Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has asked those who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to other political parties in the run-up to the 2015 elections to return to the former ruling party.
He said there “is no other political party” in the country apart from the PDP.
Atiku spoke in Abuja on Tuesday when he paid a courtesy call on the national leadership of the party at its national secretariat in Abuja .
The former Vice-President had resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress about a week ago but refused to name his next political destination.
But on Sunday, he announced that he had returned to the PDP which he left in 2014 with others to form the APC.
While leaving the PDP then , he had said the APC would be his ‘ last bus stop ’, vowing never to return to the former ruling party.
Accompanied by his loyalists and praise singers, Atiku, who had never hidden his desire to be the President of Nigeria , recanted , heaping praises on the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP for remaining steadfast.
Makarfi , however, called on Atiku to help the ruling party with the winning strategy to return to Aso Rock in 2019.
Atiku expressed his gratitude to the leadership of the party for granting him the opportunity to visit the party despite the tight schedule of its leaders .
He said, “What I have come to do today is to come and show my face . Many people have read in the media that I have returned home; this is home.
“ Mr. Chairman, I want to congratulate you for a wonderful work which you have been doing to redeem the image of this party, to return it , rebrand it and return it to its original form .
“ I want to assure you of my support and cooperation at all times ; to make sure that these objectives are achieved by you and subsequently by your successors .
“ We should remember that those of us , who founded this party, founded it on the principles of democracy, good governance, unity of this country and the prosperity of its people .
“ Over the years , like any or every human organisation , it has faced its challenges but I want to pay tribute to those who have stayed steadfast through thick and thin to see us through to this point.
“ Now that we have learnt our lessons , I hope that we will be guided by the lessons we have learnt. ”
Atiku added , “And that is to make sure that we build an all-inclusive party, where every part of this country will have a sense of belonging and sense of participation.
“ To achieve all these , there must be sacrifices, understanding and compromises in the process of achieving that. And that is what I speak to members to imbibe.
“ But as you know , one thing that I will never compromise is the internal democratic process in a given political party. And I hope we all must have learnt our lesson.
“ I therefore want to pledge to you , Mr. Chairman and members of the National Working Committee that my returning home is to help continue with the work you have started, reforming, re-branding this very party which is the only party in this country.
“ Let me pay tribute to the past leadership of this great party wherever they may be and to call upon them to please return home as I have done.
“ It is only by their returning home that we will build a stronger , more united party that can, again , return to government and continue to deliver the dividends of democracy. ”
Atiku told the cheery crowd that the PDP government remained the best in the history of the country since 1999.
The ex-VP argued that it would be difficult for any government to achieve 50 per cent of what the PDP achieved.
“ I can bet you , the records we have achieved so far in governance, no government has yet even done 50 per cent of what we have achieved in government, not to talk of equalling our performance in government, ” he added .
In his response, Makarfi alleged that there were people bent on destroying the party.
However , he said he was grateful that the party had been winning in courts against those who “are hell-bent on destabilising this party and holding this party down.”
Makarfi, who was flanked by other members of the caretaker committee, said , “( We went through) guerrilla warfare , artillery attacks , bombardment , but we weathered the storm. And the story will be a positive one at the end of the day.
“ Your Excellency , you have opened the floodgates and we expect many more high profile returnees and new entrants into the PDP.
“ So, PDP must be prepared for this , and be ready to reconcile and reiterate in such a way and manner that everybody will be treated and given a level playing field to pursue their personal aspiration . That is what the PDP must stand for if it has to survive .”
He denied that the party had a secret deal with Atiku before he agreed to return to the party.
While saying that he returned in good time, Makarfi called on Atiku to continue to contribute to “this reinvention , remodelling of our party so that come 2019, we can reclaim what we can claim is ours. ”
He asked Atiku to help the party develop a winning strategy that would enable it to win the presidential election in 2019 .
Makarfi reasoned that Atiku’ s defection to the PDP before the national convention slated for Saturday in Abuja was an indication that he was ready to contribute to the success of the party.
He added , “We will continue to consult you . You will also help us reinvent the vehicle that will take us to Aso Rock in 2019.
“ We are not just targeting Aso Rock , we are targeting the federal legislature, the states , both the executive and the legislature . We are targeting the local governments .
“ We want to sweep elections all across the country. As a united party, we have the capacity and we have the ability to do so .”
Apart from other members of the caretaker committee, some members of the party, especially those who attended the convention planning committee meetings, were also around to receive Atiku .
They included a former Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; a former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs , Duben Onyia ; a former Minister of Police Affairs , Maina Waziri, and Senator Ben Murray-Bruce.
I won ’t dump APC for PDP, says Saraki
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki , who was one of those who dumped the PDP for the APC in 2014 said, on Tuesday , that he would not leave the ruling party for the PDP.
Saraki , who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity , Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents , said as a founding father of the APC, he would remain in the party.
He said, “ There is nothing like that and there is nothing to suggest that. Every member must come from somewhere . Are you going to ask the President ( Muhammadu Buhari ) whether he would go back to the Congress for Progressive Change? You ’re not going to ask Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu ) whether he will return to the Action Congress of Nigeria .
“ Everybody has where they are coming from . As far as my principal is concerned , he is a founding father of this party. There is nothing like that. ”
Saraki and 10 other members of the Senate had, on January 29 , 2014 , announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.
The 11 lawmakers had written to the then Senate President , Senator David Mark , to officially declare their defection .
They were Senators Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central ), Umaru Dahiru (Sokoto South ) , Magnus Abe ( Rivers South -East ) , Wilson Ake (Rivers West) , Bindawa Jibrilla (Adamawa North) , Danjuma Goje (Gombe Central ) , Aisha Jummai Alhassan (Taraba North) , Ali Ndume (Borno South ) , Mohammed Lafiagi ( Kwara North), Abdulahi Adamu (Nasarawa West ) and Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East ).
Five of the 10 other defectors who are still in the Senate could not be reached on the telephone on Tuesday .
But some APC members of the House of Representatives said it would be difficult for them to make a categorical statement on whether they would stick with the party ahead of 2019 or defect to other parties.
Some of the members , who spoke with The PUNCH , noted that politics was “ local” and driven by the desires of voters .
Nearly all the speakers declined to be named .
One of them, who is from the North-East , told The PUNCH that voters held the “ace. ”
The member stated, “ You cannot sit in Abuja and be boasting that I will die with this or that party.
“ If back home, that party can no longer guarantee your returning in 2019 , your people will demand that you leave . But if it remains their choice , you stick with the party.”
While a number of the members from the South -West also spoke in the same vein , they doubted if a political party like the PDP would be an option .
In a related development, Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State, on Tuesday , described those who recently defected from the ruling APC as those uncomfortable with the pro -poor policies introduced by President Muhammadu Buhari , arguing that the party would not feel their absence.
The governor made the declaration when he received the leadership and members of the state chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers at Government House, Katsina.
Masari said , “For those of them leaving the party, it is good riddance to bad rubbish. Let them go. Even here , locally , we have them but we can deal with them. It is not good enough for somebody to enter his room and start talking. Let us come out and face the people . This government is ready , willing and prepared to face anybody and account for our stewardship anytime and anywhere.
“ Stay away from those enemies of the people who are masquerading as if they like or they are for the people . They were once in a position to salvage the situation but they misused the opportunities . Don’ t look at what they are doing today.”
He pointed out that the state government was working on education , health , agriculture and security to touch the lives of the people positively , promising to also provide basic health facilities and manpower to end medical tourism in the state .
The NURTW state chairman , Haruna Mohammed , assured Masari of the support of members of the union .
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