From Our Correspondents
As campaign for the 2023 general elections thicken, presidential candidates of the two leading political parties, Bola Tinubu of APC and Atiku Abubakar of PDP literally throw jabs at each other in a show of strength before the Northern Leaders in Kaduna.
At an interactive session with the Arewa Joint Committee on Monday in Kaduna, Tinubu told his PDP counterpart, Atiku, to step down and endorse him for the 2023 presidential poll.
In his meeting with leaders from the northern part of the country, under the umbrella of the Arewa Joint Committee at the Arewa House in Kaduna, Tinubu asked Atiku to reciprocate his “gesture” in 2007 by stepping down for him.
The NewsZenith reports that the meeting was organised by a coalition of six groups including the Arewa Consultative Forum, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Forum and Jamar Matan Arewa among others.
He recalled that in 2007, he (Tinubu) dropped his ambition and endorsed Atiku who contested under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
“I supported Atiku Abubakar in 2007. Don’t blame me if I ask for the payback.
“Let him endorse me, instead of conducting rallies around Kaduna,’’ Tinubu said.
Earlier on Saturday, Atiku had thrown the first jab when he declared, also in Kaduna, that the North should shun southern candidates in next year’s presidential election.
Atiku spoke at an interactive session with a group of northern political leaders under the Arewa Joint Committee at the same Arewa House, Kaduna where Tinubu made his return campaign match.
The group is holding the session with the major presidential candidates, with Atiku the first to take his turn on Saturday.
Responding to a question on why Northerners should vote for him, the PDP presidential candidate replied, “What the average Northerner needs is somebody who’s from the north and also understands that part of the country’’.
Atiku said that he has been able to build bridges across the country.
“This is what the Northerner needs, it doesn’t need a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin,’’ Atiku said.
But the ripple caused by Atiku’s remark has raised a lot of concerns among southern political players and analysts.
Reacting to Atiku’s comments, captured in a video recording that has since gone viral on social media, Gov. Nyesom Wike of River State said the PDP owed Nigerians an apology following ‘some rather controversial statements’ made by Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential Candidate of the party.
Wike said that while he doubted the possibility of Atiku making such a sensational statement at this critical time of the nation’s history, such posture would justify his (Wike) fight for equity, justice and fairness in the PDP.
Wike also challenged the National Chairman of the Party, Iyorchia Ayu, on his defence of the corruption allegations he levelled against him and condemned as ridiculous, the recommendations of the party’s Board of Trustees on the crisis in the PDP.
Also reacting to Atiku’s remarks, a former Minister of Aviation and member of the APC, Femi Fani-Kayode said on Twitter: “This is the height of desperation & daredevilry on the part of Atiku!
“This is so horrendous, so horrible & so thoughtless for Atiku Abubakar to use ethnicity to campaign, saying the North does not need a YORUBA OR IBO candidate? My God! Atiku needs to quit the race TODAY!’’
Atiku’s two main rivals, Tinubu of the ruling APC and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), are Yoruba and Igbo respectively from the southern part of the country.
A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, also expressed disappointment over a comment by Atiku that Northerners don’t need Igbo or Yoruba to be president.
Reacting on his verified Twitter handle, Mougalu said the comment was a “direct appeal to divisive ethnic sentiment and a denigration of the largest ethnic groups in Southern Nigeria.
“I was very disappointed to view the video clip of H.E. Atiku Abubakar @atiku, a former Vice-President of Nigeria, telling an audience in Kaduna that what the North needs is a northerner to be President, and not a Yoruba or Igbo candidate.
“All candidates in the 2023 presidential election must avoid ethnic or other divisive sentimental appeals’’.
The former CBN chief called on Atiku to withdraw the statement and tender an apology to Nigerians who picked offence in his utterances.