Northern Christians divided over Obi’s endorsement
...As Bwala, Samaila say ‘Babachir can't speak for us’ … Ex-SGF was expressing a personal choice – Dogara, others
Indications emerged weekend that the growing popularity of the Labour Party (LP)’s Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, may have further deepened the division amongst northern political class, especially northern Christians.
Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, had last Thursday stirred a hornet’s nest when he declared open support for the Obi/Datti 2023 Presidential ambition in opposition to the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the statement, titled, ‘Why we have chosen to endorse the Obi/Datti ticket’ Lawal had given reasons the group decided to ditch the APC.
The former SGF, while citing how insecurity and other socio-economic problems have ravaged the north, stated that based on the past antecedents of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, appeared incapable of uniting the country, and meeting the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations.
The open endorsement was however, quickly countered by the All Progressives Congress (APC) Christian leaders in the northern part of the country, led by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
In a counter statement, Dogara, Doknan Sheni and six other Christians in the APC dissociated themselves from Lawal over his public declaration of support for Obi.
The APC northern leaders said Babachir Lawal was expressing a personal choice and not that of the group.
The group, in a statement jointly signed by Simon Achuba, Albert Atiwurcha Mela Nung, Ishaya Bauka Ibrahim Haruna and Leah Olusiyi, said the group was yet to endorse any presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 poll.
The statement read: “We want to draw the attention of the general public to the recent position canvassed by our Chairman, Engr B. D. Lawal as the position of our Group.
“We wish to state that necessary consultations have been concluded, and based on manifestly unassailable empirical data, the group is poised to adopt a position that will be made known to the public at an interfaith event to be held very soon.
“Suffice to say that no one in the group, including the Chairman, has been mandated to speak to the public about our position at this material time. Based on our modus Operandi, our position was meant to be presented to the general public at the event above referred to. That has not changed.
“Consequently, the decision to endorse a particular candidate and the statement credited to the chairman are solely the decision and views of the Chairman which he is absolutely entitled to but not that of the group.
“We hope this statement clears all the queries most of us have been inundated with on this all-important subject matter.”
Read also: Why we want Peter Obi as president- Groups
Also speaking with BusinessDay SUNDAY, Daniel Bwala, Atiku’s Spokesman, while reacting to Babachir Lawal’s statement, described it as “a one-man show.”
According to him, “We are not involved in Babachir charades, as he is neither speaking for the APC Northern Christians, nor the wider group of the northern arm of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
“He said it himself that he is on his own and that others can go about in their supporting whoever they chose.”
Bwala, who until recently was a pro-Buhari, however, added that the “Northern Christians have not taken a position on the matter of who to support in 2023.”
“Nobody is bothered in the PDP because Babachir has never been an Atiku’s man. It is actually not a big deal; it is Dogara that has the real powers to speak for us at the moment, not Lawal.
“His position has not affected our group and we know that at the right time, Northern Christians will speak.”
Luka Samaila, a member of the APC in Adamawa, also reacting to Lawal’s statement in a telephone interview with BusinessDay SUNDAY, disowned the former SGF, adding that “on the contrary; Christians in Adamawa will pitch their tent with Atiku in 2023.