2019: PDP leaders meet Kwankwaso, target Saraki

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There are strong indications that the Peoples Democratic Party has begun fresh moves to reconcile with its former top members that defected to the All Progressives Congress before the 2015 general elections.

The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that among those being wooed by the PDP was a former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankanso, and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

It was learnt that the fresh moves, which began a week ago, formed part of the strategies the leadership of the former ruling party had mapped out to strengthen the PDP ahead of the 2019 elections.

The peace shuttle, it was learnt on Sunday, was also part of the action plan of the party ahead of its National Convention in May.

Kwankwaso, some former governors from the North and some Senators met behind closed-doors shortly before the wedding (fatiha) of the daughter of a former Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abdullahi Kure, in the Lapai area of the state on Sunday.

Although the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed to newsmen, who had laid siege to the venue of the wedding, it was gathered that it was not unconnected with the current search for a northern candidate to fly the flag of the PDP in the 2019 presidential poll.

Some PDP supporters at the venue strengthened insinuations that the former Kano State governor was being pressurised to come back to the PDP.

The supporters, on sighting the dignitaries coming out of the closed-door meeting, chorused, “Sai Kwankwaso, Sai Kwankwasia, Sai Kadawo PDP, insha Allah” meaning “Kwankwaso, you must come back to PDP.”

Kwankwaso
Kwankwaso

Those who attended the meeting included the Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibril; Kure; immediate past governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu; a former governor of Kano State, Mr. Ibrahim Shekarau; Senator Philip Tanimu Ajuda, Senator Smart Adeyemi and Senator Isah Mohammed.

However, none of the PDP chiefs agreed to speak to newsmen after emerging from the meeting as they headed straight for the Mosque for the commencement of the wedding ceremony, administered by the Chief Imam of Lapai Central Mosque, Sheik Bashir Lapai.

The PDP BoT chairman confirmed that the party had zoned its Presidency to the North in 2019, saying the former ruling party was in search of a credible candidate for the race.

Jibril added, “We (PDP) have zoned the Presidency to the North but the Vice-President and other positions have not been zoned yet because we are still consulting.”

He stated that the party was on a reconciliation drive to ensure that all aggrieved members, including those that had left the PDP, returned to the party so that the PDP could win the 2019 presidential election.

But Kwankanso on Sunday denied holding any political meeting with some PDP leaders in Lapai, Niger State, on Sunday.

Kwankwaso, a Senator, spoke with one of our correspondents through one of his aides, who returned the ex-governor’s call, but failed to disclose his identity.

The aide said, “It is not true that Senator Kwankwaso held a meeting with PDP leaders after he had attended the wedding ceremony.

“Senator Kwankwaso and Alhaji Aliyu (Kure) were friends and they both served as governors in their respective states between 1999 and 2003 and they had remained close since then.

“There is no way that Senator Kwankwaso would be holding secret meeting with members of the opposition party when he remained committed to his party, the All Progressives Congress. He is a loyal party man, who would not engage in any anti-party activities.”

Saraki and Kwankwaso are currently having running battles with the APC.

The Senate President is undergoing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for an alleged false and anticipatory declaration of assets.

He has said on many occasions that his trial was political and that it might be because the party’s national leadership didn’t want him as the President of the Senate.

Saraki, who is now a chieftain of the APC, was governor of Kwara State for eight years as a member of the PDP.

Kwankwaso is engaged in a power tussle with his successor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje in the Kano State APC.

It was believed that Kwankwaso was being cut to size in the party because he could be nursing a presidential ambition in 2019.

A chieftain of the party, who confided in The PUNCH on Sunday, said the PDP had realised the mistake it made by allowing Kwankanso and other former members, including the President of the Senate, to leave its fold.

He said the PDP had been meeting its former members, including Kwankanso and Saraki, so that they could come back to the party.

“We made a mistake by dismissing the influence of these politicians. You will recall that Kwankaso came second at the APC presidential primary. Saraki is also very influential. If we had won Kano and Kwara states in the last presidential election, the APC would not have produced the President,” the PDP chieftain reasoned.

Another PDP stalwart told one of our correspondents that since Kwankwaso had lost control of the party structure in Kano State and was facing stiff opposition from the incumbent governor, Abubakar Ganduje, the PDP was the likely option for him to turn to.

The source noted that Kwankwaso was originally a PDP man but only defected to the APC in 2014 when it was obvious that the PDP would not allow anyone to contest against Jonathan.

He said the party was aware of Kwankwaso’s presidential ambition and would woo him back to the party and guarantee him a level playing field.

The top party man, a former national officer of the PDP added, “Kwankwaso won two governorship elections on the platform of the PDP and also served as a minister; so, he is a PDP man through and through.

“He is being maltreated by Ganduje and the party has refused to help resolve the crisis. This governor was Kwankwaso’s handpicked man as his successor.

“We virtually have no presence in Kano State; so, if we can get a serving Senator with a huge following like Kwankwaso, it would be a game changer ahead of 2019.”

Another PDP leader told one of our correspondents that it was seeking to exploit the crisis in the APC rank in the Senate to bring some APC lawmakers to the PDP.

One of our correspondents gathered that the about-to-be-inaugurated Reconciliation Committee of the PDP would visit Saraki and a former Vice President and impress on them the need to return to the PDP.

The committee is headed by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson.

Determined to retrieve power from the Buhari-led APC government in 2019, the PDP has already zoned its presidential ticket to the northern part of the country.

A source, who is a member of the NWC of the PDP, said, “We are no longer in power and the number of governors we have has reduced drastically.

“We therefore need someone who is rich and has the contacts across the country to help us wrestle power from the APC come 2019.

“We all know that only the likes of the ex-vice-president and former governors can do this for us. We want them back in our party.”

Authoritative sources told our correspondent that the committee would also visit Kwankwaso.

Jibril said he would want all PDP former members and new ones to return to its fold.

He told one of our correspondents that the doors of the party would remain open.

He added, “Any person, who wants to return to the party, including those you have mentioned, are free to return.

“We need them just the way we need many others who are not our members before.”

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, said he was not aware of the meeting with Kwankwaso in Lapai on Sunday.

Attempts to get a response from the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, on the meeting in Lapai and the moves by the PDP to woo some APC members,  proved abortive.

Calls to his mobile were not returned. A response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.

The Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, to the Senate President, Alhaji Yusuf Olaniyonu, believed newsmen were creating stories to the effect that his principal was on the radar of the PDP towards 2019.

“Why will the PDP ask the Senate President to join a party he left two years ago? For what benefit or purpose? There is no truth to that fiction,” Oloniyonu said.

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