Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has finally ended the waiting game and rejoined the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after quitting the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) more than a week ago.
The former vice-president made the announcement on Facebook where he also fielded questions from Nigerians.
He said the complaints he had with the PDP before he left the party under which he was vice-president from 1999-2007, had been resolved, thus laying the groundwork for his return.
But even as the former vice-president announced his return to the PDP, the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said there will be no automatic presidential ticket for any member of the party.
Makarfi, in his reply to THISDAY’s enquiries, said: “The presidential ticket will be open to all those who may wish to seek for it. No promise of a ticket was made to anybody and no such promise will be made.
“As a matter of fact, even Waziri Atiku Abubakar never asked for an automatic ticket.”
Makarfi, however, did not respond to enquiries on if he will throw his hat into the ring for the presidential ticket of the PDP.
Also reacting to Atiku’s return, the PDP and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu described it as a welcome development not only for the party but the nation’s democracy.
However, the APC dismissed the news on Atiku’s return to the PDP, saying yesterday that the reasons given by the former vice-president for his defecting to the opposition party sounded too familiar to be taken seriously.
With the move by Abubakar, the stage is now set for his push to consolidate his base in PDP, where he is expected to contest for the presidential ticket ahead of the 2019 election.
While writing on his Facebook page yesterday, which signified the former vice-president’s intention to use the social media to reach out to Nigerians, especially the youths, Atiku said his decision to go back to the PDP followed consultations he had with party leaders and stakeholders from across the country.
He opened up by saying: “Hello, my name is Atiku Abubakar. I am speaking to you today on Facebook Live as I want to reach as many of our young people as possible, as I have an important announcement to make about the future of Nigeria.”
In justifying his decision to dump the APC, Atiku lamented the inability of the ruling party to attend to one of the cardinal needs of the youths which is the creation of more jobs to cater to the teaming unemployed persons roaming the streets of the country.
“The key to creating jobs is a strong economy and that is what we are currently lacking. So today I want to let you know that I am returning home to the PDP as the issues that led me to leave it have now been resolved and it is clear that the APC has let the Nigerian people, and especially our young people, down,” he said.
The former vice-president also criticised the APC-led administration for failing to fulfil the yearnings of the people to improve their living conditions.
“As it is you, our youths, who represent the future of our nation. I joined the APC as I had hoped it would be the new force that would help improve life for our people and I was excited about the party’s manifesto to create three million new jobs a year.
“The result has not been the change people had been promised or voted for, as in the last two years almost three million Nigerians have lost their jobs. And today, with a record 25 per cent of people aged 18-25 unemployed I can see how difficult it is for our youths to find jobs.
“I have found in my travels across the country that whenever I get into conversations with young people, their number one concern is whether they will be able to get a job, for without a job they have no means of sustaining themselves or begin a family. And without the security of a job, we cannot have security in our country.
“So without jobs, there is no future for you or for Nigeria. And I also know as a parent that the older generation is also concerned about jobs for their children and, too often today, for themselves as well. Creating jobs is something I know about as I have created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect jobs in my own State of Adamawa.
“And I also know how the government can help create the right environment for businesses to create jobs. When I was vice-president in 1999, I was responsible for liberalising the telecoms sector which enabled us to increase the number of people who could access a phone from less than 1 million then to over 100 million today.
“This transformation resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs from the top-up card vendors you see on every street corner to the many new businesses that fed off the mobile phone revolution,” he said.
Atiku delved further into his decision to rejoin the PDP, reminding Nigerians that he was elected vice-president on the platform of the PDP, the political party he had helped to form some ten years before.
“And some of you may also know that I left the PDP four years ago when I believed it was no longer aligned to the principles of equity, democracy and social justice upon which we had founded it,” he recalled.
Atiku said that while it was apparent that the APC had let the Nigerian people and especially our young people down, the issue that led to his defection from the PDP has now been resolved.
He lamented that terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, and other forms of exuberance were symptoms of the disease of joblessness.
When asked about how he was going to fix the country, Atiku said that as a leader he would provide direction and bring in skilled people and inspire them to implement a roadmap to get to the destination he wants.
On the position expressed by the APC faithful that PDP will not be voted into power again, the former vice-president said what Nigerians need now is a political party that is not just national in outlook, but one which represents the national interest rather than regional sentiments.
“All I am saying is that we need a party that speaks to national sentiments, not regional ones. We need a party that can make all Nigerians one till we can boldly say that we are all brothers and sisters with only one mother, Nigeria,” he said.
Beyond his concerns about the high unemployment rate, Atiku during his interactive session with youths on Facebook also shared his feelings about alleged cases of inhuman treatment meted out to some Nigerians by the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
“We must set the minimum standards required for the treatment of Nigerians worldwide by the way we treat our people domestically. Our charity must begin at home.
“On this issue, I call on the Inspector General of Police as a concerned Nigerian to intervene, and I know that the Nigerian Police as a disciplined and well-organised force will take action to address this issue.
“It will go a long way to improving Nigeria’s rating in the global ranking of police forces next year because this year, they were wrongfully ranked as the worst,” he said.
However, the APC, in its reaction to Atiku’s reasons for moving to PDP said it sounded too familiar to be taken seriously.
The National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said the party wished the former vice-president luck in his new place.
Speaking to THISDAY Sunday evening on the phone, Abdullahi said in the process of trying to justify his frequent movement in and out of parties, Atiku was beginning to contradict himself.
“Let me ask what reasons did he give for leaving the PDP when he left the party. Is he joining PDP now because they created jobs when they were in power?
“The former vice-president does not need to give anybody any reason for leaving our party and joining the PDP. The more he tries to justify his movement, the more he makes statements or gives reasons that sound outrightly contradictory if not absurd.
“So, it is within his democratic right to leave a party and to join any party that he wishes, he doesn’t need to justify it but by coming up with this long list of reasons and justifications, some people may just want to look back a bit and they would realise that these excuses and reasons sound very familiar,” he said.
Ekweremadu, on the other hand, described Atiku’s return to the PDP as a welcome development, not only for the party but the nation’s democracy.
Ekweremadu said the move represented a massive vote of no confidence in the leadership capacity of the APC, first, by the masses and now by the cream of its hierarchy and founding members.
He said: “The dumping of the APC by Alhaji Atiku is a welcome development for the PDP, but more importantly, Nigeria’s democracy.
“Nigeria is in dire need of a rescue mission to rekindle hope in our democracy, restore her on the path of prosperity, and halt the worsening divisiveness that threatens our corporate existence.
“I, therefore, enjoin all former PDP faithful who left for various reasons as well as other progressive-minded Nigerians to emulate Alhaji Atiku to reunite under the umbrella to salvage the nation because I see a new and better Nigeria coming in 2019.
“I see a country where corruption will be eradicated, a nation that will be a pride to Africa and admiration of the international community, and a nation where no man will be oppressed, intimidated, persecuted or sidelined on account of ethnicity, religion or political persuasion. No amount of desperation will stop the will of God for Nigeria in 2019.”
Also welcoming him back, the PDP said it welcomed the return of the Former vice-president to the party.
In a statement issued last night by its spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, the party expressed the hope that other former members of PDP who defected to APC would soon follow suit and join forces with the opposition party to deliver good governance to the people
“We are indeed glad that he has realised the unbridled lies/deceit of his former party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). The PDP remains his home; a house he was part of the building and which he helped to nurture. We believe his return will add value in the process of rebuilding our party to greater heights.
“This is another milestone recorded by the current leadership of our party in its quest to reconcile, rebuild and restructure the PDP ahead of the 2019 general election and beyond. We will continue to remain transparent and dedicated to the service of this party.
“Again, we want to use this opportunity to call on all our members that are still in the APC or other parties to return home. We are equally extending our invitation to all those in the APC who are frustrated by the party’s failure to deliver the goods.
“Anyone who is desirous of a return to the era of abundance and freedom under the PDP administration is welcome. The umbrella is big enough to accommodate all.
“We enjoin our members nationwide to come together as one family, as we march to Eagle Square, Abuja on Saturday 9 – Sunday 10, December 2017 to elect our new leaders who will manage the affairs of our party at the National Level,” he said.
IBB: PDP Chair Not for Sale
Meanwhile, ahead of the national convention of the PDP, former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Badamoise Babangida, has raised the alarm over the huge monetisation of the convention that is likely to dictate who emerges as the national chairman of the party, warning that the PDP is not for sale.
“In the last few days, I get frightened by the monetary consideration that is likely to dictate who emerges as the national chairman of our great party, rather than what the people truly want,” Babangida stated in a press statement issued yesterday through his media adviser Prince Kassim Afegbua.
“The discussion is more on the side of heavy monetization of the process and ultimate procurement of the position of the chairman by the highest bidder. This approach, in my humble view, defeats the whole essence of participation, free choice and voting which are the essential attributes of any democracy without inducement and outright manipulation.”
The former military leader pleaded with the leaders of the party to tread on the path of caution and common sense, conscious of the recent history of avoidable political crises in the party.
He added that at 76, and given the benefit of hindsight, his role both in context and content, was now more of an advisory one to enhance any altruistic democratic process to elect credible leadership at various levels of representation.
He warned that monetising of the process and trying to “procure” party positions would defeat merit, offend good conscience and blur fair play, adding that de-monetising the electoral process to provide ample room for more citizens’ participation was what is required.
“At this critical stage of our political secretions, we need men of stature, discipline, character and commendable conduct to breathe fresh air into our party and not persons whose political relevance is the product of naira and kobo bargain across the counter.
“We need a national chairman that would not bend to the vagaries of individual selfish interest but one who is strong enough to apply the rule of law without fear or favour.
“We must begin the process of interrogating processes that lead to outcomes and not just the outcomes. We must interrogate our leadership recruitment process and encourage our delegates to exercise the power of their thumbs in making their preferred choice among the candidates,” he further stated.
Continuing, he added: “A good name cannot be bought with gold or silver. A good name is the sum total of the individual’s conduct in his trajectory and his overall assessment through life’s enduring journey.
“On the strength of this, I wish to make a passionate appeal to our members, party leaders and the members of the convention committee to be fair and just to all, and allow the process to produce a national chairman that would truly represent the conscience of the party.
“I do subscribe to the idea that consensus building, collective bargaining and constructive engagement are some of the ingredients that nurture any democratic process; such ingredients should be given enough room to flourish in order to birth credible and truly representative leadership.”
On account of her recent history of factions and fractures, the former military president also advised the PDP to re-invent and re-enact itself, saying that the new leadership must be one that enjoys the confidence of the majority stakeholders and members in order to have a seamless transition.
To achieve this template, he said such a chairman must be the outcome of a delegates’ election without manipulation and inducement, adding that one would have thought that after the 2015 dismal outing, followed by months of leadership tussles, individuals would have put to rest their selfish and egocentric interests and pursue goals and objectives that bear true testimony to the ideals of the founding fathers.
Saying that the “sound bites of monetisation” of the process were utterly demoralising and benumbing, IBB noted that it was his strong belief that the leaders of the party, irrespective of their political interests, would allow reason and a level playing field to prevail in the overall interest of the party.
“In the countdown to the Saturday, December 9, 2017, convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, as founding fathers and stakeholders, we need to collectively assure Nigerians and our teeming members that we have indeed learnt our bitter lessons.
“Following the defeat of the party in the 2015 election, it is incumbent upon us as leaders and stakeholders to use the opportunity of the convention for sober reflection on the challenges confronting us, identify our flaws, and seek plausible ways to correct them in order to come out stronger in subsequent elections.
“An elective convention presents, as it were, a rare opportunity and veritable platform to elect in a holistic manner a credible, tested, down-to-earth and truly urbane candidate with enough stamina, distinguished character and national acceptability who is driven by incurable optimism and passion for a united Nigeria.
“At this point of our political history as a party, we need a national chairman who is driven by uncommon initiatives, creativity in ideas and a rich content of character to lead and stabilise the party in line with the laudable ideals of the founding fathers of the party,” he said.
He said that such an individual must possess national recognition to be able to galvanise political opportunities and transform them into tangible outcomes in our democratic engagements.