By Folarin Sode
During the recent Arewa Joint Committee Interactive Session which was held in Kaduna to enable the Presidential candidates of some political parties highlight their policy positions, the former Vice President and standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party; H.E Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was on hand to answer questions from members of the committee.
Immediately after that dialogue, mischief makers embarked on a futile mission to coronate the former Vice President with an unbefitting toga of ethnic bigotry. According to them, a man who has gained an undisputed reputation as a statesman and Pan-Nigerian suddenly became a bigot because of a statement which they deliberately decided to twist out of its intended context just to score a cheap political point.
Unbeknownst to the reprobates, Nigerians are now more focused on rescuing their beloved nation than engaging in frivolities. Unlike the candidate of the ruling party who has gained notoriety for unleashing an endless flurry of gaffes whenever called to question , Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s message in Kaduna was straightforward and devoid of ambiguities.
He was emphatic that credentials bordering on inclusivity and proven competence, not ethnicity must be the yardsticks for determining who wins the votes of Northerners in particular and Nigerians in general. These are virtues which Alhaji Atiku Abubakar possess in abundance. He clearly opined that -“I have been in politics for more than three decades and I am a Northerner. So, if you ask me why I am the best candidate to lead Nigeria in 2023, I will simply say that what Nigeria needs is a pan-Nigerian President, not whether he is Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa-Fulani.”
For benefit of clarity, it is pertinent to set the record straight by underlining the precedences of the former Vice President which evidently shows that his personality and bigotry are mutually exclusive concepts. Pray tell, which Atiku is an ethnic bigot?
You mean the one who Obasanjo refused to forgive because he vehemently stood by Tinubu when OBJ wanted to annihilate the same Tinubu and OBJ still believes till today that Atiku helped Tinubu to survive his onslaught against the former Lagos State Governor?
The Atiku that has been answering questions from his people for over 30 years because they believe he is too cosmopolitan, gender-sensitive and pro-Christian? As emphasized in his 2023 policy document, same Atiku who has consistently reaffirmed his commitment to activate the Beijing conference stipulated 35% affirmative action on women inclusion?
The same Atiku who people come out every 4 years to remind their people that he was the one that made Boni Haruna, (a Christian) the Governor of Adamawa?
It is a fact that Atiku is the fairest when it comes to creating an equilibrium of religion, ethnicity and gender sensitivity -Taraba people can attest to this. Hajia Aisha Alhassan (Mama Taraba) readily comes to mind. God bless her soul.
Since 2007, he has been consistent that a Nigerian of Igbo extraction must be in the Presidency. This is another testament of Atiku’s unblemished credential as a crusader of justice and equity.
Without recourse to his long-standing friendship with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku defied the odds by picking Senator Ben Obi as running mate in 2007.
In 2015, Atiku again opted for another Obi in the person of the former Governor of Anambra state, Mr. Peter Obi as running mate. Talk about consistency. Need we be reminded that he has reiterated his stand that he remains the shortest route to a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction?
This 2023 cycle, after his preferred Obi left the PDP to pursue his ambition via another platform- he had to pick a South Southerner of Igbo ancestry. What else do we want from the man?
The irony of all these is- we want to condemn Atiku in the South because of Obi and because of Tinubu who are our brothers.
We call him names regularly, but yet don’t want him to seek the love of his own people.
It is hypocritical for Igbos to claim to love Obi because he is the best and youngest. Same gesture extended from Yorubas to Tinubu because he is endowed with a massive derriere that deserves to be adorned with beads, and also at home in the streets of Oshodi. In conflicting contrast- Northerners cannot and should not love Atiku because that would make him an ethnic champion. Talk of double standards. No be juju be that?
A Legal Practitioner and Social Commentator writes from Lagos.