The PUNCH reports that some civil society organisations have again reiterated that they would not support any aged candidate for the presidency in the 2023 general elections.
They spoke against the backdrop of the declaration of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who declared to contest for the presidency under the Peoples Democratic Party in the forthcoming elections.
The spokesman for the African National Congress, Olufemi Adeyeye, in an interview with our correspondent, said with Atiku’s antecedents while he was Vice President, he should not be allowed to ‘smell’ the presidential seat.
Adeyeye also stressed that Atiku lacked the capacity to fulfill all the promises he has made because he lacked the political will to do so.
“As regards age, we understand so well that the people who have vied to run for presidency are old in age and in their ideas. How ancient their ideas are, is what we are criticising.
“The major point is that we understand that Atiku lacks the capacity to make all these things happen. When he was Vice President under Obasanjo, he was the chairman of the Privatisation Council; what did he do with the privatisation? He privatised Nigeria into their pockets. What Atiku is coming back to do is to privatise some more. We have seen how much the privatisation they did then is now.
“Nigerians do not know how to hold a political grudge. If they truly hold a political grudge, someone like Atiku should not even come close to the Presidency at all, because the PDP in itself, some people would want to say is an opposition party. But Nigerians are opposing this opposition party.
“If you look at it clearly, this same Atiku was in the All Progressives Congress in 2018. Now he is back in PDP. It shows these people are just changing their goal posts while they have the same ideology that they carry. For us at the AAC, we reject old Nigeria. We reject going back to Golgotha to Nigeria. Some of these people should have to go to jail at this point.
“This is someone who has been in government all his life. Atiku has eaten from Nigeria. Nigeria has fed him. What has he done? We have to look at his antecedents. What has he done with all that he had? He was VP for eight years; he keeps running for the presidency.”
Also speaking, the Convener, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy, Dare-Ariyo Atoye, said that Nigeria could not afford to have a repeat of the Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd)-led regime by voting Abubakar come 2023.
“What we suffer under Buhari is not something that we should again repeat. We deserve the best. We deserve a leader who is mentally aware and would be readily available. Atiku would not be able to tackle the humongous challenges that confront this country on a daily basis.
“Vice President Atiku Abubakar has served this country and made himself available but I think this is the time for him to support a younger, competent person to succeed president Buhari. It would be painful for him because it has been a lifelong ambition but there is what we call ‘a place of sacrifice’. He must be grateful to God for the opportunities he has been given.”
A lawyer and political activist, Festus Ogun said, “The presidency is not something that should be exclusively reserved for old people. It is not a retirement plan for rogue politicians. That is the truth.
“The simple reason is that we must ask ourselves why we ask civil servants to retire at 65 and 70. By the time you get to a particular age, there is a limit to what you can do at a particular age. We must insist that we don’t repeat the mistake of the Buhari-regime. Again, is it desirable that Nigeria should have a president that would spend most of his time on a sickbed?”
However, the Ondo State Coordinator, Atiku Abubakar Support Organisation, Mr Damilola Adamolekun, said, “I do not buy into that idea of age. It is someone that can deliver, one who can unite the country. It is someone who has the experience and what it takes to give Nigeria the solution to the myriad of challenges that we have. Everybody knows that this country is not working. Yesterday or so, you can see what happened in Kaduna. We had young and old people attacked. They did not separate them. We need someone who can give us the solution to our challenges. That is what matters. I don’t care if the person is young or old. That is not even the point here. Who can deliver us from this quagmire and unite the country?
“In my opinion, it is the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. He is the only one who has shown genuine interest in the Peoples Democratic Party. The other one in the other party is saying he is doing so because of his age-long ambition. He has not accepted that APC has led us beyond repair. He has just said he wants to fulfill his age-long ambition.
“Somebody is saying he has the solution to Nigeria’s challenges. I’d rather go with that person who has the solution that the one who wants to use us to satisfy his ego and his ambition. It is beyond us. He should not use us to settle political scores or maintain political affiliations.
“I feel whoever can deliver this country must first agree that this country is not working. There is no fuel scarcity in the history of Nigeria that has stayed this long. Atiku Abubakar is the person I feel will give us the solution we need.”
The youth coordinator of the ASO, Ondo State, Olakunle Balogun, noted that those who had the opinion that Atiku was old were entitled to their opinions.
“Leadership is not about one’s age. If a 70-year-old man has the capacity to pilot the affairs of this country and rescue it from its current state, why not? You can be 25 years old and not have the mental capacity to take care of the problems of this country,” he said.