• Lobby for Adeniran’s chairmanship intensifies, Ladoja, Dokpesi press on
• Support base for Secondus widens, as South East cues in
From John Adams, Minna and Remi Adefulu
Barely 48 hours to the make-or-break National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), returnee and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday met with former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, behind closed door, at his Hilltop residence in Minna, Niger State.
Although the Wazirin Adamawa told journalists that the “visit was purely a private one,” Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that Atiku was in Minna to woo the former military president and frontline leader of the party to support his candidate.
“Issues bordering on Saturday’s elective convention of the opposition party dominated the discussion. In fact, Atiku was at the Hilltop to canvass the support of IBB for a candidate who would help him realise his presidential ambition in 2019. Yes, this much I can reveal,” a source revealed.
Other aspirants for the chairmanship position, which is zoned to the South include Uche Secondus, Raymond Dokpesi, Gbenga Daniel, Bode George, Rashid Ladoja and Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
“Whoever emerges the party chairman would play a critical role in influencing the choice of the presidential candidate. You know that IBB and former President Jonathan appear to be backing one of the chairmanship aspirants. You can, therefore, understand why Atiku’s visit at this time is very significant ahead of the convention,” the source added.
Atiku, accompanied by the former governor of the state, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Tanko Beji and other prominent members of the party in the state arrived the home of General Babangida at exactly 12:35pm and went straight into the meeting, which ended at 3:45pm.
The visit came a day after the chairman of the caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi, the chairman of the convention and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa; Taraba State Governor, Dairus Ishyaku; Senate Minority Leader, Abdul Ningi and Senator Ben Obi paid a visit on Babangida.
The sources said it was not unlikely that Atiku is scheming to cue into the Prof. Adeniran camp, which is reportedly enjoying the backing and support of Jonathan and Babangida.
Babangida and Jonathan’s endorsement of Adeniran notwithstanding, the support base of Secondus is believed to be expanding as minutes tick by, as delegates from the South-East have reportedly threw their cap in his ring.
This is in addition to the bloc votes he is expected to garner from the 19 northern states and as well as the votes from the South-South delegates.
“With Daniel, George, Ladoja and Adeniran sharing the votes from South-West, it would take more than a miracle and magic combined to stop Secondus’ victory,” a party source said last night.
Indications are strong that the former vice president may declare his intention to run for presidency in 2019 soon after the national convention.
A source close to the campaign organisation of the Wazirin Adamawa in Minna simply said: “All arrangements for the declaration has been completed. Atiku will declare to run for president on the ticket of the PDP after the convention of our party.”
Atiku, who arrived Minna in his private aircraft, T 7 AAA, at about 12.15pm was received at the Minna International Airport by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso and a team of PDP leaders, among them former Governor Aliyu, state chairman of the party, Alhaji Tanko Beji, Senator Shem Zagbayi Nuhu and the secretary of the party in the state, Alhaji Umar Santali.
Atiku who was deputy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo when Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, contested against President Muhammadu Buhari alongside three others for the ticket of the APC in 2014.
He lost out in the primary but collapsed his structure to support the president at the 2015 presidential campaign.
He left the PDP to join the APC in February 2014, after losing the presidential election of 2007 on the platform of the then Action Congress (AC).
While he was in the PDP, he also declared his intention to contest for the Presidency in 2011 but lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
On Wednesday, Babangida said Atiku was free to move to any political party of his choice.
“He is a Nigerian, he is allowed to go to any party and our constitution allows it. So, it is not new and there is nothing wrong for politician to move from one party to another,” he said.
I’m still in the race – Dokpesi
Chief Dokpesi has refuted claim that he has agreed to drop out of the race for the office of the national chairman.
He said in a statement last night that nothing can be further from the truth.
The statement reads: “Chief Dokpesi is not only a front runner but remains the aspirant to beat at the convention grounds on Saturday. We urge teeming members and party delegates to the disregard and ignore such cheap and diversionary antics aimed at causing I’ll wind in the PDP.
“Chief Dokpesi will not step down and those who wish so are advised to redirect their energies to campaigns that will benefit their aspirants rather dissipate positive energy in negative direction.
“The national convention is the first effort by the PDP since inception at entrenching an internal democratic process that will deepen our democracy.
“Let him who is running behind in this race remain behind or run faster than the man in front. The impunity and imposition of the past has long gone out of fashion.
“The delegates will decide every contestant’s fate and we should all agree to abide and accept by the convention decision. Only the process must be free, fair and credible.”
David Mark, group advise delegates
Dokpesi’s statement came as former Senate President, David Mark, told delegates to allow the will of the people prevail and restore the dignity of the party.
Senator Mark, in a message to delegates urged them to shun those ills such as imposition of candidates and impunity that ruined the chances of the party in the previous elections.
In a statement by his Media Assistant, Paul Mumeh, Mark stressed: “We have seen what the imposition of candidates caused us in the past. We cannot travel the same route anymore.
“I am sure we have learnt some useful lessons from our electoral misfortune in 2015. We now have the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by allowing the will of the people to prevail at the convention.”
The former Senate president expressed confidence in the Governor Okowa National Convention Committee to do a good job and return the party to the people.
“Win or lose, we are still one family. All we need to do is put our house in order in the interest of the party and its members because I can see a bright future,” he stated.
Meanwhile, delegates have been tasked to use their votes wisely.
The advice was handed down in Lagos by the Solidarity Youth Movement (SYM), a youth group within the party during a media event.
According to its co-chairman, Mr. Lekan Oniwa, the SYM was in agreement with the position of the party’s northern elders for the micro zoning of the party’s chairmanship to the South West. It, however, said it was not anointing any of the chairmanship aspirants, even as it said delegates should vote for an aspirant without “baggage” to lead the party.
Oniwa described zoning of offices to different geo-political zones as PDP’s way of ensuring inclusion, fairness and equity.
This, he observed, enhances unity within the party and fortifies national spread and character, even as he said this was why PDP remained Nigeria’s only true party.
His views were corroborated by his co-chairman, Mr. Kalu Uguru, who stressed that the major focus of the group was getting the best hands to lead the party.
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Author: Uche Atuma