Atiku Stir up Hornet’s Nest Over anti-Yoruba, Igbo Comment
By Alabidun Shuaib AbdulRahman
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party‘s presidential candidate, has come under fire for urging Northerners to support him in the 2023 election because he is a northerner.
In an address to the Arewa Joint Committee in Kaduna on Saturday, Atiku urged his audience not to back a Yoruba or Igbo candidate, making reference to Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
According to Atiku, a Fulani from Adamawa State, said “What the average Northerner needs is somebody who’s from the North and also understands that part of the country and 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,’’ the PDP flagbearer proclaimed in a viral video.
However, his comment has attracted widespread condemnation from the APC, the LP, the New Nigeria People’s Party, the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, the apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and civil society organisations.
This is happening against the backdrop of the crisis in the PDP which has resulted in the withdrawal of five governors and many members of the Southern bloc of the party from Atiku’s campaign council.
There are suggestions that the former Vice-President, through his statement on Saturday, might have breached Section 97 of the Electoral Act.
The section states, “A candidate, person or association that engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on religious, tribal or sectional reason to promote or oppose a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate, commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to (a) a maximum fine of N1m or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both and (b) in the case of a political party, to a maximum of N10m.’’
Those who criticized Atiku on Sunday said despite presenting himself as a pan-Nigerian candidate, the former vice-president’s previous actions had aroused suspicions about his stance on critical national issues.
Atiku stirred a firestorm in May after he deleted a post on his Facebook and Twitter pages condemning the killing of Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, who was killed for allegedly posting comments that blasphemed Prophet Mohammed.
After coming under a barrage of threats from northerners who asked him to forget his presidential ambition for criticising Samuel’s murder, Atiku hurriedly deleted the post, claiming it was done without his approval.