President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and former vice president and Action Congress (AC) presidential candidate in the April 21 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have held private talks at Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja, THISDAY can now reveal.
The meeting was held for two hours last week without the knowledge of most presidential aides at the Villa.
Apart from the issue of a possible withdrawal of the petition filed by Atiku against Yar’Adua’s election which came up for discussion at the meeting, other issues discussed included the Adamawa State governorship election recently nullified by the tribunal sitting in Yola, the state capital.
THISDAY gathered that the meeting between Yar’Adua and Atiku was a follow-up to the earlier ones arranged for them by Second Republic president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, and former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon.
Sources said like the Yar’Adua-Atiku meeting, the previous meetings were premised on the need to persuade Atiku and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, to withdraw their petitions at the tribunal.
At another meeting in Daura on the matter, a former chairman of First Bank Plc, Dr. Umaru Abdul Mutalab, was said to have led a group of prominent politicians from the North to meet Buhari.
But they failed to persuade the ANPP candidate to withdraw his petition against President Yar’Adua’s election.
The meeting between Atiku and Yar’Adua, according to sources, took place between 9 pm and 11 pm last Tuesday.
It was learnt that only a few senior government officials and security agents were aware of the talks.
The meeting was said to have held in a relaxed atmosphere and the discussions frank and cordial with both leaders expressing their views on the contending issues.
THISDAY learnt that no definite agreement was reached on the withdrawal of Atiku’s petition as the former vice president was said not to have given the President a firm commitment on the issue.
However, the meeting is said to be a preliminary one and other follow-up meetings are expected to hold later.
But THISDAY learnt that, at the talks, Atiku demanded neutrality from President Yar’Adua on the forthcoming fresh governorship election in Adamawa State where the tribunal has voided the election of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate, Admiral Muritala Nyako.
Nyako’s election was nullified by the tribunal on the ground that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) excluded the AC candidate, Mr. Ibrahim Bapatel, from contesting the poll.
Both the Presidential Villa and Atiku Campaign Organisation were not willing to confirm or deny the talks last night.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the President on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, said he was not in Abuja and that he would confirm and contact THISDAY.
But efforts to reach him later proved abortive.
Also, Media Adviser to the Atiku Campaign Organisation, Mr. Garba Shehu, said he was not in a position to confirm the talks.
Some Northern religious and political leaders have been at the vanguard of persuading both Atiku and Buhari to drop their petitions against Yar’Adua’s election arguing that the President should be allowed to rule since he is a Northerner like them.