AS FORMER VP EYES PDP’S PRESIDENTIAL TICKET: We’re ready for atiku – shekarau, lamido, makarfi
Powerful members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with presidential ambition, yesterday reacted to the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s reported plan to join the party and seek its ticket for the 2019 presidential race, saying they are not rattled by the development.
On Friday, Atiku resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC), accusing the party of clamping down on democratic values and failing Nigerians.
The former vice president, who, in the past, had defected to other parties a number of times, did not reveal which party he was going to. However, there have been speculations that he would return to the PDP, a former ruling party he dumped in 2013 for the APC.
Reports had it that the strong politician was billed to pick the PDP’s membership card Saturday at his ward in Jada, Adamawa State. But for inexplicable reasons, he did not, even as a large crown of PDP supporters turned out to welcome him as he arrived the state capital, Yola on Friday.
It is expected that the former vice president would officially declare for the PDP early December, ahead of the party’s national convention on November 9, paving the way for him to actualise his presidential aspiration.
Speaking separately with our reporters yesterday, a former governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, chairman the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and former Senate President David Mark, said Atiku was welcome back to the party.
According to Shekarau, if Atiku decided to join the PDP, he would not feel threatened to shelve his political ambition.
The former governor and minister of education said he was more than ready to slug it out with the former vice president should the latter seek PDP’s ticket for the presidency.
“I believe the issue of allowing him to secure the party’s ticket on a platter of gold does not even arise.
“As far as I am concerned, the issue of contest on the platform of the PDP is a level playing ground for everybody. Each and every member is free to test his popularity and political weight when the time comes.
“Although we would welcome him back to the PDP, the issue of getting the party’s ticket is left for the delegates to decide in the national convention. I am committed to my political ambition and will pursue it to its logical conclusion.
“I will not feel threatened by Atiku’s return to the PDP. Of course, being an influential politician and a former vice president for that matter, his return to the PDP will add value to the party, but that will not threaten my political ambition at all,” Shekarau, who spoke through his media aide, Sule Ya’u Sule, said.
On his part, Makarfi, who is also touted as one of the leading contenders for the party’s presidential ticket, said Atiku was free to come into the PDP.
Sources disclosed that Makarfi was only waiting to “relieve the huge burden on his head” of being the party’s chairman before he would break his silence over his presidential ambition.
In a text message to our reporter yesterday, the party’s Caretaker Committee chairman said, “We welcome him (Atiku) and any other person that may wish to join us.”
He, however, did not react to further questions as to whether Atiku would be granted waiver and automatic ticket to fly the party’s presidential flag in 2019.
Makarfi is already at loggerheads with Chief Bode George, who is one of the aspirants for the chairmanship position of the PDP.
Bode George accused Makarfi of rooting for Chief Uche Secondus from the South-South to succeed him as chairman of the PDP so that they could collectively work for someone from the South-West while Makarfi picks the presidential ticket, which the party has zoned to the North.
Also, a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, said yesterday that he was waiting for Atiku to return to the PDP to bare his mind on the matter.
Lamido, who responded to a question through a text message, said: “I can only comment if he (Atiku) formally returns.”
The former foreign affairs minister formally wrote the PDP leadership and its members across Nigeria last month, intimating them of his interest to vie for the presidential ticket. He has also set up support movement in many states across Nigeria.
On his part, a former Senate President, David Mark, who spoke through his ýmedia assistant, Paul Mumeh, said yesterday that Atiku was welcome back to the PDP
“He is an asset and will add value to the PDP. The PDP is the only true national and democratic party; others who defected from the family are encouraged to return home. Let us build a great party for the welfare and wellbeing of all Nigerians,” he said.
Powerful members of the PDP who have presidential ambitions, yesterday expressed their readiness to slug it out with ex- President Atiku Abubakar, even as they said he was welcome to join the leading opposition party.
A former national publicity secretary of the party, Prof. Rufa’i Ahmed Alkali, said the return of the former vice president was just the beginning of stories to come.
Prof Alkali, who did not give the details of what should be expected after Atiku’s return, said the former vice president would not only add value to the PDP but would remain an asset to Nigeria’s politics.
The former presidential aide, who spoke yesterday in Abuja in a phone interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, advised party leaders to embrace the new entrants and work for the unity of the PDP in the buildup to the December 9 national convention.
Asked to speak on the possible return of the former vice president to the PDP, Alkali said, “It did not come as a surprise to many people. Many watchers of Nigeria’s politics know that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is one of the founding members of the PDP. Even when he left the party in 2013, everybody knew that his soul and political DNA was in the PDP.
“Remember that under the PDP he served as vice president for eight years. Definitely, when he left the PDP, along with five governors, a number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, it was a very big dent on the image of the party,” he said.
Asked to confirm if there was any deal with the former vice president concerning the presidential ticket for 2019 should he return to the PDP, Alkali said the decision of the Wazirin Adamawa was as a result of the hands of fellowship extended to aggrieved members after the Supreme Court judgement that upheld the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.