The Southern and Middle Belt Forum Leaders Forum (SMBLF) has described the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections as a brazing afront on the people of the South.
While reacting to Atiku Abubakar’s emergence on Saturday, the forum opined that the unity and peace of the country mean little or nothing to what they called “a segment of the nation’s political elite”.
It alleged that certain candidates from the North were pressured, coerced, and even intimidated to step down for Atiku Abubakar, who eventually emerged as the flagbearer of the PDP, in utter derision of the established principle of zoning and rotation of power between the north and south at the PDP special convention held on Saturday, May 28th, 2022.
A statement issued by Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw for PANDEF/South-South; Amb. Okey Emuchay for Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide/South East; Comrade Jare Ajayi for Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and Hon. Ken Robinson as the Acting Coordinator of SMBLF called on all politicians of Southern extraction to refuse the position of a running mate to any Northern Presidential candidate, believing that it would equally be viewed as subjugating their people to political slavery.
The forum, therefore, condemned in strong terms what eventually led to the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the PDP 2023 presidential candidate.
According to the statement, SMBLF recalled that following the release of the guidelines for the 2023 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Elders and Leaders of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum made unequivocal proclamations on the need for the presidency to be devolved to Southern Nigeria in 2023, in respect of the time-honored practice of the rotation and zoning of high political offices between the North and the South by political parties as a way of strengthening national unity, peace, and harmony.
SMBLF further recalled that several engagements were held with various stakeholders across the length and breadth of the country on the subject to foster understanding, mutual respect, and oneness, stressing that the 17 Southern Governors also backed the rotation of the presidency to the South in 2023.
According to the forum, “Sadly, it appears the unity and peace of Nigeria means little or nothing to a segment of the nation’s political elite." This was evidenced in the PDP special convention, which was held on Saturday, May 28th, 2022, where certain candidates from the North were pressured, coerced, and even intimidated to step down for former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who eventually emerged as the flag bearer of the PDP, in utter derision of the established principle of zoning and rotation of power between the north and south. ”
The forum stated that, undoubtedly, the singular motive was to perpetuate the hegemony of the North, given that President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the North and of Fulani origin, would be completing his full tenure of eight years by this time next year.
SMBLF totally rejected the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and called on the people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt, as well as all true lovers of peace and unity, not to vote for Atiku or any other Northerner in the 2023 Presidential election, in the interest of posterity.
It urged all aspirants for the office of President from Southern Nigeria to shun the conceited attitude of what it called “individualism and self-confidence” and work collectively to achieve the shared objectives.