Atiku Abubakar got yesterday a complex challenge on his presidential bid —he should drop running mate Peter Obi or lose.
Some youths in the North visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo to table the knotty request.
The Northern Youths Leaders Forum (NYLF) advised the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to review the choice of Obi, if he hopes to earn the North’s support.
The group, which prides itself as the apex body of 46 youth organisations in the North, threatened to mobilise its over six million members against the PDP and its presidential candidate, if Atiku failed to take its advice.
The national chairman of the group, Comrade Elliot Afiyo, who spoke on Tuesday in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, after a meeting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday night, claimed that the body had been instrumental to the electoral victories of successive presidents since 1999. It claimed to have played a major role in incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory and it also played a critical role in the reconciliation between Atiku and Obasanjo.
According to Afiyo, the group had equally intimated the former President of their position on Atiku’s running mate.
It was not immediately clear yesterday what Obasanjo, who has just ended a long feud with Atiku and endorsed him, told the youths.
He said the Obi’s choice was causing friction in the Southeast, which is largely responsible for the impending defection of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremandu, from the PDP.
He added that Obi is strongly viewed as anti-north and a major sponsor of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
According to him, over 70 percent of Emirs and other traditional rulers in the North will not support Atiku’s choice of running mate and maintained that PDP will fail to produce the next president, if the party eventually flies the Atiku/Obi ticket.
Afiyo advised PDP to pick Atiku’s running mate from Southsouth. He suggested that either Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike or his Bayelsa State counterpart, Seriake Dickson, should be considered.
Afiyo said: “Atiku is an experienced politician, and he knows what happened and as a northern Nigerian, he cannot ignore that group. I have spoken to almost all the Southeast governors and they told me that they remained in PDP because of their governorship elections and after their governorship elections, they will vote somewhere, not PDP.
“And for us to ignore the stakeholders, it is political suicidal, so we must agree with that fact. That was what we told Obasanjo yesterday, that as far as we want to Atiku to succeed, he has no alternative than to drop Peter Obi and with the contention between Peter Obi’s group and Ike Ekeremadu’s group, it is not political convenient again to pick a running mate from the Southeast.
Because whichever group you pick from, the other group will work against them.
“Then, in the North, we consider Peter Obi as anti-North. This is no sentiment. Apart from the way he treated the northeners when he was the governor of Anambra State, we consider him as a bonafide member and major sponsor of IPOB.
“In fact, 70 percent of emirs, traditional rulers from the North will not support Peter Obi as the vice president.
“We don’t work on sentiment. As I have told you before, our group staked our lives in 2015 for Buhari. Personally, I was placed under house arrest for two weeks throughout the extension of the presidential election in 2015. I was fighting with the hope that Buhari would change things but there is a cabal and Buhari is completely caged.
“Also, mind you, Atiku is not a saint, anyone that becomes president, there must be a cabal, so we need a vice president that will tell the cabal ‘no’ and Peter Obi doesn’t have the courage and boldness to be the vice president to challenge the authorities. But if Atiku fails to heed our warning, then, APC will win. Buhari will win hands down because we cannot support a failure. We will work for APC.”
Obi’s spokesman Valemtine Obienyen dismissed the claims by the group. He said Obi’s choice had been well received.
He added: “Why protest in Ota? Who is behind the protest? What does the project intend to achieve? Is it true that the planning of the protest was revealed almost a week ago? Why is it that when you have failed to see any fault in Obi, you are bent on inventing one? These are necessary questions which any sincere inquirer will deem appropriate to start with.
He said: “ We do not need such distraction now. What we need is joining of hands together as we collectively seek solutions to our problems.
“All those that knew Obi very well for what he did in the past, both in his private business and governance of Anambra State and thereafter, wrote eulogies of him. Researchers went to work. After careful and painstaking analyses of his past, they submitted that he is humble, hardworking, knowledgeable about the economy, aware of the myriad of problems of the country, detribalised and a believe in the unity of the country .
Since leaving office, Obi has been busy visiting schools all over the country, from Cross River to Sokoto. Obi has been busy diagnosing the problems of the country and offering solutions. Obi has been busy preaching the unity of the country and how good governance will solve the problems in Nigeria, caused by cumulative years of leadership failure that make the protest under review suspicious and, in fact, an attempt to give the dog a bad name in order to hang it.”