By Jide Ajani, Deputy Editor
The chequered journey of AtikuÂ Abubakar, the Turaki of Adamawa, in political rediscovery after the high wire battle of attrition between him and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, his boss.
The meeting had to hold in Lagos and it did. Just about two months ago, the major proponents of the mega party stormed Lagos for a meeting with former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
In attendance were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former military head of state, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd); Chief Olu Falae, National Chairman of the Democratic Peoples Alliance, DPA; former governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarwa, who is also leader of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP; and Senator Ben Obi, former Political Adviser to the National Security Adviser, NSA, and presidential running mate for Action Congress, AC, at the 2007 polls.Â Their mission was to be a make or mar one.
Top on the agenda was to attempt a last ditch effort to save their mega project.
However, that meeting was not to achieve the desired objective â€“ at least for those who had traveled all the way to Lagos.
Sunday Vanguard was told that at that meeting, some conditions were put forward by Asiwaju Tinubu, one of which was that the mega party would retain the name Action Congress, AC, which was the domain political server for most of those in the mega fold.Â The consensus at the end of the meeting was that the name of the emerging mega-movement would be Action Congress Something â€“ whatever that something would be had to be determined at a latter date.Â It was also agreed that the broom, which is the symbol of the AC would be retained for the mega-party.Â At the end of that meeting, most of those who had traveled all the way knew that the welcome was not good enough and, therefore, began to have doubts whether the mega fold would not unravel. It did.
Other consultations were made but one thing kept recurring. First was the fact that most of the exploratory meetings for the mega party was not almost always attended by Tinubu; Senator Olorunimbe Mamora always represented Tinubu.
Second was the fact that almost always there would be a contentious issue to be trashed and it would almost always be introduced by the Tinubu apostles or representatives.
It was from those early days that some of the movers of the mega-party had suspected that Tinubuâ€™s wing of the AC might never fully come on board.Â They were right.
The argument of the Tinubu wing of AC was always that it has two state governors (Lagos and Edo), two potential state governors who are attempting to become governors through the instrumentality of the courts (Ekiti and Osun States), over half a dozen senators, over two scores local government chairmen, over two scores house of assembly members, over two scores house of representatives members, too, and, therefore, would never want their identities to be subsumed in a new political party. They, too, may be right.
After that Lagos meeting, Atiku knew the mega party project no longer merited his attention, lest he would continue to chase shadows.
Muhammadu Buhari was the first to move on by publicly declaring for the Congress For Progressive Change, CPC. But if that was how the mega partyâ€™s death knell was sounded, how about Atikuâ€™s exit from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP?
In September 2006, Atiku was in his office at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, when Ahmadu Ali, the then tough-talking National Chairman of PDP was ushered in.
His mission was remedial.Â Having been thoroughly embarrassed by the action of Obasanjo and the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the PDP, by re-registering members of the PDP, a move that was aimed principally at the associates and supporters of Atiku, and also having refused to register Atiku at his Jada Ward in Adamawa State, there was need to save face.
Therefore, that day, Aliâ€™s mission was one laden with complete unorthodoxy.
The registration of party members is usually carried out at their ward level.Â But since Atiku had been denied registration by the link man for PDP in Adamawa State, Senator Jubril Aminu and the outcry was thoroughly embarrassing, Ali and Obasanjo decided to save face.Â So, Ali brought Atikuâ€™s PDP card to him in the Villa.Â Soon to follow this move was the indirect expulsion of Atiku from the PDP.
The only option open to him was to join and declare for the AC. Now that Atiku is on his final lap into the PDP, there are conjectures as to what he would be doing in the party. In an earlier conversation with Mallam Garba Shehu, Atikuâ€™s spokesman, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that Atikuâ€™s mission in PDP
â€œOur mission in PDP is not to go in there and pick quarrels or fight with anybody but to go in there with a profound sense of humility and work together with other stakeholders in the party. â€œIt is natural that since we left the PDP, the political space we occupied would have been filled by some other personalities and interests.
This is natural.Â It is also natural that there may be anxiety in the air. â€œBut what all these signals is the beginning of new and better things for the polity.Â And whereas some people have started saying all sorts of things like a presidential ambition or that our return to the party would serve as a counter force, I want to make it clear that this is not correct in material details.
â€œOur position is clear and it has been made clear to our people that even those with whom the mega party deal could not work are not to be derided.
â€œOur mission in PDP is to work with all and sundry as well as ensuring that the spirit of every vote counting and every member accorded his due rights and privileges is upheld at all timesâ€.
Yet, there are challenges. First is what the PDP constitution says about returning decampees.
But Atikuâ€™s people are quick to point out that they never left PDP but rather, the powers that be at the point of departure were the ones who refused to re-register Atikuâ€™s associates.
But more importantly, the Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme Reconciliation Committee Report may have created a soft landing for Atiku and his associates. The Ekwueme Committee was set up in July 2007 with a view to bringing back leaders of the party who were forced out or who left out of frustration with Obasanjo.
The report, which was accepted by the NEC of PDP about two years ago, made it clear that members of the party who were not re-registered in 2006 during that infamous exercise should be treated as though they had not left the party in the first instance.
The Ekwueme Committee Report was also sent to the Haliru Bello Mohammed Committee on how to reposition the party before it was finally ratified by the NEC of the party.
And whereas the report was silent on the issue of seniority and privileges as stated in Article 8 and Article 9 of the PDP Constitution, the fact of treating members who were forced out of the party as though they never left creates a cushion for the bulk of Atikuâ€™s associates returning to the party. (See What The PDP Constitution Says)
And whereas those in Atikuâ€™s group would readily insist that his mission has nothing to do with next yearâ€™s presidential race, there are indications that anything can happen.
One of such pointers is the interest of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan in seeing to an Atiku return to the PDP,
Returnee Party Members
What The PDP Constitution Says
Article 8. 9 states:
â€œPersons who desire to rejoin the party after leaving it shall, unless exempted by the National Working Committee, be placed on probation for a period of time not less than a yearâ€
Article 10 (c) Status of
â€œDecampees who return to the party should lose their seniority and privileges conferred by previous seniorityâ€