Following inaccurate representation of what His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) said at his meeting with the Fix Nigeria Group on sundry issues concerning the 2023 election, especially as it relates to the issue of zoning and age, I am sharing the verbatim transcript of what was said to put the records straight.
Media Adviser to H.E Atiku Abubakar
“Ladies and gentlemen,
I welcome you to my house. You know, it is your house too. Professor (Isa) Odidi and I have been in regular communication. I want to thank him through you. When you talk to him, tell him that he has my great respect and my gratitude to him for all that he has been doing since the last election. He has been really consistent and he has been loyal to the Directorate of the Diaspora. Please thank him very much on my behalf.
Well, you have already said what is before us today. First of all, we are waiting for the President to sign the Electoral Act; only God knows – maybe until after the elections that he will sign the bill. But when he signs it, we will expect – of course – that INEC will release their guidelines. And when INEC releases its own guidelines, we expect the political parties to read and adopt which option.
In the draft Electoral Act, we have three options: direct, indirect and consensus. Each political party will now decide which option it will adopt. Then, we will know. But my senses tell me that the PDP will go for the indirect primaries. Because, we believe that that is the most efficient and that is the less expensive and also it brings politically enlightened members of the party to make a very important decision for the party, on behalf of the party. So, we still have a little bit of time to wait. Hopefully, before the end of this month, we will have the Electoral Bill signed into law.
What is important is that we have people who are already statutory delegates. Meaning: governors and former governors; senators and former senators; members of the House of Representatives and former members of the House of Representatives – who are still members of our party. Do you understand? And then, we have elected delegates, right? Now, these elected delegates are the people that we don’t know. But we already know who the statutory delegates are. So, currently, the statutory delegates should be our targets.
These are the people that we must reach out to until the party lets us know who the elected delegates are. This is how we will form the Electoral College that will elect the candidate. I believe that you will work towards…. Many of you are friends with members of the National Assembly; many of you are friends with current and past governors and so on and so forth. These are people that you should target or you should lobby and let them know that this is the person that is best suited for our party, if you want to rescue the country.
So, I thank you very much indeed and I look forward to interacting with you, you know, again in the future, as developments occur. If there is need on your own part to be with me, fine; if there is need for my own part to be with you, good enough. I request through the High Chief (Raymond Dokpesi).
I want to commend you for the work that you have done so far by enlightening the citizens of this country on the choices before us as a country. I have never seen this country have so many challenges at the same time. Sometimes when I lay down on my bed, I begin to wonder whether I should go for this thing or not, because, the challenges are just too many.
All my life, I have never seen the country in such a bad situation. As far as the unity of the country is concerned, we are more divided, in fact more divided even than when we fought the civil war. We were never as divided as this. We never had breakdown of law and order like this. When we fought the civil war, it was confined in a particular place, every other place was peaceful and we didn’t have this kind of poverty where even the farmer could not go the field to plant what he will eat, not to talk of commercial quantity.
So, it is daunting task for anybody to come and turn things around. And, I have heard people talk about ‘oh… we should give it to a young man, or we should not give it to an old man, we should give it to a middle aged man, and so on and so forth.’ Of course, they have the freedom of speech and they can say anything. But fundamentally, the constitution says that all of us can contest. The constitution has not barred anyone of us. There is no zoning in the constitution.
There is none. I was a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted this very constitution. Then, as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, we felt that there should be a sense of belonging. I remember that I had a very heated argument with the Late Dr. Alex Ekwueme at the Constitutional Conference. I said, ‘Alex, you want to bring in zoning because you want to breakaway this country.’ We had very heated debate with him and later on, I apologized to him and told him: ‘you reason better than myself. I was emotional in my reasoning. I think the zonal thing that you are proposing is a good thing.’
I assure you that as far as I am concerned, I will observe and implement whatever will bring about the peace, unity and stability of this country. I met an Emir three nights ago; he is not from my state. He is from one of the other states and he said to me that: ‘you know why I support you strongly to be president?’ What are you looking for at this age? You have married finish, you don born finish.
You have everything. But my fear is that if I go and give it to a young man, he may be looking for women to marry; looking for a car to buy or a house to build. Now what are we saying?’ I laughed. I said: ‘well, it doesn’t follow. God endows leadership. You can have a young thirty years old man and he will do better than an old man. So, leadership is an endowed attribute of God. We should try to look for such a person who has been endowed.
I thank you very much for this visit. I want to thank High Chief for bringing this team along. I wish you all a pleasant evening and God bless you.”