By Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Hammed Shittu
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday pushed forward its agenda for retrieval of power from the All Progressives Congress (APC), holding a meeting of its National Caucus last night, preparatory to today’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, to consider a demand by its allies for a change of its name before ongoing realignment of political forces could be concluded.
The APC, however, responded with a flurry of discussions with its aggrieved members, massed in the reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC). President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the main target of the PDP’s deft political moves, was to lead the series of the discussions yesterday with a meeting last night with Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, also reportedly met separately with Saraki and rAPC Chairman, Alhaji Buba Galadima, along with former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, in Abuja. The outcome of the meetings was not known but was believed to be centred on how to pull the party back from the precipice it appeared headed.
Oshiomhole, according to a reliable THISDAY source, was escorted to last night’s meeting with Saraki by seven of the party’s governors, including Aminu Masari (Katsina), Senator Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun State) and Kashim Shettima (Borno).
But the rAPC’s mind seemed made up on leaving the APC as its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kassim Afegbua, said yesterday in a statement that the train had left the station, meaning that the fence-mending activities by Buhari and Oshiomhole were futile.
He said no amount of carrots, intimidation and harassment can dissuade rAPC members in their shared commitment to rescue the nation’s democracy.
Kassim’s position was boosted by another rAPC leader, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, a close ally of Saraki, who said in Ilorin that they had decided to leave the APC.
But Saraki in statement by his Special Adviser on Media, Alhaji Yusuph Olaniyonu, denied any juicy offer from Buhari or the APC party leadership, saying the discussions were not about him but the safeguarding of democracy in the country.
“I believe at this point, it is important for me to make some clarifications, end speculations and make my position clear. It is important for Nigerians to know that the discussions that I and many others of like minds are having with the presidency and the leadership of APC is not about me and what I want. It involves the future of our country and her democracy. It is about making things better for our people,” Olaniyonu quoted Saraki as saying.
Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Oshiomhole had in the past few days put suffocating pressure on Saraki, Dogara and some governors, not to leave APC, amidst speculations of mouth-watering offers to them, including automatic tickets for the general election.
The PDP National Caucus meeting kicked off last night simultaneously with the Oshiomhole and Saraki meeting at press time.
An insider in PDP told THISDAY in Abuja that the caucus and the NEC meetings would discuss issues and requests by all groups and parties willing to join PDP, including the proposed change of name, saying a committee would be set up to lead that process.
THISDAY had reported yesterday that the party was considering a name change.
“Yes, there has been requests by some groups that we should change our name for strategic reasons, but I doubt if that will scale through now, considering the short period before the general election,” a caucus member of PDP stated, adding, “Changing of party’s name requires long process, including holding another national convention to approve it, elect new executives in wards, local, state and national levels, and doubt if we can afford all these before the presidential primaries.”
Added the source, “However, in spite of my personal view, the caucus and the NEC meetings will resolve all the issues between today (Sunday) and tomorrow (today); But there is strong commitment on the part of all of us to rescue the nation’s democracy from the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari and APC.”
In a statement titled “Dangling Juicy Carrots Won’t Help”, the rAPC said it finds it very amusing that those who boasted that they won’t lose sleep over rAPC’s altruistic action, had been hopping from door to door pleading with its members not to leave by dangling juicy carrots and promising them heaven and earth.
The group added that such level of double standard was the reason why the rAPC’s members were birthed in the first place, saying the leadership is not one that keeps promises and it’s the reason why no one should take it serious.
The rAPC added, “It is interesting to suddenly see Mr. President holding meetings with the Senate President, Saraki, reportedly promising mouth-watering offers; the same leader who was ridiculed, scandalised, demonised, criminalised and called all sorts of names by agents of the presidency just to give the Senate president a bad name in order to hang him.
“As soon as the Supreme Court gave a resounding verdict on the trumped up and frivolous charges against the Senate President, Mr. President suddenly felt a need to praise the judiciary for standing on its own. Hmm, power as they truly say, must be a crazy aphrodisiac.”
It said never a time had the number three citizen of Nigeria (Senate President) been so “dehumanised, criminalised and disgraced in such whimsical manner” while all the present people involved in reconciliatory measures kept conspiratorial silence, waiting for the sledge hammer to fall on the Senate president.
The r-APC added, “They tried all tricks, mounted all manner of pressures, raised all dubious allegations, just to nail the Senate president. They were short of calling him a promoter of armed robbery; they linked his name to the Offa robbery and improvised all manners of things to rubbish the institution of the legislature.
“They striped him naked in the market place and now desperately trying to bath him with ornaments in the inner fortress of Aso Rock.”
He explained that examples abound in the nation’s democracy and it is ringing bell in the consciousness of everybody, now and then, saying this government is never a promise keeper and some of the promises contained in the manifestos of the APC had been jettisoned.
“The president who has held himself in the inner sanctuary of the Presidential Villa is all of a sudden, opening his doors to one meeting or the other all in the name of re-election” he stated, adding, “Just to make the point that it is too late in the day; the train has left the station. Leopards cannot change their spots no matter how much one tries to tame them. We enjoin all our members to remain steadfast and resolute in defending their rights and taking the appropriate action in defence of democracy.”
Baraje: We have Decided to Leave
In Ilorin, Baraje said empathically that all the overtures by Buhari and the APC leadership were too late to dissuade him from leaving the party.
“As far as I know, there is no juicy position that can replace the kind of embarrassment , debasement and horrifying experiences many of us have suffered and gone through in the hands of some few mischievous members of the APC, it’s quite unfortunate,” he told reporters in Ilorin.
Baraje disclosed that as far as he and his supporters and followers were concerned, they had decided to leave the APC.
According to him, “The followers of the Senate president particularly from Kwara State and across the country have already resolved to leave the APC with or without Saraki, so it is now left for the Senate president to take a decision more so that he is an experienced and a seasoned politician.”
He said further that the Senate president has the right to either take such juicy position or jettison it, but sounded a note of warning that what is clear is that his supporters and followers have taken a decision.
Story of Juicy Offers Not True, Says Saraki
But Saraki said the speculations about juicy offers being made to him and his associates as part of the ongoing discussions with the Presidency and leadership of the APC was untrue.
He said what was at stake was the future of the country and its democracy and that it would be myopic for anybody to be talking about whether certain offers had been made to an individual or if such offers would be accepted or not.
Saraki stated that he saw some reports talking about promise of money or oil block and nomination tickets but added that those viewing the ongoing development in that context were simply reducing a major national issue involving many key actors to that of personal benefits and preferences.
He said, “Though there are many speculations being peddled in the media, let it be known these discussions are not about me. Whatever has happened to me in the past has passed. Now that God, in His infinite mercy has vindicated me, I have moved on, believing that we have all learnt our lessons.
“As I said in my statement following the Supreme Court judgement on July 6, I cannot hold any grudge against any individual. I have forgiven all those who played any role in my persecution and likewise, I have asked for forgiveness from all those that I wronged in the past. Our focus should now be about Nigeria. The major issue on the table for discussion is how to strengthen our democracy, rebuild our economy, stop the spate of insecurity, improve the conditions of living of our people and generally chart a course for the development of this great country.
“We will be insulting Nigerians if, as the 2019 elections draw nearer, our deliberations is about personal benefits or how to pay compensation for wrongs done to an individual.
“As for my political future, we just need to continue to engage with others, listen to advices and exchange ideas because the decision is not that of mine alone. It is for all our supporters and associates to deliberate upon and take a decision based on the overall interest of our people. It is my prayers that Almighty God will guide us right in all our decisions and make a positive turn-around in our country”, he stated.
PDP Looking for Life after Death, Says APC
Meanwhile, the APC said yesterday that after three years in the wilderness, the PDP was excited with possibility of hiding its irredeemably bad image under the heap of a new coalition.
It said like a vulture, PDP sees every altercation as a potential opportunity for a feast.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, the ruling party claimed, “If PDP is not alleging wild conspiracies, they are threatening to boycott elections or announcing fake defections. What is clear with all these is that no matter how long a leopard lives, it cannot change its spots.
“What President Buhari and Oshiomhole, the National Chairman of our party are doing, persuading every aggrieved member not to leave the party, is what responsible and sensible party leaders would do.”