Defection threat: How Atiku, Secondus’ telephone calls pacified Ekweremadu

Telephone calls made by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Prince Uche Secondus,  and the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, to the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu,  were said to have pacified Ekweremadu and made him  drop his alleged threat to leave the party, The PUNCH learnt on Wednesday.

Ekweremadu is believed to be angry that he was not picked for the position of the running mate to Atiku in next year’s election.

As the highest political office holder in the party from the South-East where the position was zoned to Ekweremadu was believed to have positioned himself for the slot.

He was also said to have been sidelined in the decision-making that led to the picking of a former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, as Atiku’s running mate.

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Ekweremadu was believed to have wondered what would be his position in both the party and the government if Atiku wins the presidency.

A member of the National Working Committee of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity with our correspondent, said Ekweremadu’s fear was justified.

He said, “It is clear to us that the South-East will not produce the DSP in Atiku’s government.  It will not also have any special role to play in the party as well. So, what will become of Ekweremadu?  Will he return to the Senate as an ordinary member?”

However, when the threat to leave the party became rife, both Secondus and Atiku were said to have made telephone calls to Ekweremadu to assure him of the party’s respect for him.

Ekweremadu is presently out of Nigeria.

“I can tell you that both Secondus and Atiku had called Ekweremadu. They had asked him not to be worried and that the party had tremendous respect for him,” the source added.

I remain a member of the PDP, says Ekweremadu

Meanwhile, Ekweremadu has debunked reports that he was headed to the ruling All Progressives Congress, noting that he remained a member of the PDP.

In a statement on his Facebook page, @iamekweremadu, on Wednesday, the senator said, “I am presently out of the country on a prescheduled engagement.

“In the past 24 hours, I have been inundated with calls from friends and political associates seeking clarification on the rumours of my departure from the PDP, which has dominated the media.

“Let it be known that my path in politics is in the hands of the Almighty God, who has indeed been very faithful and gracious to me. I’m very grateful to God for this.

“My vision in politics is a system that works for everybody, a social and political environment where everybody, every section, and every tribe not only counts but is also seen to count. As leaders, we must be mindful of this, for any system built on anything less will not endure.

“I am grateful to you – members of my family, my friends, political associates, and admirers across Nigeria and beyond – for your uncommon concern. I am indeed humbled by your kind words of solidarity and support.

“Please, rest assured that I am still in the PDP.”

Ekweremadu is PDP, body and Soul – Akobundu

Meanwhile, the National Organising Secretary of the PDP, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd.), has said that the rumoured defection of Ekweremadu to the APC was the handiwork of mischief makers who he said were worried about the rising profile of the party.

The NOS said Ekweremadu “is PDP, body and soul and he is not leaving the party to anywhere.”

Meanwhile, the Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr Peter Obi, on Wednesday,  in Abuja, met with delegations from the European Union and World Economic Forum to discuss the need to conduct free and fair elections in 2019 and how to grow the nation’s economy through collaboration.

Obi, who represented the presidential candidate of the party and former Vice-President of Nigeria, Atiku  Abubakar,  at the two separate meetings, told the EU delegation that efforts should be made to stop the APC from intimidating candidates of opposition political parties who, he said, now lived in fear.

He said the EU should insist on a level-playing field for all candidates and parties during elections in Nigeria because “there is a need to get the country back to its feet and make it better for our children.’’

He said that campaigns should be based on issues so that the electorate and the international community could come to grasp with the problems of the country as well as the solutions being proffered by each of the political parties and their candidates.

The former Anambra Governor said that judging from what happened during the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States, “INEC needs to show that it remains an unbiased umpire in future elections in the country.”

In his comments, the head of the EU delegation, Ketil Karlsen, said the election observer group had been consulting stakeholders in Nigeria to ascertain whether or not it would be necessary for the union to send a new EU election observer mission.

He said the EU mission had been operating in Nigeria since 1999 and that the union had invested over 100 million Euros in Nigeria’s election process since then.

Speaking at the meeting with officials of WEF, Obi emphasised the need for a closer working relationship with African countries, especially Nigeria, because most governments on the continent did not want to work with the forum for fear of being criticised.

He said, “A lot of work needs to be done in Africa because things are tough. Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates of the PDP have a clear picture of what the economic priorities are and what the international community feels about the country.

“Nigeria needs to do something immediately for its economy to be put back on track and something has to done immediately.”

The leader of the WEF delegation, Nontle Kabanyane, said that the forum was ready to strengthen relationships and to implement more activities in Nigeria through a collaboration that would lead to national transformation.

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