The Pan Yoruba Group, Afenifere, has reacted to the emergence of Peter Obi as the running mate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has pleaded with Atiku and Obi to remain steadfast in its restructuring message.

The National Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “All we concerned about at this stage is there were commitments by Atiku about the restructuring of Nigeria.

“If it is true that he has picked Peter Obi as his running mate, he should join him to work out clear cut programme on restructuring and ensure that he remains steadfast on that because that is the main issue that will determine the next election.”

The group had earlier found a way to reconnect Atiku with his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Atiku was Obasanjo’s vice president for 8 years while the latter presided over the country between 1999-2007. The visit to Obasanjo was the first time the former president would meet with his former deputy since the latter emerged as presidential candidate of the PDP. Though Obasanjo had in the past vowed not to ever support Atiku’s long nurtured presidential aspiration, the former president has unbent upon his even more harsh assessment of the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, before the announcement of Peter Obi, the national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, recently met with Atiku alongside other party leaders to determine a running mate for the 2019 presidential candidate in a bid to appease the Igbo people.

The PDP presidential candidate, Atiku received a heavyweight endorsement on Thursday as his former boss and adversary, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, bowed to pressure from the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, and blessed Atiku’s presidential aspiration.

Obasanjo, during a reconciliatory meeting in Abeokuta, brokered by the Afenifere, said he had forgiven Atiku and stated that given his personal knowledge of him, he had better capacity to perform better than the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari.

The meeting was witnessed by the Catholic Archbishop of Sokoto Dioceses, Bishop Matthew Kukah; Founder of Living Faith Church, Pastor David Oyedepo; a leading Moslem cleric, Sheik Ibrahim Gumi; and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, among others. The endorsement, which immediately drew the reactions of the presidency and the Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation that dismissed it as a distraction and non-event, appears to be reshaping the battle for the presidency in 2019 as it indicates the realignment of political and religious forces in the country.

The involvement of the religious leaders, Daily Advent learnt yesterday might indicate the direction the two leading religions and their dominant denominations are looking. With Bishop Kukah of the Catholic, Oyedepo from the Pentecostal flank and Gumi, a Moslem cleric who had been politically vocal, in the mix, the paper’s analysts suggest there might be a coalition against the re-election of Buhari, whose reign had been mired in massive killings both faiths’ faithful by gunmen largely suspected to be Fulani herdsmen.

The political forces, Daily Advent also learnt are gathering behind Atiku against Buhari, largely because they see his three and a half years in the saddle as the most divisive of the nation in its 58 years of independence, fearing that another four years for him might push the country over the precipice.

Atiku’s endorsement by Obasanjo, according to sources close to the emerging coalition of forces, is said to be the outcome several months of pressure on the former president to drop his opposition to his former deputy, who many of the political leaders estimate is the most viable politician that could unseat Buhari.

Daily Advent learnt further the club of retired military generals, including Ibrahim Babangida, Muhammed Gusau and Abdulsalami Abubakar had been working on Obasanjo to shift position on Atiku, telling him that unless he did, Buhari’s chances of returning to office would remain bright given the deep division in the opposition parties.

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