By ANDREW ESSIEN, Jonathan Nda-Isaiah and Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja
After months of speculation, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday left the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), further fuelling speculation that he may return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which had propelled him to the vice presidency in the Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration in 1999.
But in its reaction, the APC said it was surprised at the resignation though it has not received a formal notification beyond what was in circulation on the social media; it, however, stated that Atiku was at liberty to pitch his political interests elsewhere.
The PDP, on the other hand, welcomed the news of the resignation, adding that the move gave credence to the party’s hitherto stance on the APC. It, however, said that the former vice president will have to contest the presidential ticket with others.
Atiku, the Wazirin Adamawa, while citing reasons for his resignation, accused the APC of adopting and even surpassing the same “draconian practices” that made him defect from the PDP, adding that it had instituted “a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.”
Parts of Atiku’s statement reads: “On the 19th of December, 2013, I received members of the All Progressives Congress at my house in Abuja. They had come to appeal to me to join their party after my party, the Peoples Democratic Party, had become factionalised as a result of the special convention of August 31, 2013.
“The fractionalisation of the Peoples Democratic Party on August 31, 2013, had left me in a situation where I was, with several other loyal party members, in limbo, not knowing which of the parallel executives of the party was the legitimate leadership.
“It was under this cloud that members of the APC made the appeal to me to join their party, with the promise that the injustice and failure to abide by its own constitution, which had dogged the then PDP, would not be replicated in the APC, and with the assurance that the vision other founding fathers and I had for the PDP could be actualized through the All Progressives Congress.
“On that day, I had said, ‘it is the struggle for democracy and constitutionalism and service to my country and my people that are driving my choice and my decision’ to accept the invitation to join the All Progressives Congress.
“Like you, I said that because I believed that we had finally seen the beginnings of the rebirth of the new Nigeria of our dreams which would work for all of us, old and young.
“However, events of the intervening years have shown that like any other human and like many other Nigerians, I was fallible. While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalisation, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced.”
He went on to cite a letter written by Governor Nasir el-Rufai to President Buhari last year in which the Kaduna State governor expressed concern that the administration was failing the people and alienating top members of the APC, including Atiku, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu andRabiu Kwankwaso.
Atiku continued: “Since that memorandum was written up until today, nothing has been done to reverse the treatment meted out to those of us invited to join the APC on the strength of a promise that has proven to be false. If anything, those behaviours have actually worsened.”
He further accused the party of having no place and plans for the youth.
“But more importantly, the party we put in place has failed and continues to fail our people, especially our young people. How can we have a federal cabinet without even one single youth? A party that does not take the youth into account is a dying party. The future belongs to young people,” he said.
“Be that as it may be, after due consultation with my God, my family, my supporters and the Nigerian people whom I meet in all walks of life, I, Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, hereby tender my resignation from the All Progressives Congress while I take time to ponder my future,” he concluded.
APC, PDP, Governors React
The APC, through the publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, expressed surprise at the resignation and said it did not receive any formal notification to the effect.
He, however, said that the former vice president was free to pursue his political interests anywhere he wished and that the APC wished him well.
Abdullahi said: “Politics is about interest. We have not seen any formal notification to that effect, but based on what we have seen in the social media, we can say altogether it is surprising, but for us politics is all about interest. So, if the former vice president feels that his interest is better served elsewhere, we can always wish him good luck.
“For us, the task of building a political party is not a day’s job; it’s a marathon and it takes many years, and we will continue to improve on our system until we are able to get the kind of party that we want to really, really build.”
He said in a new party, it is usual to find some people happy and others unhappy, adding that the latter can decide at any time to leave.
On what Atiku’s exit portends for the fortunes of the party, Abdullahi said: “A loss of fortune is in numbers. So, if we are able to see the number of people that followed the vice president to his new party, that is when we will begin to worry; but we have not seen. So, when we see, we will know whether we need o worry or not. It is about number.”
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said while the former vice president was free to return to the party, he should not expect its presidential ticket on a platter of gold.
PDP spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, while reacting to Atiku resignation from the APC, said the former vice president had been set free, having seen the truth.
Adeyeye also urged other APC members who are willing to defect from APC to follow Atiku, saying that they are suffering in the PDP.
The PDP spokesman added that Atiku was merely returning home as one of the founding fathers of the party, having served as a former vice president and won elections as governor of Adamawa State in 1999 on the platform of the PDP.
Reacting to on Atiku’s alleged presidential bid, he said “We won’t give ticket to anybody just like that; we will follow all the democratic processes.”
Describing Atiku as a core PDP man, Adeyeye, however, said it was unfortunate that Atiku and some former PDP members were, in 2013, deceived into believing that there was a platform that would correct all the ills in the PDP and that it could create an Eldorado in Nigeria.
“I believe that Atiku has seen the truth and the truth has now set him free, and we thank God for that. Therefore, being a founding father and because we have an umbrella that is big enough to accommodate everybody, PDP is a democratic party. PDP is a free party and was conceived for all Nigerians and is free from all religious, ethnic and geographical divisions,” he said.
On his part, Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el- Rufai, has declared that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will not pose a threat to President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 presidential ambition.
Speaking to State House correspondents after observing the Jummat prayer at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, el- Rufai assured that no governor will follow Atiku to his new party.
He contended that most of the governors, including Adamawa State governor, Jibrilla Bindow, which is Atiku’s home state, had endorsed President Buhari for a second term.
According to him, no candidate from the north can match Buhari in popularity and acceptance.
He said: “I don’t know about the loyalists in the APC that will go with him but I want to assure you that there is not one governor in the APC that is going to go with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
“The only governor that he would think will go with him, the governor of Adamawa State, has already endorsed President Buhari for the 2019 elections. And there are many governors I will not mention the number but a majority of the APC governors have already taken the position that the president should run for a second term in office.”
On Atiku grievance for leaving he said: “No one has driven him out of the party; the APC is an equal opportunity platform for everyone. He has in his statement of leaving the party made reference to the memo I wrote to Mr. President in September 2016, where I was calling on the President to reach out to party leaders that feel aggrieved and I mentioned him, the Asiwaju and many others.
“The others are still in the APC because they believe in the direction of the party; they believe we have come to save the country from a very bad situation. But the former vice president is always looking for an opportunity to contest. He is a serial contestant and we wish him luck.”
Kano State governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, is not surprised that Atiku has left the APC.
Speaking to newsmen, Ganduje said: “He was in the PDP before and another party, too. So it is not surprising he decided to go to another party. So I think, in a democracy, it is like that, as people can chose where they want to be.
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