The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, flagged off his 2023 campaign in style, with a call that Nigeria’s frightening descent into anarchy must be halted.
He held two events in Abuja – the launching of three books; and the inauguration of his 600-member campaign council where he said Nigeria must be saved and appealed to all party members to join him in the task of seeking the mandate of Nigerians to rebuild the nation.
Speaking at the inauguration of the 2023 PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Atiku said Nigeria was in such a bad state that it would require the support of all party members as well as Nigerians to be rescued and rebuilt.
Atiku said: “Even though this body is nominally styled ‘Presidential Campaign Council’, in reality, it is a General Elections Council because, of what use or benefit is a victory of the presidential candidate alone, without a sweeping victory of all our other candidates at all of the elections taking place next year?
“So, what is our task that we are gathered here today to undertake? It is beyond merely coming together to inaugurate a Presidential Campaign Council. Our task today is to come together to rescue and rebuild our beloved country, Nigeria. That is the end goal. It is existential to us as a nation, and it is a task that history beckons upon us all to grasp with both hands and undertake with vigour and zeal.”
While appealing for unity in the party, Atiku said: “To rescue and rebuild our country, we must first take over the mantle of leadership from the party that has driven us into this mess. To do this, we must all be united in purpose and come together to fight and win all the elections slated for next year.
“Every single person who loves this country, as I do, is needed for the arduous tasks that face us ahead as a nation, and this includes every member of the PDP.
“And it is my fervent hope and prayer that every man and woman of goodwill will join hands with us to help rescue, rebuild and reposition our beloved country, Nigeria.”
He noted that the day’s event was not an ordinary one because it provided another opportunity for party members to consider the urgency of the task ahead.
Atiku recalled: “In May 2015, Our Great Party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in an orderly, peaceful and rancour-free manner, handed over the reins of government at the centre to the opposition party, the APC, having lost the presidential elections a few months earlier.
“Four years later, in 2019, and in spite of the drift, economic desolation, challenges of insecurity and massive dislocations to the lives of our citizens witnessed under the APC government in those years, and notwithstanding that our great party had put before the Nigerian people, a demonstrably better plan for recovery and development of our nation, our party was, once again, schemed out in the elections held that year in the most devious manner.
“It is a testament to the patriotism, dedication to constitutionalism and law and order, and the unshakable belief in the rule of law and the supremacy of the courts in our land, that our great party, the PDP, chose and pursued redress in the one and only way laid down by law – through the courts. Of course, you all know how that ended.
“Since the loss at the polls of 2019 till now, and under the watch of the current APC government, our dear country has witnessed a frightening descent into anarchy. Our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust.
“To start with, the current government has failed at the very essence of what makes a government: the security of lives and property of its citizens. Our security challenges are legion, and I do not need to bore you by rehashing them here.
“Our economy is in shambles, growth has stagnated, and our people are facing massive existential challenges daily. Hunger is the norm today in our country.
“Our nation is in disarray. The fabric of unity that binds our country is, today, being torn apart by mutual distrust, and ethnic and sectarian strife and we are now more disunited than we have ever been in our history, including even when we fought a civil war.
“Our educational system is comatose. Nothing more underscores this than the twin embarrassing facts of the number of children that are currently out of school, and the length of time that university students have been kept out of their classrooms this year, as a result of the ASUU strike.
“Our system of government is broken. Our current system is unfair, unwieldy, skewed towards favouring the federal government at the expense of the other federating units, and has in itself, become a willing tool for underdevelopment.
“This kind of system of government is no longer suited to the challenges of a twenty-first-century economy that works for everyone and that is needed to bring development closer to our people.”
My plans for Nigeria
On his plans for Nigeria, if PDP wins the elections, he said: “All hope is not lost. We have a plan to address these issues and to arrest the drift of our nation. These plans have been laid out in the document titled ‘My Covenant With Nigerians.’ Our plans for Nigeria and Nigerians are as follows:
“To restore Nigeria’s unity through equity, social justice, mutual collaboration, and consensus among our diverse peoples.
“To build a strong and effective democratic government where the safety and security of our people and their property is our primary and singularly most important responsibility.
“To establish a strong, resilient, inclusive and prosperous economy that generates opportunity, jobs and wealth while lifting the poor out of poverty.
“To encourage the adoption of a true federal system that provides where all the federating units are equal, and has a fair and representative federal government that secures our borders, defends our people and ensures national unity, whilst allowing the federating units to develop and grow in line priorities which they have set on their own.
“To redevelop, invest in, and strengthen our education system in order to provide its recipients with the education and skills needed to compete in the new global order driven by innovation, science, and technology, as well as to live healthy, productive, and meaningful lives.
“To undertake these tasks, the members of our party, the PDP, have, graciously, granted me the ticket to lead the party in next year’s presidential elections, with the singular mandate to come and lead the efforts to cure these ills.”
He noted that the tasks ahead may appear daunting and seem as a load too heavy to bear, he urged that “for the sake of generations yet unborn, we must not, even for one minute, shirk in the responsibilities that we have been entrusted with to come together to rebuild this beloved country of ours.
While congratulating those who were chosen as council members, Atiku said: “You have been selected from among the millions of our party members to join this esteemed council because of your past contributions to the party.
“Naturally, not all members of our party can be in the Presidential Campaign Council. But every single member of the PDP is an important member of the party and each one of you is still entrusted with the responsibility of leading our party to victory in next year’s elections.
“Those of you who have not found yourselves in the Presidential Campaign Council is just as important as those who have, and we do not take your contributions for granted.”
Earlier, PDP Deputy National Chairman, (North) Amb. Umaru Damagum, extended the apologies of the party’s National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, whom he said was in Europe for medicals.
“I want to give the excuse of my national chairman who is unavoidably absent, who is far away in Europe addressing some health challenges, but he sent his goodwill message to all of you,’’ he said.
Damagun noted that the woeful performance of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in contrast with the unrivalled outstanding performance of the PDP while in office for 16 years spoke volumes about what the PDP would do when given the chance.
Don’t mind doomsayers —Gov Emmanuel
Chairman of the Campaign Council, and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, who spoke on behalf of other council members said: “I want to assure you that as a campaign council we have the seriousness, and unity that is required. It is our duty to the campaign, to carry and publicise the message on how to rescue and restore the hope of Nigerians. It is for Nigerians to vote and for the Almighty to give victory.
“I want to say here, don’t mind the doomsayers. I read everywhere all those doomsayers saying PDP here, PDP there, but I want to assure you that PDP is a solid rock and we know that no matter the wind it will not move the rock. “So, irrespective of the wind that you see around the rock, it will not move the rock. The rock remains as solid as ever. Please don’t mind the doomsayers.
“We want to assure you that we are campaigning to win. Nothing is acceptable to PDP outside victory for PDP, but this will also require that all of us must work. “This time, there is no sitting in Abuja, everybody will have to work hard and carry the message home. PDP is not an Abuja party; you win from your unit, and ward and not by sitting in Abuja.
“If we had made mistakes in the past, we cannot wind down the clock, we cannot recall what passed yesterday, but we can move forward in the spirit of oneness, unity and progress.”
Tambuwal tasks INEC on level playing field
Also speaking, Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Management Committee and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwual, charged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to provide a level playing field for all parties.
Noting that the whole world was watching Nigeria, Tambuwual assured the party and the candidate that his committee would put in all the work needed for victory at the polls.
Some the dignitaries who attended the event included Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; Akwa Ibom Governor, Udom Emmanuel, Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, Governor of Adamawa, Ahmadu Fintri; former Presidents of the Senate, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and Anyim Pius Anyim.
Also present were former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’aba; House Minority leader, Ndidi Elumelu; Acting National Chairman, Amb. Damagum; former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; former Vice President, Arch. Namadi Sambo, Deputy National Chairman, South, Amb Taofeek Arapaja; and National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu among others.
Wike’s men shun the event
However, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and most of his allies made good their threat to stay away from the council. Those who were absent include: Governors Samuel Ortom (Benue), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu); former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose; his Plateau State counterpart, Jonah Jang; and Professor Jerry Gana among others.
Atiku presents three books
Before the inauguration of the council, the PDP presidential candidate presented three books written in his honour.
The books are: ‘The Story of Atiku Abubakar, Landmark Constitutional Law Cases in Nigeria (2004-2007),’ ‘The Atiku Abubakar cases,’ and lastly, ‘Restructuring as a pathway to National Unity and development.’
The books detailed his personal story about his birth, academics, public service and foray into politics and his stewardship as Vice President, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Senate Minority Leader and Chief host of the event, Philip Aduda, in his welcome address urged aggrieved PDP members not to turn their back against the party, adding that “ Only a strong united PDP will help to actualise the aspirations of Nigerians in 2023”
Chairman of the organizing committee and former Governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna, in his welcome remarks, described Atiku Abubakar as a “ shy person” whose desire is to take Nigeria to a better place.
Haruna, who was deputy governor-elect to Atiku was sworn as governor when Atiku was elected as vice president, said the PDP flag bearer struggled as an orphan before rising to the current height.
He noted that the books were written to correct the “wicked lies and rumours peddled against Atiku, which had remained unchallenged in public domain for several years.
The event, which took place at the International Conference Center, Abuja, attracted the party’s chieftains from across the country, and was chaired by former Vice President Namadi Sambo.
Why I didn’t attend Atiku’s book launch — Anyaoku
Meanwhile, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has given reasons he did not attend the book launch by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday.
Anyaoku said he was not formally invited to the event and was not consulted before his name was published as special guest of honour.
According to Anyaoku, an announcement was made in the media which indicated that he would be a Special Guest of Honour at Atiku Abubakar’s book presentation scheduled for September 28 at Chida Hotels Events Centre in Abuja.
In a statement, Chief Anyaoku said nobody formally consulted him and he never agreed to attend the event, adding that he remains non-partisan while praying for the emergence of a competent leader next year.
The statement read: “My attention has been drawn to the announcement in This Day newspaper of 26/9/22 that I would be a Special Guest of Honour at Atiku Abubakar’s book presentation scheduled for 28th September at Chida Hotels Events Centre in Abuja.
“Given the understandable propensity to read political meanings in public associations at this time of competition by political parties in the context of 2023 national elections, I wish to unequivocally state that nobody sought and obtained my agreement to be present at this particular book presentation.
“I have accepted the unreserved apologies rendered to me by the organizers of the event, and wish to reiterate that I remain non-partisan in praying that my country, Nigeria, will in 2023 elect people of proven competence and character whose sole mission will be to serve the national interests.”
Ikpeazu didn’t snub Atiku — Abia PDP
Elsewhere, the Abia State chapter of the PDP, yesterday, refuted media reports that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, “snubbed” Alhaji Atiku Abubakar when he visited South-East PDP stakeholders in Enugu on Tuesday.
Abia PDP in a statement by its Vice Chairman, Abia North and Acting Publicity Secretary, Elder Abraham Amah, dismissed the said media report as “misleading and the handiwork of mischief makers.”
According to the statement, Governor Ikpeazu was already outside the country for official engagement when the notice for Atiku’s visit came, hence his inability to attend following the short notice.
The statement read in part:” The Abia PDP wishes to inform the public that this publication is not only misleading but a figment of the imagination of the publishers, and should not have gone to print because it clearly speaks to the wishes and unimaginative desires of the opposition parties who want to see a PDP that is torn apart by crisis but they would be disappointed.”
Abia PDP explained that despite the Governor’s absence he was able to mobilise party stakeholders for the Enugu parley, adding that if Ikpeazu wanted to avoid Atiku, he would not have mobilised Abia stakeholders to the meeting. The party said that those who wish PDP to be scattered “will be disappointed because the process of healing and reconciliation in the PDP is in top gear.”