By Bamidele Salako
Even though the 2019 presidential election is still relatively a long way off, the groundwork for the establishment of a formidable opposition to the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) is already in full swing with different political gladiators vying for the top office in the land actively weighing possible alliances that can pile the pressure on the solid APC machinery and bring it to a halt at the polls.
It would be noted that last week, National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, admonished politicians to desist from engaging in political campaigns for 2019, reminding them that the ban on electioneering was still in force in compliance with the amended Electoral Act 2010.
However, according to a source close to the matter, a delicate dance of political horse-trading is already unfolding behind the scenes between a defiant ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former President Goodluck Jonathan who is reportedly tacitly supporting a group within the depleted Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looking to get Atiku to break ranks with the APC and pledge his allegiance to the PDP as part of efforts to rebuild a party he co-founded in 1998.
Our source who informed us of a recent secret meeting between the two political heavyweights, stated that Atiku who has always felt marginalised by the APC hierarchy following their victory in 2015, has been weighing the possibility of a defection to the leading opposition party – an idea said to have been mooted by a section of the PDP leadership looking to revive their ailing party’s political fortunes.
The source noted that following the offer by the PDP leaders, Atiku has been involved in discreet consultations with close confidantes whose loyalties he enjoys on both sides of the divide and is now beginning to see the merits of such a move leading him to arrange the meeting with Jonathan. He is reportedly however holding out for a guarantee of being given the party’s automatic ticket to contest the 2019 presidential election from his suitors – a position which our source told us Atiku has held from the moment he received the offer.
In considering the merits of a return to the PDP, the thinking is that given the growing disaffection for the ruling party in some parts of the country, particularly in the South-East and South-South zones, coupled with the substantial amount of goodwill and loyalty that Jonathan enjoys in those areas, Atiku can ride the wave of disaffection to swing the tide of public support in his favour ahead of 2019 with Jonathan’s endorsement and the backing of the PDP.
It is also thought that the anticipated groundswell of support by disillusioned sections of the country that could result from Atiku’s defection to the opposition could in turn trigger a gale of defections from the ruling party thus decimating their ranks and boosting the PDP’s chances ahead of 2019.
The source pointed to the recent open declaration of support for Atiku’s presidential ambition by the Minister of Women Affairs and Youth Development, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan, as proof that there are several other powerful loyal Atiku supporters within the APC ranks simply waiting for the right moment to throw their weight behind him.
Atiku’s recent meeting with Jonathan is said to have been convened to assess all these possibilities, and to appraise his unyielding request for a unanimous automatic nomination for the PDP’s presidential ticket. Our source informed us that from all indications, progress was made at the meeting and that the only identifiable obstacles to a resolution were some interests within the PDP that need to be palliated for Atiku’s demand to sail through.
Atiku will however be hoping that a resolution is reached soon to avoid being disqualified by certain provisions of the PDP constitution which require that a member should have spent a stipulated period of time in the party to be considered eligible to run for elective office on the party’s platform.