- Chieftain expresses confidence no gov will leave party
- Former VP to serve for one term, loyalist reveals
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is not loosing sleep over the departure of a key chieftain of the party, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, from the party, expressing confidence that any opposition party bringing on board a Northern presidential candidate to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 elections, would not serve the interest of the Southern section of the country.
Based on this, party chieftains who spoke exclusively to THISDAY on the issue, said Atiku was a non-issue because there will be concerns in the South that should he win the 2019 presidential election it could amount to power remaining in the North for 12 years, as it was unlikely that Atiku or any other Northerner emerging president in 2019 would serve for only one term.
APC, sources also said, is premising its calculations on the fact that the South-west may have already committed to supporting Buhariâ€™s second term bid, as this would boost the chances of the region getting the presidency in 2023 through Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Furthermore, reliable sources in the presidency expressed optimism over the prospects of the ruling party achieving a major turnaround in its popularity rating, following a boost in infrastructure rollout that the APC-led administration plans to achieve in the next 18 months with funding from external loans.
The National Assembly recently approved the request by the executive arm of government to raise $5.5 billion from foreign sources, part of which will be used to fund the capital component of the 2017 budget.
The federal government is planning to rollover capital projects from 2017 to the 2018 budget for which funding may have already been raised.
Speaking on the emerging political dynamics that the APC is banking on, a party source said most people, especially those from the South, would rather throw their support for a Buhari presidency in 2019 so that he can complete the second four-year tenure for the North than vote in another person who will want to stay for a period of eight years, meaning that power will remain in the North for 12 years.
The party chieftain who preferred not to be named further pointed out that even some members of the opposition party from the South whose interests will be hurt adversely by such a development would secretly lend their support to APC.
Also weighing in on the issue, the National Vice-Chairman (South-south) Chief Hillary Ettah who spoke to THISDAY in a phone interview yesterday, dismissed any fears about an implosion in the ruling party, saying this would not happen.
Providing some kind of forecast on the likely scenarios to play out in the run-up to the 2019 elections, Ettah said what the country will witness â€œwill be the absence of a coordinated opposition that can challenge APC and President Buhariâ€.
Also speaking on the possible defection of many loyalists of Atiku including governors to the PDP, he said nothing like that would happen, insisting that not many would be ready to take such a risk.
Specifically, he said the governor of Adamawa State, Jibrilla Bindow would not quit the party along with Atiku, adding that no serious member of the party would take the risk of leaving APC at this stage.
â€œIt is going to be difficult, nobody is going to follow Atiku anywhere. You can be sure that no one is following Atiku to leave the party.
â€œThat is not to say that we would not have the normal political realignment associated with Nigerian politics but we are unlikely to see an exodus of people following the former vice-president out of APC,â€ he said.
On what he thought of aggrieved members of the ruling party who had complained of being ignored or marginalised, Ettah said none of those complaining could equate their plight to those of the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC who had toiled for the success of the party since 2015 but have nothing to show for it in terms of patronage.
â€œLook, I always tell people that we are all affected by the situation. Now take the members of the NWC, for instance, what benefits have come to them?
â€œAs the people who sacrificed and defied all odds to ensure victory for the party, a feat in the political history of Nigeria, who defeated an incumbent to take over power, what do we have to show for it?â€ he asked.
However, despite the confidence expressed by the leadership of the APC, some of its stalwarts have cried out to Buhari to urgently do something to deflect a possible exodus of party men.
Following last weekâ€™s exit of Atiku from the APC, concerned party loyalists had expressed concern that if nothing was done to improve on their plight, they might be encouraged to defect.
But a top party source said yesterday that the presidency has acceded to their demands to sort out the board and ministerial appointments, and that it was acting swiftly to mitigate the possible impact their grievances could have in the wake of Atikuâ€™s resignation.
He disclosed that the visit of the newly appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (APC), Boss Mustapha to the leadership of the party was part of the efforts aimed at stemming revolt in the ruling party.
The source said Buhari has directed the SGF to go and consult the party on how best to ensure that the next batch of appointments addresses some of the grievances.
During the meeting with the SGF, THISDAY gathered that the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun took time to discuss some of the petitions that had been piling on his table concerning complaints over neglect in federal appointments.
Buhari at the last meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party had also promised to address complaints of marginalisation by party men from parts of the country over federal appointments.
He had said he would set up a committee to review the modalities for selecting those that will fill the outstanding appointments to boards of parastatals and federal agencies.
The president also promised to expand the size of his cabinet by appointing key party men as ministers.
But even as the APC appeared confident that it had an edge over Atiku owing to the power rotation principle in the country, loyalists of the former vice-president informed THISDAY that they were not unaware of the permutations for 2019 and that their principal has no intention of serving for more than one term in office should be win the presidential election.
â€œThe Waziri Adamawa has no intention of doing more than one term in office and he intends to declare this publicly so that Nigerians will hold him to his promise.
â€œHe is very aware of the power rotation principle in the country; he knows that should he not keep to his promise, he will be swept away by the electorate in the same manner as former President Goodluck President who failed to keep to his promise to only serve out the remainder of late President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s terms.
â€œBesides, by our calculations, he (Atiku) will be 76 years old by the 2023 elections and the last thing Nigerians will want and should accept is someone trying to re-contest for a second term at that age. He should be ready to move on and ensure that a successor emerges from the South,â€ a source close to the former vice-president revealed.