President Muhammadu Buhari is not moved by the defection from All Progressives Congress, APC, of former Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar, and will not take his bait to pre-empt the 2019 presidential campaign, high-level Presidency sources have affirmed.
National Chairman of APC, Mr John Odigie-Oyegun, has, however, described Atiku’s defection as an act of frustration for a man determined to become president at the last opportuned time in his old age, saying the party had for over a year, known of his move to jump ship.
Atiku’s defection and challenge to Buhari were also dismissed as inconsequential by Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, the President’s Special Assistant on New Media, who in an interview yesterday, affirmed that Atiku could not defeat Buhari in his ward.
The assertions nonetheless, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Timi Frank, yesterday, warned that more high-level defections from APC could occur in the near future, if the party leadership failed to mend its ways. Frank, a well-known ally of Atiku, however, vowed not to defect from APC.
Meanwhile, anxiety about Atiku’s defection from APC has kept senators in a state of unease, with many leading senators shying away from comments on the defection by the former vice-president.
Second Republic lawmaker, Mr Junaid Mohammed was, however, not so inclined, dismissing Atiku yesterday as overreaching himself.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, could not be reached yesterday, following his return from Jordan after the presidential trip to that country.
However, a senior presidential official yesterday said that the President would not be dragged into a pre-campaign spat with the former vice-president who he said was being dismissed by the Presidency as inconsequential, noting that Atiku had serially lost proxy elections with Buhari in his home state, Adamawa.
The Presidency source, who spoke on the basis of confidentiality said: “We will not take the bait by Atiku to enter into a presidential election campaign when the season is yet to take off.
‘’If Atiku must be taken seriously, let him go and beat Bindow (Governor Umaru Jibrilla) who has beaten his candidate three straight times.’’
He said in reference to the defeat by Mr Jibrilla of Mr Ibrahim Mijinyawa, who was largely believed to be Atiku’s preferred candidate to be governor during APC primaries in Adamawa State in 2014.
Jibrilla defeated Mijinyawa in APC primaries and subsequently turned around to appoint him (Mijinyawa) as a commissioner in his cabinet.
“Let him go and sort it out with Kwankwanso who defeated him to third place in APC presidential primaries in 2014. When he finishes with these people, let him then come and face Buhari,” the source said.
Also speaking on Atiku, special assistant on new media to the president, Onochie said Atiku’s assertion that he would defeat Buhari in an election was an idea not based on reality.
Speaking on a Channels Television programme, the presidential aide said: “Atiku may have had that weight some years ago, but over the years he’s been losing that weight, and at the moment, I can tell you that even in his local government area in his native Adamawa, he can’t win any election.
“So where is the weight? I think Abubakar Atiku has lost touch with reality; I think he needs to check again.
“He is known to hop from one party to the other when he cannot have control in that party.
“President Buhari is not competing with him at the moment. What he’s trying to do is to pull President Buhari out of the good work he’s doing and to come to wallow in the mud with him.
“The president also knows that the ban on politics has not been lifted; so, he is not going to come out to wallow in the mud with him.”
Asked to react to Atiku’s claims that the Buhari government has failed to deliver on its electoral promises, she said:
“absolute bunkum! There is nothing that is farther from the truth than what the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar has said.
“Nigeria was on its knees when this present government came into place, and it was the same PDP that he has now returned to that has kept Nigeria on its knees for a period of 16 years. It was not under APC that the economy of the nation almost collapsed right under our eyes.
“I don’t see how this government has caused the problem that it is grappling with today. And this government is trying very hard to clean the mess over the last 16 years.
“Nobody should expect that these problems will be sorted out in three years. It is not done anywhere.
“As we speak, there is no inch of this country that is still under the occupation of Boko Haram. A lot needs to be done, and this government is doing more.”
Speaking specifically on Atiku’s claim that the government has failed to deliver the three million jobs it promised annually, she said: “jobs are being created every day. It is doing all the best it can. I will not accept nor agree that this government has failed in the aspect of job creation.”
National chairman of APC was equally dismissive of Atiku’s political prospects saying it was an act of desperation by an aged politician who sees 2019 as his last opportunity to be president.
Odigie-Oyegun in an interview said: “We are not happy losing anybody, certainly not anybody of his status. But why are people surprised that he left? I can’t understand it. More than 12, 18 months ago, it was clear that he would leave. The only doubt was when and how?
“The issue is this, when a man is determined to be president, and his history tells all of that, from his period as Vice President, and then you perceive that the current president is serving four years, he may wish to serve another four years, and I pray he does. For Vice President Atiku, at his age, it is either now or never because if President Buhari serves another ( four years), that will be eight years.
“Convention will have it that the presidency may go South. That’s another eight years. So, game over for Vice President Atiku. It is either now he makes this last throw of the dice, or he will permanently forget the presidency.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Frank yesterday, warned of massive defections from the party, saying many of those who earlier left PDP for APC have now realised that the ruling party is the worst place to be as it has no regards for laid down democratic tenets.
He, however, pledged to remain in the party.
While warning APC about its future, Frank said “the lack of internal democracy, disregard for the party’s constitution, irregular schedule of meetings, inability to conduct a convention, the absence of a Board of Trustees and arrogance of the party leadership will bring about the impending doom.
“Nigerians will remember that I predicted what is happening and I am still saying that if this party continues in this direction, an end will come to it so soon. Though the truth is bitter, but I will continue to sacrifice myself in speaking the truth because I know I am speaking the minds of a lot of members who cannot speak out”, he stated.
According to him, the leadership of the party should be remorseful following the resignation of Atiku and many others from its fold, saying in as much as the democratic system of government permit politicians to move from one party to the other, the failure of APC leaders at the national level must have been responsible for the recent massive defection from the ruling party.
He said, “the beneficiaries of the flagrant disregard for the constitution of the party, impunity, and silence of some leaders are responsible for the misfortune befalling APC.”
According to Frank, “Nigerians should note one very interesting thing in the politics of Nigeria today; in the past, it used to be that people decamp or leave the party that has lost election or that is in opposition to the party that is ruling. But, here we are today, people are moving from the ruling party to the party in opposition. It is saddening but interesting the way politics is played out in Nigeria because here we are, people leaving the comfort zone of government and the corridors of power to the opposition party and this should signal danger to those leading the ruling party.”
According to him, “it was high time APC realised that politics is about numbers, every youth, man or woman is important. The kind of arrogance going on in the party led some of us out of PDP in those days, but we have now realized that it is even worse in APC. Though it is already getting late, but if this impunity is not tackled between now and early next year, APC may witness the mother of all defections to opposition parties.”
He nevertheless pledged to remain in the party saying: “I believe I have worked hard to bring about the ruling party as a young man, but if the impunity does not stop, I will be left with no option. Not only me, but some other serving governors, members of the National Assembly and other known party leaders across the country have to decide their political future elsewhere”, he threatened.
In his reaction, Second Republic Lawmaker, Mr Junaid Mohammed, said Atiku’s move back to the PDP, does not portend any threat to APC.
“Frankly speaking, Obasanjo (former president Olusegun Obasanjo) handpicked Atiku to become Vice-President because he considered him serviceable to his government. And between when they left office, and now, Atiku has changed party four times. So there is nothing surprising about his latest move. It should be known that Atiku is a political opportunist and he is only interested in what drives his business and commercial interests”.
He went further, “I have spoken to some Governors and former Ministers about his move, they have nothing substantial to say because he has no people on the ground even if he wants to rig election. We are all aware he lost an election in his home state, Adamawa and in his ward. Also, he lost woefully during APC primaries two years ago to people like Kwankwanso. So I don’t see how PDP will take him seriously this time.”