National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has, however, described Atiku’s defection as an act of frustration for a man determined to become president at the last opportune time in his old age, saying the party had for over a year, known of his move to jump ship.
Atiku’s defection and challenge to Buhari were, however, dismissed as inconsequential by Mrs. Lauretta Onochie, the President’s Special Assistant on New Media, who in an interview yesterday, affirmed that Atiku could not defeat Buhari in his ward.
The assertions nonetheless, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr. Timi Frank, yesterday, warned that more high-level defections from the APC could occur in the near future, if the party leadership failed to mend its ways. Mr. Frank, a well-known ally of Atiku, however, vowed not to defect from the APC, saying he will stay put within the party.
Meanwhile, anxiety about Atiku’s defection from the APC has kept senators in a state of unease, with many leading senators shying away from comments on the defection by the former vice-president.
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed was, however, not so inclined, dismissing Atiku yesterday as overreaching himself.
Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, could not be reached yesterday, following his return from Jordan after the presidential trip to that country.
However, a senior presidential official told Vanguard, yesterday, that the President would not be dragged into a pre-campaign spat with the former vice-president who he said was being dismissed by the Presidency as inconsequential, noting that Atiku had serially lost proxy elections with Buhari in his home state, Adamawa.
The Presidency source, who spoke on the basis of strict confidentiality said: “We will not take the bait by Atiku to enter into a presidential election campaign when the season is yet to take off.
‘’If Atiku must be taken seriously, let him go and beat Bindow (Governor Umaru Jibrilla) who has beaten his candidate three straight times.’’
He said in reference to the defeat by Governor Jibrilla of Alhaji Ibrahim Mijinyawa, who was largely believed to be Atiku’s preferred candidate to be governor during the APC primaries in Adamawa State in 2014. Jibrilla defeated Mijinyawa in the APC primaries and subsequently turned around to appoint him (Mijinyawa) as a commissioner in his cabinet.
“Let him go and sort it out with Kwankwanso who defeated him to third place in the APC presidential primaries in 2014. When he finishes with these people, let him then come and face Buhari,” the source said.
Buhari can’t wallow in the mud with him
Also speaking on Atiku, special assistant on new media to the president, Mrs. Onochie said Atiku’s assertion that he would defeat Buhari in an election was an idea not based on reality.
Speaking on a Channels Television programme, the presidential aide said: “Atiku may have had that weight some years ago, but over the years he’s been losing that weight, and at the moment, I can tell you that even in his local government area in his native Adamawa, he can’t win any election.
“So where is the weight? I think Alhaji Abubakar Atiku has lost touch with reality; I think he needs to check again.
“He is known to hop from one party to the other when he cannot have control in that party.
“President Buhari is not competing with him at the moment. What he’s trying to do is to pull President Buhari out of the good work he’s doing and to come to wallow in the mud with him.
“The president also knows that the ban on politics has not been lifted; so, he is not going to come out to wallow in the mud with him.”
Asked to react to Atiku’s claims that the Buhari government has failed to deliver on its electoral promises, she said:
“absolute bunkum! There is nothing that is farther from the truth than what the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar has said.
“Nigeria was on its knees when this present government came into place, and it was the same PDP that he has now returned to that has kept Nigeria on its knees for a period of 16 years. It was not under the APC that the economy of the nation almost collapsed right under our eyes.
“I don’t see how this government has caused this problem that it is grappling with today. And this government is trying very hard to clean the mess that this government made over the last 16 years.
“Nobody should expect that these problems will be sorted out in three years. It is not done anywhere.
“As we speak, there is no inch of this country that is still under the occupation of Boko Haram. A lot needs to be done, and this government is doing more.”
Speaking specifically on Atiku’s claim that the government has failed to deliver the three million jobs it promised annually, she said: “jobs are being created every day. It is doing all the best it can. I will not accept nor agree that this government has failed in the aspect of job creation.”