Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) nominee for president, has reaffirmed that he is the most competent candidate to govern Nigeria in 2023, stating that northerners deserve a leader from their region.
He made the statement during a lively discussion of the Arewa Townhall Policy Dialogue in Kaduna.
“I have traversed the whole of this country,” Atiku, who hails from Adamawa in Nigeria’s North-East region, said on Saturday.
“I know the whole of this country. I have built bridges across this country. I think what the average northerner needs is somebody who is from the north, who also understands the other parts of Nigeria, and who has been able to build bridges across the rest of the country.
“This is what the northerner needs. He (the northerner) doesn’t need a Yoruba candidate or an Igbo candidate. This is what the northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of northern origin.”
A surge of criticism from Nigerians and political groups, including the ruling All Progressives Congress, was brought on by the video of Atiku’s remark that leaked hours later on social media.
The comment attributed to the PDP nominee was called divisive by APC spokesman Felix Morka, who asserted that the nation does not require such.
“Atiku’s words ring loud of extreme and mindless desperation, and such an extremely desperate man cannot and must not be entrusted with the most important job of President – a job whose core duty is that of leading, uniting, and working in the best interest of all in an ethnoreligious pluralistic society as Nigeria,” he said in a statement on Sunday.
“Our country does not need this highly inflammable rhetoric now or ever. What is even more confounding is that this Presidential Candidate of the PDP has touted himself to be on a mission to unify Nigeria.”
Former presidential candidate Kingsley Moghalu responded to the news by expressing his “disappointment” with Atiku’s statement.
The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) stated in a series of tweets on his official account that the comment refutes his opinion of Atiku as a “really cosmopolitan politician.”
“I was very disappointed to view the video clip of H.E. Atiku Abubakar, 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,” he began in the tweets.
“I have a lot of respect for Atiku, who, despite his flaws (which all the other leading contenders also have), I have always regarded as a truly cosmopolitan politician in our country. His reference to his ‘building bridges’ across the country does not negate his clear message
“That message directly appealed to divisive ethnic sentiment and a denigration of the largest ethnic groups in Southern Nigeria. I think he should withdraw the statement and apologise to Nigerians for it.”
Moghalu added that “all candidates in the 2023 presidential election must avoid ethnic or other divisive sentimental appeals”.