Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar may replace his former boss Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) Board of Trustees if impending talks between him and the party's reconciliation panel are successfully concluded, Daily Trust learnt at the weekend. The Ekwueme panel, which is currently touring the six geopolitical zones to meet with aggrieved party members, is set to travel to the United States very soon to meet the former Vice President in Washington, where he has been living in recent weeks.
Last week, some former PDP leaders who are now chieftains of the Action Congress [AC] demanded that Obasanjo be replaced as BOT chairman as a condition for their return to the party.
Daily Trust reliably gathered from sources close to Dr. Alex Ekwueme's reconciliation committee that some of the aggrieved founding fathers of the PDP, who defected to other parties, have asked that Atiku be given the position of BOT Chairman to assuage him for the injustice he suffered during the Obasanjo administration.
The former vice president is seen as the symbol of those chased out of the PDP by Obasanjo's measures.
However, for this to be accomplished, the zoning of positions already agreed upon by the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) would need to be revised. At present, Obasanjo from the South-West is BOT Chairman, while the position of National Chairman has been zoned to the South-East. Also, the North-Central geopolitical zone would produce the next party National Secretary.
Daily Trust also learnt at the weekend that Obasanjo responded angrily to moves to accommodate Atiku and his friends by demanding that the party immediately cease to fund the Ekwueme reconciliation committee, which was formed by President Umaru Yar'adua. However, it could not be confirmed if the Senator Ahmadu Ali-led National Working Committee has complied with Obasanjo's instructions.
According to the source, "Obasanjo is afraid that the work of the reconciliation committee might frustrate his efforts to put the party under his armpit. He is worried that persons like Dr. Alex Ekwueme and Professor Jerry Gana are being touted as possible Chairman and Secretary, respectively. Left to Obasanjo, the committee should be disbanded, but President Yar'Adua is insisting that the panel must be allowed to do a thorough job and put the PDP on the path of integrity."
An aide of the former Vice President, Alhaji Garba Shehu, told Daily Trust on telephone yesterday, "Dr. Ekwueme and his committee members have indicated interest in meeting with the former vice-president, who has been in the US. He may not return soon, but he is willing to receive the committee members in Washington, if they decide to meet him there."
On some conditions being given by Atiku's associates before they could return to the PDP, Shehu said the former vice-president would not be willing to comment on them.
In his submission to the Ekwueme committee last week, Alhaji Abubabar Rimi had said, "We were the founding fathers of the PDP. In fact, the name PDP was chosen in my personal house prior to Obasanjo's incursion into politics, while he was in prison. But his ego has destroyed the party. Up till today, PDP is more like a cult rather than a political party. There is no way genuine and real democrats could return as long as Obasanjo is still the PDP BOT Chairman".
Meanwhile, the PDP reconciliatory committee's North-East zonal sitting in Bauchi at the weekend was boycotted by key aggrieved former party men. Among those who boycotted the session was Bauchi State Governor Malam Isa Yuguda, who left PDP for ANPP shortly after he was disqualified from the PDP governorship primaries last December. Others who were conspicuously absent included former governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Ahmed Mu'azu, former governor of Adamawa State, Mr. Boni Haruna and former deputy governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Abdulmalik Mahmood.
The Ekwueme committee had targeted reconciliation among these political heavy weights in the North-East zone. Though the key stakeholders were absent, the committee met with several former gubernatorial aspirants as well as other defeated PDP candidates in the last elections.
Speaking on the situation, Mr. Paul Wampana, PDP's North-East zonal Vice-Chairman, said the committee's assignment was a success. He said: "The committee invited all the PDP stakeholders in Bauchi state through our father, Alhaji Muhammadu Bello Kirfi, Wazirin Bauchi. He came with prominent people and the party stakeholders. He spoke the truth on why they were aggrieved. Everybody was convinced and they respected his views as an elder statesman."