Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday appealed to all top guns of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, to “return home” and contribute to the rebuilding process ongoing in the party.
Atiku made the call at a special session held for him at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja when he paid a courtesy visit on the National Caretaker Committee (NCC).
People like Senate President Bukola Saraki, Abubakar Baraje, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Rotimi Amaechi, Murtala Nyako and a host of other big wigs left the PDP in anger following disagreement within the party when Bamanga Tukur was the national chairman.
Atiku, who openly resigned his membership of the APC about three weeks ago, said at the National Executive Committee (NEC) hall of the party in front of an overflowing crowd that “PDP is the only party in Nigeria” and thus urged all who matter in APC to dump the party.
However, in a quick response to Atiku’s call on APC bigwigs to cross over, the National Chairman of APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, has said no member of the party will defect to PDP in solidarity with Atiku.
Odigie-Oyegun said that the fact that no big fish in APC has jumped ship with Atiku to PDP now is an assurance that no one will follow him out.
He stated further that the APC is actually going to get stronger with the exit of Atiku.
But Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman, National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the PDP, said that the PDP is expectant of more defection from the APC, saying that the exit of Atiku has opened a floodgate of defection from the APC.
He noted that the PDP as currently structured is a party that will go back to power in 2019.
“Mr. Chairman, I want to congratulate you for a wonderful work which you have been doing to redeem the image of this party, to return it, rebrand it and return it to its original form. I want to assure you of my support and cooperation at all times, to make sure that these objectives are achieved by you and subsequently by your successors.
“We should remember that those of us who founded this party, founded it on the principles of democracy, good governance, unity of this country and the prosperity of its people.
“Over the years, like any or every human organisation, it has faced its challenges but I want to pay tribute to those who have stayed steadfast through thick and thin to see us through to this point. Now that we have learnt our lessons, I hope that we will be guided by the lessons we have learnt. And that is to make sure that we build an all-inclusive party, where every part of this country will have a sense of belonging and sense of participation.
“To achieve all these, there must be sacrifices, understanding and compromises in the process of achieving that. And that is what I speak to members to imbibe. But as you know, one thing that I will never compromise is the internal democracy process in a given political party. And I hope we all must have learnt our lessons.
“I, therefore, want to pledge to you Mr. Chairman and members of the National Working Committee that my returning home is to help continue with what you have started, reforming, re-branding this very party which is the only party in this country.
“Let me pay tribute to past leadership of this great party; where ever they may be and to call upon them to please return home as I have done. It is only by their returning home that we will build a stronger, more united party that can again return to government and continue to deliver the dividends of democracy”.
Makarfi in his response to the speech made by Atiku said that he’s expectant of more defection from the APC, saying the return of Atiku to PDP is a good omen.
“Your Excellency, you have opened the floodgates and we expect many more high profile returnees and new entrants into the PDP”, he said.
He, however, said the PDP has a role to play in ensuring that it is home to the defectors indeed.
“PDP must be prepared for this, and be ready to reconcile and reiterate in such a way and manner that everybody will be treated and given a level playing field to pursue his or her personal aspiration. That is what PDP must stand for if it has to survive.
“You have returned in good time and you should continue to contribute in this reinvention, remodeling of our party so that come 2019, we can reclaim what we can claim is ours. Because we still remain the only true democratic party in the true sense of the word”.
He noted that the return of Atiku will be a good deal for the PDP as his clout will help the party win the 2019 elections.
“You will also help us reinvent the vehicle that will take us to Aso Rock in 2019, we are not just targeting Aso Rock, we are targeting the federal legislature, the states both the executive and legislature. We are targeting the local governments.
“We want to sweep elections all across the party. As a united party we have the capacity and we have the ability to do so”, he added.
However, Odigie-Oyegun in a statement by the APC said that the defection of Atiku will not affect the electoral fortune of the party.
He noted that the fact that no big gun within the APC has decamped from it with Atiku is an omen that the APC won’t lose its men to PDP.
“Let nobody fear that the defection of the former vice president is going to lead to any deluge, if anybody wants to defect, the day you are defecting is the day you bring out your heavy guns not later like the papers are speculating. When you stand and they look at your right and left, they say ‘ah this man has done something great’. So don’t ever be afraid that there is going to be any massive defection.”
There was, however, no pretext from the PDP members that the return of Atiku gladdened their hearts. He was given a rousing welcome at the secretariat when he came in about 12 noon.
A sort of carnival erupted at the Wadata Plaza, national secretariat of the PDP, as soon as Atiku stepped into the party secretariat.
Hundreds of party faithful had amassed around the vicinity of the secretariat of the PDP as early as 9:30a.m in anticipation of his visit which leaked early this morning.
The shout of ‘Baba Oyoyo’ rented the air as the former vice president was driven in a bullet-proof Mercedes Benz S-Class with registration number Lagos EX 449 SMK.
He was received by Prince Dayo Adeyeye, National Publicity Secretary of the party who left the National Executive Committee (NEC) hall of the secretariat where he was presiding over a subcommittee of the Convention Planning Committee.
He, thereafter, led him to the office of the National Chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, where a short closed door meeting was held before he was taken to the NEC hall where he was received by an overflowing crowd of supporters.