Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the 2019 elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is undeniably a popular figure and a force to be reckoned with, politically that is.Atiku
Last week in Yola, the Adamawa state capital, the former Vice President attracted prominent Nigerians and continental bigwigs to the ancient city on the occasion of his turbaning as the 7th Waziri Adamawa of the Fombina kingdom.
On ground to add colour to the big event were such figures as former Presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President, Namadi Sambo; Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Governors Ibrahim Dankwambo, Darius Ishaku and Seriake Dickson of Gombe, Taraba, and Bayelsa states respectively as well as former Kano state governor and ex-Presidential aspirant, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
However, the absence of governors elected on the platform of the PDP from the South-East geo-political zone quickly sent tongues wagging. This was not totally unexpected given the expression of disquiet that greeted Atiku’s choice of Peter Obi, the former Anambra state governor as his running mate for the 2019 polls.
Not prepared to take any chance, Atiku upon return to the nation’s capital quickly met with Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu in company of Saraki in what was clearly a fence-mending measure. Like the those governors, Ekweremadu was not in Yola . Atiku’s visit is said to have doused tension even as the Waziri Adamawa is set to reach out to the governors as early as next week.
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The South-East governors, according to findings by Saturday Vanguard want the PDP Presidential candidate to commit himself to a single term in office as a condition with an understanding that come 2023, he would reciprocate the gesture by throwing his support behind the zone to produce the President for the nation.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress, the South-East is being lobbied to rally behind the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari with a verbal understanding that doing so is the surest route to Igbo Presidency in the nearest future. Given this development, leaders of both parties in the zone are weighing their options with the APC, secretly reaching out to other parties to vote President Buhari, even if they choose to vote other parties for other elective offices.
A prominent member of the PDP National Executive Committee, NEC, who craved anonymity, told this medium that the South-East will rally behind the Atiku/Obi ticket, adding that in addition to the single tenure debate; the zone is interested in knowing the former Vice President’s plan specifically for the people.
He said, “Disagreements are common in politics but I want to say that at the end of the day, we will arrive at a common ground. For quite a while now, the South East or let me say the Igbo people have not really had a fair deal when it comes to the political leadership of this country. I don’t want to go into the argument of whether we are the third most populous ethnic group in the country but what nobody can deny is that we have paid our dues. We are one of the most populous ethnic nationalities in the country.
“If we are asking that the 2023 Presidency be ceded to the South-East, it is legitimate demand and I am happy we are being listened to both by the leadership of the party and our Presidential candidate.”
Asked to comment on insinuations making the rounds that a verbal commitment may not be sufficient to get the zone’s backing for Atiku; the PDP NEC member called for caution, adding that people must understand that of the five states in the zone, only three are under the leadership of the PDP.
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“We must understand that APGA (All Progressive Grand Alliance) is in charge of the running of government in Anambra while APC rules in Imo. The PDP won elections in Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu. So, the governors who are not in our party have their own calculations but of course, we want them to work with us to rescue not only Igboland but also the entire country by voting for the Atiku/Obi ticket.
“Let me add in reference to the question you asked that I am not aware of the nature of agreement to be settled for. If the leaders are asking that a document be prepared and signed; that may be because in the past, those gentlemen agreements were not implemented to the letters,” he added.
Findings by our medium revealed that Atiku has promised to look into the peculiarities of the South-East, with assurances that the zone would get its fair share of attention if he emerges President of the country. The former Vice President who has continuously reiterated his commitment to restructuring of the nation’s polity if elected, is also said to be opened to the idea of an additional state for the South-East to create “a sense of balance” with the South-South, South-West, North-East and North-Central geo-political zones of the country.
Not surprisingly, Ekweremadu sat to the right of Atiku while the 81st NEC meeting of the party held on Thursday. Although, Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) were absent; Umahi alongside prominent Igbo leaders including Emeka Ihedioha (PDP governorship candidate in Imo state), Okesilieze Nwodo (former PDP national chairman), Professor Alphonsus Nwosu (former Minister of Health), Osita Chidoka (former Aviation Minister), Achike Udenwa (erstwhile governor of Imo state) and Onyeama Ugochukwu, a one-time Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission were all present, many of them wearing various emblems of the Atiku/Obi 2019 project.
It was not clear at press time if Atiku has agreed to toe the Mandela option but pundits say should the former Vice President win the polls and succeed in delivering democracy dividends which have so far eluded Nigerians in the past couple of years; there is no question millions of Nigerians will reward him with a fresh mandate if only to consolidate on his first-term achievements.
Meanwhile, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan has said the PDP will go the whole hog to “bring everybody together in the onerous task of chasing the APC out of power in 2019.”
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The publicity scribe told Saturday Vanguard that issues raised by South-East governors were being addressed, adding that at the end of the day, the party will come out stronger. According to him, insinuations of unrest amongst the South-East governors are not true even as he accused the APC of taking things out of proportion with the hope of sowing seeds of discords within the ranks of the PDP.
“He said, “The APC as a party has failed Nigerians and what they are doing today is to attempt to cause a rift in the PDP. That again has failed. We are going to the 2019 elections as a strong, united and indivisible party with intent to win the elections, take over power to deliver good governance to the people of Nigeria. This is why APC leaders are afraid.
All we are asking for are free, fair and credible elections. We hope President Buhari will deliver on this demand as he has promised.”Related