■ Offers 2019 presidential ticket as bait
■ We’ll love to have them back- Party
FROM ADE ALADE AND TAIWO AMODU, ABUJA
The undying presidential ambition of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has now become the talking point among close associates of President Goodluck Jonathan who have already begun moves to woo him back into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Saturday Sun gathered that initial meetings on how to get Atiku back into the PDP fold have been held in Abuja where it was decided that “to get the former VP back into our fold (PDP), the party’s 2019 presidential ticket will be placed before him.”
A source, who attended one of the meetings, disclosed that the task of getting Atiku into the PDP has been given to the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT Chairman, Chief Tony Anenih “who is very close to Turaki (Atiku’s traditional title) and maintains a strong influence on him.”
Should Atiku decline the offer, Saturday Sun gathered, Kano State governor, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has been penciled down as a fallback option.
Asked why the PDP is gunning for Atiku who is currently a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the source, who is a trusted associate of President Jonathan, explained that the choice of the former number two citizen “is because of his presidential ambition which has come alive stronger soon after the victory of Gen Buhari at the polls, his deep pocket, his nationwide network and ability to provide leadership for the PDP across the country.”
Rather than his hope dampened by the emergence of Buhari in the April 11 presidential ambition, feelers from the camp of the former Vice President show that he has got more inspired to keep his aspiration alive. “He’s a man who believes that if Buhari can get it at the fourth time, he can also become president if given another chance to contest the presidency in 2019”, a source close to the former VP stressed.
Atiku was VP to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007 on the platform of PDP. He left the party to contest the presidency under the banner of the then South West-based Action Congress (AC) in 2007. Soon after he lost the election to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP, he returned to the party but failed to get the party’s presidential ticket again in 2011 because the presidency had been conceded to President Jonathan who had taken over the reins of leadership following the death of Yar’Adua in 2010. When it was obvious Jonathan was going to seize the PDP presidential ticket for the 2015 poll, Atiku again moved to the main opposition party, APC where he is today being tipped as the party’s BoT Chairman, after the influential position was zoned to his North-East zone of the country. His bid to pick the APC ticket was, however, scuttled as he came third at the party’s presidential primaries held in Lagos.
“If Buhari got it at the fourth round, Atiku can also get it in his fourth attempt in 2019, that is why some of us in PDP believe he’s central to our party’s comeback to power in the next general elections”, a PDP chieftain involved in the plot to get Atiku return to the party added.
“Should all entreaties to Atiku fail, which is 98 per cent unlikely, Kwankwaso will be another viable option because of his firm grip on Kano which has always produced the largest bulk votes in recent elections. Beside this, the Kano governor though now a Senator-elect equally enjoys wider acceptability across the country like Atiku. Don’t forget he came second in the APC presidential primary despite his late entrance into the race”, the source stressed.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Olisa Metuh in a telephone chat with Saturday Sun could not confirm or deny if there were intense pressures on the former Vice-President to return to the party, but noted that the national leadership of the party would be happy to have Atiku back in its fold.
According to Metuh: “I can’t confirm that because there is nothing concrete to it.
But every genuine and well-meaning member of our party would want Atiku back. He is a great mobiliser. So, why not? At this time that we are down, he is a great asset and can be a rallying figure. I think every genuine PDP member would welcome such a move.”
When contacted for reaction to the development on Wednesday, Atiku Abubakar’s spokesman, Garba Shehu pleaded with one of our reporters to allow him clarify with his boss before responding. As at the time of going to press on Friday night, no response had come from him yet.