The leadership of the North-East Youth and Stakeholders Forum of the All Progressive Congress has threatened to withdraw their support for the APC vice presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
The threat, which seems to have caused a stir in the camp of APC, is coming just 42 days before the 2023 presidential election.
The North-East APC group is arguably one of the dominant voices drumming support for the candidacy of Shettima in the wake of APC standard bearer, Bola Tinubu’s victory after the presidential primary.
Among other things, The PUNCH reported how the group lobbied Tinubu’s camp, the presidency and the leadership of the ruling party to consider zoning the position of running mate to the North East region.
The same political group has, however, made a U-turn at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, vowing that they would withdraw support for the former governor of Borno State for continually undermining its effort.
The Acting Chairman of the APC North-East Youth and Stakeholders Forum, Shaibu Tilde, told newsmen, that Shetima’s snub shortly after his victory has led to 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.
Tilde lamented that another loyalist of Shettima and Treasurer of the group, Yusuf Banki, left for the PDP with over 500,000 youths.
He said, “We are saddened to be in the news for what others will interpret as a negative reason at this time, but we are also obligated by our love for our great party, the All Progressive Congress, to make this timely intervention before our party’s fortunes in the region sink.
“We do not need to emphasise that this is an injury time for the game because the general elections are less than two months away, leaving no room for error, but instead attention must be focused on tightening all loose ends, which is not the case with our party in the northeast.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with deep regret and concern that we report that the fortunes of our great party in the Northeast are on the verge of collapse due to the obstinate, careless, and exclusive leadership style of our Vice Presidential Candidate, Hon. Kashim Shettima.
“The Northeast APC Youth Forum has watched with tears as its many supporters continue to defect to the PDP. Unfortunately, the trend in the Northeast zone is worsening by the day, with Sen. Kashim seemingly turning a blind eye to these heinous developments in our party in the region.
“We the Youths in the Northeast have lost our Zonal Treasurer from his home state of Borno, Hon. Yusuf Shariff Banki, due to his failure to support youth in the region to launch massive mobilisation. It is worth noting, gentlemen, that Sheriff led over five hundred thousand youth to the PDP.
As if that wasn’t enough, our Zonal Organising Secretary, Hon. Murtala Gamji of Taraba led over two hundred youths to the NNPP, and our Zonal Women Leader, Amina Manga of Bauchi led one million women to the PDP.
“Out of the 8 million youth votes we have already mobilized for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, our Presidential Candidate for the Presidential Polls, Sen. Kashim Shettime has already plundered over 3 million through his actions with the wave of defections from our party. This is simply unacceptable!
“In light of this, we urge our party’s Vice Presidential Candidate, Hon. Kashim Shettima, to immediately reverse his steps and correct his error for the sake of the party, the region, and the teaming youth.
“It is on record that this group, then led by its Current Acting Chairman, Hon. Shaibu Baffa Tilde, threw their support behind Sen. Kashim Shettima and committed massive resources, both human and financial, to ensure he emerged as the APC’s Vice Presidential Candidate.
We do not seek compensation from Sen. Shettima, but our resentment stems from Sen. Kashim’s failure to recognize a formidable Youth force of the party that stood by him through thick and thin after realising his ambition to become reality as Vice Presidential Candidate from the northeast region.
“As a result, the Northeast APC Youth Forum wishes to withdraw its unequivocal support for Sen. Shettima.
Our actions should not be misinterpreted, but rather judged by our affection for our dear party.
“While we intend to take our next steps regarding his candidacy in the coming days, we would like to express our unwavering support for our Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the APC. We will continue to work for the advancement and victory of our beloved party in the upcoming general elections.”
Reacting to the threat, the spokesman for Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, disclosed such misunderstanding is bound to happen in the build-up to a major election.
While contesting the alleged number of members who had dumped the party in the North East, Keyamo noted their grievances would be addressed.
He, however, cautioned that it would also be wrong for the support group to attempt to resort to subtle blackmail to have their way.
“It is an election season. Everybody is important. No doubt about that. We can assure them that whatever grievances they have will be addressed.
“However, there is a need to point out corrections on some things they said. There are so many support groups working for the party in the North East and we will try to give all equal attention. While I agree that we need everybody, we don’t see recognise some people as greater than others. Everybody is important.
“If some groups think they are the most important or deserve to be pampered more than others, we will not accept it. That would be subtle blackmail. The vice presidential candidate is the one who wants to treat all of them as equal as possible. He is obviously not going to pamper some over others. All groups are important.
“Again, the numbers quoted in their statement are over-exaggerated in order to draw attention. They don’t control those figures and no such numbers have left the party.
“Firstly, going by the APC register, how many registered members do we have in the North East as a party? So that means they are taking everybody at the party away, isn’t it?
“Nevertheless, we need the group and we are going to talk to them. But they should not overrate themselves,” he warned.
The APC Director of Media and Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, also told our correspondent that the issue will be addressed.
He stated, “I have brought their statement to the attention of the Vice Chairman of North East APC, Salihu Mustapha, who I think is in a better position to address their grievances. He knows them and understands the situation in the terrain.”