A former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on Tuesday, said the reason he did not run against his principal’s re-election, former president Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, was because he wanted to keep the zoning policy of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Atiku, who spoke when he appeared before the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), also said he refused to make a former governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his running mate in the 2007 election, while still in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), because he didn’t want the Southeast to claim that they were being marginalised.
Atiku also said the south had ruled Nigeria more times than the north since the country returned to democracy. The former Vice President was probably referring to eight years each for former President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Muhammadu Buhari respectively; five years for former President Goodluck Jonathan and three years for late former president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
But analysts have drawn the attention of the former vice president to the fact that the argument for power shift by those from Southern Nigeria was firstly, based on the rotation principle that power must go between North and South and that one region cannot have it for 16 years continuously because the other region would be marginalised. Secondly, on balance, the fact is that the North has had more leaders since 1960 than the South.
However, continuing, Atiku told the BoT members that: “Many of you were members of our government, when all the PDP governors came in 2003 and said I should run and I say no. We have a creed that power should remain in the Southwest, why should I?
“Some of those governors then that supported me, some of them went to jail, some of them were kicked out of their offices; we made sure that we kept the policy.
“So, therefore, you cannot come and try to imply that the PDP has not been following the zoning policy. The many years of PDP government eight years and six years all of them were from the south. So, we should not be stampeded by the opposition party. They have a moral obligation which is inescapable.”Atiku told the BoT members.
On the 2007 issue, he said, rather than pick Tinubu, he picked Senator Ben Obi, to ensure a sense of belonging and inclusiveness for the southeast.
It was because of this, he also claimed to have chosen a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, in 2019, when they ran on the PDP platform.
His words: “When I joined the CAN, which my friend Bola set up, he gave me a set of condition for giving me the ticket; that I should make him vice president. I said no, I’m not going to make you Vice President, instead, I took Senator Ben Obi.
“When I got the ticket again to run, I took another Obi coincidentally. So, there is absolutely no reason why they should say that there is deliberate attempts to exclude the South East in political participation or power sharing.
“So, I thought I should disabuse your mind and ,of course, as an enlightened political class, I don’t think that for me, as far as this party is concerned, as far as we’re concerned, I don’t think there’s any deliberate policy to exclude anybody in this country.
“Yes, people have not stopped talking about power rotation and zoning, or whatever it is. For sure, in the party, we invented and formulated this zoning policy simply, because we wanted every part of this country to have a sense of belonging and I personally have paid my dues on the issue of zoning.”
On why the PDP should give him another chance, Atiku said, “Now, I wish to call on you to please give me another opportunity to advance all these ideas of our party, well-beautiful ideas, so that we will come further to consolidate democracy, unity and development for our country.
“What I’m saying is based on facts. Take any aspect of our growth whether, it is economy, whether it is healthcare, whether it is agriculture, whether it is education, the landmark achievements we made in 1999 to 2007, have not been matched by any subsequent administration.
“We are now at a crucial moment in this country. Many of you here, it is either we retire together or we move on together. Somebody said we recorded 12 million votes during the last election. Those are not only my votes, those were our votes. In achieving or recording those 11 million votes, it was all of us and I believe if we work together again, we can surpass those votes.
“As one of the speakers said, I am worried and you should be worried too that, if we do not win, it means we will be in opposition again for the next eight years. By the next eight years, I don’t know how many of you would be left in politics and it may even ultimately lead to the death of the party, because people gravitate, particularly in developing countries, towards governments.
“Ordinary people naturally gravitate towards government. So, this is a very, very crucial and historical moment in history. For our survival, I want you to think about it,” he said, explaining why he should be given the ticket.
On his vision, Atiku explained that, “My vision is building bridges across the country. Please join me in building bridges across this country so that every part of this country will have a sense of belonging.
Chuks Okocha in Abuja