As preparation for the forthcoming governorship election in Adamawa intensifies, the two major political parties - the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP], and the All Progressives Congress [APC] - are wooing a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC,] Nuhu Ribadu, to run for governor on their platforms.
Although Mr. Ribadu is a member of the APC, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the ruling PDP and some interest groups in his native Adamawa state have stepped up lobby to win the former anti-graft chief over to the ruling party.
This newspaper learnt authoritatively that President Goodluck Jonathan, through one of his closest aides, Hassan Tukur, has made overtures to Mr. Ribadu to cross over to the ruling party.
The National Chairman of the party, Ahmed Muazu, as well as a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Aliyu Modibbo, who are long-time friends of the former EFCC chairman, are also said to be pestering Mr. Ribadu to dump the APC.
Top PDP sources also told this newspaper that the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; a former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, Akin Osuntokun; and a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode (who recently defected to the ruling party) might also be enlisted to pressure the anti-corruption activist to join the PDP.
The PDP wants Ribadu, this newspaper understands, as a way of weakening the APC in Adamawa and isolating former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a political juggernaut who recently defected to the opposition party.
Elections will be held in Mr. Ribadu's Adamawa State in about three months following the impeachment of former Governor Murtala Nyako by the state assembly.
The lawmakers accuse him of financial mismanagement and gross misconduct, allegations the impeached governor rejected.
Almost immediately after Mr. Nyako's impeachment, the fortunes of the APC nosedived dramatically in the state. Virtually all elected and appointed officials in the state, who had joined the former governor to defect to the opposition party last year, returned to the PDP.
From commissioners to local government chairmen and to councillors, almost all officials have pledged loyalty to Acting Governor Umaru Fintiri while also announcing their defection to the PDP.
Impeachment fallout, frustrations
Mr. Ribadu is yet to comment on the speculation that he might soon switch to the PDP. One of his aides said he is still consulting on the matter.
But analysts say it should not be entirely surprising if the anti-corruption activist eventually dumped his party and accepted the invitation of the ruling party.
Party insiders say the former presidential candidate has had a longstanding frustration with his party and the way it is run.
Mr. Ribadu was one of the few APC chieftains who stood by Mr. Nyako during his impeachment travails.
An associate of the former EFCC chairman said after the embattled Adamawa governor was removed, Mr. Ribadu complained to close friends that Mr. Nyako fell because the APC national leadership did not rally round him strongly enough.
"Ribadu worked so hard and nearly saved the former governor because he was able to convince some members of the state Assembly to withdraw their support for the impeachment," the associate said. " If he had gotten the support of the national leadership of the party, all they needed was one more member and the impeachment would have collapsed."
The associate, who asked not be named so as not to anger Mr. Ribadu for disclosing details of private conversations, said the former ACN presidential candidate complained that the APC behaved like a party that does not care about its members in trouble.
The source said at that point, Mr. Ribadu became deeply frustrated at the development in Adamawa that he contemplated withdrawing from politics entirely.
His commitment to the APC was shaken, the associate said.
Mr. Nyako now out of the way, Mr. Ribadu became the most formidable candidate the APC can present in the forthcoming governorship election in the state, but various sources suggested former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is a leader of the party in the state, is not a fan of the former EFCC chairman and that both men are finding it difficult working together.
"As you know Ribadu once wrote a report indicting Turaki for corruption," an official of the Adamawa State chapter of the APC told this newspaper. "Both men have yet to forget that episode and it is unlikely Ribadu will be comfortable working with the former VP in the same party."
Another factor that may influence Mr. Ribadu's decision on whether to heed the PDP's call or not is the way the APC is run.
Associates of Mr. Ribadu said the politician is unhappy by the APC's lack of ability to resolve the conflicts within its fold and the lack of internal democracy in the party.
The EFCC chairman is also said to be bitter that some leading chieftains of the party are increasingly being sidelined in the race for the presidential ticket of the party.
"Ribadu would have preferred an opportunity to contest the presidential ticket in a free and fair primary," another associate of the politician said. " But as it is now, the leadership of the APC has made its 2015 presidential direction clear to potential candidates, with Mr. Ribadu standing no chance.
"People always talk about integrity as the reason why he should not join the PDP, but what has that earned him in the APC? Despite his popular appeal, the leaders have not given him his deserved place," he said.
Mr. Ribadu, PREMIUM TIMES gathered, has for long refused overtures from the PDP. However, his loyalists believe the former presidential candidate " has gained nothing for his loyalty.
"Even people he supported for party leadership in both Adamawa and national level were rejected by some powerful forces, in favour of their cronies.
"If you look at it, all this while there have been flying allegations about how some prominent APC leaders sold him out in the then ACN but he has always dismissed the allegations as a mark of respect to them," the source added.
The Elders' Factor
Another side to the unfolding drama is what a source described as "overwhelming pressure from some notable individuals and elites from Adamawa and beyond."
"Some of these individuals, who have been agitating for Mr. Ribadu to jettison his presidential ambition and vie for Adamawa governorship instead, have now added a caveat to their pledge of support by asking him to declare under the PDP which they see as a more formidable platform in the current equation," he said.
Mr. Ribadu consulting
When contacted, Mr. Ribadu's media aide, Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, admitted that the former EFCC chairman is under intense pressure from different quarters.
"Consultations are still on and I believe he will make public his stance at the appropriate time. We should first tarry a while to reach the bridge before crossing it.
"Remember that he is yet to personally declare his interest in the governorship race, more so of a platform. In addition he has an offer from an international organisation which he is also looking at.
"But in all these, his watchword is how he can be of use to his people and his country."
The secretary of the PDP in Adamawa State, A.T. Shehu, said the party would welcome Mr. Ribadu into its fold.
"We have not received any communication to that effect but the news of a personality like Nuhu Ribadu is a plus to any party.
"No right thinking party will turn down the request of Nuhu Ribadu to join the party. He has made name for himself. He was a Presidential aspirant, one-time EFCC boss who did his job with great determination and commitment.
"Certainly no party will close its door to such a man," he said.
The secretary however said as a party that respects its constitution and manifesto, Mr. Ribadu would not be given preferential treatment.
"That Nuhu Ribadu has made name does not give him the automatic ticket to be the party's flag bearer. Those of us in the party that have shown interest to vie for the governorship ticket are equally very good materials".
Also, the spokesperson of the APC in the state, Phinas Padio, said the defection of politicians from one party to another is normal, adding however, that Mr. Ribadu remained a member of the APC.
"As far as we are concern, news of the defection of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu remains a rumour. He has not communicated his wish to leave the party to anyone here," he said.