The Arewa Joint Committee has disavowed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s statement that “don’t vote Yoruba, Igbo” was made in Kaduna over the weekend.
The committee, which consists of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Arewa House, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), and Jamiyyar Matan Arewa, claimed that the opinions expressed by each candidate who participated in the interactive session were entirely their own.
”Atiku should clear himself. The same question asked by the committee was administered to other presidential candidates too. So, we have no business with the opinion expressed by our guests,” said the Chairman of the session’s Steering Committee, Murtala Aliyu, told reporters in Kaduna yesterday.
Aliyu, who warned that “the exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is extremely dangerous,” expressed concern that “the nation is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.”
Atiku had while responding to a question by Northern Elders Forum (NEF) Spokesman. Hakeem Baba on why he thinks the North should vote for him in 2023, said: “An average Northerner does not need a Yoruba or Igbo president, but a northern president, who is a pan Nigeria.”
His comment generated reactions from different quarters with many demanding an apology from him.
But on Monday, Atiku’s Media Aide, Paul Ibe, clarified that his principal was jokingly responding to a question that generally centered on the North. Ibe added that Atiku would not play to the gallery to score political points.
Aliyu had also at the news conference where he asked Atiku to defend himself, explained that the interactions with the presidential candidates were not planned to endorse any of them.
He said that the primary goal was to hear from the candidates how they intended to address the challenges of the North if any of them was elected President.
The chairman said: “These interactions in themselves were not planned with the goal of endorsing a candidate. They are part of a longer process that plans to generate commitments to address the challenges of the North by candidates, and which covers a substantial part of the campaigning period.
“We plan to extract and publish these commitments so that Nigerians may measure and evaluate candidates against them. Our goal is to afford citizens an opportunity to match candidates against their commitments to matters that are central to the interests of the North.
“Until the elections in February 2023, the North will be challenged to raise its vigilance over all electoral activities. It is vital that we prioritise evidence of competence, integrity, quality of preparation, and commitment to address the challenges of the North among candidates.
“We will continue to invite the attention of the government to the security of the electoral process, and in particular the vulnerability of many parts of the North to organise crime which may pose a serious threat to their right to participate in electing the next set of leaders in 2023.
“The need to show restraint and discipline as politicians canvass for our elections has never been more pressing. The entire Nation must be open to all contestants and free from violence.”