Five top socio-cultural organisations on Sunday endorsed Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
They are: the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and Middle Belt Forum (MBF).
A faction of Afenifere, led by Ayo Fasanmi, endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari last week while the general secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Uche Okwukwu, has been suspended by the body for backing the president, who is flying the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The organisations 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 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.
‘NIGERIA IS AT A CROSSROADS’
Ango Abdullahi, convener of Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF), 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.”
‘ONE MAN CANNOT CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION’
Edwin Clark, leader of the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), said, “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.“
SECURITY ‘IN JEOPARDY’
John Nwodo, president-general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, 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.”
PLEASE, SAVE NIGERIA
Ayo Adebanjo of Afenifere, 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.”
‘THE NEED TO SAVE AND RESHAPE NIGERIA’
Pogu Bitrus of the Middle Belt forum, said, “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 Abubakar 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.”