Following the formal declaration of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, to run for the presidency on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), his campaign organisation has commenced a screening process for groups and movements aiming to work for his bid. New Telegraph gathered that no fewer than 200 groups and movements spread across the country have signified intentions to work for the presidential bid of the former number two man.
Declaring his bid for the nation’s plum job on Tuesday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Abubakar said he was offering himself to set the country on the path of growth after “the serial failure” of the All Progressives Congress. It was learnt that most of the groups and their promoters have made efforts to seek an audience with the former VP, but he declined all appointments with them.
A source within the Atiku camp said, “His Excellency is a likeable man and many individuals, groups and movements have chosen to work for his aspiration in 2019, but he feels that there should be a harmonized and organised process, hence, his advice that they should be screened. “Many of the support groups launched on their own even before His Excellency made his return to the PDP and they have been pushing to meet him, but he wasn’t disposed to that yet until they are streamlined.”
The source noted further that Atiku’s central campaign organisation got the mandate to streamline the support groups and they subsequently set criteria for the support groups before acknowledging them for the meeting with Atiku in April. He stressed further that part of the criteria to fulfill before being recognised as a support group for Atiku includes evidence of a structured leadership hierarchy, functional social media, visible presence in the area of operation and an above average grasp of the Atiku ideology, among others. “The support groups, which are both local and international, will be thoroughly scrutinized before they are recognised and called upon to meet with His Excellency.”
Among the support groups already positioning to campaign for Atiku include Atiku Global Support Group (AGSG), Concerned Citizens for Atiku, CC4A, Atiku Support Group (ASG), The United Atiku Abubakar Support Group, Atiku Global Support Group, Atiku Youth Association (AYA), Atikunation, among others. New Telegraph also gathered that baring any last minute change in plan, Atiku would formerly declare his presidential ambition before the end of this month. Atiku, who has been on intense consultations since he rejoined the PDP last year, said in Port Harcourt: “I have offered myself to run for the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019.”
Impecabble sources within his office informed New Telegraph that the official declaration by the former Number 2 man would be towards the end of this month. “That of Port Harcourt is just an announcement. But everything is in place now for his main declaration in Abuja towards the end of this month,” said a source in his camp. It was learnt that towards this end, some mutual friends of Atiku and his former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo are currently speaking to Obasanjo not to publicly criticise Atiku, even if he would not support his candidacy.
Obasanjo is seen as a major obstacle to the Atiku presidency. The former vice president has, however, visited some state governors and has hosted a number of support groups who were drumming support for his ambition. Perhaps, the outcome of the visits and consultations might have boosted his confidence to declare public his ambition in Port Harcourt last week and the plan for national declaration before the end of the month.
But it was also learnt that the PDP presidential ticket, which seems ready for him for grabs after his return, may likely become a huge task to get now. Another source at the party also believes that Atiku faces an uphill task. He said: “I heard he might leave PDP again. Officially, he has not said so.”
But an associate of the former vice president described those alleging that Atiku would leave PDP again as mischief makers. “He will not leave if he doesn’t get the ticket. They are just looking for credibility of the story they want to spin. He is not giving anything to chance, he is working hard to get the PDP ticket,” he disclosed. According to the source, Atiku is not asking for automatic ticket, adding, “he has been a proponent of internal democracy. What he is just asking is that there should be a level playing field. By asking for level playing field means that whoever wins, it will become clear to others, and those who have lost they will be better disposed to join hands with the winner.” The source added that Atiku was optimistic that he was going to pick the PDP ticket, disclosing that a small committee set up by the PDP leadership is profiling the chances of all the presidential aspirants.
“There is a realisation at the highest level of leadership and stakeholders of the party. I think they are tilting towards the numbers, who (among the presidential aspirants) can bring in the numbers.
“I’m aware there is a small committee that is crunching numbers. And if it is about numbers, nobody has the presence, the visibility, the connections, as Atiku, somebody who can give the incumbent the bloody nose,” he said.
On the relationship between him and Obasanjo, the source said some friends of the former president and his erstwhile deputy are intervening to reconcile the two. “There are people on Obasanjo’s side who feel there is need to stop all this war. I am aware (that) somebody close to him (Obasanjo) told him, if you can’t help the cause of this man, don’t hurt his political interest.
I’m aware that few days ago, they are trying to work on him,” he revealed. He said Atiku was waiting for PDP guidelines for the election of its presidential candidate, adding that, that would help in building confidence among the aspirants. Atiku’s head of media, Mazi Paul Ibe, told New Telegraph that he was out of the country, and therefore, could not speak on the matter now. A source at the PDP secretariat said what would determine who picks the party’s presidential ticket is whether All Progressives Congress (APC) would field President Muhammadu Buhari as candidate or not.