Ahead of this coming February 16 election, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that Nigeria is bigger than President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP spoke as all the major socio-cultural organisations in the country on Sunday endorsed Atiku Abubakar, their presidential candidate against President Buhari who is stoutly battling for re-election.
Spurred by the broad endorsement, PDP added that there is no way Nigerians will allow Buhari and the APC to rig the 2019 general elections or achieve their self-succession plan.
According to Kola Ologbondiyan, the spokesman of the party, ‘’our history as a nation has amply shown that no individual leader, no matter the authority wielded, has ever succeeded, at any point in time, in subduing the spirit of our nation or place our people under a siege and not even this strange recourse to importation of mercenaries into our country can change that reality
‘’Certain leaders in the past attempted to subvert our constitutional democracy, arrogate excessive powers to themselves and how they failed in the face of the Nigerian spirit. That Nigerian spirit, with which we won our democracy and nurtured it to this stage, is being assailed by the APC and the Buhari Presidency with their unrelenting constitutional breaches, attacks on
our democratic institutions, violation of human rights, siege on our electoral system and opening of our territorial borders to mercenaries, all in the bid to subdue our citizenry and achieve a self succession plan, having realised that there is no way they can win in a free, fair and peaceful election.
‘’There is a ferocious attempt to take away our liberty as a people. There is total clampdown, arrest and detention of dissenting voices; invasion of media houses, manhandling and illegal detention of journalists by state forces have become the order of the day; but all these will not break the Nigerian spirit. Our nation will never succumb to Buhari Presidency’s assault on our
National Assembly, the attack on our judiciary and besieging of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where President Buhari’s relation is being foisted as the head of the collation center.
‘’Nigerians have decided to vote out President Buhari, come February 16, and no amount of intimidation, clampdown and harassment can change that resolve. It has become manifest that compatriots, irrespective of creed, ethnicity and political leanings, are today extremely eager to vote out the Buhari Presidency which, out of sheer incompetence, has wrecked our once robust economy and brought so much poverty, hunger, pain and anguish to Nigerians, once reputed as the happiest people in the world.
‘’The Buhari Presidency and the APC have come to the stark reality that the influences on which they rode to power in 2015 no longer avail. They have come to the moment of truth that Nigerians have seen through their lies, propaganda, false promises, beguilements and holier-than-thou posturing and are now poised to take back their country at the polls.
‘’Only last week, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), after consideration of all factors, reinforced the global unanimity and affirmation by various credible and independent bodies within and outside Nigeria, including the Afenifere, the Ohaneze Ndigbo, the Northern Elders’ Forum, the Pan Niger Delta Forum, the Middle Belt Forum, among several others, that Atiku Abubakar will win the February 16, Presidential election, having secured the overwhelming support of Nigerians across the board.
‘’Today, the APC and the Buhari Presidency have become uncontrollably feverish over the overwhelming acceptance gained by Atiku in all the geo-political zones, particularly in the North West states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna and Jigawa states, hitherto considered as President Buhari’s political stronghold.’’
Continuing, PDP said, ‘’having lost genuine followership in the North West, the North Central,
the North East and a greater part of the South West, all of which gave them a ride to victory in 2015, and having no prospects in the South East and South South, the APC and the Buhari Presidency are now seeking ways to derail our electoral process.
‘’This accounts for the manipulations in INEC and the smuggling in of mercenaries from Niger Republic to populate APC rallies, ostensibly to unleash them on our nation immediately it is clear that President Buhari is losing at the polls. We want Buhari to note that Nigeria will not fall. Our country, as a nation of over 200 million resilient men and women, is bigger than President Buhari as well as the APC and would resist all anti-democratic forces being unleashed against our democratic order.
‘’Nigerians have chosen democracy with its tenets, as a way of life, including justice and constitutional freedom it offers the citizens to determine who their leaders should be at any given time, and nobody, not even President Buhari, can take away this freedom and rights, under any circumstance whatsoever. Nigerians know how the PDP restored, nurtured and allowed our democracy to thrive to the extent that it was possible for the opposition to win in a general election with President Buhari as the major beneficiary.
‘’The PDP allowed a free and fair election, respected the will of the people and handed over power to President Buhari, without any shenanigans that would have denied him victory. Now that Nigerians are determined to vote out President Buhari from office due to his incompetence, divisiveness, executive high-handedness and corruption, he must not allow his ambition to set our nation on fire.
‘’We therefore urge President Buhari to avail his mind to accept his imminent defeat when it eventually comes on February 16. Buhari should know that Nigerians have chosen Atiku as their next President to return our nation to the path of national cohesion and economic prosperity. This national consensus is bigger than Buhari or any other Nigerian for that matter.’’
However, a faction of Afenifere, led by Ayo Fasanmi, endorsed President Buhari last week while the General Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Okwukwu, has been suspended by the body for backing the president.
The major socio-cultural groups said Atiku has shown that he will restructure the country if given the mandate, accusing Buhari of not showing interest despite setting up a restructuring committee headed by Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State.
The groups accused Buhari of succeeding in emphasising ethnicity and religion in his administration, lamenting the high level of insecurity and constitutional crisis. The elders also said the administration had been dealing with perceived enemies under the guise of fighting corruption,, adding that all they had seen in the last three years is blame game.
Convener of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Ango Abdullahi, said Nigeria is at a cross roads, attributing the endorsement of Atiku to principles reached a year ago. ‘’The reality is that we have to fish for a president among the two major parties, the ruling and the main opposition’’, he said.
‘’It is clear that the country requires a new leadership and this is why the Northern elders Forum which I lead is in agreement that a new leader should emerge and that leader is Atiku Abubakar.’’
Responding to government’s attacks following criticism of the administration, Abdullahi said, ‘’It is unfair to accuse us of vested interested on issues that ought to be of concern to every Nigerian irrespective of tribe and religion. Nothing is farther from the truth that some of us are being frustrated because we have been denied of contracts or appointments.
‘’We are yet to receive a reply to a letter challenging the government to name any of our colleagues who have asked for contracts.Today, our focus is on free, fair and credible elections without which the image of the country will never rise above where we are today. Where we are today, for a country with our size in Africa, so endowed with the kind of resources we have, where we are today is because of crisis of leadership. This election is about serious changes in the kind of leadership we deserve.’’
For the Leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) Edwin Clark, ‘’we have served in governments, so nobody should make the mistake of saying we are looking for jobs. We don’t belong to a political party but we met as elders and leaders of the three regions of the country because the country is at a crossroad.
‘’We want a leader not sick, but focused and has the respect of foreign leaders. We have been passing through crisis and the outside world is laughing at us. One man cannot change the constitution of Nigeria, the moment you can remove the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN) by fiat and gets the power to remove the senate president, you become a dictator.’’
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo John Nwodo, said he is saddened by the current situation in the country. ‘’Today’s Nigeria is not the one we used to know. The Nigeria we have today is not the Nigeria we desire. I grew up in a Nigeria where we use to love each other. Today, we have a head of state who has reminded us of our ethnic and religious differences and has put us into jeopardy.
‘’We have seen Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Borno states crying that they have been overwhelmed by insecurity, seeking military intervention. This is the edge of precipice. These proclamation of governors followed the declaration by former chief of army staff, asking Nigerians to take up arms and defend themselves following the unrest in the middle belt.
‘’The very essence of government is to secure the country. The security of the country is in jeopardy. We have a constitutional deadlock in the country. Southern and middle belt have insisted on restructuring, APC committee recommended interesting initiatives but nothing from the president except to say we don’t have a problem of structure but process.’’
Afenifere’s Ayo Adebanjo, said: ‘’I didn’t know that this government will become so tyrannical when we started this initiative. We are asking Nigerians to confirm the election of Abubakar. You’re not voting for him but you’re working for the interest of Nigeria. You must work doubly hard if you want the country’s unity. The evil tormenting us is devising new method to remain in power.
‘’We are not so cheap to follow people. If you think all we have been telling you is propaganda, the recent exposure of the candidate will convince you of the type of president we need. Be vigilant until the election is declared and confirmed. You are the ones to save Nigeria.’’
For Pogu Bitrus of the Middle Belt Forum, ‘’today we are making pronouncements that will save and reshape Nigeria, away from suspicion, ethnicity and religion has become an issue. This is the Nigeria we want to depart from into a Nigeria that everyone will feel they belong.
‘’We can only transform this country with a leader we can trust. In 2015, we thought we could trust Buhari because we felt Jonathan was too week, but three years after, all we get is blame game. In this government what we have is tyranny and crime (corruption).
‘’We have had to subsumed our interest into the national interest, come together as one and agree that the candidate of the PDP, Atiku is our collective candidate for this election. We are convinced that her possess the capacity to take us out of the quagmire we have found again, that our economy will begin to grow again and we are going to push forward with development.’’