Northern Nigeria’s highest socio-political group, the Arewa Consultative Forum, on Sunday rose to the defence of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, after some Niger Delta ex-militants declared Mr. Atiku unwanted in the region.
The ACF asked the former fighters to withdraw the declaration of Mr. Abubakar a “persona non grata”, over his role in the crisis currently rocking the Peoples Democratic Party. The group warned that the decision was “misguided” and “counterproductive”.
“Threats such as the one from the Niger Delta ex-militants are a negation of dialogue and the political process playing itself out on account of the breakup of the PDP into factions,” the forum said in statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Anthony Sani.
“…the ex-militants are by their misguided action crossing the fiducial mark that is alien to democratic tenets,” the statement by the northern body said Sunday.
The crisis rocking the ruling party in the past week assumed an ethnic and a regional tinge on Saturday after groups identified as former militants, who fought the government for years asking for greater share of the region’s oil wealth, declared Mr. Abubakar unwelcome in the region over his role in the PDP row.
The crisis began after Mr. Abubakar, supported by seven governors and other top members of the ruling party walked out of the party’s special convention on Saturday, August 31, and later announced a new leadership for the party, triggering a highly explosive, weeklong crisis.
Rising from a meeting in Yenogoa, Bayelsa state on Saturday, some leaders of former militant groups, under the aegis of the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, declared Mr. Abubakar unwanted in the Niger Delta, accusing him of using the region’s oil wealth to fight against its interest-which is President Goodluck Jonathan.
“It is unfortunate that Atiku who has benefitted so much from the Niger Delta oil is leading dissidents in a political coup against the first southerner to ever ascend the seat of president of Nigeria,” the group’s president, Reuben Wilson, said.
“We are aware of his vast business interest in the Niger Delta and we are warning him in his own interest to stay off the region. He cannot be enjoying our oil money and at the same time use the same money to fight the owners of the oil.
“What we thought we would be hearing from the north was how the federal government will implement the spirit and letters of the amnesty programme.”
Mr. Wilson said the former vice president’s decision to split the party demonstrated the north’s agenda of discrediting the president to reclaim power in 2015.
“We dare say that they have misfired. What we expect Atiku to do in the next seven days is for him to apologize to the president for the public embarrassment. He has misled so many people, including the Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who has abandoned governance in his state to follow the anti Jonathan apostles,” Mr. Wilson said on behalf of the group.
They also warned Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, to change his anti-Jonathan stance or face the wrath of the people.
A youth leader in the region, Timi Frank, on Sunday, dismissed the threat against Mr. Abubakar as “empty and falling flat of common sense.”
“It is on record that the Niger Delta region and it’s youths have benefited immensely from the vast business interests of the former Vice President even as till date it remains to be challenged that Atiku remains the single highest employer of labour in the Niger Delta region and has empowered both investors and politicians from the region like no other Nigerian has, making him the bridge builder between the North and the South South region,” Mr. Frank said.
The Arewa Consultative Forum urged the ex-militants to withdraw the threat in the interest of peace, national cohesion and stability of Nigeria.
“This is because democracy is not matter of threats and intimidation, but contest of ideas and reasons,” the group said.
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