The North-East Youths and Stakeholders Forum of the All Progressive Congress has insisted on its decision to withdraw support for the party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
The youths also knocked the spokesman of the APC campaign council, Festus Keyamo, for alleging that they are trying to blackmail Shettima.
The group’s threat to dump Shettima over the gale of defection that hit the camp of North-East APC is coming just 40 days before the 2023 presidential election.
The PUNCH reported how they lobbied the presidency and the leadership of the ruling party to consider zoning the position of running mate to the North-East region in the wake of APC standard bearer, Bola Tinubu’s victory after the presidential primary.
The aggrieved youths, however, made a U-turn on Thursday and accused the former governor of Borno State of being responsible for the loss of some foundational members of the structure including the Zonal Women Leader, Amina Manga of Bauchi, who defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party with over one million women.
They further alleged that his snub and nonchalant attitude has continually undermined their efforts, an act that made Keyamo allegedly reek of subtle blackmail.
While contesting the alleged number of members who had defected from the North East APC, the PCC image maker noted that their grievances would be addressed.
But Keyamo’s statement did not sit well with the group who released another statement on Saturday denying the allegation that their decision was an attempt to blackmail Shettima for money or favours.
The statement, which was signed and issued in Abuja by its Acting Chairman, Shaibu Tilde, further urged the Minister of State for Labour to juxtapose the total figure of voters in the region released by the Independent National Electoral Commission to determine the veracity of their claim.
He said, “In the last 48 hours the media has been awash with the news report of our position on the Vice presidential candidate of our great party. We wish to reaffirm our resolve on the issue and state unequivocally loud that our position to withdraw our support for the vice presidential candidate of our dear party, Sen Kashim Shettima still stands.
“What has however become a source of worry for our group is the unsavoury and scathing attack launched at us by the APC presidential spokesman Barr. Festus Keyamo.
“While we intend not to join issues with Mr Keyamo, we are however obligated to set the records straight so as to mitigate the poignant narrative Mr Keyamo is constructing around our noble group and clear intentions and love for our great party.
“We shall continue with that mantra of speaking out to power for the love of our dear party, the All Progressives Congress not minding whose ox is gored.
“Firstly, it’s clearly manifest that Mr Keyamo does not understand the calibre of youth and the extent of their fibres in the Northeast region of the party and therefore can resort to calling us names as ‘cheap blackmailers’. This is rather unfortunate that the spokesman of our party has tuned his war arsenal against his fellow party men with a common goal to win the 2023 election.
“No one can deny that gale of defection our party has suffered in the region in the last few months. Our group noted with dismay that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria rather than being introspective on the germane issues we raised that are affecting the fortunes of our party in the region instead chose to play to the gallery by calling us blackmailers and attention seekers. This is unfortunate and quite shameful.
“Secondly, we wish to remind Mr Keyamo that we are not seeking empty attention nor do we want to be pampered. It is important to school Mr Keyamo that this group did not emerge from the blues. We have been on this journey from time to set. For the records, this group has spent millions of naira mobilising support for both Sen. Kashim Shettima and by extension the APC.
“We have held many press conferences and organised strategic meetings with relevant stakeholders within and outside the North-East region all in support of our great party, APC. How can we now stand and watch what we have laboured for slip away from us when we have an opportunity to avoid it? We cannot at this moment risk an avoidable shipwreck by the action of one reckless individual. We cannot simply shut up until the right thing is done in the interest of our party.
“Thirdly, Mr Keyamo has blatantly discredited our defection statistics asserting that the entire Northeast region will have nobody to vote for the APC if 8 million voters defect from the party. In his views, the total number of registered voters in the North-East put together will not be up to 8 million but the recent figure of registered voters released by the Independent National Electoral Commission shows that out of the 93.5 million people registered, North-East region has a total of 12.5 million voters. The figure has therefore vindicated us and expose the ignorance of Mr Keyamo and his skewed narrative on our ground.
“Finally, it will do our party much good to address the gale of defection it’s suffering from the region as a result of the action of our Vice Presidential Candidate Kashim Shettima. Turning a blind eye to grievances will amount to fatal consequences. We the North-East APC youth stakeholders remain committed to the success of our party and its presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu come February 25.”