By Ismail Omipidan
The political tremor set off by the return of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, to the Peoples Democratic Party, where, it is widely believed, he would seek the 2019 presidential ticket, may not ease off soon.
Since his defection to the party about two weeks ago, political alignments and realignments have been ongoing within the PDP and between some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and some PDP members.
Although the then PDP leadership under former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, was alleged to have provided him a “soft landing” by dissolving the Adamawa State caretaker committee, to enable Atiku’s men take over the structure of the party while still hanging on in the APC at the time, the statement from the party’s leadership shortly after his defection that there was no automatic ticket for the Adamawa-born politician is a clear indication that Atiku is not likely to get the ticket on a gold platter.
Neither would his ambition dim the light on the aspiration of other members of the party, who are also believed to be interested in seeking the presidential ticket.
Interestingly, the Makarfi was the first man who came out in the open to say that Atiku posed no threat to any of the presidential hopefuls on the platform of the PDP.
Although he has not formally signified interest in the race, Sunday Sun can authoritatively confirm that Makarfi will run.
Barely 72 hours to the PDP national convention, there had been reports in sections of the media insinuating Makarfi had interest in seeking to fly the PDP’s flag in 2019. Makarfi dismissed the insinuation in the media reports as not true.
In a statement signed on his behalf by his spokesman, Mukhtar Zubairu Sirajo, the former Kaduna State governor said: “The fact is that the senator was asked what threat the return of Atiku Abubakar to the party portends to the aspirations of others who had either made their intentions known or those, who, like him were rumoured to be nursing such ambition.
“His answer was that Atiku’s return would not, in any way adversely affect the rights of any member of the party to aspire to any position, adding that there were no preconditions to the return as Atiku Abubakar did not ask for, neither did the party offer any concessions to him beforehand.
“Senator Ahmed Makarfi wishes to assure the teeming members and supporters of the PDP and indeed the entire country that his own major preoccupation at the moment is to discharge the responsibility given to him to lead the process of repositioning the party, which he hopes will culminate in the conduct of a very credible and transparent convention. This is what matters the most to him at this moment.”
After the convention penultimate Saturday, sources close to him confirmed to Sunday Sun that he would indeed run and that he would make the intention known at the appropriate time.
Asked further if Makarfi does not feel threatened by Atiku’s return to the PDP, one of the sources said that there was no way Atiku could stop Makarfi’s ambition.
“He has always believed that power belongs to God. In 2007, when PDP governors rooted for him, but someone else was chosen, he fell in line like a good party man that he is and behaved as if nothing happened. He supported the person that was chosen because he believes you cannot get something by force. So he will go into the contest with the same disposition,” the source added. On his part former Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, who has since notified party stakeholders and has visited former Nigerian leaders and consulted and still consulting with prominent Nigerians, including former defence minister, General TY Danjuma (retd), told Sunday Sun that if Allah says he would be the next president after President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing can change it.
Reacting through one of his aides, Kyari Jitau, the former governor noted that from day one he knew that he would not be the only one seeking the party’s ticket and was, therefore, prepared to compete with anyone.
“Recall the event of his meeting with state chairmen of the party. He said he knew others would also join in the race, but urged the stakeholders to ensure that they choose the best for the party and for the country.
“And at the risk of sounding immodest I don’t see anyone who is capable of constituting a threat to him in the party. Historically, he started politics before all of them. Therefore, ideologically, he stands out. We have seen what he can do with his experiment in Jigawa. That is why they refer to him as a good repairer. So we need him to help repair Nigeria.
“Like some analysts say, PDP needs someone who can break the votes in Kano and Kaduna axis. Alhaji Sule Lamido looks good to make that happen. He is a party man to the core. He’s got the political capacity and sagacity to turn the tide against the APC if given the opportunity by the party. So we leave everything to God and to the party. Only God gives power,” Kyari declared.
Former Kano State governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, said he was battle ready. And like others, he also said the ultimate decision rested with God.
Speaking through his media aide, Sule Ya’u Sule, the 2011 presidential candidate on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), said: “We are battle ready. We ran in 2003 for governorship, we had no money, but we won. We ran in 2007 for a second term, and despite the odds against us, God made it possible. We have run for the presidency before and so we are not threatened by Atiku’s return to the PDP. Ultimately it is the electorate that will decide. We rely on God and not anyone else. We are in the race, there is no going back,” he said.
Long before former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he left no one in doubt that he was prepared to run for the presidency again in 2019.
Sunday Sun gathered that Atiku had sought to “seize” the structure of the party in the state to avoid a repeat of what happened to him in 2011 and 2015 at the PDP and APC presidential primaries respectively.
In 2011, Atiku lost Adamawa State delegates to the then President Goodluck Jonathan as Murtala Nyako, the then governor, ensured that all the delegates voted for Jonathan. Again in 2015, Atiku lost Adamawa delegates to his rivals. All these, it was further learnt, made him reason that once he had control of the party in the state, it would be easy to get their loyalty and votes.
Regardless, Atiku needs more than Adamawa delegates to pick the coveted PDP presidential ticket.