The South-west zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of desperation, saying that the agents of the party have been reaching out to respected national leaders and friends of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to help persuade him to withdraw from the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Disclosing this in a chat with THISDAY, the party’s publicity secretary in the zone, Mr. Ayo Fadaka, said the party has uncovered moves by loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari, who tried to enlist the intervention of highly respected political leaders and those close to the former Vice President.
“We got feelers that the ruling party, out of desperation, is now trying to blackmail Atiku by reaching out to respected opinion leaders and close allies of the former vice president with a view to making him withdraw his petition before the tribunal and embrace a political solution.
“They are doing this knowing well that that there had never been a case that Atiku instituted and did not win; and they are scared of the fact that our presidential candidate has overwhelming evidence to recover his stolen mandate through legal means and that’s why they have been running from pillar to post.
“They reached out to people whom Atiku has great regards for, but whose names I will not mention for confidentiality purpose. But mark it, Atiku is resolute to claim back his mandate and the party is fully behind him,” Fadaka said.
But reacting for his principal, spokesman to the former Vice President, Mr. Paul Ibe, told THISDAY that no level of pressure or persuasion could make Atiku back down from seeking justice at the election petition tribunal.
He said, “Atiku is committed to due process, democracy and the rule of law. I wonder why anybody would want him to withdraw (his case) after they had encouraged him to go to court.
“What they have is a stolen mandate and it will not stand. And under this circumstance, what you do is to hold your tongue and count your teeth.”
In its reaction, however, the Afenifere Renewal Group, a South-West socio-cultural group backing the Atiku candidature, along with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo from the South-east, said no Buhari lobbyist dare approach it or the Ohanaeze.
Speaking with our correspondent, Afenifere’s publicity secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said, “Afenifere is a principled group that believes that a party challenging marred elections in court is fulfilling a constitutional right.
“Both Afenifere and Ohanaeze have backed Atiku to challenge Buhari in court and we stand by our position. We are not a mortician who encourages people to go into prostitution and later ask them to come for HIV test.”
But sneering at the PDP, the APC’s Buhari Support Volunteers Group for the last election said the President had no need to engage any lobbyist to persuade Atiku from going ahead with his election petition suit.