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Southern, Middle Belt leaders slam Atiku, Tambuwal over 2023 presidential ambition



The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders (SMBL) on Thursday kicked against the presidential aspirations of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal.

The duo declared their intention to vie for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket earlier in the week.

The SMBL comprises leaders of the Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, and Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF).

In a statement signed by the trio of Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and two others, the group noted that Atiku’s and Tambuwal’s decision to join the presidential race was against the Southern governors’ position on the zoning of the presidency to the region in 2023.

The statement read: “That is why recent contentions by certain Northern politicians, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State on the issue of zoning are most disappointing.

“Atiku’s comments while reportedly addressing some PDP leaders are symptomatic of desperation and somewhat arrogance. His supposition that the APC has a moral obligation to zone the presidency but that the PDP does not is self-serving and illogical.

“PDP already has a National Chairman who is from the North, in the person of Distinguished Senator Iyorchia Ayu, from Benue State; the opinion that Senator Ayu would relinquish his position for somebody from the south if someone from the North emerges as the party’s presidential candidate is preposterous. Ayu was elected at the party’s convention with the expected consideration that the presidency would go the South.

READ ALSO: Tambuwal advises PDP to go for power instead of concentrating on zoning

“The PDP as a political party had always adhered to the principle of zoning since its formation. In 1998, the PDP zoned its presidential ticket to the South and the chairmanship to the North, and Chief Solomon Lar from Plateau State became the pioneer National Chairman of the party.

“The APC has also been religiously following the zoning or rotation system between the north and the south. In 2014, the party zoned its presidential ticket to the North and the chairmanship of the party to the South, Chief Bisi Akande emerged as the party’s first interim National Chairman.

“Subsequently, all those who contested for the party’s presidential ticket were from the North, including President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso and late Sam Nda-Isaiah, except Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha who has been a habitual presidential aspirant since 2003. Buhari won the primaries, Kwankwaso was second and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came third.

“In 2011, this same Atiku was one of the leaders from the North who canvassed that Goodluck Jonathan should not contest the presidential election that the position was zoned to the North. Atiku went on to contest the PDP presidential primaries with Jonathan and he lost.

“So, there has been no time that Atiku has ever gone against zoning but now because it does not suit his purpose. If he has forgotten that there is zoning in PDP, we can forgive him, because he has been changing his party at all times, wanting to be president of Nigeria.”

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