Posted by By Segun Olatunji, Chiawo Nwankwo, Senan John Murray and Ibanga Isine on
The Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Monday said that he did not require the backing of President Olusegun Obasanjo to secure...
The Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Monday said that he did not require the backing of President Olusegun Obasanjo to secure the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket for the 2007 presidential election.
Featuring on the British Broadcasting Corporation programme, Network Africa, Abubakar said it was amusing for people to assume that only a candidate with presidential backing could emerge as the PDP’s candidate.
He said, “A candidate with presidential support can only emerge where there is no election, where elections are not free and fair, where elections are manipulated to favour some and disfavour others; in which case, there is no level playing field in the PDP.”
The vice-president, who also dismissed insinuations in some quarters that he used his office to amass wealth, said at another forum that there was an agreement between the north and south on power shift.
Abubakar argued that if delegates to the forthcoming PDP convention were allowed to vote according to their conscience, it would be his word against those of his critics.
“The leadership is different from those who will come to vote at the convention. At the convention, you will have more than 5,000 to 6,000 delegates. Most of these delegates are still unknown, so I think they are coming with their own independent mind to vote for the best candidate,” he said.
Abubakar, however, claimed that there were already signs that some of those aspiring to contest the polls on PDP’s platform would not have any level playing field.
He alleged that a similar trend prevailed in the party during “previous congresses and the so called conventions.”
The vice-president expressed the hope that “the PDP would have learnt its lessons because it would have seen that it is worse off now than before.”
Abubakar had on April 11, 2006 written Obasanjo, informing him of his intention to the contest the 2007 presidential poll.
In the five-page letter, he sought the president’s support.
But in his response, Obasanjo said that his support for any individual would depend on the decision of the PDP.
Reacting to the accusations that he had become too rich and the ongoing investigations of some public officials by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged corruption, Abubakar said since he had not been found wanting, there was no justification for him to be worried.
He said, “I am not worried. I don’t think I have accumulated wealth in this administration. If anything, I have lost.
“Let me tell you, I have no access to public funds. I don’t award contracts. I have no budget. I have no way of accessing public funds. I just don’t know how you come about this question.
“You will not go to any of my accounts and find a credit balance except my salary account.”
The vice president, however, admitted that he was comfortable as a successful businessman and politician.
“I think what I possess is tremendous goodwill. I consider myself being lucky. If I put any money in anything, I make a lot of money,” Abubakar added.
Meanwhile, at the fourth General Assembly of the Northern Union, a socio-political pressure group, in Abuja, the vice-president, said that northern and southern politicians entered into a pact to return power to the South in 1999 with a ”resolution” to back a northern successor to Obasanjo in 2007.
He argued that it was ”a matter of honour” for southern politicians to honour the pact.
Abubakar said, ”Whether we call it power shift or power rotation, Nigeria is not unique. In many African countries, it is even entrenched in their constitutions.
”Those of us, who were the foundation members of the PDP entrenched power zoning, power shift in our constitution. And everybody will recall that in 1999, all the presidential contenders came from the south.
”I feel that for political stability, for development and progress of our nation, we as politicians and credible leaders of our society, we have a consensus. I think it is a matter of integrity and responsibility that we abide by our resolution.”
The leader of group, Dr. Olusola Saraki, had in his opening remarks, spoken in the same vein.
He said, ”In 1999, I was prevented from contesting for the presidency of this country because we wanted to encourage power shift. Power must return to the North in 2007.”
Saraki, however, advised prominent northern politicians to be careful about their statements on power shift.
“It should not be through intimidation or blackmail. Our leaders should avoid, at all costs, any form of crisis,” he admonished.
A communiqué issued at the end of the session also reiterated Saraki‘s and Abubakar‘s positions on power shift.
It appealed to ”other sections of the country to respect the power rotation agreement of 1998 in which the north performed its obligation by not fielding any candidate in the 1999 presidential elections.”
The union also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to ”ensure the conduct of credible, and transparent elections at all levels.”
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