Former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, has advised fellow contestants for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against allowing the issue to degenerate into actions capable of tearing the opposition party apart.
Atiku, while reacting to an apparent hardline positions being pushed by loyalists of the former Head of State, General Muhammed Buhari (rtd), said the contest should be issues-based rather than on primordial sentiments.
The former vice-president, who spoke through Mallam Garba Shehu from his Media Office in Abuja on Sunday, said those clamouring for consensus arrangement should know that Nigerians are no longer interested in leaders chosen through boardroom conspiracies.
“On the ‘No Buhari, No Victory’ campaign of blackmail against the party, we don’t want to be in the gutter with those type of characters. The Atiku bid for the APC ticket is a battle of ideas against emotions,” he said.
He said Nigerians have the choice to make from among those aspiring to lead them and must not be swayed by thuggish threats.
“Given the woeful failure of the current administration, a winning party needs a ready candidate with articulated solutions to the problems, not threat. Atiku is ready. Beside this, we are quite confident that Buhari as well as other contestants know what is at stake and will not tear the party apart, no matter what.
“On our part, this is the assurance Atiku has given at every turn and we assure all that we will do everything to ensure that the part remain one.
“Atiku wants to create jobs, secure the nation so that the people will be safe and foreign investment will come. He wants to provide infrastructure and give Nigerians world class education.
“On consensus, our position has been clear all along that for too long, this country has been led by unprepared leaders chosen through board room conspiracies and it has not worked. The country needs a change and our party is in full realisation of this.
“That is why we chose the way of election, not consensus or imposition as did the PDP. We are different from the PDP because we subscribe to internal democracy,” he said.
Shehu also responded to the comparisons being drawn between Buhari and Atiku on popularity based on attendance to the public declaration of presidential ambition.
He explained that the two events were never the same both in terms of planning and approach, adding that while Atiku made his declaration of interest before a restricted audience, Buhari’s event took the form of national rally.
“Seen in its proper perspective, the show at Eagle Square last Wednesday was more of a national rally than an endorsement of a candidate.
“Many of those in attendance showed up arising from the weight of respect they have for the former military ruler who personally took initiations around.
“He went round to their offices and homes with invitations and many of Turaki’s people said they felt oblige and that they owed it to him and went there.
“We should know that politicians also speak using body language. How many of those at that rally, you can remember said the words ‘I support’ or ‘I endorse?’
“Take my word, if the General had come home with an invitation to the Turaki, he too would have been present. You can’t say no to a person like that.
As for our own declaration, you were there and saw what we did. We wrote letters to all the VIP politicians and the leaders of the party by way of notification only.
“We didn’t ask them to come because ours was planned as a youth event and we said so. This whole thing is not about the past. It is about the future of this country and the future belongs to the youth. We didn’t choose the path of rally but an interactive forum with the youth, “ he added.