunday, urged Nigerians to vote Atiku as next president. Concerned with finding solutions to national challenges, support the cause for good governance and contribute towards improving national unity, security and economic development of all Nigerians, the groups said after critical examination of certain qualities passed by the PDP candidate, he was found to have edge over other candidates and that he has the potentials of fixing some of the nation’s hydra- headed problems. In a communique read at the end of the summit, Forum of Nigerian Leaders and Elders declared that “the Forum, having concluded a thorough evaluation of all candidates aspiring to lead our nation through its current challenges and engineer genuine national rebirth, has decided to note: “That several of the younger candidates who presented themselves for the Presidential election, demonstrated great capacity and promise to lead this country creditably and ensure that it engenders proper social and economic development to its people. “However, most of these qualified younger candidates do not, at present, have the machinery and structures to win a Presidential election in Nigeria at present. “Therefore, adopts the candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the Consensus Candidate for the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as he has demonstrated the deep understanding of the critical need of the country at this time and possesses the capacity to proffer clear solutions in that respect. “Calls on all Nigerians, irrespective of religious or ethnic background to stand in unison and vote for Atiku Abubakar on the 16th February 2019 and ensure that they defend their votes”. They said their decision followed the following steps: “Having maintained informed vigilance over all developments towards the forthcoming 2019 General Elections, Leaders of the Forum had outlined their views on the qualities of leaders that should aspire and seek our supports and votes. These include a demonstrated commitment to the democratic process, “a transparent willingness to address the structural foundations of our nation in a manner that should ensure greater political unity and economic development for all Nigerians, and the courage and competence to secure the nation from multiple and varied threats among others. “Having noted the continued drift of the country in the direction of insecurity, deep divisions, tyranny as shown in the recent unilateral sacking of the Chief Justice of the country against all globally known democratic ethos, etc. “Having closely followed the competition for mandates within the various political parties as well the campaigns for the votes of Nigerians so far, including four weeks of close interactions and interviews with nearly all the aspirants for the position of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the various parties. We make the following observations: “The groups agreed that the forthcoming elections “are vital to our desire to live together in a democratic nation that reflects our aspirations, of peaceful co-existence, mutual respect, practice of true federalism”. However, the groups said they did not have anything against President Muhammadu Buhari and its party, the APC, except his lack- lustre response to issue of restructuring. Chuks Ibegbu, spokesperson of the Ohaneze Ndigbo, said: “We do not hate President Buhari, but he has not shown any enthusiasm to restructure the country. “Although he set up the el-Rufai Committee on restructuring, he is not interested in the project. He has not said anything since then, unlike Atiku who is openly committed to it”. Prior to Sunday’s meeting and eventual endorsement, the groups had four days ago in Enugu given an indication of their readiness to pick Atiku ahead of others. Ibegbu said the PDP candidate had given them his words on the all-important issue of restructuring. He said that Atiku has the template to restructure Nigeria and that was why he has the support of the groups. Of huge advantage to the endorsement is the inclusion of the Northern Elders Forum who bought into the restructuring project. The Northern leaders were said to have realised that even with the North having more states and local governments than the South, northerners are not better off for it. Also, it is a known fact that despite huge allocation accrued to its vast number of states and local governments, the level of development in the North does not commensurate with resources earned from Federal purse. Reacting to the news of the endorsement, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it was a welcome development because leaders of thought across geo-political zones have seen have confirmed their preference for Atiku ahead of other Presidential candidates. The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said “the leaders of these ethnic nationalities have just validated the position of Nigerians that our candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is the most preferable and that they will massively vote for him on February 16. He said: “The vast majority of Nigerians have come to end of the Buhari presidency and they have seen that another four years under President Buhari can only sink us further into the abyss. “Nigerians have suffered enough in the last three and half years. So, they want new thinking, new initiative which Atiku Abubakar has promised Nigerians. “And that is why it’s not a surprise but a very welcome development that the geo-political groups have come out to endorse former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. “It validates the position of the average Nigerian and even the world today.” Responding to his endorsement by five broad socio-cultural groups across the country for President in the forthcoming election, Atiku Abubakar said the endorsement portends that there is hope for the country. In a statement he personally signed, the PDP candidate said the leaders have put aside all prejudices and were sincere in their assessment of candidates contesting the coming poll. He said: “I am moved to tears that in the midst of deep divisions and deliberate use of instrumentalities of state to set our people against themselves in the last three and a half years, responsible and respected leaders across Nigeria have agreed to come together for the purpose of endorsing my candidature for the February 16th, 2019 Presidential election. “The endorsement by the leading lights of our nationalities – Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum and Middle Belt Forum is a loud statement that there is hope for our country as we go to the polls in a few days. “Today we put aside all our prejudices to elect a President with religion and ethnicity playing no role in our elections. “I profusely thank our Leaders across the country who have created this wonderful moment for us to come to the table of brotherhood. Once again, and in the words of our old National Anthem, we can proudly sing: “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand. “This has buoyed me to lead a Pan-Nigerian team that will give practical interpretation to what has been done by the time I take leadership of our country, by the grace of Allah, on May 29, 2019. “Many countries of the world have been led into disintegration by strongmen (one in each country) and we have seen how individuals who understand the management of diversities have rallied their people for unity”. Believing that he has been chosen to unite Nigerian people, he promised to run “a properly federated Nigeria through constitutional reforms to bring out the best from all sections of Nigeria to make Nigeria work again like in the past when the Saudi Royal family came to Nigeria to access Medicare. “We will promote an inclusive Nigeria based on productivity that every section of Nigeria will bring out the best under their soil, and in their brain to make Nigeria assume its position in Africa and the global community. “It would be 100% for every section of Nigeria as I would not understand any arithmetic outside that”. He enjoined people across the country to come out en-mass to vote on February 16 to pull the country from the brink and propel it to greater heights “so we can live a better life”. Meanwhile, the Association of South-East Town Unions (ASETU) has endorsed the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2019 Presidential poll. The endorsement was contained in a communiqué issued on Sunday in Enugu at the end of an extraordinary expanded meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC). The meeting held at ASETU Secretariat in Enugu on January 27 produced a three-page document signed by eight NEC executives of the association. The group agreed that in line with the association’s natural disposition for self-survival, it would continue to support those who mean well for the South-East and Nigeria at large. “That the wide acceptance of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi combination, a detribalised team, committed to the unity, peace and progress of the country by the people of South-East at home and abroad for the Feb. 16 election is hereby endorsed by the town unions. “This is in alignment with the earlier position of Ohaneze Ndigbo and in completeness of the Igbo man’s grassroots oriented and egalitarian nature. “That our position is predicated on our conviction by the consistent promise of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to `restructure’ the country for the good of all Nigerians “We are further motivated by the meritorious choice of an illustrious and credible Igbo son, Mr. Peter Obi as the Vice Presidential Candidate, a position that has been denied the Igbo Nation for over 40 years. “That as custodians of the grassroots, the town unions shall rise up in defence of the wishes of the majority of our people and stoutly resist any attempt by a few discredited individuals and political merchants who are attempting to trade off the South-East for their personal pecuniary interests,” it disclosed. They urged Ndigbo to take their destinies in their hands by trooping out to vote for the Atiku/Obi ticket in all their places of residence across the country. The group decried the marginalisation of Ndigbo evidenced in the complete exclusion of the zone in appointments to critical positions of authority such as the National Security Council. “On Federal projects, we also note that there is a grand design to totally cut off the South-East in the ongoing Rail projects of the present government.” The communique was jointly signed by its National President, Chief Emeka Diwe; National Secretary, Mr. Gideon Adikwuru and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Dr. I.I. Onwubuya. Other signatories are Chief Paully Eze, Chairman, President-Generals of Enugu State; Chief G.U. Mgborukwe, Chairman, President-Generals of Abia State and Chief Ugochukwu Akpa, Chairman, President-Generals of Ebonyi State. Others are Chief Jimie Asoegwu, Chairman, President-Generals of Anambra State and Chief Monday Ikokwu, Secretary-General of President-Generals in Imo State.

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