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Barring any last-minute change of plans, the proposed mega opposition party in the country will be formed before the end of March, 2017, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party and aggrieved chieftains of the All Progressives Congress had intensified efforts aimed at forming the party since the result of the Ondo State election was released.
Findings showed that besides the plan to form a new mega party, those involved in the talks were also considering adopting any of the existing political parties as their platform.
It was gathered that those who were participating in the talks included former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and a national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
A PDP chieftain, who confided in Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, said with what happened in Ondo, it had become obvious that the Muhammadu Buhari administration was ready to relinquish power despite the fact that it had no solution to the economic recession in the country.
The source said, “The mega party is still at a formative stage but I can tell you we are making steady progress.
“With what happened in Ondo, you will agree with me that the cabal around the President, including a governor from the North-Central, and some ministers, has hijacked the party structure.
“They have shown more than once that they want to frustrate Tinubu and Atiku out of the APC. These are tested politicians, who have no plans of retiring any time soon.
“The picture will become clearer before the end of the first quarter of next year (March 2017) because some of our people believe that if we come out now, the cabal will use executive powers to frustrate us. Others feel it is better to let Nigerians know but our leaders are meeting at home and abroad. We are waiting for them.”
Investigations showed that those involved in the talks were aware of the Federal Government’s plot to thwart the groups’ plan to form a new mega party, informing the plan of the groups to adopt any of the existing parties and uplift it to a mega status.
A PDP chieftain, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, “We are working on the plan to form a mega party, but we may adopt any of the existing parties, if the government thwarts our efforts.”
It was also gathered that the Makarfi faction planned to strengthen its electoral strength in the South-East by entrenching rotational presidency in the constitution of the new party.
A top member of the party, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said the group was aware of the plans by the Buhari administration to make an inroad into the South-East in 2019.
The PDP chieftain added, “The South-East and South-South are areas of our strength. We have noticed that the Presidency has been receiving Igbo leaders at the Aso Rock. This is part of the bid to win the zone in 2019.
“We may have to make some concessions to the South-East to truly show that we care for the zone. These will include rotational presidency.”
For Tinubu, it was also gathered that the group was seriously considering the offer of the Makarfi faction to form a mega party.
It was learnt that the Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, had been reaching out to the Tinubu group on behalf of the faction.
A member of the Tinubu group, who confided in SUNDAY PUNCH, stated, “We do not want to make the mistake we made with Buhari by rushing to support him. We are considering the offer from the PDP faction.”
Besides Tinubu and Atiku, other prominent politicians being targeted by the Makarfi faction include a former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankanso; the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and an ex-governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
It was gathered that the Makarfi faction was aware of the desperate move of the President to woo Saraki.
This, it was learnt, was one of the reasons for the Senate President’s recent frequent visits to the President.
“We have not given up on Saraki. He is one of us and we believe he is going to be part of the mega party we will form,” a PDP chieftain stated.
One of our correspondents learnt that the Federal Government had dropped the Senate Order forgery suit against Saraki in order to ensure his loyalty to Buhari.
It was also believed that the Senate President was instrumental to the emergence of former sports minister, Bolaji Abdullahi, as the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling party.
“Even the trial of the Senate President at the Code of Conduct Tribunal may crumble or never be concluded. It’s all part of the plan to ensure that Saraki does not join the new party to be formed,” a source told one of our correspondents on Saturday.
For Kwankanso, it was gathered that the former governor had almost been pushed out of the APC by his successor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje.
“Kwankanso is going to be part of the new arrangement because for now, he is only a fringe member of the APC,” the PDP source added.
Efforts made to get the reaction of the Makarfi faction were unsuccessful as calls made to the telephone of the National Publicity Secretary of the Caretaker Committee of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, were not connected.
Adeyeye, a former minister of state for works, had, however, once denied that the inter-party committee, set up by Makarfi, was given a mandate to change the name of the PDP.
When one of our correspondents contacted the Special Adviser to Tinubu, Mr. Tunde Rahman, he said he was not aware of the plan to form a mega party.
He said, “I am not aware of that development. I am not aware at all.”
On his part, the media aide to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Paul Ibe, dismissed insinuations that his principal was considering dumping the APC.
He accused those he referred to as political jobbers and mischief makers of trying to drag the former Vice-President into their baseless conspiracy theory.
“The statement we issued as far back as 2015 on this vexatious speculation is as valid then as it is valid today.
“The same sets of mischief makers are at it again. The Turakin Adamawa has shown in his words and deeds that he is a committed member of the All Progressives Congress nothing has changed,” Ibe stated.
The statement, which was issued by the Atiku Media Office, described media reports linking Atiku to a new party, as “lies concocted by some mischief makers who were trying to cause disaffection between the former Vice-President and his party.
Political realignment is ongoing, says Timi Frank
But the suspended Deputy Publicity Secretary of the APC, Timi Frank, said, “I can tell you clearly; political re-alignments are going on and people will make their stand known very, very soon. That is all I can tell you for now.”
PDP crisis may delay party formation
It was, however, learnt on Saturday that the factionalisation of the PDP might delay the formation of the mega party.
It was gathered that the two factions of the party, especially the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, were waiting for the outcome of the ongoing factions legal battle to determine the authentic leadership of the former ruling party.
Already, the intra-party committee set up by the Makarfi’s PDP, was said to have met with some aggrieved members of the ruling party..
A member of the committee, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said some of the APC leaders the committee met had agreed to leave the ruling party.
He, however, said those who had agreed to defect from the APC, especially those who left the PDP, said they would not return to the former ruling party, but would be desirous of forming a new party with the PDP.
He said, “We have been meeting with politicians, our former members in the APC and those who were never members of the PDP.
“For strategic reasons, I don’t want to mention their names in order not to jeopardise our ongoing plan.
“Let me however say that majority of them are not willing to join our party. They are suggesting that we form a new party to accommodate all other interest groups. That’s where we are now.”
Asked if that condition would be considered, he said that would be determined after the ongoing case involving the Makarfi and the Ali Modu Sheriff factions was determined.
Impeccable sources said the leadership of the Makarfi faction of the PDP would determine whether to merge with another party if it wins the cases at the courts.
The Sheriff faction, however, accused the Makarfi-led group of working with the APC to destabilise the PDP.
It cited the defection of Senator Yele Omogunwa from the PDP to the APC, which it said was as a result of the ongoing talks between the Sheriff faction and those who defected from the PDP to the APC.
Sheriff’s deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, told one of our correspondents that Nigerians should hold the other faction responsible if the party died.
He said, “I saw what Makarfi said in The PUNCH and I must say that the defection could be as a result of the talks they said they are having with those that defected from the PDP to the APC.
“They have told the world that those people would return the PDP. Is this a sign that they are coming?
“These people are killing the PDP and this is why we are in court, to retrieve the party from the grips of its enemies.”
Meanwhile, Senator Buruji Kashamu warned that the crisis rocking the party would linger for a long time.
He said the issue might become what he described as a circus show.
The Senator, representing Ogun East Senatorial District, said the final outcome of the leadership tussle would be determined by the apex court.
He said, “Let us not lose sight of the fact that the appellate court is yet to finally determine the issue of the national leadership crisis. Irrespective of what the High courts say, for or against Senator Ali Modu Sheriff or Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court are still there to adjudicate on the issues, and it could become a circus show.
“Besides, anyone, who is unjustly punished, will not fold his hands and allow his rights to be trampled upon.
“He will do everything legally possible to fight for his rights. And this could result in a series of litigation and create more problems than they are meant to resolve.”