The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Akwa Ibom South Senatorial District, Dr Ekong Sampson, has stated that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has no meaningful defense for it’s 2023 Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
He said it’s wrong to do so in this critical time in Nigeria’s history when the nation has witnessed widespread polarization based on religious and ethnic sentiments.
Dr Sampson, a former two-term member of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and one time State Commissioner for Environment and Petroleum Resources, stated this while speaking as Chairman at the inauguration of the Akwa Ibom State Chapter of ‘PDP Ward 2 Ward Group which held at Cityview Hall, Watbridge Hotels & Suites in Uyo, Friday.
The APC’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima are Muslims and the same faith pairing in a multi-religious country like Nigeria has so far generated heated debates.
Offering his perspective on the issue, Dr Sampson, famous for his in-depth views on matters of national concern, said he would not also support a Christian-Christian ticket in the country.
According to him, ‘the present scenario is different from that of June 12 in character and context’. He further said the personalities involved in the June 12 elections and the times are far apart from the present.
Dr Sampson said some influential bigwigs in the Babangida regime were seemingly not comfortable with the same-faith pairing, a concern which could have contributed in no small measure to the debacle that ensued afterwards.
Dr Sampson, a lawyer, charged Nigerians to focus more on winning democracy instead of winning election through desperate means.
He said his concern was borne out of his deep sense of patriotism and his well-known disposition to bridge building.
“What we need to do in Nigeria now is to build a stronger framework for national cohesion. And we can’t do this by pushing for a same-faith ticket in the country. This is one issue that can undermine and weaken the fabrics of unity in the country.
“This is a time for Nigerians to come together and promote issues that can rather bring us together and deepen bonds rather than for us to exhibit such desperation that poses threats to our mutual coexistence. We should be interested in winning democracy and not just in winning election. What is more important is the survival of Nigeria and our democracy,” he maintained.
Praising the organisers of the programme, Dr Sampson said that he was happy that the initiative came in good time, and that the group would offer ample opportunity for Nigerians to come together to rescue the country from the present situation.
He charged the group to encourage Nigerians to come out and get registered for their Permanent Voters Cards, which he described as ‘visa to democracy’.
Hailing the PDP, Dr Sampson further said the party has entrenched itself as a value-driven item for Nigeria. According to him, the presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakka, ‘cuts across, readily as a bridge builder’, adding that this attribute was shown in the choice of his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, to balance the country’s delicate ethno- religious mix.
Dr Sampson who praised the obvious improvement in the country’s electoral reform process, however, said more needed to be done in terms of ownership mentality and participation.
On his part, the South-South Co-ordinator of the group, Hon. Onengiye Tamuno, expressed profound gratitude for the level of hospitality accorded him and his team by Akwa Ibom people.
He added that this was a pointer that ‘our preparedness for an all-out South-South bloc vote for our party is secure and intact.’
Hon. Tamuno hailed Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel for his giant strides in the areas of development, tenacity in project execution and policy implementation.