By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Johnbosco Agarakwu, Omeiza Ajayi & Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA—President Muhammadu Buhari may have rebuffed the threat from the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, bloc in the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the seven-day ultimatum from the group for a meeting ran out last night.
The President’s rebuff was despite the delivery of the ultimatum letter to him by the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
The nPDP bloc, comprising some leading elements in the party, including Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker, Yakubu Dogara; Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and some other leading legislators, Vanguard learned, is now set to appraise its future in the party.
The nPDP threat nonetheless, one of the President’s strongest confidants, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, dismissed the threat as ineffectual, saying Buhari had in the past won the strongholds of the nPDP patrons without their contributions.
Speaking during a visit to the presidential villa yesterday, Governor El-Rufai nevertheless called for talks to address the genuine grievances of the nPDP.
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, confirmed to Vanguard that it had initiated talks with the nPDP bloc.
The nPDP bloc representing one of the legacy parties that formed the APC in 2014, had last Wednesday issued a seven-day ultimatum to President Buhari to address perceptions of marginalisation of the bloc in the federal administration.
The group had insinuated that besides one seat in the Federal Executive Council given to a member of the bloc who it claimed did not contribute significant votes to the presidential election victory, nothing commensurate with its contribution was given to it.
Slim hope of response
The letter in which the group articulated its grievances was channeled to Odigie-Oyegun for onward presentation to the President who was at that time abroad on a medical check-up.
By last night, several sources in the party, including the nPDP bloc, confirmed that the President had not responded to the request of the bloc.
A source privy to the developments told Vanguard yesterday that the nPDP bloc, even though they were not hopeful of a response from President Buhari, had maintained a slim hope that the President would accede to see them.
“I don’t think they really were expecting a response but just hoping that if they were invited that they would use the opportunity to reassess their position and negotiate a better deal in the party,” a high-level source said.
“So from what I have gathered, they would be meeting to reassess their position. The chairman has submitted the letter but no acknowledgment or anything from the President.”
Mr. Timi Frank, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, who is politically estranged from Odigie-Oyegun, confirmed the development yesterday at a press briefing.
Frank, who served as the National Youth Leader of the defunct nPDP told journalists yesterday in Abuja that the group stood with its leader, Alh. Kawu Baraje, despite claims to the contrary by some other individuals who belonged to the group in 2014.
It was not an empty threat — Timi Frank
Frank said: “Today makes it seven days from the day our group brought this letter to the party. But as it stands, we have not gotten any response yet from them. As we have said, whatever we must have said in that letter, it is not an empty threat. If they fail to recognize us, so be it.
“But at the appropriate time, we are going to respond to Nigerians based on what we have said. It is not just a mere threat, it is not just a mere ultimatum, but I will tell you clearly that we are meeting our leaders, we are going to come up with a clear position to brief Nigerians on our next step if finally, they don’t attend to us.
“But at the end of the day, we believe we are going to take a decision that will benefit the Nigerian people because we believe that democracy should be all-inclusive. Democracy should not be a situation where when you speak the truth; you will be harassed, you will be intimidated and so on. Today, everyone that is being harassed within the APC, go and check your timetable, they are those of us who came from the new PDP within the APC that are still being harassed.
“We have not seen where anybody from the ACN or the CPC or the ANPP or the section of APGA that happened to join us that is being intimidated or harassed. It is clear.
“So, we are not going to be intimidated. We believe we are going to do the right thing. We believe we are going to do everything possible to rescue Nigeria. The way we rescued Nigeria from PDP.
“So, if today, we decided to lay our complaints to the party and they feel it is not important for them to attend to our issues, we will leave them to God. God will someday judge,” he said.
According to him, the nPDP has continued to face serious marginalization except for two of its members who got presidential appointments.
“The only two beneficiaries we can remember in our group is Rotimi Amaechi who finally became the Minister of Transportation and Sen. Hajiya Alhassan who became the Minister for Women Affairs.
“These are the two people we can remember. So, I want to make it very clear again that we are not going to be intimidated by any group or anybody,” he said.
He dismissed the claim by Senator Adamu and Dr. Abdulmumin Jibrin, a member of the House of Representatives that the ultimatum to the president did not have the imprimatur of all major stakeholders of the nPDP.
“I want to make it very clear that we have no faction in our group. I saw in some of the papers I read today that there is a crack in the new PDP.
“There is no crack as far as we are concerned. We only have one group, we have only one leader, and that leader remains Alh. Kawu Baraje. And I want to make it known to all of you that Alhaji Kawu Baraje was not alone in drafting that letter.
“He had the mandate of over 95% of some of us that joined the new PDP into the APC that made the party successful in 2015.
“You can see, and everybody knows that it was because of our participation in the APC that practically brought the victory we are all enjoying today. So, when people like Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, who used to be one of us, came up with some of his positions yesterday, I want to clearly make it known to the Nigerian people that they must have forgotten history and I want to make it known to you that whatever they have said to counter our moves are total lies.”
He dismissed the claim by the two men that the nPDP bloc was compensated with the office of Senate and Speaker of the House as he insisted that the occupants got the offices in spite of oppositions from the APC.”
Buhari will win despite nPDP— El-Rufai
Speaking to State House correspondents, yesterday, Governor El-Rufai said: “Who are these new PDP people that are threatening? This is Kwara, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers but I don’t think Amaechi is part of them. So let’s take these four states, go back to 2003 and check.
“Buhari then under ANPP won in all these four states. Go back to 2007, Buhari won in these four states. Even when Shakarau was running as a presidential candidate in 2011, Buhari defeated him in Kano. And, I do not doubt in my mind that even if the people threatening to leave, leave, it will have absolutely no impact on the presidential elections, the president will win Sokoto, Kwara, and Adamawa easily.
“Kano is already in the bag, I mean if you saw the crowd that welcomed the president without the former governor Kwankwanso, Kano has always been the president’s base.
“To me, that is not the issue, the issue is that they have written, they have expressed grievances, some of the grievances are legitimate and should be looked into. But to threaten to leave the party is neither here nor there.
“If they are honest with themselves they know that President Buhari will win those states with or without them. But if you have a grievance, we are a party and politics is a game of addition, not subtraction, so we don’t want to lose anyone.
“So, I think those the letter was addressed to ought to study it and look into what is reasonably possible to accommodate them because politics, as I said, is a game of addition.”
PDP moves to woo nPDP back
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the PDP has commenced moves to woo back the nPDP bloc into the opposition party.
The nPDP left the PDP in 2014 to join the APC.
The Contact and Integration Committee of the party, led by Senator Liyel Imoke, former governor of Cross River State, had been mandated to meet with the aggrieved members following the emergence of a faction within the ranks of the nPDP.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan told Vanguard exclusively, yesterday, that defectors from the party into the APC would return, noting that the APC does not mean well for them. In his words, the PDP would stop at nothing to convince them to return home as preliminary preparations for the 2019 polls get under away.
“The PDP National Committee on Contact and Integration is in talks with them (nPDP) and all other parties that might want to engage or work with the PDP,” Ologbondiyan stated.
While it is not clear if the PDP has resolved to grant them waivers to contest for elective positions, Vanguard gathered that Imoke and his team had been tasked to impress it upon them that they would be accommodated upon their return while their “past sins,” would be forgiven.
A party source, who pleaded anonymity, said with the fragmentation of the group; some would naturally return to the PDP, citing the position of a factional leader of the group, Senator Abdullahi Adamu as reason the centre can no longer hold.
“Senator Adamu has rocked the boat and I can tell you that most of those leaders would make a return to the PDP. Not everyone in the nPDP supports the position of Adamu. With his address yesterday (Monday), expect mass defection in the weeks ahead,” he noted.