A total of 120 support groups of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Tuesday defected from the All Progressives Congress to the Peoples Democratic Party.
They dumped the APC for the ruling PDP at an elaborate ceremony held at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
However, in a swift reaction, Turaki Vanguard, the umbrella group of Mr. Atiku’s supporters said members of the 120 groups are not supporters of the former vice president.
Mr. Atiku, the Turakin Adamawa, was a member of the PDP before decamping to the APC in 2014. He however failed to pick the presidential ticket of the party, losing to Muhammadu Buhari, who is flying the party’s ticket in the March 28 presidential election.
Peter Ogar, national coordinator of Renaissance for Socio-political Transformation of Nigeria, who spoke on behalf of the groups, said they decided to return to the PDP that there was no alternative to President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said after critically analysing the president’s development programmes, the groups came to the conclusion that they surpassed all those executed by previous governments in the country.
“We have understood the event of December 10, 2014, wherein our able leader, the Turakin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, was, through a gang up, denied us and indeed Nigerians the chance to have a true option in the forthcoming presidential election,” Mr. Ogar said.
“Accordingly, we had to take time to analyse the inner workings of the current administration under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and came to the conclusion that outside the Turaki, there is no better candidate within any opposition political party, hence the need for a rethink and strategic political repositioning for the sake of our great country, Nigeria.”
Receiving the defectors, the National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, assured them that they were now in the right party.
“Today, you have decided to return, you have equal rights with any other member of the party who have been there for a long time,” Mr. Secondus said. “You are free to engage in any party activities especially at this time when we are campaigning and election coming on the 28th.
“There would have been no better time for you to show and to declare your support for the party and our candidate, Jonathan. The rally point today is Jonathan; he is the symbol of Nigerian unity.”
Mr. Secondus accused the APC of planning to churn out false information against Mr. Jonathan and the PDP as the elections approach.
He said, “Let me give you this alert – the opposition especially the APC, in the coming days and weeks towards the March 28 have deliberately packaged well misinformed and propaganda that they are ready to be dishing out to the public.
“These propagandas are aimed at blackmailing with the president, the party or people in government. It is good for us to alert you on this so that by the time you see all sorts of headlines….I saw a headline in the newspaper today saying that the Federal Government had contracted an Israeli company to jam the card readers. Can you imagine?”
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, said the APC was already divided against itself and that its members were always in conflict.
He said Mr. Jonathan had performed well since he assumed office. According to him, under the Jonathan administration, Nigeria had become the largest economy in Africa while other infrastructures are now working in the country.
The Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Ahmed Alkali, described members of the APC as “desperate politicians” who should not be identified with.
He said the opposition regrettably did not want the elections postponed even though they knew the Independent National Electoral Commission was not ready for the polls.
Mr. Alkali said by their defection, the 120 groups had become part of the over 5000 groups supporting Mr. Jonathan.
The presidential aide said Mr. Atiku was on vacation from the PDP and would return to the ruling party like his supporters soon.
However, Mr. Atiku’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, could not be reached for comments as he did not pick telephone calls to his mobile telephone.
The National Publicity Secretary of Turaki Vanguard, Soji Bamidele, told PREMIUM TIMES that the defectors were not Mr. Atiku’s loyalists as they claimed.
“They are faceless groups, we don’t know them,” he said.
Mr. Bamidele, who confirmed that Mr. Atiku was being wooed back into the party, said the former vice president “is not shifting ground and will never go back to the PDP”.