• Accord sparks off apprehension in opposition party
• Aliyu: I will contest for presidency if called upon
By Chuks Okocha, Muhammad Bello and Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Aisha Wakaso
Tuesday's gathering of the chieftain’s of the breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) was a political gathering that deliberated on the eventual fusion of the two groups.
THISDAY gathered that the defection of the seven aggrieved governors that make up the New PDP to the APC may be in a matter of weeks, following an enlarged closed door meeting of the stakeholders of the two parties held at Government House, Sokoto, after the opening of the state university for which they were all in attendance in the state capital.
However, Major Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, whose decision to attend the university inauguration was impromptu as he only conveyed his acceptance of the invitation on the very morning of the event, did not attend the crucial meeting.
The former military head of state and leader of the APC, who also met his civilian predecessor, who his military junta ousted in 1983, former President Shehu Shagari, at the gathering, departed immediately after the ceremony.
A source close to Buhari told THISDAY that the university meeting was a ruse, adding: “Afterwards, they all went to the Government House, where they deliberated on the modalities through which the New PDP governors will shift loyalty and base to the APC.”
“I can tell you that all the New PDP bigwigs that you reported were at the university event later met with the APC leaders, excluding Buhari, to prepare for the reception of the governors in about a fortnight,” he said. He also said the process would be fast-tracked to coincide with the membership drive of the APC scheduled to begin soon.
But, the ongoing political realignment between the APC and the seven aggrieved governors of the PDP has raised apprehension among some members of the opposition party.
Concerns over negotiations between APC and the estranged PDP governors came just as APC yesterday took a swipe at the PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, over his assertion that President Goodluck Jonathan will rule till 2019, describing it as nothing but an empty boast aimed at ingratiating himself to the president.
THISDAY gathered from party sources that one of the conditions being canvassed by the seven PDP governors before they could join the APC was that they should be allowed to control the party structures in their states.
For instance, as a condition precedent the G7 governors was a guarantee that they would be given a chance to bring along with them their political structures as a way of retaining their relevance in the new platform.
However, the condition has not gone down well with some APC stalwarts, especially in Adamawa, Niger and Kwara States, where these party members have kicked against the wholesome hand over of the existing APC structures to the G7 governors.
According a source, the apprehensive APC members have said they would prefer that the seven PDP governors be given such concessions on an individual merit, adding that some of these governors no longer commanded substantial followings outside the PDP. But a top official of APC, who spoke to THISDAY dismissed the argument of the members of the three states, describing them as selfish and not targeted at the common good of the party.
“If these members are sincere to themselves they would have realised that they are not in a good position to win elections in those states. It is nothing but selfish interest that is driving their agitation and they would soon realise that they are living in the past,” he said.
The official said though the APCs leaders who attended the inauguration of the Sokoto State University on Tuesday had planned to tie up issues with the governors during their meeting in the state, there were still loose ends to be tied.
THISDAY learnt yesterday that every indication pointed to the fact that the New PDP governors would soon close a deal with the APC before the commencement of the party’s membership registration exercise already fixed for flag-off on November 20.
Meanwhile, APC has described a statement made by Tukur that Jonathan will rule till 2019, as nothing but an empty boast aimed at ingratiating himself to the president.
In a statement issued yesterday by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also challenged Tukur to back up his call on youths to take over reigns of power by first stepping down from his post to pave the way for the younger generation.
The party said only Nigerians could decide whether or not PDP deserved to remain in office after 2015. It reminded Tukur that one of his predecessors once boasted, in another euphoric moment, that the PDP would rule for 60 years, only for him to leave office in disgrace shortly thereafter.
“There is nothing to justify Tukur's empty boast beyond the PDP’s rigging machine, which is again being oiled in readiness for 2015, going by the barefaced vote stealing and unbridled brigandage that the party exhibited in the recent by-election in Delta Central senatorial district."
Meanwhile, Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, yesterday said he was ready to contest for the presidency in 2015 if called upon by his people.
Aliyu said he would not declare for the seat but was prepared for eventualities.
Aliyu made this revelation when the leadership of the Conference for Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Minna.
"I have always prepared myself for eventualities. I have never declared for anything. I didn't declare to be governor, I was called upon. So if it comes, if my people call me to serve them, I won't hesitate to contest."
He also called on the PDP to be opened towards opposition, stressing that a one party state is undemocratic while a multiple party state encourages healthy competition and enables the people to choose the best.
"Every ruling party wants to be a one party state. I encourage multiple party so that there will be peer review and the people will have choices of ideology and style. We need to show people the difference of what is to be done and how we can run the affair of governance.
"A one party state is undemocratic as it makes one to want to crush another over a little disagreement."
The governor also condemned the undemocratic forces activities in Rivers State, where people are restricted from having meetings or gatherings, stressing that it should not be allowed to continue.
"Undemocratic forces are very active in Rivers State. People cannot meet or gather for activities. Even during the military era people were still allowed to meet. This has already happened and if we allow it to continue, it will ruin the peace in the country."
Earlier, the leader of the CNPP, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, said they were in the state for their annual conference, saying that the CNPP is not an opposition party but an umbrella of smaller political parties and political organisations.