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Atiku Vs Buhari : South-East Pact in perspective

By Dirisu Yakubu
It is barely over a month to the 2019 general elections and as expected, opposing parties are going the whole hog to expose the weak link (real and imagined) in the armoury of one another. In a country where democracy vehicle is yet to take off on full throttle, every weapon is deployed in the prosecution of the “war without bloodshed” (apologies to Mao Tse Tung).

Earlier in the week, the Buhari Media Organisation, BMO, claimed that a litany of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stalwarts were working behind the scene for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 polls. In what appeared a true assertion, BMO wondered why such party chieftains like the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and governors of the South-East geo-political zone elected on the platform of the PDP are not openly identifying with the party’s Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar

According to BMO, some PDP governorship and National Assembly candidates in the South-East are running their sundry campaigns with their photographs placed side-by-side with that of President Buhari. This development, they argued is an indication that they have adopted President Buhari for 2019.

In fairness to the BMO, Ekweremadu has yet to demonstrate the variant of solidarity the PDP and Atiku would have expected from him with a little over a month to the elections. For a man who until the defection of Senate President, Bukola Saraki was the highest elective office holder in the current political epoch; the lawmaker’s dispositions in the affairs of the once-dominant party in the past few weeks have led to speculations about the possibility of joining the ruling party before the elections.

In studious silence however, Ekweremadu has neither publicly hobnobbed with the APC, nor seen in nocturnal meeting with any known official of the ruling party. So, what could be responsible for the sudden aloofness in the affairs of the PDP by a man whose hitherto persistent criticisms of the ruling government and dynamic roles for his party were a constant source of strength for the party members and supporters across the country?

The story out there is that the lawmaker who has been representing Enugu West Senatorial District since 2003 felt belittled by Atiku who failed to consult with him and other critical party stakeholders in the South-East before settling for Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state, as his running mate in the Presidential election. A similar thought being discussed in whispers is that the lawmaker sees himself as a more visible political figure than Obi, whom given the assurance that the Presidency may be ceded to the South-East in 2023, ought to be consolidating on his support base, rather than helping Obi to build his.

Responding to these claims, Dan Ulasi, former PDP chairman in Anambra state agreed that mistakes were made in the processes leading to the selection of Obi but added that Atiku has since reached out to all major stakeholders concerned. Speaking at the African Independent Television Breakfast show on Thursday, Ulasi said all five states in the South-East will vote en-masse for the Atiku-Obi Presidential ticket, urging Nigerians to dismiss with a wave of the hand, insinuations that some PDP leaders were on the side of President Buhari.

He said: “It is true that there were pockets of misgivings here and there but I can assure you that we have resolved these issues as a party. If elections hold today, the PDP will vote massively for Atiku and Obi.”

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On claims that some PDP governors and leaders may influence the voting pattern of the people, the former chairman said those who speculate on such possibilities do not know about the independent-mindedness of the South—East, which he said, date back to years immemorial.

“The people know those they will vote for and we need to tell the people that the South-East are independent and sophisticated when it comes to matters of political decision making. They have demonstrated this over the years and they know what they want, what is good for them.”

Speaking on the issue, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP and Director, Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan, said those peddling rumours of PDP governors working for Buhari have run out of smart arguments. According to him, they are merely out to say things that would be music in the ears of the President, given that Nigerians are preparing to cast their ballot in an election “that would determine the fate of the country in the next four years.”

He said, “When the PDP stated sometime ago that some governors and highly-placed leaders were on their way to the PDP; Nigerians saw that come to pass. Three governors returned to the party’s fold and we took over the leadership of both Houses of the federal parliament.

“The PDP does not trade in the rumour market and having challenged them to name the governor of South-East extraction working for Buhari, they are yet to respond. Nigerians should realize that elections are around the corner and some parties can do and say anything, just in a bid to score cheap political points.”

In the words of the publicity scribe, the South-East is in a position to know that the 2023 Presidency carrot being dangled is also what some interest individuals are also laying claim to as a basis for supporting Buhari in 2019.

He continued: “We have a candidate who is irrevocably committed to the restructuring of the Nigerian state. With restructuring, every state of the federation and all geo-political zones would feel the mileage their resources can afford them. Federalism would avail every Nigerian its dividend and the nation will take her place in the community of nations as the pride of the continent once again. Our South-East brothers and sisters know what is good for them. I make bold to say that our governors are with us and there is no reason whatsoever for them to think of working with a candidate who doesn’t keep his promise.”

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Atiku would be pretty confident of his chances in the South-East as the PDP currently has in its kitty, Abia, Ebonyi and Enugu states while Anambra and Imo are under the grip of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and the APC, respectively. The crisis in the Imo chapter of the ruling party may turned the state a battle ground for all, after all.


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