From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has opened up on the presidential candidacy of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections.
A member of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the ACF, Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu said that 2023 would be the ideal time for the Forum to pay back Atiku for his philanthropism by ensuring that ACF stands the test of time.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, Alhaji Yakubu who is the former aide to ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki said that of all the presidential candidates, Atiku is more prepared and experienced to lead the country.
The ACF chieftain who was also the youth wing leader of the defunct Northern Union (NU) led by the late Dr Olusola Saraki spoke on Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC), describing the party as a dead horse, not worthy to waste energy on it. Excerpts:
 
Soon after the PDP presidential primary election where Atiku Abubakar emerged the winner, the runner up of that election, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was aggrieved; one, that he was betrayed by his friend, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; two, that he was not picked as the running mate to Atiku. How would you describe that election and its fallout?
My name is Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu, a chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a NEC member of the ACF. Now, to answer your question, that election was one of the most organised, most credible and most transparent primary elections that was organised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Whatever  might be the backlash of the result of that primary election, I think the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is managing the challenges properly. There is no way such a big party, such bigwigs like Atiku Abubakar, Governor Wike, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and the rest could have contested such an election, and there would not be some challenges.  There is no denying the fact that there were some backlashes after the election. But what matters most was the effective management of those backlashes, and it is being properly done by the candidate. I am happy so far the way he is conducting himself, the way he has been trying to manage those backlashes. One thing that I can assure you is that PDP will come out extremely stronger from those challenges. These challenges are not new to PDP because PDP is used to crisis and crisis management. I want to strongly appeal to Governor Wike that he should not allow people to instigate him against his elder brother; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar because on so many occasions I have listened to him where he referred to Atiku as his elder brother. They have respect for each other. I don’t want third party to come between them and cause this avoidable crisis between them. But so far so good, the relationship is being managed properly, and it is going to be managed properly. I want to leave it at that.
Even after the primary election the expectation among concerned Nigerians was that Atiku was going to pick Wike as his running mate. But it did not happen that way. How will you react to this?
Yes, all of them that I have mentioned are extremely qualified to lead Nigeria, but in all of them you can only have one president and one vice president. And like I earlier said, I don’t want us to over flog this issue because over flogging it is what has been causing this unnecessary tension. It is being managed now, it is being properly taken care of, so I don’t want us to over flog the issue. The two gentlemen are respectable Nigerians who know their onions and there is no doubt that Governor Wike has contributed immensely to the building and development of the party; and Atiku respects this, the crisis will be sorted out.
What will you say of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Atiku’s running mate?
Governor Okowa is a fantastic gentleman. He is not somebody that talks too much. He is a quiet achiever, and he has all it takes to complement what Atiku is going to give Nigerians if elected as president. He has done it and he is doing it in Delta State. He is a gentleman, and a fantastic complement to Atiku. Governor Okowa is not given to controversy.
How is Governor Okowa’s appointment as running mate to Atiku pacify the Southeast or the Igbo nation because Okowa is not seen as a core Igbo person, but Delta Igbo of Delta State?
Do you know what I want us to do now;  let us look at what Atiku and Okowa can offer Nigerians because this country is in a serious trouble. Nigeria has never been at its lower ebb in all fronts as it is now. I want us to look at how Atiku is going to restore this country jointly with Okowa and millions of Nigerians. I think this is what Nigerians want to know instead of discussing personalities.
After the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu picked Shettima, a fellow Muslim as his running mate; there was reaction all over the country kicking against Muslim-Muslim ticket. How would you react to this?
The Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC already has enough reactions on its own, and that is their cup of tea. I am now preoccupied with how PDP and my candidate, Atiku Abubakar will achieve his goals of rescuing Nigeria by ensuring that we have security, by putting food on the table of the common man, the common man can send his children to school, the common man can have water and light. These are some of the issues I am interested in. Already APC is steaming in its own mess and if you ask me and ask millions of Nigerians, they will tell you that APC has already been written off. So, why should I discuss a dead horse. I need to look at the future where we have hope and see how we can utilise that hope.
When Atiku came to Kaduna on campaign for primary election, he said he won the 2019 presidential election, but that he was robbed of the victory. Now that he is in the race again, how do you see his chances of winning the election in 2023?
Oh! His chances are brighter now than before. His chances are now fantastic, God has a way of paying you back when you are unjustly treated. I am more than sure that God will compensate Atiku now for being unjustly treated. He will be compensated in 2023. Of all the presidential candidates, Atiku is the most prepared. I have interacted with him. The moment INEC blows the whistle for the campaign, Nigerians will see the stuff he is made of. Atiku has policies for all different sections of our economy. He has a blueprint for agriculture, for roads, for health, for security and many others with timelines. Atiku is a team player. Most of Nigeria’s world personalities that are doing businesses overseas came back to the country during Obasanjo/Atiku government from 1999 to 2007, and that is when Nigerians got to know these world class of brains. People like Okonjo Iweala, Amina Mohammed, Ezekwelisi Oby, Charles Soludo, Sanusi Lamido, among others. So, Atiku has this capacity of assembling the best brains and the best team and he is a team player. This is one of the edges he has over other candidates. He has network across this country. If you are close to Atiku you will see mini-Nigeria around him. I have interacted with him and I have seen that he really means well for this country. He is prepared to put the country in a better perspective, and I am very sure that by the special grace of God, the very day he is inaugurated as the president of Nigeria, he will hit the ground running. He is not somebody that he is going to learn on the job. He has the global connection and you are going to see the experience he will bring into governance. He does not talk too much, but you will see actions. May God give us long life and good health and we are going to see what will happen when INEC blows the whistle.
The other time ACF of which you are NEC member said it regretted not to have been telling President Buhari the bitter truth about unpleasant happenings in the country. Now that the National Assembly is mulling his impeachment, how will you react to it?
I will answer this question in two folds; number one, this is payback time for ACF, it is now time for ACF  to pay back to Atiku all the good things he had done to build ACF. Atiku was a foundation member of ACF financially and morally. He is one of the key and outstanding leaders and Northerners who stood by ACF at its formative  stage. He gave ACF funds, he gave moral support. So, it is payback time for us in ACF to pay him back in good coins.
How will ACF pay him back?
Simply by supporting him to ensure he becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023.
Regarding the impeachment of the president?
Number two; as regarding the impeachment of the president, be that as it may, it is coming too late. But there is no harm in trying to wake the president up. I am worried and I don’t know whether the president himself and those around him are worried too about the legacy he is going to leave behind. This is going to go into his CV that at the tail end of his administration he was almost impeached; which I see that it is not good for them. However, to impeach the president you need three months to put the machinery in process, and already the National Assembly is on break. They will not come back till the middle of September. And may be nothing will happen till the end of September. But then we have five months to the election, so it is not exciting to Nigerians to talk of impeaching him. But there is no harm in trying to wake him up just like Governor Nasir el-Rufai said that he was the one that informed the president that Boko Haram said they were going to kidnap two of them. This tells Nigerians about what is happening around the president himself and the country. If the president does not have this kind of information and the people around him could not tell him, its means he has been living in a different world from other Nigerians. That is why we are where we are today. And like most Nigerians have said, I still blame the president because the bulk stops on his table. If you have people you have appointed and they are not giving you result, why are you keeping them. Why is he incurring the wraths of Nigerians. Nigerians have been so caring and loving to have brought him to power. Is this the way to pay them back, it is unfair. Well, I don’t want to dwell on this because Nigerians are giving up on APC. We are looking forward to a new government and what Atiku has to offer to Nigerians in 2023.
President Buhari who has the military background as the former Head of State appears not to have solutions to insecurity in the country for now. Do you think the next president who may not have the military background can solve this insecurity?
Yes, why I said that the next president, Atiku by the special grace of God can solve the insecurity issue is because of his background and capacity to assemble the best brains and give them timeline to deliver coupled with his supervisory role over his appointees. The problem with Buhari is the lack of competent people around him. Once there are competent people around the president with his supervisory role, with timeline, he will get result. Nigerians are easy to manage. If you observe the first six months of Buhari administration, everything was working well. And it was because there was no supervisory role, and the team he brought was not the team expected by Nigerians. That was why everything nose-dived to what it used to be and even worse then what it used to be. So Atiku has the qualities of assembling the best brains and playing supervisory roles over his team. Atiku has the capacity to assemble the best brains and the capacity to monitor them. That is all you need to rescue Nigeria.      
What most Nigerians  are saying is that age is no longer on the side of Atiku and Tinubu. Do you see this as a disadvantage to Atiku?
To me, old age is not a disadvantage. It is what you have upstairs that matters. In America, for instance; how old is Joe Biden, Donald Trump, so it is what you have upstairs that matters. Only God knows who has good health, but from the look, you can see between two of them who look healthier. You don’t need a soothsayer, Atiku look healthier and more prepared.
Who is younger between the two?
Atiku is younger than Tinubu from the fact we are getting. And from  what I am hearing, Tinubu is over 80 years of age and Atiku is 70-something. So, who is younger from your own calculation, and who look younger among them, who look younger and healthy among them. So, it is for Nigeria to decide.
What is your advice to Nigerians generally as the 2023 elections approach?
Atiku/Okowa presidency is a good thinking, and a good product. So, I advise Nigerians to go with them. And from the feelers, Nigerians are going with them. You can see the rumblings in APC; it is not the kind of rumblings you are seeing in the PDP. The rumblings in APC is more disastrous, it has more collateral consequences than what you are seeing in the PDP, and PDP is already managing its challenges and Atiku as a unifier has shown the way. PDP is a political party for Nigeria and Nigerians, while APC is about individual (omi lokan) and Labour Party is about individual (Obidient), but Atiku is saying Nigeria is for Nigerians, it is about unification, you can see the difference between the three of them. Atiku is talking about Nigeria, he is not talking about himself. But out of 200 million Nigerians, APC is saying (omi lokan), which is about individual, and ‘Obidient’ is about Obi, just be obedient to Obi. But Atiku is about Nigeria. You cannot have anything without unity; it is from unity you get peace, and from peace you get development. This is what Atiku is bringing to the table, and that is why we are with him.
Some Nigerians are expressing the fear that if Atiku wins, it means that President Buhari will hand over to a fellow Fulani man. What is your reaction to this ?
Let me tell you that  with Atiku, Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed. Let me take you on a memory lane; during the late Tafawa Balewa time, most of the Service Chiefs were from the Southeast, also during the administration of Shehu Shagari, all the Service Chiefs were from the South. Heaven did not fall because of all these. So, what matters is the way the leader leads the country. If in the last seven years, the policies have been what Atiku has been articulating, you won’t hear what we are hearing now. We won’t be where we are now. APC has not been managing our diversity properly, and that is why people are playing ethnic politics, talking about Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. If our diversity is managed properly you won’t be hearing all this. Did you hear it during Shagari and Tafawa Balewa time? Did you hear it during Yar’Adua time? Managing our diversity revolves around the president, it revolves around good leaders. Nigerians are very good followers. If they see you as a true leader, they don’t care where you come from, they will follow you. And that is what is going for Atiku. They see him as a true leader. Wherever you come from, he accepts you. What matters to him is what you have upstairs, what you are bringing to the table.                          
Soon after the PDP presidential primary election where Atiku Abubakar emerged the winner, the runner up of that election, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was aggrieved; one, that he was betrayed by his friend, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; two, that he was not picked as the running mate to Atiku. How would you describe that election and its fallout?
My name is Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu, a chieftain of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), a NEC member of the ACF. Now, to answer your question, that election was one of the most organised, most credible and most transparent primary elections that was organised by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Whatever  might be the backlash of the result of that primary election, I think the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is managing the challenges properly. There is no way such a big party, such bigwigs like Atiku Abubakar, Governor Wike, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal and the rest could have contested such an election, and there would not be some challenges.  There is no denying the fact that there were some backlashes after the election. But what matters most was the effective management of those backlashes, and it is being properly done by the candidate. I am happy so far the way he is conducting himself, the way he has been trying to manage those backlashes. One thing that I can assure you is that PDP will come out extremely stronger from those challenges. These challenges are not new to PDP because PDP is used to crisis and crisis management. I want to strongly appeal to Governor Wike that he should not allow people to instigate him against his elder brother; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar because on so many occasions I have listened to him where he referred to Atiku as his elder brother. They have respect for each other. I don’t want third party to come between them and cause this avoidable crisis between them. But so far so good, the relationship is being managed properly, and it is going to be managed properly. I want to leave it at that.
Even after the primary election the expectation among concerned Nigerians was that Atiku was going to pick Wike as his running mate. But it did not happen that way. How will you react to this?
Yes, all of them that I have mentioned are extremely qualified to lead Nigeria, but in all of them you can only have one president and one vice president. And like I earlier said, I don’t want us to over flog this issue because over flogging it is what has been causing this unnecessary tension. It is being managed now, it is being properly taken care of, so I don’t want us to over flog the issue. The two gentlemen are respectable Nigerians who know their onions and there is no doubt that Governor Wike has contributed immensely to the building and development of the party; and Atiku respects this, the crisis will be sorted out.
What will you say of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Atiku’s running mate?
Governor Okowa is a fantastic gentleman. He is not somebody that talks too much. He is a quiet achiever, and he has all it takes to complement what Atiku is going to give Nigerians if elected as president. He has done it and he is doing it in Delta State. He is a gentleman, and a fantastic complement to Atiku. Governor Okowa is not given to controversy.
How is Governor Okowa’s appointment as running mate to Atiku pacify the Southeast or the Igbo nation because Okowa is not seen as a core Igbo person, but Delta Igbo of Delta State?
Do you know what I want us to do now;  let us look at what Atiku and Okowa can offer Nigerians because this country is in a serious trouble. Nigeria has never been at its lower ebb in all fronts as it is now. I want us to look at how Atiku is going to restore this country jointly with Okowa and millions of Nigerians. I think this is what Nigerians want to know instead of discussing personalities.
After the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu picked Shettima, a fellow Muslim as his running mate; there was reaction all over the country kicking against Muslim-Muslim ticket. How would you react to this?
The Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC already has enough reactions on its own, and that is their cup of tea. I am now preoccupied with how PDP and my candidate, Atiku Abubakar will achieve his goals of rescuing Nigeria by ensuring that we have security, by putting food on the table of the common man, the common man can send his children to school, the common man can have water and light. These are some of the issues I am interested in. Already APC is steaming in its own mess and if you ask me and ask millions of Nigerians, they will tell you that APC has already been written off. So, why should I discuss a dead horse. I need to look at the future where we have hope and see how we can utilise that hope.
When Atiku came to Kaduna on campaign for primary election, he said he won the 2019 presidential election, but that he was robbed of the victory. Now that he is in the race again, how do you see his chances of winning the election in 2023?
Oh! His chances are brighter now than before. His chances are now fantastic, God has a way of paying you back when you are unjustly treated. I am more than sure that God will compensate Atiku now for being unjustly treated. He will be compensated in 2023. Of all the presidential candidates, Atiku is the most prepared. I have interacted with him. The moment INEC blows the whistle for the campaign, Nigerians will see the stuff he is made of. Atiku has policies for all different sections of our economy. He has a blueprint for agriculture, for roads, for health, for security and many others with timelines. Atiku is a team player. Most of Nigeria’s world personalities that are doing businesses overseas came back to the country during Obasanjo/Atiku government from 1999 to 2007, and that is when Nigerians got to know these world class of brains. People like Okonjo Iweala, Amina Mohammed, Ezekwelisi Oby, Charles Soludo, Sanusi Lamido, among others. So, Atiku has this capacity of assembling the best brains and the best team and he is a team player. This is one of the edges he has over other candidates. He has network across this country. If you are close to Atiku you will see mini-Nigeria around him. I have interacted with him and I have seen that he really means well for this country. He is prepared to put the country in a better perspective, and I am very sure that by the special grace of God, the very day he is inaugurated as the president of Nigeria, he will hit the ground running. He is not somebody that he is going to learn on the job. He has the global connection and you are going to see the experience he will bring into governance. He does not talk too much, but you will see actions. May God give us long life and good health and we are going to see what will happen when INEC blows the whistle.
The other time ACF of which you are NEC member said it regretted not to have been telling President Buhari the bitter truth about unpleasant happenings in the country. Now that the National Assembly is mulling his impeachment, how will you react to it?
I will answer this question in two folds; number one, this is payback time for ACF, it is now time for ACF  to pay back to Atiku all the good things he had done to build ACF. Atiku was a foundation member of ACF financially and morally. He is one of the key and outstanding leaders and Northerners who stood by ACF at its formative  stage. He gave ACF funds, he gave moral support. So, it is payback time for us in ACF to pay him back in good coins.
How will ACF pay him back?
Simply by supporting him to ensure he becomes the president of Nigeria in 2023.
Regarding the impeachment of the president?
Number two; as regarding the impeachment of the president, be that as it may, it is coming too late. But there is no harm in trying to wake the president up. I am worried and I don’t know whether the president himself and those around him are worried too about the legacy he is going to leave behind. This is going to go into his CV that at the tail end of his administration he was almost impeached; which I see that it is not good for them. However, to impeach the president you need three months to put the machinery in process, and already the National Assembly is on break. They will not come back till the middle of September. And may be nothing will happen till the end of September. But then we have five months to the election, so it is not exciting to Nigerians to talk of impeaching him. But there is no harm in trying to wake him up just like Governor Nasir el-Rufai said that he was the one that informed the president that Boko Haram said they were going to kidnap two of them. This tells Nigerians about what is happening around the president himself and the country. If the president does not have this kind of information and the people around him could not tell him, its means he has been living in a different world from other Nigerians. That is why we are where we are today. And like most Nigerians have said, I still blame the president because the bulk stops on his table. If you have people you have appointed and they are not giving you result, why are you keeping them. Why is he incurring the wraths of Nigerians. Nigerians have been so caring and loving to have brought him to power. Is this the way to pay them back, it is unfair. Well, I don’t want to dwell on this because Nigerians are giving up on APC. We are looking forward to a new government and what Atiku has to offer to Nigerians in 2023.
President Buhari who has the military background as the former Head of State appears not to have solutions to insecurity in the country for now. Do you think the next president who may not have the military background can solve this insecurity?
Yes, why I said that the next president, Atiku by the special grace of God can solve the insecurity issue is because of his background and capacity to assemble the best brains and give them timeline to deliver coupled with his supervisory role over his appointees. The problem with Buhari is the lack of competent people around him. Once there are competent people around the president with his supervisory role, with timeline, he will get result. Nigerians are easy to manage. If you observe the first six months of Buhari administration, everything was working well. And it was because there was no supervisory role, and the team he brought was not the team expected by Nigerians. That was why everything nose-dived to what it used to be and even worse then what it used to be. So Atiku has the qualities of assembling the best brains and playing supervisory roles over his team. Atiku has the capacity to assemble the best brains and the capacity to monitor them. That is all you need to rescue Nigeria.      
What most Nigerians  are saying is that age is no longer on the side of Atiku and Tinubu. Do you see this as a disadvantage to Atiku?
To me, old age is not a disadvantage. It is what you have upstairs that matters. In America, for instance; how old is Joe Biden, Donald Trump, so it is what you have upstairs that matters. Only God knows who has good health, but from the look, you can see between two of them who look healthier. You don’t need a soothsayer, Atiku look healthier and more prepared.
Who is younger between the two?
Atiku is younger than Tinubu from the fact we are getting. And from  what I am hearing, Tinubu is over 80 years of age and Atiku is 70-something. So, who is younger from your own calculation, and who look younger among them, who look younger and healthy among them. So, it is for Nigeria to decide.
What is your advice to Nigerians generally as the 2023 elections approach?
Atiku/Okowa presidency is a good thinking, and a good product. So, I advise Nigerians to go with them. And from the feelers, Nigerians are going with them. You can see the rumblings in APC; it is not the kind of rumblings you are seeing in the PDP. The rumblings in APC is more disastrous, it has more collateral consequences than what you are seeing in the PDP, and PDP is already managing its challenges and Atiku as a unifier has shown the way. PDP is a political party for Nigeria and Nigerians, while APC is about individual (omi lokan) and Labour Party is about individual (Obidient), but Atiku is saying Nigeria is for Nigerians, it is about unification, you can see the difference between the three of them. Atiku is talking about Nigeria, he is not talking about himself. But out of 200 million Nigerians, APC is saying (omi lokan), which is about individual, and ‘Obidient’ is about Obi, just be obedient to Obi. But Atiku is about Nigeria. You cannot have anything without unity; it is from unity you get peace, and from peace you get development. This is what Atiku is bringing to the table, and that is why we are with him.
Some Nigerians are expressing the fear that if Atiku wins, it means that President Buhari will hand over to a fellow Fulani man. What is your reaction to this ?
Let me tell you that  with Atiku, Nigerians can sleep with their two eyes closed. Let me take you on a memory lane; during the late Tafawa Balewa time, most of the Service Chiefs were from the Southeast, also during the administration of Shehu Shagari, all the Service Chiefs were from the South. Heaven did not fall because of all these. So, what matters is the way the leader leads the country. If in the last seven years, the policies have been what Atiku has been articulating, you won’t hear what we are hearing now. We won’t be where we are now. APC has not been managing our diversity properly, and that is why people are playing ethnic politics, talking about Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. If our diversity is managed properly you won’t be hearing all this. Did you hear it during Shagari and Tafawa Balewa time? Did you hear it during Yar’Adua time? Managing our diversity revolves around the president, it revolves around good leaders. Nigerians are very good followers. If they see you as a true leader, they don’t care where you come from, they will follow you. And that is what is going for Atiku. They see him as a true leader. Wherever you come from, he accepts you. What matters to him is what you have upstairs, what you are bringing to the table.                         

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From Noah Ebije, Kaduna The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has opened up on the presidential candidacy of…

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