THERE is fresh panic in the camp of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over his chances in the February election, following the latest verbal attack on some of his key allies by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo, at a recent meeting with a PDP delegation at his Abeokuta residence ,had come hard on two Atiku’s allies ,branding them betrayers.
The duo,who hold top positions in the ‘Atiku for president’ team, were part of the party’s delegation to Abeokuta last weekend.
The Rivers State chapter of the PDP also flayed the Atiku camp yesterday in response to allegations of thuggery leveled at its members by persons supporting the party’s presidential candidate in the state.
The PDP delegation to Obasanjo had gone to seek his support for the party in the February election but got more than it bargained for when the former president tongue lashed two members of the team for what he called their betrayal acts.
One was accused of betraying the collective decision of Southern governors that the presidency should rotate to the South in 2023 while the other was accused of betraying his party over sharing of positions way back in 2011.
Party sources said the dressing down was not a good omen for the PDP especially in the South West where Atiku’s chances are generally seen as nothing to write home about.
On the delegation were former governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Sule Lamido as well as Atiku’s running mate,Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
A source privy to the discussion said : “Baba was categorical in disappointment with one of the men over his support for Atiku. While he recognised the person’s right to freedom of choice, he expressed surprise that a prominent southern politician could oppose the clamour for power to shift to the south after eight years of northern presidency.
“He (Obasanjo) also recalled how the other person similarly betrayed the leadership of the PDP to pitch tent with the opposition to thwart the emergence of the party’s anointed candidate for the position of the Speaker.
“He kept wondering if such persons could be trusted to keep promises and show patriotism. His displeasure with the duo created tension throughout the parley as the former president refused to endorse Atiku’s presidential ambition.”
A party leader from Osun State said: “Our concern in the Southwest has been heightened by what is reported to have transpired when some PDP leaders met with former President Obasanjo in Abeokuta.
“The elder-statesman wasted no time in telling our representatives at the meeting that it was wrong for southerners to oppose power shift to the South in 2023. He has his reasons, but his position, as a prominent political force in the zone, will not help our party’s chances in the Southwest.
“ So, it is proper for us to be worried. But I can assure you that we are not deterred by the development.
“There are numerous prominent south westerners who are supporting Atiku’s aspiration. We are working hard to ensure that their voices are heard too. “Obasanjo’s position is personal to him and he is free to make his choice. We do not begrudge him.
“Those who were at the meeting too did not leave the place without explaining what he didn’t understand to him. The PDP wants to win election and we believe that with Atiku, we stand a good chance. We will not give up on canvassing the good people of the zone to vote PDP. Don’t forget that Tinubu (APC presidential candidate) is from the Southwest and we have him to contend with in the zone.”
Besides the feared backlash of the Obasanjo dressing down,The Nation also gathered that Atiku’s supporters are bothered about the poor turnout at his presidential campaign rally in Lagos during the week.
A source said not only was the PDP presidential candidate displeased with the abysmally low turnout of supporters at the event, he saw the development as a bad omen.
“To many of us, if Atiku must do well in 2023, we must do something about Lagos. The last rally in Lagos frightened us all. The turnout was nothing to write home about. Truth be told, we were all jolted by the reality of the situation in Lagos,” he said.
“But I must tell you that the situation is not a true reflection of Atiku’s popularity in the state. He has massive followership in the state and he will enjoy support during the election.
“What happened was the result of infightings among our party leaders in the state. We are working hard to resolve some issues going forward and I believe very strongly that things will change for good before the next election. PDP is strong in Lagos and we will prove that at the general election.”
The Nation also learnt that developments within the Oyo State chapter of the party are bothering Atiku’s allies as they fear that Governor Seyi Makinde’s disposition to the PDP candidate’s ambition will hurt the chances in February.