By Hamza Idris, Isiaka Wakili, Muideen Olaniyi, Yusha’u A. Ibrahim, Rakaya A. Mohammed
Abuja and Kano — President Muhammadu Buhari left no member of the new PDP in doubt last week that he was not going to give in to their demand when he proceeded to Jigawa State on official visit immediately he returned from medical trip to London.
The group had issued a seven-day ultimatum during the president’s short visit to London, requesting a meeting with him to discuss what they said was the marginalisation of their members by the APC government.
The ultimatum they gave was a follow-up to a letter dated April 27, 2018, signed by Alhaji Nuhu Baraje and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was a former governor of Lagos and Osun states. It was addressed to the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and copied to President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
In the letter, the nPDP said its members’ contributions to the electoral victory of the APC in 2015 were not acknowledged and rewarded.
“There has been no significant patronage and appointments to positions in various government agencies, such as chief executives and executive directors of government agencies and parastatals. Members of our block of the party continue to helplessly watch as these positions are shared by the erstwhile Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and even the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) blocks of the party and those who have no party at all,” the letter signed by Alhaji Kawu Baraje and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola read in part.
Because the president did not sit with the group and the Presidency did not respond to the letter until the deadline expired, many pundits concluded that the group may not, after all, have the electoral value that it claimed to possess in its letter.
The letter claimed that: “It is a matter for grave concern that His Excellency, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR), has never publicly acknowledged our efforts in the face of clear evidence that the total number of votes scored by the APC in states where leaders and members of the then new PDP block held sway made the difference.”
Oyinlola, one of the signatories to the letter had, even before the expiration of the ultimatum, left the APC, resigned his chairmanship of the National Identity Management Commission, and thereafter, fully registered as a member of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), a political party that was absorbed by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM).
There are speculations in many quarters that Buhari did not grant audience to nPDP members till date because of “glaring events and security reports,” which show that the spirit of members of the nPDP was not in the APC and that they were only waiting for a trigger to explode.
Analysts and some chieftains of the APC have viewed the nPDP’s letter as a cover to justify their plan to dump the party.
Buhari’s supporters have maintained that the president had very colourful electoral outings during all his contests in states where the nPDP members were strong prior to 2015. They added that instead, Buhari contributed to their electoral fortunes at the last general elections.
But other analysts are of the view that members of the nPDP cannot be wished away as spent political horses. They have the capacity of causing serious damage to the ruling party and Buhari’s second term quest.
The nPDP group still boasts of the Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Senator Adamu Aliero; Senator Magatakarda Wamakko; Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senator Danjuma Goje; governors Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State; Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Jibrilla Bindow, Adamawa, among many senators and legislators at national and state levels. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was also with them before he defected to the PDP.
The fear in certain quarters within the APC is that the nPDP members in the party can decide to migrate en bloc to an existing party if their concerns were not addressed.
But other APC members maintained that such fear was unfounded because most of the nPDP members are in the North where Buhari has a very wide acceptance and had in the past won in their states when they were still in the opposition. The only state outside the North with a key member of the group is Rivers, where Rotimi Amaechi hails from. It is not clear if Amaechi is part of the new agitation by the nPDP, and even if he is, Rivers State has never featured among states that Buhari was expected to win.
As a former two-term governor, the national leader of the Kwankwasiyya political movement and a serving senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso, could be counted among the influential politicians in Kano State and the North. He joined the APC with thousands of his supporters in 2013.
Analysts believe that if he decides to leave the APC now, he will certainly leave with his followers, and that will be a minus to the APC because in politics, a single vote is important to politicians.
However, at the time the former governor joined the APC, he was still in good terms with the incumbent governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. Now that they have fallen apart, at least their followership has also divided, with each one of them having a substantial number of supporters.
As a result of the dispute, Ganduje has succeeded in dominating the politics of Kano State. He has taken over the state chapter of the APC, the majority in the state house of assembly and recently got virtually all delegates under his control, who would most likely work for the success of the APC and Buhari.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State was the Speaker, House of Representatives at the time the nPDP was born. He had been in the PDP since 2007 before he dumped the party for the APC in October 2014. Tambuwal was a strong pillar of the PDP, and when he joined the APC and became its governorship flag bearer, many went with him to work for his success and that of the party. He redeployed his influence and reach for the success of his new party.
Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko was the then chief executive of Sokoto State who also helped in spreading the fortunes of the APC. Wamakko was fully involved in the formation of the nPDP and the merger that gave birth to the APC.
Many acknowledged that their efforts contributed tremendously to the APC in its electoral victories in 2015 general polls during which the party pulled 671,926 against PDP’s 152,199 votes in the presidential election in Sokoto.
But Buhari is believed to have a cult followership in the state that has been with him before Wamakko and Tambuwal joined him in the APC.
Senator Bukola Saraki defected to the APC in 2013. He is still a strong force in the party as the chairman of the National Assembly and Senate President. Although his political structure in Kwara is shaking, some still believe he would have his way during the 2019 elections.
Many of the political allies of Saraki in Kwara State are said to be at loggerheads with him. This was seen in the defeat he experienced during the November 2017 local government election in the state.
Also, the APC under his watch in Kwara is divided. This manifested during the ward and local government congresses held recently in the state, where another faction loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari alleged that some of them were not allowed to purchase forms for the congress. This led to the staging of parallel congresses.
Many political analysts believe that Saraki has a lot of grievances against the APC, but he has not come out openly to show his displeasure. He, however, did not stop his supporters from protesting.
While diehards of the APC do not believe that the new PDP is capable of scuttling the party’s chances in 2019 should they dump the party and join forces with the opposition, political pundits have expressed the view that such a calculation may be misleading. They contend that there may be limits to the damage the nPDP can cause in the North because President Buhari would get the votes to give him a commanding lead in the region from his army of supporters. But they argue that the group may encourage other aggrieved members of the merger that formed the APC to stage a walkout. It is this possible effect from the nPDP that should be a cause for worry for the ruling party.
Recently, the APC-led Federal Government has been involved in moves that showed them trying to mend fences with the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, who was said to be angry with his alleged ill-treatment after the 2015.
On a number of occasions, supporters and aides of the former Lagos State governor openly accused the Federal Government of sidelining their principal.
But the government has been involved in fence mending efforts to placate the party leader, first by appointing him as the chairman of the APC reconciliation committee, which many members said had failed deliver on its assignment, and bowing to his demand for Oyegun’s replacement.
It is still not clear if the national leader of the party feels the wrongs against him have been adequately corrected, pundits say, leaving him to options that can sufficiently feather his political nest.
If the nPDP breaks away and Tinubu sees the viability of leaving the APC and joining forces with them elsewhere, it is a chance he is going to consider seriously, analysts believe. He has no guarantee that 2019 victory for the APC will not see him return to his ostracised status, they further contend. Based on this, they predict that Tinubu can be encouraged to also leave the party. When that happens, they said, the breakaway groups can re-congregate around a ‘promising’ political party that is strong to challenge the APC in 2019.
The real problem for the APC and Buhari would, they posit, be how to get 25 votes in two-third of the country’s 36 states of the country, which a victory in all the states in the North cannot give him.
But a section of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), mostly from the South-West, controlled by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, believe that the issue of leaving the party has not arisen because they have been fairly treated after producing the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, and ministers.
Feelers from the bloc indicate that the ACN members feel satisfied and comforted in the present arrangement, though they still believe things can get better.
An APC source in Lagos said, “No doubt, our group has been fairly treated in the grand coalition, though we still have pockets of some former political office holders who feel alienated in the scheme of things. Be that as it may, we feel a sense of belonging in the present government.”
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that this was further attested to by the ‘victory’ Asiwaju recorded in his campaign to oust the APC national chairman, Oyegun. “It all goes to show that this bloc is well respected,” another chieftain of the party said.
However, on the threat issued by Baraje, the Lagos APC publicity secretary, Joe Igbokwe, said that as far as they were concerned in the defunct ACN, the threat has collapsed with the emergence of a faction led by Abdullahi Adamu.
He said the cry of marginalisation does not sell because the nPDP group has got a fair share of patronage in the current government, including, but not limited to the position of Senate President, House of Representatives speaker, Minister of Transportation, Managing Director of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), among others.
“So their complaint that they are being sidelined is a figment of their own imagination. The fact we have on the table does not support that,” he said.
Igbokwe said the ACN bloc remained strongly committed to the APC and had no cause to leave the party.
“We have the vice president, the minister of works, power and housing, minister of finance, minister of communication, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), ministers of solid minerals, information. What else?” he asked.
The APC publicist said following the cordial relationship Lagos enjoyed with the central government, most federal assets are now being returned to the state, including the National Stadium and the Presidential Lodge in Marina.
Presidency keeps mum on PDP’s threat
The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, said he could not confirm whether or not the members of the nPDP had been granted audience by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking to our correspondent on telephone, Ojudu pledged to find out and get back, but he did not.
Also, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, told Daily Trust on Sunday to ask the nPDP members to confirm if they had been granted audience by the president.
“Why don’t the nPDP members tell you if they have been met?” Shehu asked our reporter.
On his part, the deputy director, Coordination/Implementation of the APC’s Presidential Campaign Council in 2015, Malam Mohammed Lawan, said in a phone interview that President Buhari would not fall into any trap set by nPDP members.
Lawan, a board member of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), said the threat by nPDP members would not in any way be inimical to the success of the APC and the president during elections. He added that Nigerians were fully in tune with the government of President Buhari.
“They tried impeaching the president, but it didn’t work. They held the budget for many months and strangulated the economy, but President Buhari remained undeterred, and now, they came with a threatening letter,” he said.
Asked if the APC or Buhari’s campaigners were reaching out to the nPDP members, Lawan said the vital issues raised were being addressed appropriately. He, however, added that they would not be coerced to succumb to media trial.
On the day the ultimatum expired, the embattled deputy national publicity secretary of the APC and member of the nPDP bloc, Timi Frank, said the APC was yet to initiate talks with them.
“Today (Wednesday) makes it seven days from the day our group brought this letter to the party. But as it stands, we have not gotten any response yet from them. It is not just a mere threat, it is not just a mere ultimatum; I will tell you clearly that we are meeting our leaders, we are going to come up with a clear positions to brief Nigerians on our next step if finally they don’t attend to us,” he told journalists in Abuja.
But leading another faction of the nPDP, a former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu distanced themselves from the threat, asking the Baraje group to reveal the date, venue and members of the defunct nPDP that attended the meeting where such an agreement to write a letter was reached.
Also, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, in an interview with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said members of the defunct nPDP did not have the capacity to stop President Buhari’s re-election.
El-Rufai said, “Who are these new PDP people that are threatening? They are Kwara, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers; but I don’t think Amaechi is part of them. Let’s take these four states, go back to 2003 and check. Under the ANPP then, Buhari won in all these four states.”