from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – ETHNIC divisions are deteriorating ahead of polls set for Nigeria early next year.
The escalating infighting in the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is adding to this volatility.
This is the party that ought to be exemplary. It brought democracy to Nigeria after those gloomy decades of military rule.
Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of PDP, is at the centre of this ethnic storm as his factionalised party’s internal crises spiral out of control.
This is a third straight loss at the polls for the PDP, a party so revered at its peak when Nigeria attained civilian rule and ascended as a major economic and peacemaking
At the southern Anambra State last Thursday, Abubakar, former vice president of the country, was quoted as appealing to those who desire the emergence of a president of Igbo extraction to support his presidential bid.
“I am going to be a stepping stone to an Igbo president in this country,” Abubakar is quoted.
“I have shown it in my action, because this is the third time I am running with an Igbo man. If you really want to produce a president, then, vote Atiku-Okowa ticket,” Abubakar said.
Ifeanyichukwu Okowa is Abubakar’s running mate.
Igbo is, alongside Hausa and Yooruba, the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria, out of a possible 250 other ethnic groups in a country of an estimated 218 million people. It is Africa’s biggest population.
No individual of Igbo extraction has ruled this West African country, a continental powerhouse, since the advent of democracy in 1999.
It is thus believed Okowa, should Abubakar be elected, would have an enhanced chance to be the first when Abubakar’s term lapses.
However, the pan-Igbo sociopolitical pressure organisation, the South East Revival Group (SERG) has called on Abubakar, to stop fanning tribal sentiments during his campaigns, especially with regards to the South East.
“Nigerians are in dire need a sincere person as president, not an individual who is swimming in tribalism and always thinking at a pedestrian level,” President and National Coordinator of the group, Chief Willy Ezugwu, said.
“We advise Abubakar to stop ethnicising his campaign as it will worsen his imminent defeat in the 2023 presidential election as he has proven on many occasions than one to be unreliable,” Ezugwu said.
Abubakar (76) has previously contested for the presidency five times- in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
The closest he was to the presidential throne was as deputy to the first democratically elected president pots-coups, Olusegun Obasanjo, between 1999 and 2007.
Abubakar’s emergence as the PDP candidate for the February 2023 poll has torn apart the PDP, formerly the ruling party.
The bone of contention is his allegedly scuttling the PDP zoning arrangement.
This at a time it was supposedly a turn of the largely Christian South to provide the presidential candidate.
Abubakar is from the predominantly Muslim North.
Current president, Muhammadu Buhari, of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), is also a Northerner.
It is an unwritten law that Nigeria’s presidency rotates between the North and South. Hence the APC is fielding southerner, ex-Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu (70), as its presidential candidate.
Some five PDP governors, called the G5, have defied their own party and Abubakar’s presidential bid.
The main belligerent is Nyesom Wike, of the southern oil-rich Rivers State. It was anticipated that since it is the South‘s turn for the presidency, Wike would be the odds-on favorite.
But the ascension of Abubakar, his snubbing of Wike and instead going with Okowa as his potential deputy has thrown the cat among the pigeons.
Last Thursday, suspected political thugs attacked the home of Lee Maeba, Chairman of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Council, in the state capital, Port Harcourt.
Vehicles were vandalised when the group allegedly stormed the house and a sibling of Maeba’s brutalised.
It is alleged around 200 men launched the attack that culminated in gunshots fired.
Maeba accuses Wike and his administration for the attack and deploying state resources and personnel to fight factional PDP battles.
The divisive governor has denied the charges.
“It’s unfortunate that the likes of Senator Maeba, who is still stuck in politics of violence, can be accusing him (Wike) of violence,” Wike’s spokesperson, Kelvin Ebiri, stated.
Police are investigating.
While the elections are projected as tight contest between APC and PDP, the pan-Igbo SERG has thrown its weight behind Peter Obi, ironically Abubakar’s running mate in the 2019 polls.
He is the candidate of the Labour Party, after quitting the PDP. Rabiu Kwnkwaso is the candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, also after quitting the PDP.
– CAJ News