A recent secret meeting between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former President Goodluck Jonathan suggests a new game plan for Nigeria’s politics ahead of the 2019 general election.
Previously, there have been speculations that there are concerted efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to bait Atiku to dump the All Progressives Congress (APC) and return to the opposition party.
The meeting between both leading politicians reportedly explored the desirability of Atiku’s move to the PDP and concluded that it would be a worthwhile political endeavour that could help terminate what they regarded as the uninspiring rule of the APC, according to THISDAY.
At the meeting, Jonathan was said to have advised Atiku to consider returning to the PDP early enough to avoid being caught by certain provisions of the party’s constitution, which stipulate a period of time a member has to spend in the party before he could be eligible to contest for a political office.
“Atiku was advised to return early to enable him to fulfill the eligibility condition in the party’s constitution and also have ample time to integrate his political structure into the PDP’s,” a source privy to the meeting told THISDAY.
According to the source, it was made clear to Atiku that he stood a better chance to realise his ambition in the PDP than the APC since President Muhammadu Buhari looked set to be given a right of first refusal by his party’s leadership.
“He was told to note a recent comment by the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, stating that as the incumbent, President Buhari had a right of first refusal even when the decision would have to be his.
“That has been buoyed by Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai who had practically launched Buhari’s re-election campaign,” the source said.
On the reactions of the APC leadership and stalwarts to the recent declaration of support for Atiku’s presidential ambition by the Minister of Women Affairs and Youth Development, Mrs Aisha Alhassan, the source said it was made clear to the former vice president that there was nothing left for him in the APC, prodding him further to return to the PDP where he could reunite more easily with other founding fathers who were eager to rebuild the party.
There have been previous reports indicating that there were moves by some PDP leaders to bring Atiku back to the party’s fold.
But the former vice president was said to have insisted on some conditions to be met before he could dump the APC for the PDP. This included an assurance that he would get the party’s presidential without a contest.
According to reports, several governors in the PDP, especially Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State who had also declared his presidential intention, were willing to allow Atiku return to the PDP. Party sources had claimed that Fayose would not mind positioning for the vice presidency candidacy as Atiku was a strong politician who looked ready to take over power.
Insider sources also revealed that the leadership of the PDP was comfortable with Atiku whom they believed was well liked by both northerners and southerners.