12 States, Four Million Votes at Stake, nPDP Tells Osinbajo

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• Group to meet Wednesday
• Claim of marginalisation false, Ganduje insists

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano

Weeks after they sought audience with President Muhammadu Buhari, members of the defunct new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) Monday met with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, where the group informed the vice-president that 12 states in the country, amounting to about four million vote, were at stake should its members decide to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Although the meeting was initially scheduled to hold at 4 p.m. in the office of the vice-president, a last minute decision to ensure that reporters covering the State House were kept in the dark resulted in a change of venue to Aguda House, residence of the vice-president.

Some of the ministers invited to the meeting including the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu, had reported at the vice-president’s office only to be told to find their way to Aguda House.

A presidency source conversant with deliberations at the meeting informed THISDAY that the meeting was cordial and that the vice-president spoke convincingly.

He said as a follow up to Monday’s meeting, nPDP members who attended the meting with the vice-president would meet again Wednesday to brief other members of the group.

Providing some insight into the issues discussed, the source said the nPDP members in attendance had tabled their grievances and problems within the APC, which they said were reinforced by the parallel congresses held by the party in several states of the federation.

He said Osinbajo further noted the political clout of the nPDP members present at the meeting and their impact on the elections should they leave the APC.

According to the source, “The vice-president agreed that among those of them gathered, they represented 12 states, amounting to four million votes, and it was clear that without those gathered the party cannot win in those states.”

On Sunday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, Baraje had told reporters that a consensus had been reached for them to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and Osinbajo at the State House Monday.

The nPDP, which comprises dissident members of the then ruling PDP led by former PDP acting national chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, have been threatening to exit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), citing neglect and unfair treatment by the APC-led government.

The group played a pivotal role in APC’s victory in the 2015 elections and comprises Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, his predecessor and incumbent Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal, former Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governor Murtala Nyako, and scores of serving and former National Assembly members.

The group, which has left its options open on whether to remain with the APC or leave the party, has been consulting other political groups if it fails to reach a compromise with the ruling party.

Last Monday, the group met with the national leadership of the APC in Abuja where the APC leadership admitted that the aggrieved nPDP members indeed had genuine grievances.

At the weekend, members of the nPDP also met and constituted task panels on various issues, especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges.

“Nigerians may recall that members of the former New PDP Block within the All Progressives Congress (APC) addressed a letter dated April 27, 2018, to the Chairman of APC where we informed the party of our grievances and expectations from both the party and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Following this development, the party invited us and we honoured their invitation for a meeting. We met with the leadership of the party last week during which we resolved to report the outcome of our meeting to our members and stakeholders before arriving at any decision or proceeding with the next phase of discussions or actions with the APC and government,” it said last Saturday.

In what looked like another open letter to the APC leadership, the nPDP added that they had met and considered the state of affairs in the ruling party and the country and had set up committees that will help it chart the way forward.

“I am glad to inform you therefore that we have briefed our members at a meeting convened in Abuja on Wednesday, 23rd May 2018 where we reviewed the state of the nation and our party, APC, and constituted committees on various issues especially on how to rescue Nigeria from economic, social, political and especially security challenges,” it said.

After the meeting with the vice-president Monday, Baraje said the meeting was called by Osinbajo and expressed hope that the next meeting might be with the president.

According to him, the meeting went well but it was too early to determine the way forward for the group.

He said the meeting was in response to the different letters sent earlier to the party leadership, the vice-president and the president.

Baraje said the issues raised by the nPDP were being addressed and that they had made it clear to Osinbajo that their position had been justified by the unprecedented level of crisis bedevilling the APC where 22 states held parallel congresses recently.

“Members of the nPDP had written a letter to the party copying the president and the vice-president. So the party had invited us earlier on and now it is the turn of the vice-president, probably the next one will be with the president,” he said.

Asked if they were satisfied with the discussion so far with Osinbajo, he said: “So far, so good. We are looking forward to some of the promises. There will be other meetings because we have set up sub-committees and then we will now identify specific and general problems and then we will proceed to see Mr. President. But it was a very good meeting.”

Asked if they will no longer quit the party, he replied: “It is too early to say.”

In the federal government’s delegation at Monday’s meeting were the Deputy Chairman of the APC, Lawal Shuaib; Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN); Deputy Chief of Staff to the President, Ade Ipaye; and the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno.

On the nPDP side were Saraki, Dogara, Tambuwal, Baraje and Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed of Kwara State.

Meanwhile, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, also a member of the nPDP who defected with others to the APC in 2013, Monday dismissed claims by the group that they had been marginalised in the ruling party.

Ganduje was re-echoing the position of the former Nasarawa governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, another member of the nPDP, who had dismissed the claim of marginalisation.

Ganduje, who spoke to reporters at the Government House, Kano to mark his third year in office, said all of them had benefitted tremendously from the APC-led government, adding that he was astonished by their claims.

The governor pointed out that all of them had been carried along by the administration, adding: “Some few members of the nPDP, which is not even a group in that nomenclature, because now we are one in the APC, went to the party’s national secretariat and presented a paper that they were marginalised.

“The majority of the defunct nPDP, of which I am a member, also went to the national secretariat to state that those that were there earlier in the name of nPDP were not the true representatives of the nPDP. Also, we indicated that we were not part of those claiming marginalisation.

“I will give you an analysis that will show that they are not being marginalised. First of all, the Senate President is from the defunct nPDP, he controls very important committees in which he singlehandedly approved chairmen of 30 committees in the Senate, that is not marginalisation.

“You have the governor of Kwara State who is also a member of the nPDP. He has a whole government, how can he say he is marginalised.

“You have the Speaker of the House of Representatives who is a member of the nPDP and a Speaker under the banner of APC, how can he say he is being marginalised. He controls lucrative committees. He appoints the chairmen and membership of the committees singlehandedly without interference from the executive. How can he say he is being marginalised.

“So, if you take this issue one by one, you can see that the issue of marginalisation is not there. Therefore, we the majority of the nPDP are disclaiming the allegation and we believe that we are not being marginalised.

“Jubrilla Bindow is a member of the nPDP and he is a governor, I am from nPDP and I am now a governor. We have senators and House of Representatives members who are from the nPDP.

“So, I believe that there must be something underground. You know Mr. President is facing a difficult moment–corruption is fighting back. So, you will soon see why marginalisation is coming out now.

“This is not an issue of marginalisation, this is the issue of corruption fighting back. So, you will see what will happen.”

Ganduje also insisted that Kano will mobilise over five million votes for the president in the 2019 presidential election even if Kwankwaso finally decides to leave the APC.

“Well, we are begging Kwankwaso not to move to another party, but if he decides to go, no problem, that stems from individual differences. But it cannot affect Buhari’s fortunes of getting five million votes from Kano.

“Twice, we were in government in Kano State in another party and twice Buhari won Kano from a different party, and we won our own election.

“So it is not the issue of the former governor taking his paraphernalia to another party. It is the issue of our commitment to winning elections. We are not going to say that there will be no obstacles, there will be obstacles, but we will surmount them, so Buhari will get five million votes from Kano,” he said.