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2007: Atiku woos el-Rufai, others

Posted by Dotun Oladipo and Musikilu Mojeed on 2006/05/23 | Views: 642 |

2007: Atiku woos el-Rufai, others


The Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is reaching out to members of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Economic Management Team.

The Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is reaching out to members of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Economic Management Team.

In what could be a calculated move to assuage the President’s anxiety, Abubakar is promising to keep the team intact, if elected next year.

Sources said that Abubakar made the promise when he met with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, over his presidential ambition in Abuja on Thursday.

The development came on Monday just as information filtered in that the Obasanjo met with some governors in the South-West and South-South between Thursday and Sunday on plans for the next poll.

The Peoples Democratic Party also on Monday named members of the committee set up to reconcile aggrieved party members over the failed third term bid.

Aso Rock insiders have frequently mentioned el-Rufai as a likely candidate for a higher political office.

At the meeting Abubakar had with him, the vice-president reportedly said that since the economic team had performed creditably, he would have no reason to disband it.

Among others in the economic team that Abubakar promised to keep as part of his government from 2007, apart from el-Rufai, are the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili; and the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludo.

The vice-president asked el-Rufai to reach out to other members of the team.

Sources said that el-Rufai did not make any commitment at the meeting with Abubakar but promised to brief members of the economic team.

Abubakar’s Media Consultant, Mallam Garba Shehu, said he was not aware of the development.

Shehu said he needed time to confirm the authenticity of the report.

A top member of the PDP Board of Trustees, however, confirmed the meeting.

"I can tell you that the VP met el-Rufai in his house in Abuja. The information from that meeting is that the VP is offering a carrot. That’s all I can say, for now," the source said.

Efforts to reach el-Rufai’s Special Assistant (Information and Strategy), Hajia Amina Salihu, did not yield the desired results.

Salihu’s mobile number did not go through on Monday.

When repeated calls to el-Rufai’s phone on Monday night were unanswered, our correspondent sent a text message, and received a delivery report at 9.15pm. The message was, however, not replied.

But at different fora between Thursday and Sunday, some governors met with Obasanjo to seek his views on the 2004 general elections, especially the presidential election.

During his official visit to Ekiti State on Thursday and Friday, Obasanjo, according to sources, met with the PDP governors from the South-West.

Also between Friday and Saturday when the President visited Rivers State, the governors from the South-South and their colleagues from other zones, who received Obasanjo, discussed the forthcoming poll with him.

Obasanjo reportedly told the governors that all presidential candidates should be allowed to campaign, as his major concern was to provide a level playing field for them.

He was said to be non-committal on the zone that would produce the next president.

Sources also said the President’s major concern at this time was the reconciliation of the PDP that had been torn apart by the third term issue.

On Monday the party announced members of the reconciliation team, which Obasanjo ordered to be set up.

The party’s Deputy National Chairman, North, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, is expected to lead the reconciliation team to the South-South.

Other members of Shema’s team are Mrs. Paullen Tallen and one Chief Jimilehin.

The Deputy National Chairman, South, Chief Bode George, will lead Chief Uche Secondus and Chief Ebenezer Babatope to the North-West; while the Publisher, Champion newspapers, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Mr. Aliyu Doma and Chief Rita Akpan will go to the North-East.

Prof. Emmanuel Osamor, Alhaji Ahmed el-Rufai and Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi will be visiting the North-Central.

For the South-East, former Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Prof. Jerry Gana, is to lead the team, which has Alhaji Iro Dan Musa and Ambassador Idris Waziri as members.

Mrs. Hauwau Isa Bukar, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd.) and Mrs. Julie Onum Nwariaku are in charge of the South-West.

The party’s National Chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Ali, will inaugurate the committee on Tuesday (today).

At a news conference in Abuja where the membership of the committee was announced on Monday, the National Secretary of the party, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, said the decision to reconcile aggrieved members was not a ploy to hoodwink them.

Maduekwe said, "The PDP is on the move. Our effort at reconciliation is real. I call on all democrats and all progressive Nigerians to come under the umbrella. The umbrella is far from being torn. It is still strong and resilient. It remains the best option.

"We have the experience, the capacity and a spread that is unequalled in Nigeria’s history, even as we note with delight the continuous influx of new members into Africa’s biggest party."

Maduekwe said the party would re-present the quashed proposed amendments to the National Assembly next year without the controversial third term clause.

He said, "The PDP as a party will continue in the next legislature to press for a fundamental restructuring of the polity to assuage feelings of marginalisation, recreate a new national consensus under a civilian dispensation and douse the rising tension in many parts of the land.

"This commitment is total and re-invigorated by the temporary setback of the current legislative period.

"But we won’t revisit the issue of third term. We do not intend to go back to it because we do not feel it is necessary anymore.

"Most of the clauses thrown out alongside the third term of four years provision were matters we carefully reflected on and considered that if they were adopted, had the capacity to remove the sources of these conflicts. Again, they were designed to provide the building blocks of good governance."

He appealed to Nigerians to forgive the PDP for whatever mistakes it made in the past.

However, political associates of the vice-president insisted on Monday that only the resignation of the Ali-led leadership of the party would be the basis for genuine reconciliation.

The associates, under the aegis of Turaki Vanguard, at a news conference in Abuja said all proponents of the third term agenda should resign their positions for the reconciliatory efforts initiated by Obasanjo to be seen as credible and transparent.

The group’s National Director of Media Affairs, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, who briefed newsmen said Ali and his colleagues should quit while fresh congresses should be organised to elect new officials at all levels of the party.

THE PUNCH, Tuesday May 23, 2006

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