A Northern group, the Arewa Youth Awareness Forum, on Wednesday, asked the Prof. Ishaq Akintola – led Muslim Rights Concern, and the Christian Association of Nigeria, to consider floating political parties instead of dictating to the two major political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, over choices of presidential running mates.

AYAF expressed concern over the two religious bodies’ interference in the affairs of the APC and the PDP.

This was just as the group said the choice of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had demonstrated the determination of the PDP flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar, to win the 2023 presidential race through strategic nationwide mobilisation for votes.

“We applaud the choice of Governor Wike, whose numerous passionate infrastructural projects in Rivers State have been commissioned by eminent persons across the federation, including our revered Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar; we urge religious leaders to allow political parties to make their choices,” the group said.

In the statement signed by the group’s Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Secretary-General; Mohammed Sani-Kabir, Salisu Abdurrahaman, and Ben Alege respectively, they emphasised the capacity to roll back poverty, insecurity, illiteracy and other indices of underdevelopment mattered more than sentiments.

They noted that Atiku’s choice of a southerner in the person of Governor Wike, who had a track record of developmental projects, including those commissioned by our revered Sultan, remained a reasonable strategy for winning the 2023 elections.

AYAF said, “Given deep-rooted economic, security and other challenges of nation-building that the nation faces today, one thing that is more needed than religious and ethnic sentiments is good, impactful governance, characterised by mass inclusion and leadership that can move mountains.

“The PDP is demonstrating a keen sense of reward because Governor Wike’s contribution to his party is unmatched by any of his peers in the South-South. Despite criticisms against him, his impact had been felt in the party from Abia to Zamfara State.

“We believe that the APC will do well as a progressive party by following the PDP’s method of involving every level of the party in the choice of a Vice President, backed by voters. Through that, demons of religious and other sentiments would have been considerably laid to rest as the nation goes ahead to pick the next leadership.

“Likewise, criticising the PDP’s choice of Governor Wike based on religious sentiment is unhelpful to democracy.  If the PDP and its presidential candidate see the inclusion of Governor Wike on the ticket as a strategy to mobilise huge votes, so be it.”

Meanwhile, the group, while saying that they had tremendous respect for religious leaders across the country, cautioned MURIC and CAN against dividing Nigerians over the choice of running mates.

It said, “While we respect all our religious leaders, we must all caution ourselves a bit to curb the way occasional admixture of politics and religion further divides people and lead to combustible reactions.

“If MURIC, which dislikes Wike and CAN, and which is criticising the APC’s inclinations, chooses, they may float a political party and share positions of presidential candidate and running mate between one another based on religious considerations in future elections.”

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