Five rebel governors join APC

The New Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday formally announced that it had merged with the opposition All Progressives Congress.

The decision  was taken at a  meeting  between   leaders  of the APC and the New PDP   at  the Kano State  Governor’s residence  in Abuja.

The  National Chairman of the New PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, announced the decision  which was described by the Presidency as a welcome development.

“The Presidency does not feel threatened; the PDP does not feel threatened,” the Special Adviser to   President  Goodluck Jonathan on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, told  State House correspondents in Abuja.

But the New PDP  said its members, including the rebel governors, were elated to “have abandoned PDP’s sinking ship.”

Although Baraje claimed that the group’s merger  with the APC  was a unanimous decision,  two  of the seven  rebel governors – Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and Sule Lamido(Jigawa), distanced themselves from it.

Governor Aliyu Wamakko(Sokoto) and Lamido  were absent from the  Tuesday meeting.

One of our correspondents reported that Aliyu attended the meeting but left before it ended.

The    other  rebel  governors   in attendance  were  Rotimi Amaechi(Rivers);  Rabiu Kwakwanso (Kano);  Murtala Nyako(Adamawa);  and Abdulfatah Ahmed(Kwara).

The  leaders  of the New PDP  that attended  the meeting were  a former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola,    Dr.  Sam Jaja, ex-governor of old Abia State, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu;  and a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipriye Sylva.

The   APC  team comprised  Chief Bisi  Akande; a former Head of State, Maj.- Gen. Muhammadu Buhari;  a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu;  and an ex- Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mallam Aminu Masari.

Like Aliyu,  Buhari left before the meeting ended.

Baraje, who read  a statement  after the meeting, said they agreed to merge in the interest of  Nigeria’s democracy.

The statement which was signed by Baraje and the APC Interim National Chairman, Chief  Akande, reads, “The  leadership of the APC and the New PDP met  this(Tuesday) morning at the residence of the Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabiu Kwakwanso, in Abuja.

“After exhaustive deliberation, we agreed to merge in order to rescue our fledgling democracy and the nation.”

• Aliyu, Lamido distance selves from merger

But shortly after,  Aliyu, a very vocal member of the G-7, added  a strange twist to the merger. His Chief Press Secretary, Danladi Ndayebo,  did not only deny that he attended  the meeting, he said the governor  remained a member of the PDP.

 Ndayebo, in a statement,  said  Aliyu was  shocked that the merger was  announced   before a final decision on it was taken .

He argued that  since  reconciliatory  talks between President Goodluck Jonathan and the rebel governors  were still ongoing,  the merger ought not to have been announced.

Also, Lamido, who   said he remained  a member of the PDP,  added,   “I will not give anybody the pleasure of engaging me by his terms for now.”

In a  statement   by his Director of Press, Alhaji Umar Kiyari, the  governor  described himself as” the living father of the PDP.”

 The statement reads,   “While I accept that my party, the PDP is currently embroiled in a serious crisis caused by   the Bamanga Tukur style of leadership, that does not necessitate me renouncing myself and relinquishing my historical authority to anybody.

“It is true that myself and my  family are currently under a huge political web and campaign of misinformation and smear to the extent that  we have been adjudged guilty in the public court by the gullible and the ill-informed, this will not intimidate or harass me out of the party.

“I will not give anybody the pleasure of engaging me by his terms for now, I wish to say that I remain the living father of the PDP. As for my political persecutors, I will engage them by my terms at the appropriate time. Nobody speaks for me but myself.”

• We’ve abandoned PDP’s sinking ship – Eze

In spite of the position of Aliyu and Lamido, the  New PDP  said  with  its merger with the APC,  the rank of governors in the PDP had further depleted.

In a  statement by its   National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chukwuemeka Eze, the group  said a similar  situation  existed  in the National Assembly where the APC now had the majority.

It said, “Now, we have reached the stage that we can only say: ‘PDP, your sinking ship has been abandoned to you.’ You brought this misfortune upon yourself;  now, you must bear it alone.”

• It’s a welcome development

However, the  Presidency and the PDP said they were not worried by the development because the  rebel governors and their supporters   would come back to the PDP after 2015.

 Gulak, who spoke for the Presidency, argued that with the development, the leadership of the  PDP would no longer be distracted from the task of building the party.

He added  that many members of the APC were already waiting for the rebel governors to take a final decision  before they  would  also declare for the PDP.

The Presidential aide  said, “I know as of a fact that five of them (the seven aggrieved governors) said they would now join APC; but I know two of them – governors of Niger and Jigawa states – issued statements, saying that they are not part of that(merger).

“I believe others, for a long time   have   not  had their hearts  in  the PDP.

“But it is good that they have told the world that they have taken a stand so that PDP will not be distracted; So that  we in the PDP,   will be focused to build our party.”

“A lot of people in the APC have contacted me several times that they want to come back to PDP; that they were just waiting for what happened today (Tuesday) to happen. And to us, it is a good development.”

On whether the Presidency was  not feeling threatened ahead of 2015, Gulak said, “We do  not feel threatened;  the PDP also  does not feel threatened. The PDP is the party to beat.”

Despite the rebel governors’ exit from the PDP however, the presidential aide did not completely rule out reconciliation.

He said the governors would always be welcomed back after they might have found out that life outside the PDP is empty.

“We are talking about peace; reconciliation is an ongoing process.If  they go outside there like those that went there before them and realise that the outside is empty, they are always welcome back home like we did before,” Gulak said.

Gulak had met behind closed doors with the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, before speaking with journalists.

Issues bordering on the development were said to have been discussed extensively at the meeting.

• Merger’ll fail –PDP

The  PDP, through its National Secretary, Prof. Adewale Oladipo,  described the rebel  governors’ action as a manifestation of the very fertile environment that “we as a party, have brought into the Nigerian political environment.”

He, however, predicted that the marriage between the aggrieved PDP governors and the APC would not last.

Oladipo said, “The allegiance between the splinter group and the APC will  not last and they will  return to the PDP before long.

“I am assuring you that after  May 29, 2015, many of these people will come knocking again, and like the democrats that we are, we will welcome them with open hands.’’

He however admitted that the last four months had been quite challenging for the party. He said   that President Goodluck Jonathan had effectively weathered the storm.

• Tinubu reacts

However,  Tinubu,  said the  rebel governors and leaders of the APC  and New PDP   were committed to the task of rescuing the country from  drifting.

He said, “Is a good rescue mission for our fledgling democracy. It is a must for the country, it is very necessary and we are happy about that.

“We are happy with the development; we have  the  commitment to rescue our country from drifting and we act as a group to promote the interest of this country.”

He said there was a possibility that more PDP  governors   would   join the APC.

Tinubu added,    “Why  not half more? why not 28 . Are you seeing the trend with which we are going?”

• Why Aliyu,   Lamido kicked

A highly placed source at the meeting told The PUNCH  that   Aliyu told the meeting that he would join the APC in  January and that it  was  better for his colleagues  to also discuss the mode of their  dumping the PDP together.

According the source , Aliyu was afraid that some influential persons in  Niger  State, could take over the structure of the PDP from him.

These influential persons  are believed     to have perfected their plan  to nominate  a retired colonel as PDP’s governorship candidate in  2015.

It was also gathered that Lamido   was already negotiating with the Presidency over the arrest of his two sons by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged money laundering.

Their arrest  is said to be pulling the governor back in his move to defect from the PDP.

“I think this was why he was still foot dragging by saying we should meet with the President first,” our source added.

Ahmed, who   requested for  a meeting with the President before the final defection, was said to have no option than to  join his  godfather, Sen. Bukoka Saraki, who   was also at the meeting.

It was not clear while the governor wanted to be part of the meeting with the President. Another  sources said it was because of the  fear that he might not be  given   either the  APC ticket or that of the PDP  in the state during the 2015   election.

• How the deal was struck

Unknown to many,  the meeting was  not  free from disagreements as some of the aggrieved governors   did not buy the idea of them joining the APC at the moment.

Investigations showed that some of the  rebel governors  argued that the  New PDP  should meet  again after Tuesday’s meeting before taking a final decision  while others  advised that they should use the word “work together” with the APC in their  statements instead of “merger.”

At the end of the deliberations, Kwakwanso was said to have told his colleagues that those who wanted to defect now were free to do so while others were free to move next year or anytime they prefer.

However, majority of them   preferred immediate merger with the APC.

• Jonathan-rebel  govs meeting may not hold again

The PUNCH however  gathered that   the  planned  meeting  between Jonathan and the   rebel  governors on Sunday might  no longer hold.

Investigations showed that the rebel governors were angry with the President over his refusal to meet with them last Sunday.

But the governors were said to have been angry that though the President claimed to be ill, he performed  state functions on Monday.

• Oshiomhole, Imoke meet Jonathan

Meanwhile, a few minutes after the aggrieved governors made their position known, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, an APC governor, met briefly behind closed doors with Jonathan.

The meeting which was held inside the President’s office lasted about 20 minutes.

Oshiomhole declined to speak with journalists at the end of the meeting.

Shortly after he left, Governor Liyel Imoke of Cross River State also arrived at the Presidential Villa to meet with the President.

He was however directed to the President’s residence as he had left the office before the governor’s arrival.

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