Atiku Gets Igbo Leaders’ Endorsement, Starts Campaign on Monday

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Atiku Abubakar
  • To collapse organisation into party structure, integrate former aspirants

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi, got a hefty endorsement wednesday as South-east leaders and stakeholders gathered in Enugu and chose them as their preferred candidates in the forthcoming general elections.

Yesterday’s endorsement would be Atiku’s second substantial approval, coming after his former boss, erstwhile president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, forgave him his past and declared him “the man who would be president.”

Basking in the euphoria of the promise of a possible block vote from the South-east of the country, Atiku said he would start his campaign on Monday with the launch of his policy document, which would elaborate on his vision and how he intends to govern the country if he wins the election next year.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would lift the ban on presidential and federal legislative campaigns on Sunday, November 18, paving the way for full blown political rallies and canvass for votes.

Prominent Igbo leaders including elders, traditional and religious leaders as well as women groups had been gathered in Enugu, where renowned constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, not only threw his weight behind the Atiku presidential project but also, urged Ndigbo to support it, contending that the actualisation of the ticket remains the visible means of political survival for the people of the region.

He specifically said the Atiku Abubakar project was his last wish “before I join my ancestors.”

In a five-point communiqué issued at the end of the summit with the theme, ‘Ndigbo 2019 and Beyond,’ held in Enugu, the leaders said their position was based on the restructuring agenda put on the table by Atiku and Obi, which four zones of the country had agreed on.

Read by a legal luminary, Chief Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, it said, “The Igbo people of Nigeria held a one day non-partisan and inclusive summit convened by elders, traditional and religious leaders on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 to consider Ndigbo’s place in the polity especially in the light of the forthcoming 2019 elections.

“The summit deliberated on the State of Ndigbo in Nigeria today especially after years of exclusion from the centre. This country has never been so divided, as it is today. We Igbos have always yearned for a level playing field with justice, equity and fairness.

“The summit recognised the nomination of His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, as the vice presidential candidate of the PDP and fully endorses this nomination. It was acknowledged that this nomination puts Ndigbo back in the centre of governance. It is, therefore, important that Ndigbo should rally behind the Atiku/Obi ticket.

“We identify with the Atiku/ Peter Obi ticket on the restructuring agenda as has been reiterated by four zones of the country namely, South-south, South-west, North-central and South-east. We believe that as long as the federating units remain weak the centre will continue to be weak. We equally move to appreciate the position of the Atiku/Obi ticket in promoting national unity.

“In conclusion, the summit reiterated that the time is now for Ndigbo to mobilise and organize effectively to realise the Atiku/Obi ticket. We are not campaigning against anybody; we are simply campaigning for our very survival. Igbo votes must count wherever Ndigbo live in Nigeria.”

Earlier, before the meeting christened, ‘Ahamefula, Ndigbo and the Future’ held at Nike Lake Resort, Enugu went into closed door, Nwabueze said that the Igbo should work hard to actualise the Atiku/Obi ticket as a special gift to him, stressing that the best position Igbos should take ahead of the forthcoming presidential election is to stand firmly in support of the candidate that can ensure their survival in Nigeria.

He said, “It is unfortunate that those who pioneered the independence of the country have been totally alienated in their own country and that is why we are here. We have to support the ticket that will ensure our (Igbo) survival. That ticket is the joint ticket of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi.

“We must not allow this opportunity to slip out of our hands. If we, the Igbo leaders gathered here cannot actualise this ticket then we should be ashamed of ourselves. We must work hard to achieve this because it is the best way for us to go at this time.

“We are not campaigning for anybody but we are campaigning for our survival. We must achieve this joint ticket of Atiku/Obi because it is our desire to do so and we are determined to actualize it. Igbos should do this as their last gift for me.”

Other personalities at the meeting were, Dr. George Obiozor, Chief Nnia Nwodo (Ohanaeze Ndigbo President), Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Ben Obi, Chief Achike Udenwa, Prof. Uche Azikiwe, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Senator Theodore Orji, Chief Emeka Ugwu-Oju, Chief Garry Igariwey, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Mr. Frank Ogbuewu, Professor Osita Ogbu, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Chief Lawrence Nwuruku, Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Commodore James Aneke (rtd), Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Rear Admiral Alison Madueke (rtd), Igwe Alfred Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, Prof. Anya O. Anya and Prof. Chudi Uwazurike, Major Gen. Obi Umahi (rtd), Uzodinma Okpara, son of the former Premier of Eastern Region, Esom Nwafor Orizu, daughter of the former acting President of Nigeria, and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.

Atiku Starts Campaign on Monday, to Launch Policy Document

Meanwhile, Atiku is billed to start his campaign on Monday in Abuja with the launch of his policy document, which would entail how he intends to direct the country if he gets into the saddle of leadership next year.

Multiple sources close to the campaign told THISDAY last night that the presidential candidate is rounding off his composition of the campaign machine, which would be a mix of the organisation that delivered him at the primary, the party and former aspirants’ structures.

Atiku was said to have addressed members of his Campaign Organisation last Monday and briefed them on the shape of the emerging structure, telling them that they would be collapsed into a more inclusive electioneering machine that would be used to power him into the presidency.

The party leadership, THISDAY gathered, would meet today to continue the harmonisation of the lists of people being proposed to man the directorates of the campaign.

The PDP presidential candidate had last month announced his ally but also a challenger at the primary, Senate President Bukola Saraki, as the director-general of the presidential campaign.

It also named the zonal directors. Governor Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto State) was put in charge of North-west; Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe State), North-east; Dr. Samuel Ortom (Benue State), North-central; Mr. Ayo Fayose, South-west; Chief Dave Umahi (Ebonyi State), South-east; and Chief Nyesom Wike (Rivers State), South-south.

However, THISDAY learnt the comprehensive campaign council might be announced on Saturday

A reliable source told THISDAY yesterday that while the final decision has not been taken, the presidential campaign programmes and activities would be unveiled on Monday.

The source said, “The presidential campaign will start in Abuja on Monday, and the comprehensive campaign council will be announced on Saturday.”

The source said, “He will unveil his policy document in Abuja which entails how he will run the country if elected president.”

However, speaking with THISDAY yesterday, the spokesperson of Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation (APCO), Mr. Segun Sowunmi, said the PDP as a political party has demonstrated over the years that it is a big party, adding that since the coming on board of the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, the party has gone a step further to show how transparent the party has become.

He added that processes of the party and the drivers of the processes are very clear, stressing that the campaign structure for the presidential campaign would not be any different.

He said, “Like you are aware, his excellency has returned a couple of days ago and in a few days I believe, any moment from now, the comprehensive campaign council will be unveiled, which to the best of my knowledge, will be under the leadership of Senate President, Bukola Saraki. All the other members of those committees will be unveiled in due course.

“As for when our campaign will start, I can assure you that we will be starting immediately the whistle is blown for our programmes and activities are well brochure and we will put into be unveiling them one after the other.

“From the way I perceive it, which is not final or authorised or approved, I believe that the first thing that we deserve to do is to bring to the table a comprehensive policy unveiling. And before this unveiling, we would have easily commenced our activities, where we will go, when we will go and the areas we will go will be unveiled.”

Sowunmi said the PDP was ready to hit the campaign trail.

He stated, “We have always been ready, Nigerians are ready, Nigerians are also ready, Atiku is ready, he has always been ready, members of the campaign team, members of the campaigns team are ready, the APCO is ready, they have always been ready, our support groups are ready, they have always been ready, our party faithful across the nation are also ready and I believe that the media and the international community are also ready.”

APC Reacts to Endorsement of Atiku

In a reaction last night, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said the endorsement of Atiku by South-east leaders and stakeholders was shameful.

Its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Lanre Isa-Onilu, said in a terse statement, “The APC considers Atiku and his PDP co-travellers as people who have lost any sense of shame. The purported endorsement of Atiku and PDP by some leaders of the South-east for the 2019 general elections is an affront on the Igbo people who were frontline victims of the 16 years of the PDP misrule.

“It will be interesting to know what the PDP will be telling the Igbo people during the campaign. The South-east people have three and a half years of visible progress in terms of massive infrastructure and the thousands of common people, who are benefiting from the social programme investments under APC, to compare to the PDP’s 16 years of retrogression.

“We in APC are confident that the Igbo won’t be fooled by any group, by whatever name, to sell a thoroughly discredited party like the PDP to the very discerning Igbo people.”