Tinubu, Atiku, Obi test strengths in Kaduna

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• It’s payback time, step down, endorse me, Tinubu tells Atiku
• Atiku pledges end to APC misrule, revival of textile economy
• Obi laments nation’s woes, promises to rescue Nigeria from failed state
• Northern govs supporting Tinubu because Ahmadu Bello, Balewa will do same, says el-Rufai
• Don’t let Obidient movement die after 2023, Gumi tells Obi
• Wike, Afenifere, others slam Atiku over comments on Northern presidency

Kaduna State, the political headquarters of Northern Nigeria, was the centre of political activities, yesterday, as the leading presidential candidates with their supporters stormed the Arewa capital in a test of strength, hurling verbal missiles at each other.

Presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, fired the first salvo when he asked his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to step down and endorse him (Tinubu) ahead of February 2023 poll.

Speaking when he met with Northern leaders under the umbrella of Arewa Joint Committee for an interactive session, Tinubu asked Atiku to reciprocate the ‘gesture’ he gave to the former vice president when he contested for the presidency in 2007 under the defunct Action Congress (AC), by dropping his ambition and endorsing him.

The meeting was part of a wider interaction with selected presidential candidates to discuss their plans for the region ahead of the general elections.

Tinubu’s appearance came two days after Atiku engaged in a similar interaction with the Northern leaders. The interactive session held at the Arewa House in Kaduna.

He said: “From the late Shehu Yar’Adua, I’m standing before you saying this, even my greatest rival, Atiku, met me with Yar’Adua. He was just out of Customs at that time. Ask him to go and read the civil service regulation.

“They asked him questions: ‘How did you make money?’ He said from selling cars. Can you as a civil servant be involved with other trade and businesses? You have attracted disqualification and you don’t deserve to compete with others. Nuhu Ribadu was on our platform.

“I supported Atiku Abubakar in 2007 then. Don’t blame me if I ask for a payback period. It’s payback. Let him endorse me now instead of him conducting rally around Kaduna while I’m talking to you people here.”

Tinubu also said if elected, he would ensure that Nigeria promotes rule of law, like he did in Lagos. “When I assumed office in 1999, I returned Lagos to a state of law and order and rule of law. One of the candidates running against me lives in Lagos; that is Peter Obi. If you ask Atiku, where is your other valuable asset, he will say he has one at Madonna Street, Lagos.

“Under my leadership, the military will receive much needed injections to strengthen personnel and reinforce them with the best equipment. No inch of this country’s boundary would be yielded to rag-tag bandits,” he said.

The host governor, el-Rufai, said Northern governors were supporting Tinubu because they believe in honour, equity and justice, adding that their decision on power shift to South is premised on the assumption that both Sir Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa will do the same if they were to be alive.

He noted that he would have retaliated against what the former Anambra State governor and presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP), Obi, did to him when he visited the state to monitor an election. In his remarks to the Arewa leaders, el-Rufai alleged that Obi put him under house arrest for 48 hours in Anambra during the state’s bye-election.

He said he would have also arrested the former governor who would be in the state for his presidential campaign in the next few days, stressing that he has the First Mechanised Division of the Army in Kaduna that could carry out the arrest.

He, however, said he would not arrest Obi because Northerners are civilised people.

BUT Obi replied saying he does not have a hand in the Kaduna governor’s travail in 2010. Obi said el-Rufai may have been stopped because his motive for coming to Anambra on election day was unclear.

“What His Excellency, Governor el-Rufai said about me has been brought to my attention. I believe that as we grow older and are saddled with more responsibilities, we are expected to become circumspect in our thinking and avoid recklessness in our speeches.

“I am aware that during the said election he referred to, security agents merely restricted his movement because he had no business being in Anambra as I would not have been anywhere in Kaduna on an election day.”

Obi, who was also in Kaduna, yesterday, to honour Arewa leaders’ invitation, paid a visit to controversial Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, at his residence, alongside his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed.

He said turning Nigeria around will require three core banks: Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry and Bank of Infrastructure, which will make funds easily accessible to SME startups and individuals.

On his part, the Islamic cleric advised Obi to sustain the movement he started among young Nigerians beyond 2023. “Beyond the 2023 elections, don’t let the Movement you have started to end,” Gumi said.

At the Arewa forum, Obi said he was disturbed by the nation’s dwindling fortunes, lamenting that Nigeria is qualified to be referred to as a failed state. He said when a country is no longer in control of the economy and security, such a country is nothing but a failed state. He, however, promised that if elected president in 2023, he would positively change the narrative.

According to him, Nigeria is not bereft of ideas but institutional weaknesses and lack of political will has affected genuine change that would have better the lives of average Nigerians.

On the insecurity ravaging the country, he said “once jobs are created and youths are gainfully engaged and made productive, insecurity would been reduced to the barest minimum and will no longer be lucrative”, adding that “ security agencies will be adequately equipped to handle all forms of insecurity in the country.”

ATIKU received more flaks, yesterday, over his comments that what the North needs is a Northerner, not an Igbo or Yoruba person as next president of Nigeria. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, flayed his party’s presidential candidate.

He said: “Such statement, if true, is a threat to the unity of Nigeria at a time when efforts should be concerted in giving every Nigerian a sense of belonging.”

A statement by Kelvin Ebiri, Special Assistant to Wike, said the governor spoke at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area, on arrival from Spain.

The statement reads: “I don’t believe that my candidate could make such statement, but assuming he did make that statement, then this is one of the things we have been saying, this country needs to be united and part of the way you unite it is to include everybody.

“This has now confirmed to me one of the reasons why those of them in their camp do not want Ayu to resign, because they do not want inclusivity.”

Given that the statement is now in the public domain, Wike advised PDP leadership to tender apology to Nigerians, while explaining the circumstances in which the statement was made.

Also, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday, berated Atiku over his comment. National Publicity Secretary of the group, Jare Ajayi, stated that the comment sounded incredible because such a statement was not expected from a person of his caliber.

“We thought that it would be refuted. But since it was not, then it is quite unbecoming. Such a statement should not be coming from a former VP and someone who wants to be President of Nigeria. We are not expecting it to come from any candidate. Anyone who wants to be President must see himself as a national leader.”

Another Yoruba group, Congress for Rights Of Yoruba Nationalities (CROSYN) also condemned what it described as derogatory remarks and heresy against the Yoruba by Atiku during his recent meeting with Arewa leaders in Kaduna. The group in a statement by its National Chairman, Abiodun Fanoro, further said that by the remark, Atiku had unwittingly revealed why he plotted against Wike’s aspiration to fly PDP’s presidential flag.

MEANWHILE, Atiku has vowed to end the era of misrule by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration and rid the nation of terrorism if elected. Atiku spoke to the mammoth gathering of PDP rally in Kaduna, where he also pledged to revive the dead manufacturing industries in Nigeria and the Kaduna textile firms.

Speaking at the rally, which took place at the Ranchers Bees Stadium, he commended the people of Kaduna for giving him the highest number of votes in 2019 and vowed to take issues concerning Kaduna serious if the people vote en mass and ensure he wins the 2023 election.

On his part, the vice-presidential candidate of the party, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, said the people of Southern Nigeria are ready to vote for PDP and Atiku come 2023, following the success of the party in the recent gubernatorial election in Osun State.

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