Unknown to many, the zonal rallies embarked upon by the major opposition party in the land, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP a fortnight ago, are not just assemblies of party members and loyalists in preparation for the 2019 general elections. Far more than that, they provide opportunities for the party to negotiate with aggrieved members of other political parties, with promises of inclusion in the government it intend to form upon victory at the polls.

The zonal tours which commenced with a trip to Sokoto, North-West Nigeria has also seen the PDP campaign train hit Ilorin and Ibadan, leaving the North-East, South-South and South-East as the zones left to host the Presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and members of his team. So, what has the party done thus far with the visits aforementioned?

Findings by Saturday Vanguard revealed that the PDP is intensifying consultations with disgruntled members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and would use the opportunity of these tours to strike a deal with them that would be beneficial to both parties. Although Governors Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) are not expected to quit the APC, same cannot be said of their loyalists, many of whom have pitched their tends with new parties, some of which are members of the Coalition of the United Political Parties, CUPP, which last week, adopted Atiku as its consensus Presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.

Speaking exclusively to this medium on the issue, Kola Ologbondiyan, Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization, PPCO, said the party is doing everything legitimate to rescue the nation, including bringing into its fold, “those desirous of seeing power return to the people in 2019.”

The ruling party, he added, has succeeded in causing division amongst “our people” adding that the PDP is ready to throw its doors open to all Nigerians, many of whom have already indicated their willingness to join its fold before the elections.

He said, “Our rallies are not just on speaking about elections; we are using them to reach out to our brothers and sisters who have hitherto lost hope in the Nigerian project. We are assuring them that the days when our economy ranked the best in the continent of Africa can be replicated again. As a party, we are against any form of injustice wherever it occurs, even in the APC. So, we are constantly in touch with some of these people who were unfairly treated, especially in the course of their ill-fated congresses and primaries held nationwide recently.”

In the words of the publicity scribe, the ruling party has been very uncomfortable with the party’s preparations for the polls since the commencement of its zonal rallies, stressing that the recent “onslaught” against some of its members is unconnected with party’s growing popularity amongst Nigerians.

“They fear that the worst can happen to them but we are telling them that losing election is no big deal. You will recall that when they could not comprehend the massive attendance that greeted our Sokoto rally, they started panicking and invented all forms of propaganda to smear us. But when the feat was repeated at Ilorin and Ibadan, they couldn’t hide their fears anymore and this is responsible for the continued harassment of our members on trumped up charges by the Buhari administration,” he said.

Working in sync with the CUPP, the party’s Contact and Mobilization Committee chaired by former Cross River state governor, Liyel Imoke is the arrowhead of the negotiations, having played a similar role that ultimately led to the return of prominent figures like Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Governors Aminu Tambuwal, Samuel Ortom and Abdulfatai Ahmed of Sokoto, Benue and Kwara state respectively.

A highly-placed party official told Saturday Vanguard that negotiations centre on long-term commitments as against campaign duties, if only to prove the preparedness of the PDP to build a broad-base front reflective of the nation’s diverse interests and groups.

“The party shares the sentiments of these people we are in talk with. We all agree that the Nigeria is not working under the watch of President Buhari. Hunger is pervasive with people taking their lives and what have you. So, everywhere we go, we reach out to Nigerians with our policy document which when implemented, will give a new lease of life to the citizens and residents of this country. I can inform you that the reception has been perfect.

“Do you know what happened in Akwa Ibom state recently when over 20, 000 joined the PDP and were personally received by the governor? This is what I mean when I said the message is clear and the reception of our party message is perfect. We have not even gone to the South-South yet but Akwa Ibom has already spoken,” he said while pleading not to be named as he is not officially commissioned to speak on party matters.

Corroborating this viewpoint, spokesperson of the PDP campaign council, Prince Kassim Afegbua in an exclusive chat with our correspondent had this to say about the rallies and their expected mileage for the party.

“The campaigns so far have indicated that Nigerians are really tired of this government and seriously need a new approach and direction out of the present morass. The turnout in those rallies speaks to some form of consensus that Nigerians are fed up with poverty, deprivations, impoverishment and economic hardship that has crippled the very fabric of our national life. We cannot continue in this hardship due to unemployment, inflationary spiral, biting hunger, excruciating poverty and absence of government presence in our collective and individual aspirations.

“The government no longer offers hope and cannot market hope which is the essential resource to keep any nation going. Once a government cannot market hope or offer hope to the people, what you have is hopelessness. That is exactly what the Buhari administration has done. It has returned us to era of austerity measures with extreme poverty walking on two legs. In the fullness of such bizarre realities, you can rest assured that in a matter of time, the people will speak through their votes to send this government packing.

“There is a huge difference between PDP and the APC. Life was much more bearable and tolerable under PDP than APC. The APC promise of change has been a sore point in our well being. The idea of anti-corruption crusade has been a mere fluke, yielding nothing but hypocrisy, nepotism, cronyism and selective amnesia. We are worse off hence Nigerians have seen the PDP as the ultimate elixir to bail the country out of this tokenism that APC is daily advertising. As confused as they are, they haven’t mustered the courage to commence their campaigns because they are plotting and working out the modalities on how to rig the election. But I can assure you that we are monitoring them bumper to bumper, and will expose them at the nick of time for Nigerians to see their double standards.

“Atiku has been enjoying tremendous endorsement across board, across the geopolitical zones and across the states of the federation. He is an employer of labour who knows how to manage men and resources unlike others whose productivity is suspect. As a private citizen, he has over 50, 000 employees with several hundreds of thousands of persons benefiting directly and indirectly from such huge investment in human capital. This is the age of Atiku Abubakar. It is an idea whose time has come and you can rest assured that come 2019, Nigerians will speak with one voice to oust this government through the ballot box,” he said.

 

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