Barely 48 hours to the make-or-break National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), returnee and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday met with former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, behind closed door, at his Hilltop residence in Minna, Niger State.
Although the Wazirin Adamawa told journalists that the “visit was purely a private one,” Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that Atiku was in Minna to woo the former military president and frontline leader of the party to support his candidate.
“Issues bordering on Saturday’s elective convention of the opposition party dominated the discussion. In fact, Atiku was at the Hilltop to canvass the support of IBB for a candidate who would help him realise his presidential ambition in 2019. Yes, this much I can reveal,” a source revealed.
Other aspirants for the chairmanship position, which is zoned to the South include Uche Secondus, Raymond Dokpesi, Gbenga Daniel, Bode George, Rashid Ladoja and Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
“Whoever emerges the party chairman would play a critical role in influencing the choice of the presidential candidate. You know that IBB and former President Jonathan appear to be backing one of the chairmanship aspirants. You can, therefore, understand why Atiku’s visit at this time is very significant ahead of the convention,” the source added.
Atiku, accompanied by the former governor of the state, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Tanko Beji and other prominent members of the party in the state arrived the home of General Babangida at exactly 12:35pm and went straight into the meeting, which ended at 3:45pm.
The visit came a day after the chairman of the caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi, the chairman of the convention and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa; Taraba State Governor, Dairus Ishyaku; Senate Minority Leader, Abdul Ningi and Senator Ben Obi paid a visit on Babangida.
The sources said it was not unlikely that Atiku is scheming to cue into the Prof. Adeniran camp, which is reportedly enjoying the backing and support of Jonathan and Babangida.
Babangida and Jonathan’s endorsement of Adeniran notwithstanding, the support base of Secondus is believed to be expanding as minutes tick by, as delegates from the South-East have reportedly threw their cap in his ring.
This is in addition to the bloc votes he is expected to garner from the 19 northern states and as well as the votes from the South-South delegates.
“With Daniel, George, Ladoja and Adeniran sharing the votes from South-West, it would take more than a miracle and magic combined to stop Secondus’ victory,” a party source said last night.
Indications are strong that the former vice president may declare his intention to run for presidency in 2019 soon after the national convention.
A source close to the campaign organisation of the Wazirin Adamawa in Minna simply said: “All arrangements for the declaration has been completed. Atiku will declare to run for president on the ticket of the PDP after the convention of our party.”
Atiku, who arrived Minna in his private aircraft, T 7 AAA, at about 12.15pm was received at the Minna International Airport by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Ketso and a team of PDP leaders, among them former Governor Aliyu, state chairman of the party, Alhaji Tanko Beji, Senator Shem Zagbayi Nuhu and the secretary of the party in the state, Alhaji Umar Santali.
Atiku who was deputy to former President Olusegun Obasanjo when Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, contested against President Muhammadu Buhari alongside three others for the ticket of the APC in 2014.
He lost out in the primary but collapsed his structure to support the president at the 2015 presidential campaign.
He left the PDP to join the APC in February 2014, after losing the presidential election of 2007 on the platform of the then Action Congress (AC).
While he was in the PDP, he also declared his intention to contest for the Presidency in 2011 but lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan.
On Wednesday, Babangida said Atiku was free to move to any political party of his choice.
“He is a Nigerian, he is allowed to go to any party and our constitution allows it. So, it is not new and there is nothing wrong for politician to move from one party to another,” he said.