The Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has launched a covert plan aimed at defeating the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, in the Southwest in the 2019 poll.
As part of the scheme, Atiku will kick-start his presidential campaign with a zonal rally in Lagos on November 28.
But it was learnt that the weak structure of PDP in the Southwest is of concern to the candidate and the PDP.
Also, ahead of the commencement of his campaign, pressure for posts has delayed the announcement of the full members of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the party.
The list of PCC was still being tinkered with at the last minute to “accommodate different interests”.
As at press time, the PDP candidate was yet to make a commitment to the leaders of the party, especially the Southeast caucus, on whether or not he will spend one term in office.
The Southeast wants power shift to the geopolitical zone in 2023 and it is seeking a firm commitment on this desire.
The six-year plan in Atiku’s manifestoes has created more anxiety for Southeast leaders in PDP.
Checks have however confirmed that Atiku is set for campaign with a hectic programme.
According to a copy of the campaign schedule of Atiku, which was exclusively obtained by our correspondent, Atiku will hold zonal rallies as follows: Lagos (November 28 for Southwest); Kano (December 1 for Northwest); Enugu (December 5 for Southeast); Ilorin (December 8 for Northcentral); Port Harcourt (December 12-Southsouth) and Bauchi (December 15 for Northeast).
Atiku is expected to start a marathon state campaign shuttle from Sokoto on December 18.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “The choice of Southwest, especially Lagos, is to underscore the determination of PDP to win the zone in 2019. With the Southeast and South-south in our kitty, the main target is the Southwest.
“The Southwest has a huge and sophisticated voting strength; it remains a major target of our campaign. With ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s backing, PDP will go all out to change the narrative in this zone.
“We have a big plan to win the Southwest if it means going from door to door.”
It was however learnt that the weak structure of the party in the Southwest has been a major headache for PDP.
A party leader said: “Our party is not too strong in the Southwest like when Obasanjo was in power. This is giving us a bit of concern. But since we will tackle APC on issues, there might be empathy for PDP.
“The people of the Southwest cannot be led by the nose. We want to capitalize on their discerning minds to capture the zone.”
Investigation also revealed that Atiku is yet to release the list of members of the Presidential Campaign Council due to pressure to tinker with it and accommodate some party leaders.
A PDP stalwart said: “Atiku is always reworking the list in order to make it representational.
“There is always pressure to accommodate vested interests. But in the next few days, Atiku will roll out the names of PCC members.”
Ahead of the campaign launch, it was gathered that Atiku has not made any commitment to the party and the Southeast Caucus on whether or not he will spend one term in office.
The issue of tenure was said to be central to the backing of the Southeast for PDP because the zone is after power shift in 2023.
A member of the National Executive Committee of PDP said: “Atiku has not been forthcoming on whether he will spend a term in office or two terms. We are trying to read his lips but no commitment yet.
“Instead, we read of his six-year plan which pointed to a second term. If he spends two terms in office, it will give the North an edge of 16 years in power and it might foreclose the chances of the Igbo. This is why some PDP governors and leaders from the Southeast are being sceptical of Atiku Project.”
But one of the strategists of Atiku, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, has said that there was “nothing in the Atiku Plan to suggest a hidden agenda of two terms in office for Atiku Abubakar.”
He said: “The document is a product of 18 months of well researched and widely consulted hard work on how to move Nigeria forward and to speed up the pace of development across all the critical sectors of the economy.
“The reason the policy document was authored to cover up to 2025 and beyond was simply meant to address the volatility and unpredictability of global trade and economics, as most progressive leaders who understand the intricate nature of growing their economies, draw up 10 year strategic vision plans for their nations, even when they well understand that their term in office will not extend to such a period.
“Government is a continuum and as such a sound and effective development plan can serve several leaders who are desirous of enhancing the welfare and wellbeing of their citizens.”
The campaign strategist cited three examples from Nigeria’s recent past where the current administration continued to implement some major projects and policies of the immediate past PDP administration.
He listed the projects to include Railway projects, the implementation of the TSA and BVN financial policy, by the Buhari administration, which were actually inherited by the sound development plan of the President Goodluck Jonathan era.
“Sadly, the mudslinging intentions and diabolic attempts to divert the campaign away from the real issues that continue to bedevil the country, has been given a new twist by the purveyors of negative propaganda.
“These persons have simply overlooked the salient points contained in the “My plan to get Nigeria working again” document to invoke ethnic and divisive sentiments by insinuating that the document has exposed a hidden agenda of a second term plan by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and by so doing are directly provoking the Southeast or even Southwest into erroneously believing that they have no stake in 2023″
“With all these, it is obvious that “My Plan to get Nigeria working Again”, is indeed a comprehensive work plan that has been structured to outlive Atiku’s stay in office, even if it was to become a two-term presidency.
“The mention of 2025 and 2030 as delivery dates for some of the critical components of the plan is a clear demonstration that Atiku’s vision reflects the sincerity of his intentions to achieve a better more progressive Nigeria and the generosity of the mind of a good leader who thinks ahead in a selfless manner for common good.
“Indeed, working with a man like Peter Obi, who incidentally is from the Southeast and whose sterling track record as a financial guru and economic master-strategist, speak volumes for the expansive nationalistic vision of Atiku Abubakar.”