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Atiku, governors, float new party ... Takes off March 2006

Posted by By STEVE NWOSU on 2005/10/10 | Views: 2560 |

Atiku, governors, float new party ... Takes off March 2006

The crude and devil-may-care approach adopted by President Olusegun Obasanjo in his desperation to use the recent membership re-registration exercise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the party appears to have now driven in the final nail on disintegrating coffin of the party.

The crude and devil-may-care approach adopted by President Olusegun Obasanjo in his desperation to use the recent membership re-registration exercise of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to take over the party appears to have now driven in the final nail on disintegrating coffin of the party.

PDP governors, working in consonance with Chief Alex Ekwueme, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, General Muhammadu Buhari and, possibly, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma, are now set to pull out and float a new party, Daily Sun exclusively gathered at the weekend.

In a barely disguised confirmation of this move, a South-West governor told Daily Sun on Sunday: "Now that Obasanjo has taken over the structure of the party, we want to show him that the soul of the party resides with the people who floated it in the first place. That soul is now what we plan to take away from the PDP – not only to leave Obasanjo with an empty giant cupboard, but to also prove to him that it is we, people, and not some vague, faceless and ambivalent party, that win votes and elections."

The new party which is likely to be called the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) is modelled after the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and expected to come on full stream sometime between March and April next year.

Among those said to have thrown their weight behind the new alliance are: Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos State as well as the mainstream of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) – which includes the former AD governors, swept from office by the PDP election of 2003 in the South-West.

Said the embittered governor: "Aides of the president and supporters of his third term agenda have been telling everybody who feels unhappy with the way Obasanjo is taking over the PDP to leave and join any of the other 29 parties. I can assure you that people will leave sooner than later, but they will not leave behind the same PDP that we see today. They will leave only its shell behind.
"We are the foot-soldiers. The generals who plot the war and scheme themselves in and out of plum jobs in the boardroom will always lose the war if they frustrate their foot-soldiers. Obasanjo has just frustrated his foot-soldiers."

National spread
Although there is a progressive slant to the name, Daily Sun learnt that the focus would be on welfarism and a "party with the national spread that the PDP once had." To this effect, the new movement is not limiting itself to AD and PDP elements. It is also said to have sold itself to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) whose governors and chieftains, frustrated by the systematic crippling of credible opposition by the Obasanjo regime, are said to have given their full blessing.
Daily Sun authoritatively gathered that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP’s flagbearer to the last presidential election is in the thick of the new association. The high probability of the new party, it was learnt, may also have informed the decision of Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, to discontinue further talks about his joining the PDP.
Popular support
Daily Sun gathered that prominent among those who have give their blessings to the PPA are almost all the major emirs in the core North, and leader of the Arewa group and founding father of the PDP, Senator Sunday Awoniyi.
Others include Alhaji Lawal Kaita, PDM leader and member of the PDP board of trustees, immediate past national chairman of the party, Chief Audu Ogbeh, former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, incumbent Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senator Ango Abdullahi, Gen. Victor Malu, Dr. Ezekiel Izuogu (a well known figure in the formation of national parties), Chief Nnia Nwodo, Sam Ekeh, Lambert Mmecha (Wabara’s albatross), Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, several progressives from the north, among many others.

Those behind the PPA also claim to have close to 60% of the membership of the National Assembly on their side as well as some two-thirds of PDP’s 28 governors.
However, many of the governors have opted to play from behind the scene for now, to save themselves from the rampaging president and not necessarily make themselves targets of what they call the "lopsided war against corruption."
This notwithstanding, the PPA is currently embarking on further below-the-line enlightenment and mobilisation campaign in the South-east which is turning out to be a major support base as well.
"Notable Igbo businessmen are joining the group by their dozen," the leader of one pan-Igbo group told Daily Sun, even as he pleaded that his key position in the PDP makes it unadvisable that his identity be disclosed.

"I can tell you why Igbo businessmen think their bread is not buttered in PDP. Virtually everything the Igbos import to sell and keep body and soul together have been banned by Obasanjo. The Igbo are a commerce people, so when you ban every import, you are directly, not indirectly, starving them to death," the Igbo leader said.
He said the situation would have been different if Obasanjo, on banning all these items, had made genuine effort to develop Igboland, "but the opposite has been the case. How can anybody ever imagine that the Onitsha-Owerri-Port Harcourt road which was already an issue, and on the table, before Abacha died is still not done six years after Obasanjo promised to do it?" he asked.
The PDP chieftain further accused Obasanjo of intentionally hand-picking the worst of Igbo politicians "who neither represent the interest of their communities nor those of the larger Igbo nation, to surround himself with. If you asked me, I will say Obasanjo has not treated Ndigbo well and it is not surprising that in the PPA, they are now seeing a possible light at the end of the dark tunnel into which Obasanjo has plunged them in these past five years".

Taking Igbo votes enbloc
Daily Sun investigations further revealed that the group is also opening talks with Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu on APGA. The aim is to strengthen APGA into a strong regional party, if possible, mobilise the Igbos around it so that the South east vote can be taken enbloc. It would not only give the zone a stronger bargaining chip, but could also be easier to fuse into PPA and upstage the PDP in the event of an election.
Incidentally, this urgent need to consolidate Igbo votes and deliver them in block to one chosen political party is said to be a major agenda of the several Igbo Summits that have been lined up for the days ahead.

The Danjuma connection
There is no doubt that President Obasanjo has fallen out with Gen. T.Y. Danjuma. What is now not clear, however, is how far the former Chief of Army Staff and Obasanjo’s first Defence Minister may go in taking his pound of flesh. It is still not clear whether Danjuma still intends to get involved in the formation of a new party, but he is supportive of the move to get a counter force to the dictatorship that is bound to emerge when Obasanjo finally takes total control of all the machinery of the PDP.

A former federal lawmaker from Danjuma’s Taraba State who spoke to Daily Sun early last week hinted that decision by Danjuma to resuscitate the Middle Belt Forum, with which they held talks with both the South-East and South-South respectively was not necessarily a move targetted against the core North as many had thought. "Rather, it was Danjuma’s response to the disappointment of Obasanjo," the former Rep said. According to him, Middle Belt Forum was just to create a political power base to help chip something away from the ‘emerging monster.’
He claimed that "the PPA gospel has been taken to Danjuma and he did not disapprove of it."
The hurdles

Seeing the coalescing as necessary momentum to stop the third term bid of President Obasanjo, which they say is becoming very obvious with every passing day, those behind the new political movement say they foresee Aso Rock doing everything to stop them when they eventually play the PPA joker.
Prominent among the hurdles they anticipate is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
"When Professor Iwu was appointed to replace (Abel) Guobadia, we warned people not to celebrate too early," a member of the ANPP national executive committee told Daily Sun. "Now, nobody is sure of anything anymore. It is increasingly becoming clear that INEC would not do anything Obasanjo does not want. That means it is unlikely to register any new party.

"Similarly, with all this talk about a new constitution coming into effect late next year, it is also not impossible that a clause could be smuggled in to stop any new association from contesting election until after 2007," he pointed out.

But the PPA appears to be taking precautionary measures. If the group is not registered, its founders might move into either AD or ANPP which are already registered and, if need be, apply for a mere change of name.

"Iwu can only refuse to register the PPA, he cannot stop people from forming a political association that is powerful enough to counter Obasanjo and his new-look PDP," the South-West governor said when reminded that INEC might refuse to register the new association. He further added: "This has been long in coming. It was only a matter of time. We all can’t stay and watch one man subdue and intimidate everybody and make nonsense of the democracy we all sacrificed so much to install."


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