Abuja — The peace initiative embarked upon by President Goodluck Jonathan, alongside some senior officials of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees (BoT) to reconcile with the splinter group within the party might have yielded results, but for the decision to sideline former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, investigations by THISDAY have revealed.
It was gathered that immediately the former vice-president and the seven aggrieved governors of the PDP stormed out of the August 31 special national convention of the party and headed for the Yar'Adua Conference Centre to proclaim the splinter group, the president promptly commenced moves to reconcile with all aggrieved members of the PDP.
In this regard, the president met with the seven governors the next day, Sunday, September 1, while a meeting was scheduled by the president to meet the former vice-president at his Asokoro residence at 7 pm.
However, according to a presidency source, who spoke to THISDAY on how the peace talks were stalled: "The former vice-president received a call from the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President on Sunday morning informing him that the president would like to meet with him to discuss party matters.
"The official from the Office of the Chief of Staff further directed that all guests of Atiku should be sent away to enable the presidential visit the former vice-president's residence."
The presidency source disclosed that on getting the message from the presidency, Atiku directed his aides that he would not like to have any guest in his house between 6.30 pm and 9 pm on the fateful day.
But THISDAY gathered that on the fateful day, Atiku waited in vain for the president's visit from 7 pm to 9 pm and had even cancelled a scheduled plan to travel abroad for a private engagement.
"Turaki waited for the president but he never showed up and he (Atiku) later gathered that some officials in the presidency had told the president that Atiku had rejected the visit on the grounds that he would be travelling overseas.
"Meanwhile, the streets leading to the former vice-president's residence in Asokoro had been cleared for the expected visit, yet some people told the president that Turaki was not available," the source said.
He further explained that this was not the first time the president was to have a private meeting with Atiku since assumption of office.
In fact, it was gathered that had the peace meeting taken place on September 1, it would have been the fifth time both leaders would be meeting.
It was also gathered that Atiku later briefed the seven aggrieved governors of his interaction with the presidency officials and how the meeting with the president was eventually botched.
According to the presidency official, "Had the meeting between the president and Atiku taken place, some headway out of the crisis in the party would have been made a long time ago, because the governors look on to the former vice-president for leadership."
He revealed that the planned meeting between Jonathan and Atiku was sabotaged because some aides of the president were of the view that it was better to reach out to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military President Ibrahim Babangida instead of Atiku, since the latter might be interested in contesting the 2015 presidential election.
"We were told that some presidency officials advised the president that Atiku could not be trusted as he was still interested in contesting the 2015 presidential election. They told the president you don't make peace with a man who is interested in what you are interested," the source told THISDAY.
This explains, the official said, why the peace talks initiated by the president have been targeted at the governors and not other individuals that are members of the faction.
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has appealed to estranged members of the party that formed the splinter PDP to sheathe their swords and return to the PDP family.
Tukur, in a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said the position of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had laid to rest all contentious issues regarding the leadership of the party.
He said: "The position of INEC in affirming the leadership of the PDP under the National Chairmanship of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and rejecting the demand for recognition by our aggrieved brothers has indeed laid to rest all contentions regarding the authentic leadership of our great party.
"However, we wish to state categorically that this is not a time for us to gloat or preen ourselves over victory. We must use this window of opportunity to engender true reconciliation, put all the issues behind us and move ahead as one big united family that we are."
However, notwithstanding the appeal by Tukur, the group has remained unrelenting in its criticism of the mainstream party and has dismissed the constitution of the Umaru Dikko-led Disciplinary Committee as an afterthought to persecute the perceived enemies of the party.
Also, the New PDP has given a 48-hour ultimatum to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, to unseal the Adamawa State Government Lodge, which it said is the equivalent of an embassy that enjoys protection from any invasion.
In a statement signed by the spokesman of the New PDP, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, the splinter group yesterday said: "By reviving the so-called Disciplinary Committee at a time when the party leader, His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, is busy holding peace meetings with the Baraje-led PDP shows that he (Tukur) is working at cross purposes with Mr. President.
"To call a spade a spade, it is tantamount to anti-party activities and exposes Tukur's hypocrisy and vindicates our stand that he is an obstacle to peace in our great party. "In this regard, if Umaru Dikko's Disciplinary Committee is actually serious about its task, it should immediately after its inauguration, start to investigate why a non-member of our party should be elected to the exalted office of the national chairman of our party.
"If this step is not taken, the committee should try and save the nation from looking at our party as a funny and unserious group by dissolving itself on its own accord." The statement added that if indeed a disciplinary committee had been set up by Tukur, "we make bold to say that he should be the first with his illegal NWC members to appear before it for usurping the office of the national chairman of our party even when he is not legally a member of the party, as he did not revalidate his membership of the party during the 2011 revalidation exercise."
The New PDP spokesman, who berated Metuh over his comment that members of the faction lacked institutional memory, said: "Atiku Abubakar apart from being a principal member of the PDP also recruited both Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, Senator Silas Zwingina and Chief Joel Madaki, among others, to the party in 1988 through Chief Nat Yaduma.
"Maybe Metuh may not even know that it was Atiku Abubakar that rented and paid for the present national secretariat of PDP for three years and paid the working staff salaries for three years."
On INEC's refusal to recognise the New PDP, he said: "We are expectedly disappointed but we thank God that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chapter 1V Section 40, recognises our right to associate amongst ourselves.
"To say the least, this decision by INEC to recognise Tukur's faction is unfortunate because INEC is aware of the flawed nature of the last convention where some of the aides of President Jonathan who are not our party's delegates were allowed to vote.
"This alone nullifies the outcome of that illegal convention. We need not say much on this as we are very convinced that the court will give us a fair hearing and by that time, INEC will be compelled to recognise us accordingly."
On the sealing of the Adamawa State Government Lodge, the statement added: "The sealing off of the Adamawa governor's lodge by the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed, only demonstrates his lack of understanding about the status of a governor's lodge.
"What the minister has brazenly done is to indirectly attack the people and Government of Adamawa State in his desperation to impress the PDP tin god, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
"This unwarranted and rash action by Senator Mohammed can be equated to the recent attack against the Nigerian Embassy in Bissau by the Guinea-Bissau authorities, which sparked outrage and for which that country's government swiftly apologised.
"We advise the misguided minister to within 48 hours not only apologise to the people and Government of Adamawa State but also to unseal the lodge, which serves as our temporary national secretariat, following the sealing of our national secretariat by the police.
"The Government of Adamawa State has not committed any offence by allowing us to use the lodge as a contact office.
"Minister Mohammed is usurping powers that do not belong to him. His unjustifiable action is yet another evidence of impunity by some overzealous people in government intent on blackmailing President Goodluck Jonathan and portraying him as draconian and undemocratic president."