Northern Christian, Muslim forum adopts Atiku as consensus presidential candidate for 2023

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*Lawal, Dogara

Still angered by the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a group under the platform of the Northern Leaders Consultative Forum comprising Christian and Muslim political leaders from the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) announced the adoption of Mr. Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as its preferential presidential candidate for the 2023 election.

Led by the former speaker, house of representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, the group which broke away from the from the APC, adopted Atiku through a voice vote after the report of its technical committee was presented to its members at a public forum in Abuja yesterday.

The report signed by the chairman of the Northern Leaders Technical Criteria Committee, Mr. Mohammed Kumaila and secretary, Mr. Nunghe Kele, was presented by former deputy governor of Kogi State, Mr. Simon Achuba.

“After a careful evaluation of all the issues highlighted above, we hereby recommend for the adoption of the PDP, to all lovers of democracy in Nigeria, for the 2023 presidential election.

According to the forum, Atiku was adopted following the resolve of the Northern Christian leaders to work with their Muslim counterparts to adopt one of the presidential candidates in a bid to defeat the same-faith presidential ticket of the APC.

It further stated that Atiku is the only candidate among the candidates of the four leading political parties that has the knowledge and experience of managing the country at the presidential level.

“This gives him the advantage to set the ball rolling from day one,” it said.

Recall that the Forum set up the committee October 8 to recommend a pan-Nigerian platform to adopt in the 2023 presidential election.

It is equally noteworthy that a member of the forum and former secretary to the government of the federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, had earlier endorsed the presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi and his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.

Lawal said Obi/Baba Ahmed was endorsed, after painstakingly reviewing and analysing the alternative candidates.

However, Dogara, and other members of the group distanced themselves from the endorsement, saying they were yet to conclude consultations and that their position will be made public.

Achuba said yesterday that the candidates evaluated were Atiku, the presidential candidate of APC, Mr. Bola Tinubu and the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Mr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.

He said the leaders took consideration of existing structure of the PDP, capacity of the candidates, evidence of national penetration, religious and ethnic balance, among others to arrive at the decision.

He said it was observed that the APC and PDP are almost at par in terms of political structure, but the compounding albatross on the neck of APC is the “unfortunate self-inflicted divisive same-faith-ticket which cannot guarantee the desired peace, unity and cohesion in Nigeria, a decision that has been kicked against by a huge population of Nigerians.”

Achuba said that while Obi and Kwankwaso may emerge as strong contenders in the political arena in the future, from all indications, the PDP appeared to be the best option to adopt and support.

“The seven and a half years of the APC government has engendered wide spread national perception of its inability to tackle security challenges and turn around the national economy.

“A further compounding albatross on its neck is the unfortunate self-inflicted divisive same-faith-ticket which cannot guarantee the desired peace, unity and cohesion in Nigeria, a decision that has been kicked against by a huge population of Nigerians.

“The APC presidential ticket does not promote inclusiveness, unity, religious harmony and cohesion. A large population of Muslims has also expressed reservations to this ticket and has called for fairness and inclusivity.

“Consequently, this ticket is rejected outright by the Forum and the Forum hereby calls on all lovers of democracy, peaceful coexistence, unity and religious harmony to reject the ticket in its entirety.

“The perception that the APC presidential candidate has some health challenges makes people very uncomfortable. There is the fear that it may precipitate a situation where unelected surrogates will be running the government while the president left attending to his health.

“The party is likely to face a backlash or may not escape a backlash that will lead to its defeat at the polls in 2023.

“From the existing structure of the Labour Party and even from the records of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as it stands for 2023 elections, even if all their candidates win in the 2023 elections, can the party still produce the President? Very unlikely indeed.

“Assuming without conceding that they even produce President, can they (LP) run the government? Not likely. The results of 5 and 6 above will be to form a minority government with devastating effect on national political stability further impelling the fragile health of our country.

“Furthermore, there is no way a keen political observer will not see that there is a major disconnect between Peter Obi as a candidate and Labour, which is indicative of the fact that he is not running a collegial political structure in a diverse Country like Nigeria.

“It is, however, respectively observed that LP is a party to be watched in the future only if it sustains the tempo and maintains the mass movement while at the same time building up its structures towards subsequent elections.

“The NNPP on the other hand has similar characteristics with the LP and there is no need repeating same except that ~ NNPP appears to be building a party for the future with – little or no impact in the 2023 elections,” Achuba said

The leaders, therefore, said the PDP, from all indications, seemed to be above board in every criterion as postulated.

“It is nationalistic in spread even though not free from internal crisis like each of the other political parties. If the momentum is aggressively sustained, it will be the party to reckon with.

“From the above evaluation and analysis, it is evident that the APC is heading for implosion and extinction; hence it cannot be the party for now and in the future because of its rejection to embrace inclusiveness in a diverse Country like Nigeria. After the 2023 elections, APC may be dead and buried as a political party.

“While the duo (NNPP and LP) may emerge as strong contenders in the political arena in the future, from all indications, PDP appears to be the best option to adopt and support.

“All it takes is to sustain and tackle some of the problems and challenges this Country is facing. Certainly, with proper consultations and inclusive appointments, which is mindful of the Federal Character principles with sincere consideration of diverse issues such as religious affiliation, geographical location and ethnic identity, which many believe will enhance justice, fairness and equity.

“After a careful evaluation of all the issues highlighted above, we hereby recommend for the adoption of the PDP, to all lovers of democracy in Nigeria, for the 2023 presidential election.

“However, this should be subject to getting the necessary assurance from the party to run an all-inclusive government, details of which shall discussed with the leadership of the party in the nearest future,” he added

In his remarks, Dogara, who presided over the adoption, said he would not have backed a Christian-Christian ticket if it was the case, adding that all Nigerians must get given a sense of belonging.

“This is a difficult moment for Nigeria. I know that some of us may not even find it easy. By the time we have taken this decision.

“But if you are a student of history, you will know what division has done. I challenge us if there is anyone here, whether it is a professor or teacher, Beholder that can point to any human civilization ever attempt by divided people.

“I do not believe we have one person here who can point to that development the human civilization that was viewed by a divided house I cannot find one,” he said.

He added that the group decided to go for a pan-Nigeria presidential candidate following the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC against massive protest.

“What will destroy Nigeria is not ethnicity but religion,” he added.

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