ABUJA—The lingering crisis of confidence between the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leadership and seven of its estranged governors reached a climax, yesterday, with the aggrieved governors formally defecting to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
But it was not all rosy for the G-7 governors as two of the governors — Babangida Aliyu of NigerState and his Jigawa counterpart, Sule Lamido— disagreed with the other five on timing of the defection.
While Lamido stayed away from the meeting, Aliyu only showed up at the venue, met briefly with his counterparts and hurried out of the Kano Governor’s Lodge, the venue of the meeting, before the communiqué announcing the merger of nPDP with APC, was read to the media.
In attendance at the meeting with the APC leaders, were the governors of Niger, Rivers, Kwara, Adamawa and a representative of the Jigawa Governor.
Governor Aliyu Wamakko of SokotoState is said to have taken permission of the G-7 to travel outside the country and had assured them of his unflinching support to the group even though he was not physically present at the venue of the event.
The strategic meeting had in attendance, former Head of State and chieftain of the APC, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.); former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; APC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; nPDP chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje; former Osun State Governor and PDP Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, and the former Nasarawa State Governor, Senator Adamu Abdullahi.
Others present were former Bayelsa State Governor, Timipre Sylva, and former ANPP chairman and APC chieftain, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu.
The merger communique
The terse but history-making communiqué, which was jointly signed by the Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande and nPDP Chairman, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje read:
“A meeting of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the new PDP met this morning at the residence of the Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, in Abuja.
“After exhaustive deliberations, the two parties agreed to merge in order to rescue our fledgling democracy and the nation,” the communiqué said.
Addressing journalists after the defection, the nPDP Chairman, Baraje, explained that the decision to merge with the APC meant that they had fused into the latter and agreed to work together in the overall interest of the nation.
“We are merging,” Baraje said, adding, all these are implications of merging. What we are telling you is that we have merged and we have agreed to merge.”
The formal signing of the merger Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, will take place next Tuesday.
Baraje denied any split in the ranks of the G-7, insisting that the Niger State Governor, Aliyu Babangida and his Kwara counterpart, Ahmed Abdulfatah, who went out before the end of the meeting, took permission to travel and were duly permitted to leave.
The nPDP chairman said: “You have observed that some of our members took permission to go out of the meeting; they did not walk out. You have seen the governor of Kwara, you have seen the governor of Niger; they all took permission to travel.
APC leader and former Lagos State Governor, Ahmed Tinubu, who was beaming with broad smiles after witnessing the defection of the governors to his party, described the development as a good omen for Nigeria’s democracy.
Tinubu noted that the action of the governors was a right step towards rescuing Nigeria and strengthening democracy.
Tinubu said: “What happened today is good for our democracy and nation. We are on a rescue mission and it is good for our country; what we are doing is a must for the country. The step we are taking is very necessary and we are happy about that.
“We are happy with the development, we have commitment to rescue our country from drifting and we act as a group to promote the interest of this country. Patriotism is defined as not being about oneself or personal goal, but that of the society, the nation or corporate entity. That is what we are putting forward,” the APC leader said.
But one of the governors explained to Vanguard that the decision by Governors Aliyu and Sule Lamido to ask for more time to join the APC in January 2014 was understandable.
The governor said that the decision by the duo to wait till January had brought about a sharp division among the other governors, who reasoned that there was no need to continue to wait in the drifting PDP when the APC was consolidating and preparing for its National Congress in January.
It was learnt that while the Chief Servant had pleaded for time to be able to sort out his political interest with those of two former heads of states — Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
I can’t leave house I built – Lamido
Lamido, yesterday, said he would not leave the house he built, being one of the nine founding fathers of the PDP.
However, it is believed in some quarters that Lamido also needed to get a soft-landing for his two sons, who had been arrested by the EFCC for alleged money laundering amounting to N10 billion. The governor is reported to have argued strongly that the group should heed Chief Obasanjo’s advice not to move into the APC until early next year so as to get his own blessing and that of a former head of state from the North.
The two former leaders are said to have given the seven governors their tacit support to move over to the APC only in January 2014 and pledged to stay in PDP and support their political aspiration in the new party.
In fact, the two former leaders were expected to issue a formal statement condemning the crisis in the PDP and urge the defecting governors to go ahead with their rescue mission for Nigeria.
It was, however, not clear as at yesterday, what the leaders’ reaction would be to the early migration of the governors to the APC without a clear signal from them.
But afraid that their decision might not go down well with Lamido, a high powered delegation led by the APC chairman left Abuja yesterday for Dutse to plead for the governor’s understanding and support to remain with them.
A governor said: “The sharp disagreement between the two governors and the other five was responsible for the extensive and inconclusive meeting of the G-7 throughout Monday night in Abuja and we decided to take a concrete decision today to put the issue behind us.”
Vanguard learnt that the disagreement was also responsible for the change in the wording of the communiqué read to journalists at the end of the meeting. Initially, the communiqué said that ‘both parties had agreed to work together’ but the phrase was later changed to ‘merger’ following pressure from five of the governors present.
It was also gathered that the last minute decision by President Jonathan not to meet with the aggrieved governors reportedly angered them and quickened their resolve not to hold any further peace meeting with the Presidency and the leadership of the PDP.
A source said that while the governors were ready to meet with Jonathan last Sunday, they were shocked to receive a communication from the President suggesting that he could not attend to them until sometime later in the week.
“We just felt that the President was not serious about meeting with us having given the impression that it was the governors, who requested in their letter to have a meeting with him.
“Again, we did not feel happy that he made us write and remind him of the need to meet after the October 7 meeting had been put off due to the fact that many of our members went on religious pilgrimage,” the source explained.
I’ve not moved – Aliyu
Meanwhile, Governor Babangida Aliyu of NigerState speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Danladi Ndayebo, on Channels Television yesterday, said: “Media reports purporting that Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu has moved to the All Progressives Congress is not true. It is false, it is unfounded.”
“We are aware that talks are ongoing with the president and until the talks are exhausted, Governor Babangida Aliyu remains a member of the PDP.”
“Let me also add that we are shocked at the announcement of the merger even before a final decision is taken on the matter.”
Following him, Governor Lamido, one of the original nine founders of the PDP also dissociated himself from the merger. Governor Lamido speaking through the Director of Press, JigawaState, Mallam Umar Kyari said:
“We remain in PDP, Governor Lamido is going nowhere, he is not leaving a house that he built. He was among the first nine persons that conceived the PDP, that is the G9, which transformed to G18 and then to G34. So, he cannot leave the house that he founded and will make sure that justice is done in PDP.”