PRESIDENTIAL candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar has said 90 per cent of Nigerians from the Northern part of the country are not on the social media.
The former vice president made the comment in an exclusive interview with Arise TV, aired on Friday morning.
In the build-up to the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi, candidate of the Labour Party (LP) has won the hearts of a large number of Nigerian social media users.
The campaign for Obi across various social media platforms has led to suggestions that the hitherto obscure LP is in a three-horse race with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP for the presidency in 2023.
But Atiku dismissed Obi’s chances.
He cited the low number of social media users in the North as a major obstacle for Obi’s presidential ambition.
The low number of social media users in the North is one of the crucial factors that will determine the outcome of the presidential election, Atiku suggested.
Opponents of the LP candidate have been arguing that Obi’s supporters are only on the social media.
Atiku advanced similar argument in the Arise TV interview. He argued that Obi and the LP lack concrete political structure.
He pointed to LP’s performance in the recent Osun State governorship election to drive home his argument that the support for Obi cannot go beyond the social media.
Atiku insisted that the LP would not perform as well as people expect in the presidential election.
The former vice president said: “I rarely don’t expect the Labour Party to take as much votes from the PDP as people are suggesting. We could have seen it in the last elections in Osun State. What is the performance of the Labour Party?
“This is a party that doesn’t have a governor, doesn’t have members of the National Assembly, doesn’t have members of the state house of assembly and politics in this country depends on the structures you have at these various levels. At the local government level, at the state level and at the national level.
“So, it is very very difficult to expect a miracle to happen simply because Peter Obi is in Labour Party.
“Afterall, they were saying through the social media, they have more than one million votes in Osun State but how many people stand out to vote for Labour Party? And there again mark you, you are talking about social media, in the North 90 per cent of our people are not tuned to social media.”
I did not pick TInubu as my running mate in 2007 because of Muslim-Muslim ticket
Atiku, in the interview, also shared his thoughts on the Muslim-Muslim ticket lined up by the APC.
As presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2007 general elections, Atiku said he refused to pick Bola Tinubu, current APC presidential flagbearer, due to misgivings over the issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Tinubu, who midwifed the formation of the ACN after a merger of some opposition parties, wanted to be the vice president, according to Atiku.
Atiku said he refused the former Lagos State governor’s request.
Speaking to Arise TV, he said, “My fundamental disagreement and political departure with Asiwaju [Tinubu] since 2007 was due to the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Remember, I opted out of PDP because of zoning, and together with Asiwaju we formed ACN.
“Tinubu wanted to be my running mate when I was given the ACN presidential ticket in 2007, but I disagreed. And because of that, he switched his support to the late Umar Yar’Adua. That was the parting point.
“The Muslim-Muslim ticket has always been my fundamental disagreement. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, and there should be a religious balance in our leadership.”
Although they are getting set to face off in the presidential election next year, Atiku said he remains friends with Tinubu.
“We are still friends, of course. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have political differences. We have been having political differences ever since we became friends. Nothing unusual about that.”
I will reconcile with Wike very soon
Atiku also touched on the crisis that erupted in the PDP after he refused to pick Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike as his running mate.
A committee chaired by Benue State governor reportedly recommended Wike as the PDP VP candidate. But Atiku chose Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
There has been speculations that the Rivers governor, a highly influential force in the PDP, would defect.
The APC is trying to capitalise on the crisis. Recently, a delegation of APC governors met Wike at his private residence in Port Harcourt. They were led to the meeting by former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose, who has been critical of the inability of the PDP national leadership to cede the presidential ticket to the South.
Political analysts believe the prevailing situation in the PDP is threatening the party’s chances in the presidential election.
However, in the Arise TV interview, Atiku said he would soon mend fences with Wike.
“We are reaching out to Governor Wike, and we are talking with him, and I believe very soon we will find a reconciliation. In fact, very soon, because we are talking to him. We are talking to his governor colleagues. I am very optimistic we are going to resolve our internal crisis and move on,” he said.
While insisting that he did not reject Wike, Atiku noted that he picked Okowa because he can “deliver”, despite widely held belief that, compared to Wike, the Delta governor is a political lightweight.
Atiku also suggested that he chose Okowa in keeping with his practice of choosing an Igbo running mate.
The PDP presidential candidate pointed out that, contrary to media reports, the Ortom committee did not recommend Wike to him as running mate.
He said, “The committee that was set up at my own instance deliberated. There was no vote, and they recommended three names because they knew it was my prerogative to pick any one of the three. So, there was actually no vote. It’s not true.
“Governor Ortom himself chaired that committee. He knew there was no vote taken, and I have the report of that committee. The committee recommended three people, and I picked one. I did not go out of that recommendation. So, I think people should be fair to me and should also state the fact.”