Some socio-political organisations in the country on Sunday endorsed the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 16 election, Atiku Abubakar.
The five organisations are the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Ohaneze Ndigbo and a faction of Afenifere.
They endorsed Mr Abubakar at a summit held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja.
The theme of the summit was “The Search for Credible, Free and Fair Elections.”
Among those at the event were Ango Abdullahi, Edwin Clark, Ayo Adebanjo, John Nwodo and Bitrus Pogu.
Ohaneze had two weeks ago endorsed Mr Abubakar while a faction of Afenifere led by Ayo Fasanmi, endorsed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari.
Last week, Ohaneze suspended its general secretary, Uche Okwukwu, for going against the group’s decision. Mr Okwukwu allegedly endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term.
The sociocultural groups which met on Sunday urged Nigerians to vote for Mr Abubakar, noting that he would bring the change desired by the country.
The leaders said after assessing the credentials of the leading presidential hopefuls, they came to the conclusion that the PDP candidate had the capacity, ability and integrity to reposition Nigeria.
They said Mr Abubakar has committed himself to restructuring the country if given the mandate.
They accused Mr Buhari of not showing interest in restructuring the country despite the setting up of a committee headed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai by the APC.
Leaders of the group who took turns to speak also accused the president of not doing enough to tackle the security of the nation and causing constitutional crisis.
Reacting swiftly to his endorsement, Mr Abubakar said it was a loud statement that there was hope for the country.
In a statement, the PDP candidate said, if elected, he would lead a Pan-Nigeria team that would lead Nigeria to a greater height.
“I am moved to tears that in the midst of deep divisions and deliberate use of instrumentalities of state to set our people against themselves in the last three and a half years, responsible and respected leaders across Nigeria have agreed to come together for the purpose of endorsing my candidature for the February 16th, 2019 Presidential elections,” he said.
“The endorsement by the leading lights of our nationalities – Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Northern Elders Forum, Pan-Niger Delta Forum and Middle Belt Forum is a loud statement that there is hope for our country as we go to the polls in a few days.
“Today, we put aside all our prejudices to elect a President with religion and ethnicity playing no role in our elections. I profusely thank our leaders across the country who have created this wonderful moment for us to come to the table of brotherhood. Once again, and in the words of our old National Anthem, we can proudly sing: “Though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
Mr Abubakar said he would run a properly federated Nigeria through constitutional reforms.
He said, “Many countries of the world have been led into disintegration by strongmen (one in each country) and we have seen how individuals who understand the management of diversities have rallied their people for unity.
“I have been chosen to unite our people and exactly that I will.
“We will promote an inclusive Nigeria based on productivity that every section of Nigeria will bring out the best under their soil, and in their brain to make Nigeria assume its position in Africa and the global community.
“It would be 100% for every section of Nigeria as I would not understand any arithmetic outside that.
“I enjoin our people across Nigeria to come out en-mass to vote on February 16 to pull our country from the brink and propel it to greater heights so we can live a better life.
“Take my words as a covenant with Nigeria.”
However, the presidency said Mr Abubakar’s endorsement by the groups would not stop Mr Buhari’s victory at the poll.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said the president won in 2015 despite a similar gang up against him.
“The Peoples Democratic Party is hiding in the bunker of ethnicity to avoid their inevitable defeat but that won’t change anything,” Mr Shehu said in a statement on Sunday.
“The current scenario resembles efforts to stop Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 by the same characters. It is an effort to repeat the old experiment that failed in 2015. They failed to stop him from coming to power in 2015 and they will fail yet again on February 16th.
“If all these groups are ganging up against one person, that is, President Buhari it tells you who the formidable candidate in the election is.
“This gang-up they forged one more time will change nothing. It is for the people to decide.