Presidential Slot: Atiku, South East Rift Deepens Over Single Term Request

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, does not seem to be interested in committing himself to a single term in office if he wins next year’s election, The Nation can now report.

Prominent Igbo leaders are said to have been putting pressure on Atiku to agree to do only one term in office as a condition for the geo-political zone to support him.

The idea is to pave the way for a Southeasterner to succeed him in 2023.

But Atiku, who believes his choice of Mr. Peter Obi from the zone, is enough as an expression of his respect for the people, is not keen on doing one term.

Southeast stakeholders, including prominent political leaders, are worried that the zone may have to wait till 2026 to have a shot at the Presidency should Atiku stick to his gun, and goes on to win the 2019 election.

The Nation learnt that the issue was the main subject of discussion as a meeting in Enugu last week when a committee earlier mandated to discuss the request with Atiku and his handlers reported back to the house.

The committee, sources said, informed the meeting that the PDP presidential candidate gave no definite answer on their proposal.

Those at the meeting were said to have expressed disappointment at the situation, coming so soon after Atiku was accused of not consulting them in picking Obi as his running mate.

Although Atiku had, in a previous interview pledged to do only one term, sources said he has refused so far to give any such undertaking since he was nominated at the Port Harcourt convention of the PDP.

Atiku was quoted in that interview as saying: “I have said it before on my own initiative… if I am elected as the president in 2019; I give an undertaking that I would only do one term… I am prepared to sign an undertaking to do only one term.”

Sources said he has not come forward to give effect to that vow, since he got the PDP ticket.

A source close to him confirmed the development to The Nation but denied that Atiku is now dodging the issue.

He recalled that Atiku had publicly said he might do one term if elected.

He, however, frowned at what he described as an attempt to ‘box’ the PDP presidential hopeful to a corner even before he is elected president.

The source said:”I can tell you categorically that Atiku, as a person, is committed to keeping his promises.

“But in politics, every little detail matters. While they may say he will win the confidence of the Igbo by signing an undertaking like that are they thinking of how his people from the North will feel about such move?

“We were all living witnesses to how such a commitment became the albatross of former President Jonathan.

“There is no crisis over this matter and it is not true that Atiku doesn’t want to discuss the issue. I suspect that those who claim to be acting on behalf of those making the demands are not being truthful about the real situation of things.

“If a man has given his words publicly and you still want more, then you will have to do more to get more.”

A serving PDP Senator from the Southeast who also spoke to The Nation on the matter said the leaders of the region have taken it upon themselves to get Atiku to address the issue as it is of great importance to the political future of the people.

He, however, said some politicians from the region are also helping the PDP candidate to dodge the question.

He said:”It is true we are worried about the single term request.

“It is very correct that we are yet to get a definite answer from Atiku and we are not pleased with that.

“Just like he handled the manner in which he nominated his running mate, Atiku is allowing this issue to generate too much bad blood from our midst towards him. It is a very germane matter that is being handled with levity by him and his handlers.

“We had a committee made up of prominent people including people very close to Atiku himself. And they have not been able to tell us something definite. We find that quite funny.

“The people of the Southeast are very sophisticated people who will not allow anybody or group of people to take them for a ride. We know Buhari cannot seek another term after 2023. We need Atiku to tell us his plans beyond 2023.

“Our people are only keeping quiet now because we agreed to save the PDP in the Southeast by managing our differences better. Following the bad publicity generated by the bad handling of the Peter Obi choice, we agreed to keep issues away from the press.

“That is why I am speaking with you on anonymity. But if care is not taken, another round of uproar will soon break out because the Igbo race will not allow anybody to disrespect us for long.”

The Nation also gathered that as part of last minute efforts to get Atiku to address the single term question, a delegation of Southeast leaders has been raised to meet him and present the matter to him.

“This new delegation is likely to have headed to Dubai to converse with the PDP candidate. The group is made up of largely PDP chieftains. Some of them had been at loggerheads with Atiku before now. But they all agreed to carry out the task to save the situation. We await the outcome of this last effort,” our source added.

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