By Ezra Odogu
Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday dismissed as lies the statements by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar depicting him (Tinubu) as an apostle of Muslim-Muslim ticket in Nigeria.
Tinubu said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate has only succeeded, through the statements, in demeaning himself and the office he seeks by pandering to base prejudice at a moment like this when the country needs true leadership.
Atiku, while featuring in an interview on Arise Television on Friday, had claimed he declined Tinubu’s offer to be his presidential running mate on the ticket of the Action Congress (AC) during the 2007 election.
But the APC flag bearer in two separate statements yesterday said he was “saddened to see such a man become unhinged from the truth.”
In one of the statements signed by Tunde Rahman of Tinubu Media O
ffice, the APC leader said Atiku “in his desperate attempt to win the election by stoking religious bias, has reduced himself to uttering baseless lies on national television.”
The PDP candidate, he added, has become so obsessed with his quest for office that he “is willing to render any form of untruth if he thinks it might gain him a single vote.”
Continuing, he said: “Atiku may want to be president. However, all he has shown is that he is pathological.
“Whatever moral compass he had has been lost.”
Giving his own side of the story on the allegation that he craved to be Atiku’s running mate in 2007, Tinubu said the former VP’s narration of the issue was an assault on historic truth as he (Atiku) was not even among AC founders.
His words: “It was the actual founders of the AC who offered the party’s flag to Atiku because of the need to fight the authoritarian designs then President Obasanjo and the PDP had on Nigeria’s democracy.
“At that moment, Atiku had been unceremoniously pushed aside if not out of the PDP by Obasanjo. We needed to rally all forces to confront the one-party state Obasanjo had in mind.“Atiku was simply a beneficiary of this collective duty to fight the attack on multi-party democracy the PDP had launched.
“I feel sorry for dear old Atiku. Love of his own ambition has eclipsed his relationship with the truth and an honest account of the past.
“We formed the AC without his knowledge. When President Obasanjo virtually exiled him from the PDP, we lent him our support by giving him the AC platform for the 2007 election.
“Let me say openly that Atiku offered me the vice presidential ticket in 2007. Let me also say that my religion has not changed.
“When he offered the position to me, I was a Muslim and I believe he was aware of my religious faith at the time.
“Atiku’s calculations and deceit had nothing to do with religion or his sensitivity to it. His conduct has everything to do with what we discovered about his paucity of character and love of intrigue.
“True to form, Atiku, fifteen years later, promised HE Governor Nyesom Wike the same thing this electoral season and similarly reneged. Governor Wike is a Christian.
“When it comes to intrigue, we can say that Atiku is without bias. He will attempt to lie and deceive both Christian and Muslim with equal vigour.
“Atiku has no business raising the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket except as a hypocrite. Perhaps he believes people have forgotten his antics during the 1993 election.
“After he woefully lost his bid to be the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, what did he do? He canvassed and lobbied harder than anyone to become the running mate to late Chief MKO Abiola.
“When it benefitted him personally, Atiku did not see anything wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket. He saw everything right in such a ticket as long as he was on it.
“Now, Atiku criticises my selection as running mate based on religion. He does so because he cannot criticise it on other grounds.
“If Atiku were to have one of his rare moments of honesty, he would admit that the person I selected as my running mate is more qualified for the position than the man who joined him.
“And this conclusion has nothing to do with religious faith. It has everything to do with competence, experience, ability, and vision.
“My running mate and I are here to build a more just and prosperous society for all Nigerians, be they Christian, Muslim or adherents of other faiths.
“It seems that Atiku is here trying to build an edifice of lies and call that the house into which Nigerians should walk and reside.
“He will fail in this sad attempt to trick an entire nation.
“Let me restate my position on religion and politics: when I decided that Senator Shettima was the best selection as my running mate, I listened to and weighed in serious balance the advice received from a broad and representative array of wonderful Nigerians who deeply care about this nation and the path it must go.
“Some people counselled that I should select a Christian to garner support of the Christian community. Some said I should select a Muslim for a similar reason.
“I clearly could not do both. Both positions had merit and right on their side. But neither position expressed what was most right and needed for the moment in which we find ourselves and the nation.
“All my life, the decisions regarding the team supporting me have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness, and adherence to excellence.
“I was not going to depart from these principles at this important juncture. In fact, it was more important than ever before that I adhere to these principles.
“As Governor of Lagos State, these principles helped me assemble one of the most capable governing cabinets any state or this nation has seen.
“I trust in these principles to allow them to, once more, guide me to construct another exemplary team that can do Nigeria proud.
“In this crucial moment, where so much is at stake, we must prioritise leadership, competence and the ability to work as a team over other considerations.
“This is the standard I will use to select the rest of my campaign team and, if you elect me as your president, when I staff my government.
“I will select the best people for the right jobs so that we can construct a better Nigeria now and for generations yet to come.”
In the second statement, the Director, Media and Communication of the Tinubu Campaign Organization, Mr Bayo Onanuga, said Atiku’s statements in his television interview reeked of untruths and inaccuracies.
He listed six of such untruths.
“We have watched Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s interview on ARISE Television and were extremely shocked by the many lies and ignorance displayed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
“In the interview, Alhaji Atiku exposed himself as a man who is not prepared for the job he is applying for and a man who cannot be entrusted with our commonwealth.
“He was flippant in his response to important questions about his record of service and how he made money while serving in Customs. He muddled up facts and exhibited befuddling absence of mind.
“Here are our takeaways from the bungled interview:
“PDP candidate is a law breaker: It was most shocking Atiku admitted that he cheated the system for decades and engaged in gross misconduct as a government worker.
“As a customs officer at the Idi-Iroko border, Atiku revealed that he ran a commercial taxi service, claiming ‘there is no law stopping public officers from doing business in Nigeria”.
“He punched harder, claiming there is no conflict of interest in doing so.
“We found this to be untrue.
“Every officer in the civil service is expected to comply with a code of conduct and service rules which bar civil and public servants from engaging in private business while in government employment to the detriment of the service he/she is employed to render to the public.
“The 1999 constitution further codifies this in Part I, Fifth Schedule, Section of 2 (b). It says a public officer shall not, except where he is not employed on full-time basis, engage or participate in the management or running of any private business, profession or trade. The rules however allow a public officer to engage in farming.
“We wonder which rule or which law Atiku was relying upon for his gross misconduct as a public officer. It is our considered view that Atiku gamed the system all through his career in public service, culminating in his founding of the Intel Logistics along with Late Shehu Yar’Adua and some Italians, even while he was still in the employment of the Nigeria Customs Service.
“Poor Knowledge of key sectors of the economy: We also found it surprising that the PDP presidential candidate does not know the contribution of the oil and gas industry to Nigeria’s GDP. He claimed the sector represents 20% of our national GDP whereas it is below 10 per cent and it is still falling owing to the growth of the non-oil sector under the current All Progressives Congress led administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“False Data from Egypt: Atiku Abubakar wanted to impress his audience with his supposed knowledge of international affairs. He ended up embarrassing himself with false data he cited from Egypt. We found his claim that Egypt has 2 million police officers on the streets to be untrue. Various sources put the number at about 500,000 for a population of 104 million and not 80 million as falsely claimed by Atiku.
“ Rotational Presidency: Asked to justify why the PDP jettisoned Section 3c of its own constitution which enshrines power rotation between the North and South, Atiku tried to fudge his answer by focusing on Governor Nyesom Wike and his effort to reconcile with him after he, a northerner snatched the presidential ticket that ought to have been taken by a southerner.
“While Atiku was playing to the gallery on APC’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, he didn’t see seeking to be President after 8 years of a President from his part of Nigeria as politics of exclusion.
“Probed further, Atiku provided several contradictory answers. In one breath, he said power rotation is not in the constitution. In another breath, he said the PDP has never “micro zoned any position’. Then he admitted that the party has always rotated power between the North and the South.
“Atiku’s justification as to why he became PDP’s presidential candidate, instead of a southerner is a perfect example in ellipsis: ‘In politics’, he said, ‘we negotiate power through negotiations (Sic)’. Whatever that means.
“Atiku, ever an expert in not telling the truth, also did not come clean over his once-upon a time preference for same-faith ticket.
“In 1993, after Atiku and Kingibe lost to MKO Abiola in the SDP presidential primary in Jos, Atiku was the choice of the Yar’Adua camp to become Abiola’s running mate. Abiola overlooked him and picked the more cerebral diplomat and bureaucrat, Babagana Kingibe.
“In all the tons of biographies written about him, there was no where he said he opposed Shehu Yar’Adua’s support for his candidacy as Abiola’s VP. He was not against it since it favoured him. Now, it is politically convenient and opportunistic for him to oppose the Tinubu-Shettima ticket.
“Political Credentials: Most reprehensible was Atiku’s lies about how many times he ran to become the governor of Adamawa or old Gongola State.
“Mr. Presidential candidate, in case you don’t know due to your limited education, you run for an office only when you are on the ballot in an election. Your signifying interest in an office does not mean the same as running for the office.
“From available records, the first time you contested the governorship election in your state was in 1999. Your name entered the ballot for the first time and you won.
“Poor grasp of history: Atiku Abubakar also exhibited poor knowledge of history when he claimed that Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s famous leaders, contested the presidency five to six times before he eventually won.
“This is a beer parlour tale that has been recycled over time. Lincoln contested the U.S. presidency twice. He ran in 1860 and 1864 and won both, before he was assassinated on 15 April, 1865.
“The false story about Lincoln’s failed presidential bids sprang from his previous failed state and national elections, from his state of Illinois. They were not the same as America’s presidential election.
“According to historians, Lincoln lost his first election in 1832 for Illinois state legislature. In 1834, he ran again and won.
“In 1843 he ran for Congress. He lost. Three years later in 1846, Lincoln ran for Congress again – this time he won and went to Washington.
“From established history, in 1848, Lincoln ran for re-election to Congress and lost. In 1854, he ran for Senate of the United States. He lost.
“Lincoln also made another failed bid for the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 1858. He lost to Democrat Steven Douglas.
“Our conclusion is that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is ill-prepared to be President of Nigeria if he could bungle a television interview that was planned well ahead of the day and time the duo of Dr. Reuben Abati and Ms. Tundun Abiola conducted it.
“We expected the PDP presidential candidate to be well informed on any issue before coming on national television to expose himself to avoidable ridicule.”
Tinubu’s response amusing —Atiku
The Atiku camp said yesterday that it was amused by what it termed the “knee jerk” response from the Tinubu Campaign Organisation.
A statement issued by Atku’s Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Ibe, also challenged Tinubu to “take the hot seat”.
The statement reads: “We were rather amused to read the knee jerk response from the Tinubu Campaign Organisation to the wave making interview granted by Waziri Atiku Abubakar to Arise TV on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
“Amusement, because we expected this. Mr. Tinubu has not sat down to do any prolonged interview for obvious reasons. Nigerians have seen him talk in public and can themselves gauge the reason why he is mortified to do so.
“Nevertheless, I will now take the issues in their statement one after the other.
“The Tinubu campaign exposed its gross desperation and vacuousness by citing the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) 1999, to declare Waziri Atiku Abubakar’s stance on engaging in a side business while he was a young custom officer as a breach of the law.
“It is pertinent to educate the Tinubu campaign organisation that Nigeria is not under a military regime and our Constitutions are not retroactive in nature.
“Again, the Tinubu campaign betrayed either dishonesty or lack of attention to detail by claiming that Atiku Abubakar said oil contributed 20% of Nigeria’s GDP. That is a lie. What the Waziri said is as follows: Oil only maybe accounts for about 20% of our GDP.
“The use of the word maybe by the Waziri was in reflection to the different figures given.
“While the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics states a figure close to 10%, other multilateral organisations have given a much higher figure of between 15-20%.
“So, while the jury is still out, it is right to qualify the contribution of oil and gas as a maybe.
“However, we do like to point out that Waziri Atiku Abubakar mentioned both the PDP and the APC during the interview and did not forget the name of his own party.
“It seems the Tinubu Campaign Organisation (can a disorganised body be called an organisation?) does not know the meaning of rotation of power and micro zoning. So, we will gladly educate them.
“Rotation of power refers to a constitutional provision where power is zoned between North and South. Micro-zoning refers to a non constitutional idea, where power is zoned not between North and South, but amongst geo-political zones. We hope this cures the political illiteracy of the authors of that document.
“The rude response also accuses Waziri Atiku Abubakar of having “limited education”. Atiku Abubakar has an earned Masters degree from Anglia Ruskin University. We challenge any of the present Presidential candidates to present an equal or higher degree.
“Moreover, his university attendance is a matter of verified record. Can we say the same about some other persons?
“On President Lincoln, we are afraid the poor student of history is the Tinubu campaign disorganisation.
“Yes, it is true that Lincoln ran for President with his name on the ballot twice. But he ran at other times, and failed to get his name on the ballot.
“In conclusion, we would like to challenge Bola Tinubu to subject himself to an hour long interview, like the Waziri did, and if he is able to be as articulate and mentally present as our candidate, then he can talk.
“Until then, we will only want to remind him and his yes men that they are not in a position to point fingers when they have not sat on the hot seat.”
It’s unlawful asking Christians to vote for only Christians, says lawyer
Constitutional lawyer Jiti Ogunye yesterday warned religious leaders that it was unlawful to engage in political campaign based on religion or tribe.
Specifically, he condemned a Christian cleric who threatened his congregation with hell if they fail to vote in “the favour of the Church”.