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Northern Elders Distance Selves From Atiku’s Ethnic Comment

By Adedayo Said

The Arewa Joint Committee has condemned the ethnic com­ment made by Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), during his interface with the committee on Saturday, saying he should clear himself over the statement.

Atiku at the parley urged Northerners not to vote for Yoruba and Igbo presidential candidates in the 2023 presiden­tial election. He said the North does not need an Igbo or Yoruba president, but “someone from the North.

“I have traversed the whole of the country… This is what the Northerner needs. He (Northern­er) doesn’t need a Yoruba candi­date, or an Igbo. This is what the Northerner needs. I stand before you as a pan-Nigerian of North­ern origin”.

Widespread condemnation had trailed the comment since weekend.

The Arewa Joint Commit­tee comprising of six Northern groups namely, Arewa Consulta­tive Forum (ACF), Arewa House, Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, Northern Elders Fo­rum (NEF), Arewa Research and DevelopmentProject(ARDP) and Jamiyyar Matan Arewa, hosted presidential candidates recently.

However, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso turned down an invitation to appear at the inter­active session for presidential candidates organised by Arewa Joint Committee in Kaduna.

Kwankwaso had accused the Arewa Joint Committee of being biased and having concluded plans to endorse one of the pres­idential candidates.

Speaking with journalists, the Chairman, Steering Committee, Malam Murtala Aliyu, said the same question administered to Atiku was asked other candi­dates too, adding that every re­sponse expressed by the various candidates of the various politi­cal parties is solely their opinion and has nothing to do with the fundamental objectives of the joint committee.

He said, “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.”

The joint committee further stressed that the interactions were not planned with the goal of endorsing any candidate, adding that the maiden edi­tion only sought to address the challenges of the North by any candidate who emerged victori­ous in the forthcoming general election.

According to the committee, “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 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 sect 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.

“The exploitation of ethnic and religious fault lines is ex­tremely dangerous, and the na­tion is already showing signs of stress owing to this exploitation.”

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