*Ex-VP winds down campaign office
*Says: “I’m not a quitter; we shall reconvene”
By Henry Umoru & Umaru Usuf
No 1 Luanda Street, Wuse 11, Abuja easily ranked as one of the busiest offices in Abuja in terms of number of visitors and daily activities.
The entire street and the adjoining Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent groaned under the weight of vehicular and human traffic that flowed there. There were as many prominent Nigerians as there were non prominent ones: party supporters, praise singers, and hangers on, coming in and going out, some of them hardly taking notice of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC office, located nearby.
Security men watching over the area were always under pressure trying to control the even ugly crowd. That used to be the world of the Atiku Campaign Organisation.
But all that began to evaporate penultimate Friday, just hours after delegates to the PDP National Convention delivered their verdict and picked President Goodluck Jonathan as the party’s flagbearer in the April presidential election.
For thousands of Atiku’s supporters, it is simply hope dashed. Indeed, end of a carnival. Now the hundreds of praise singers and hangers on must look elsewhere for their daily bread.
But there are also the regular staff and temporary personnel that have to join the labour market.
When Saturday Vanguard visited the office on Thursday, it looked practically deserted. Only a handful of people were sighted with a few cars parked in the vicinity.
The security men manning the scanning machine at the office entrance now appeared friendly.
On the first floor of the office, the chairs at the reception have been removed, leaving only the furniture of the Secretaries.
Campaign support groups which were waiting to be paid were asked to come back, for their money.
Alhaji Atiku had a valedictory meeting with the staff yesterday to thank them for their support and a job well done.Some of the staff who wore long faces are disappointed that he failed to win primaries. Atiku’s neighbours will surely miss the ever bubbling atmosphere at the Campaign office.
No fewer than 5,000 – staff and volunteers – worked for the Atiku Campaign Organisation.
Why I lost
Alhaji Atijku at the meeting attributed his failure to become the party’s flagbearer to what he called absence of a level playing ground.
His defeat, he said, was not because the campaign Organization never prepared for the contest, but because its efforts were frustrated by the arrangements put in place. But he said, the defeat notwithstanding, ‘I’m not a quitter.
Atiku who noted that he was still holding consultation with his family and political associates on the Presidential primaries said: “as you all know, the convention (PDP presidential primaries) fell short of our expectations. You should not despair (and) on my own part, I want to assure you that I am not a quitter. If you think that I am quitting and giving up, you are making a mistake.
“Since the conclusion of the convention I have been holding consultations with my family and political associates on the way forward. Those consultations are continuing. “In the meantime, we shall be winding down activities at this campaign office and closing the office so that you may get back to the other aspects of your lives. I thank you for your hard work and sacrifices. “I believe we shall reconvene.”
Atiku who recalled that only a few people gave his bid for the PDP presidential ticket any chance of getting that far, said “when we began this journey a few months ago, few people gave us a chance of even being competitive. However, we were able to reach a number of important milestones along the way.
‘’Some said I was not going to be allowed to return to the party (PDP), but I did. Some said I was not going to be given a waiver, I got a waiver. Some said I may not emerge as consensus candidate, but I prevailed. Some said I was not going to go through the screening process, but I scaled that hurdle. We were also able to travel the country and interact with party delegates. And we became very competitive.”
“I would like to say that our inability to prevail last week Thursday (January 13) was not due to your failure; it was not due to your lack of effort or commitment. I know that you were committed and that you worked hard. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You should, therefore, hold your heads high and never despair.”
Speaking earlier, while bidding staff of the Campaign Organization farewell, Director General of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Sen. Ben Obi that irrespective of the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries, Atiku remains a political force to be reckoned with in Nigeria.
*Atiku meets opposition parties in Adamawa
However, Alhaji Atiku on a visit to Yola register for the forthcoming elections, was met on arrival at the Yola Airport by governorship candidates of the major opposition parties in the state such as ACN, CPC and Labour Party. The former Vice President and Governor Murtala Nyako are estranged, their relationship having worsened after the majority of the delegates to the Abuja convention gave their support to President Jonathan.
After the airport reception, the opposition politicians and Atiku drove round the state capital before the former Vice President went to register at his Ajiya II ward.
Sources said Alhaji Atiku later went into a closed door meeting with the opposition politicians.
According to sources, the meeting discussed how to dislodge Governor Nyako in the coming election.
Garba Shehu, Atiku Abubakar ‘s media aide described the rumour of the former Vice President attempt to defect to CPC as laughable .
There were discordant tunes in the Adamawa state chapter of the PDP moments after the party primaries prompting some aspirants and key stakeholders to jump ship.
Mohamed Buba Marwa, a retired Brigadier General and governorship aspirant left the party for CPC, while Senator Jubril Aminu got disenfranchised moments before the primaries and withdrew. Dr. Umar Ardo, another gubernatorial aspirant also withdrew.