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Southern group decries Atiku’s emegence as PDP candidate

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SOUTHERN and Middle Belt leaders have decried the emergence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), describing it as a brazen affront to the people of Southern Nigeria.

  According to  a statement issued on Sunday, under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF), in a reaction to the outcome of the national convention of the PDP, the group recalled its position that power should move to the South in 2023 as a way to strengthen the unity of the country.

  The group  said it was regrettable that the unity and peace of the country do not mean much to a segment of the political elite, adding  that the motive of Atiku’s selection was to perpetuate the Muslim North hegemony in the country.

  The statement  rejected Atiku’s candidacy and called on all people of the South and Middle Belt, including all lovers of peace and unity not to vote for Atiku or any other northerner in the election.

   “SMBLF recalls that following the release of the guidelines for the 2023 general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), elders and leaders of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt, under the aegis 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-honoured 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 recalls 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. The 17 southern governors also in a declaration after their meeting in Asaba, Delta State, in May 2021, backed the rotation of the presidency to the South in 2023.

  “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 28, 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 standard-bearer of PDP, in utter derision of the established principle of zoning and rotation of power between the North and South.

   “Undoubtedly, the singular motive is to perpetuate the hegemony of the North given that President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the North and of Fulani origin, will be completing his full tenure of eight years by this time next year.

  “SMBLF, therefore, totally rejects the candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and calls on our people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt as well as all true lovers of peace and unity not to vote for him or any other northerner in the 2023 presidential election, in the interest of posterity.

  “Again, SMBLF calls on all politicians of southern extraction to refuse the position of a running mate to any northern presidential candidate, which will equally be viewed as subjugating their people to political slavery, ” the statement  signed by Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw (PANDEF/ South-South), Ambassador Okey Emuchay (Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide/South East), Jare Ajayi (Afenifere/South West), Dr Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt Forum) and Ken Robinson, acting coordinator of SMBLF, said.

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