- Insists Atiku cannot be presidential candidate
- Former VP, Tinubu say they have no plan to leave APC
Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The proposed mega party by some aggrieved opposition politicians of major political parties in the country may already have run into a hitch, following the stringent condition allegedly handed down by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to support the new party.
THISDAY learnt that when the notion of the mega party was brought to Obasanjo’s notice, the former president, who was not averse to a new formidable opposition party, was quick to give a condition that his former deputy when he was in office, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, should not by any means whatsoever become the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.
The new opposition party is believed to have the tacit support of some members of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that currently controls 11 states in the country, a National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bola Ahmed Tinbubu, and Atiku Abubakar, a major chieftain of the APC.
The party is being championed to challenge the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general election.
However, when Obasanjo, according to sources close to the ex-president, was approached to lend his support to the new party, he informed the proponents of the new party that he was prepared to back it on the condition that Atiku was not picked as the presidential candidate of the party.
According to a source, who was conversant with the outcome of the meeting with the former president, “He (Obasanjo) addressed the group that met with him, informing them that he had made too many mistakes in his life and for the nation, including the blanket support he claimed to have granted the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari, and therefore was not prepared to make any more mistakes.”
The THISDAY source hinted that the former president said that although he was quick to support the APC, however, he was not as quick to support Buhari’s bid to become president in 2015, because he had reservations about his capacity to lead the country.
But because the APC to which he had declared his support had also settled for Buhari, he had no option than to tag along.
However, given the current state of the nation and political developments, he informed his guests that it would be foolhardy of him to rush into taking yet another critical decision, especially on the presidency of the country.
It was for this reason he was said to have reluctantly supported the idea of the mega party, but added that he would only identify with it if Atiku does not emerge the presidential candidate of the party.
He was said to have pointed out that Buhari’s obvious unimpressive stewardship to date had lent credence to his initial hesitation to support him and that having worked with Atiku, he could tell where his presidency would head.
Obasanjo made it clear to the proponents of the mega party that their presidential candidate could be anybody with the minimum requisite qualifications and experience, but certainly not Atiku.
Another source, who also hinted at the development, confirmed Obasanjo’s stringent condition not to field Atiku, saying: “It is true, that is very correct.”
He further revealed that the reason Obasanjo did not want to make another mistake with Atiku stemmed from his regret for coming round to support Buhari despite his reservations.
The source said: “Before the December 2014 congress of the APC, where Buhari was picked as the presidential candidate of the party, he informed (Rotimi) Amaechi and others not to back Buhari because he lacks the capacity to run the country.
“He told them to vote for (Rabiu) Kwankwaso, but his advise was ignored and now Nigerians are suffering for it, so he does not want to make the same mistake again by backing the wrong person for presidency in the person of Atiku.”
On the issue of Senate President Bukola Saraki, the source disclosed that it was most likely that Saraki would remain with the APC given the recent attempts at rapprochement by Buhari.
“Also in so far as Tinubu is a major proponent behind the establishment of the proposed mega party, it is very unlikely that Saraki will leave the APC to join forces with Tinubu,” the source volunteered.
He added that while those from the other political parties were ready to go ahead with the formation of the party, the PDP faction led by Makarfi was yet to fully decide on the issue.
“The PDP component has not really been determined yet. For now, the plan is to take total control of the party, finish off Ali Modu Sheriff and then move on in that light. Ultimately, it may be where we are headed, but the truth is we must first tidy up the PDP house before moving on.”
According to the source, some individuals in the PDP had already bought into the mega party idea and had been meeting with those concerned but “the Markarfi-led PDP as a whole has not really bought into it. But I can tell you that the APC wing of the merger is set to roll”.
Still on the Atiku matter, the source hinted that some of the decision makers in the country, a majority of them retired military officers, already share Obasanjo’s view and might follow through with him.
The only person, a major ally in the merger talks, who has refused to buy into Obasanjo’s position on Atiku, the source hinted, is Tinubu, who yesterday categorically denied his involvement in the mega party.
But clearing the doubts on the denial, the PDP source said it was expected since most people would at the moment distance themselves from any involvement in the new party because of the timing.
“It is important that they all lay low until the timing is right, so that people are not framed and thrown into the gaol for pursuing an agenda different from theirs,” he said.
Reacting to his involvement in the formation of yet another political platform to challenge the APC in the 2019 elections, Tinubu said he has no intention of abandoning the ruling party, which he laboured to build.
Tinubu, on his Twitter account, said that despite the mistakes that had been made by the APC, he remained committed to the “ideals that fuelled” the formation of the ruling party.
The former Lagos State governor said that the national purpose of the APC was bigger than the desire of any individual.
“I have devoted my political life to achieving what has been achieved. My heart is too much of the people and my mind too fixed on establishing a positive historic legacy… rather than engage in destructive pettiness,” he said.
“This government, APC, is for the betterment of the people and the national purpose is bigger and more important than any individual’s desires.
“This is a party I laboured with others to build. We would not abandon it for another. Millions of Nigerians who voted are watching and praying.
“In our journey to national betterment, plans and policies will be made, then amended. Mistakes will occur and then corrected. Achievements will be had and replicated.
“Through it all, I, Asiwaju will remain true to the progressive ideals that fuelled the creation of APC,” Tinubu said.
In the same breath, a source close to Atiku also denied his involvement in any shape or form in the proposed mega party, saying the concern of the former vice-president was in the success of President Buhari and would not do anything inimical to the collective interest and ideology of the ruling party.
“I think we should ignore those who out of self-interest are trying to drive a wedge between the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar and his party, the APC.
“Right now, our nation needs unity of purpose, not political brinkmanship; we are facing formidable economic and structural challenges, and we should focus on fixing the many things that prevent us from unleashing our economic and entrepreneurial potential, instead of pretending that a little political theatre will magically make things work,” he said.