A spokesman for Nigeria’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has appealed to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a party stalwart, to return to the ruling party after his sudden defection to the main opposition, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Abdullahi Jalo, however, denied that the PDP is in crisis following high-profile defections that include influential governors and legislators who announced they had joined the APC ahead of next year’s presidential, legislative and local elections.
The PDP has won every national election since 1999 when Nigeria returned to constitutional governance following years of military rule. Analysts say the defection of the former vice president could undermine the electoral dominance of the ruling PDP in next year’s vote.
“We really want him to be with us and we are appealing to him to come back to our party so that at least we can move ahead. Because he has a lot of wealth of experience and then this is the time he could help the country,” said Jalo. “Whether he has an interest to contest or not, at least he cannot destroy the house he built, because almost all the elders and the founding fathers of the party are still with the PDP.”
Citing a lack of internal democracy, impunity and the refusal of the party to address concerns that led to the defection of the governors and legislators, Abubakar announced his defection from the ruling PDP.
“This is the first time that Atiku Abubakar is defecting from PDP to ACN [Action Congress of Nigeria] from ACN to PDP, and now from PDP to APC. We hope he will defect again from APC to PDP,” said Jalo. “Unfortunately, we are not comfortable with how he reacts to issues. We really sympathize with his decision, but people will begin to interpret it like he is jumping from one party, because he likes to become a president, which is unfortunate.”
But, Abubakar denied he wants to be the presidential candidate of the main opposition APC, vowing to help the party to win the 2015 general election.
Some observers say the defection of the former vice president could pave the way for more defections, contending that Abubakar, who is a financier of the PDP, enjoys significant support from the party’s “foot soldiers.”
Jalo, however, says the PDP is implementing new measures to address its internal challenges in the run up to next year’s vote after Bamanga Tukur, former national chairman of the party, resigned. Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu is the new national chairman of the PDP.
“The new chairman has come on board and visiting all those who are the brains behind the formation of the PDP. And wherever he goes, he will say be patient, please forgive us and let’s forge ahead. So that is the PDP of today,” said Jalo.
Jalo also says the ruling party is still capable of winning the general election next year in spite of the high-profile defections.
“It is the only party that embraces almost all the major tribes and smaller tribes and then they have come together to work together and that is what has made PDP to survive the 15 years ruling [the country],” said Jalo.