In an apparent move to forestall the reported planned defection of some party big wigs ahead of the 2019 general election, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met behind closed doors with Senate President Bukola Saraki and some governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the presidential villa, Abuja. The governors at the meeting were Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina).
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ekiti State governor-elect, Kayode Fayemi, were also at the meeting. LEADERSHIP Friday gathered reliably that the meeting had as part of its agenda the rumoured defection of the Senate president to the PDP.
It was learnt that the meeting was convened at the instance of President Buhari who invited the Saraki to discuss issues bordering on reports suggesting that he was planning to dump the APC. A source at the meeting told our correspondent that the president demanded to know from Saraki whether he was planning to defect and what his reasons were if it was true.
The source who did not want his name in print said, "President Buhari is the leader of the party and as such would not fold his hands and watch very important and influential members leave the party. So, he spoke to the Senate president concerning his purported planned defection and told him why the action might spell danger for the APC and the polity ahead of the 2019 general polls. "The governors at the meeting also tried to convince Saraki to see reasons why leaving the party at this time would augur ill for the change agenda and the polity. They reminded Saraki of how central and vital he was to the APC government, and I think the Senate president may have seen reason with them, though his stance was still not clear as at the time the meeting ended". When approached by journalists, Saraki who arrived the presidential villa at about 4:18pm declined comments on the crux of the meeting when approached by State House correspondents.
On his part, Fayemi said they met with the president to celebrate his victory at the Ekiti governorship election, adding that the ruling party will win the Osun gubernatorial election coming up later this year. Zamfara State governor, Yari, who was also part of the meeting is the chairman of the Osun APC gubernatorial primaries, which is expected to hold today. The new PDP faction of the APC, which Saraki belongs to, has already joined camp with the PDP and it is expected that in the coming days, more APC members will defect to the opposition party. Also, leaders of the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) met with the leaders of the PDP in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Wednesday.
Although the R-APC leaders were said have gone to the state to commiserate with leader of the new PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, who lost his mother recently, it was learnt that a meeting was held to discuss the absorption of the new PDP and the R-APC into the PDP was held. Those who attended the meeting were Senate President Saraki and PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who led members of the party's National Working Committee (NWC). Governors at the meeting included Samuel Ortom (Benue), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers).
PDP Threatens To Boycott 2019 Polls
Meanwhile, the PDP said yesterday that there might be no need for it to participate in the 2019 general election because it has lost faith in the non-partisanship of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies.
National chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who stated this while briefing a combined delegation of International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) at the PDP national secretariat, said the outcome of the Ekiti State governorship election has eroded their confidence in the electoral system. Secondus told the two institutions that were on a visit to political parties as part of their assessment tour ahead of the 2019 polls that PDP voted against security agencies and INEC in the Ekiti poll, which allegedly colluded to alter the election figures in favour of the APC. The PDP chairman alleged that the party agents were beaten up and sent away from the polling units by security operatives, while APC agents were allowed to operate as they wished.
Addressing the delegation, Secondus said, "Our opinion is that INEC and security agents are directly involved in this manipulation. As a matter of fact, we did not contest against the APC. We contested against the security agencies and INEC.
"Moving forward, if nothing is done to stamp out and restore the confidence of ordinary Nigerians and other political parties, then it may be difficult to accept the result of the 2019 general election, no matter what the outcome may be, unless it is transparent, free and fair, and it is a recipe for crises.
"We believe that if we are not sure that both INEC and security agencies will be transparent and that they will not take side, we are consulting as to whether we shall participate or not, because you are participating against security agencies and INEC that have colluded to alter the figures even after you have voted. So, we are in dilemma."Secondus pointed out that PDP had protested at the National Assembly and INEC headquarters upon their discovery that electoral officials and security agents posted to the Ekiti State for the polls had been compromised. The party chairman also stressed that the election was over militarised. Shedding more light on what transpired during the Ekiti election, the national organising secretary of PDP, Col Austin Akobundu, alleged massive intimidation of its members who had been trained to carry out their activities in a none violent manner. He further alleged that in the hinterlands where observers couldn't get to, security operative brazenly chased away PDP agents, creating an avenue for illegal frontloading of card reader result, which were sent to database.
Akobundu added that conflict of results emerged on the part of the electoral commission because they hurriedly dealt with irreconcilable figures.
He added that "this is just a brief incident that took place but we are still studying all that happened there and we will come up with an accurate account based on the testimony of our agents who were in the field".
Earlier, the leader of the NDI/IRI delegation, Dr Pauline Beckamp, said, "We are very pleased to have been able to meet with you.
"We are here to hear from you the challenges and opportunities on the upcoming election and most importantly what challenges you encountered so that we can discuss with INEC."
Sultan, Ooni, CAN Others Harp On Free, Credible Elections
Meanwhile, ahead of the 2019 general election, eminent religious and traditional leaders have tasked politicians and leaders at all levels to take steps to eschew violence and ensure justice in decisions taken as it affects the nation.
Speaking at a National Stakeholders Summit On 2019 Election Integrity and the official unveiling of RigNoVote in Abuja yesterday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alh Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and national president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, said, the panacea to the nation's woes is credible leaders at all spheres of leadership.
Making his submission, the Sultan of Sokoto said, "We cannot claim to be God-fearing when, as a leaders, there is no justice in whatever we do. As Othman DAN Fodio said, a country can endure with unbelief, but a country can endure with injustice and that is why, as leaders, we must put justice first as the strongest pillar. "There are so many organizations, some very small and others big, but one thing that is clear is that everybody is talking positively about what must happen in Nigeria and that is what we must do by insisting that things must happen the way the constitution, which is the law of the land, and our religion permits them to happen. "As Christians and Muslims, we know the sacredness of life. We cannot go about killing innocent people and claiming to be doing so in the name of religion. This is not right and it must be condemned and must be removed from our communities
On his part, CAN chairman, Ayokunle, wondered why good leadership has eluded Nigeria this far.
He said, "The blind has been leading those who can see. It is very unfortunate that the best Nigerian is not the leader of the nation. We don't want a mediocre; we don't need a mediocre because you can only offer what you have. You cannot offer what you don't have.
"And we, in a his 21st century should be able to take our destinies in our own hands by saying no to anyone, no matter how highly placed, that wants to manipulate elections, thereby mortgaging the future of Nigerians."
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi, said, "This country belong to all Nigerians and the welfare of every Nigeria must count. The way the votes of Nigerians will count individually, the welfare must also count. We are going into the next political dispensation, let us talk to ourselves.
"Thieves, Armed robbers, terrorists are not faceless people. They live in our midst and we can fish them out if we are serious enough. If we are serious enough, then we should let them know that they can be ostracised from the society and that they don't have a place in this society. We should all come together and see how to better the lots of our youths."