After several months of consultations with critical stakeholders in Nigeria and members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, will tomorrow Saturday, 21 July, make a formal declaration to contest the 2019 presidential election under the PDP.
A press release from the media office of the former Vice President noted that Atiku will be making his declaration at a political rally in Yola, the capital of his home state of Adamawa.
According to the press release, Atiku’s decision to join the presidential race in 2019 is in response to the yearnings of majority of Nigerians to enthrone a government that will fix the country’s broken economy, strengthen national unity and create much-needed jobs for Nigerians.
The political trajectory of Atiku
Abubabar Atiku was born on 25 November 1946 in Jada, Adamawa, North East Nigeria. The 71-year-old politician, widely regarded as astute businessman and philanthropist served as the second elected Vice-President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Atiku has been long in Nigerian politics and he has remained unyielding to his quest to lead Nigeria as President. He was a prominent contender in the presidential race during the botched Third Republic, where he contested for the Presidential primaries of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 1992/3.
The military junta of Ibrahim Babangida eventually annulled the June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by the late business mogul, MKO Abiola and plunged the nation to prolonged military rule until democracy returned to the country in 1999, when Atiku was drafted to become the Vice –President to Obasanjo under the PDP.
However, the Wazirin Adamawa soon fell out with former President Obasanjo and after years of internal political ‘war’ with the former President, Atiku dumped the PDP for the first time in 2006 and joined Action Congress, AC, which later became Action Congress of Nigeria (A.C.N), one of the legacy parties that formed the ruling coalition called the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The former President was said to be very angry with Atiku’s alleged role in his failed third term bid as he systematically plotted to frustrate Atiku out of the PDP through fresh membership registration that saw most of his supporters pushed out of the party, to ensure that he was not nominated as his (Obasanjo’s )successor.
Abubakar pitched his political tent with the AC, which provided him the ticket to run for president in the 2007 election, which the late former President Umoru Musa Yar’ Adua of the PDP won. He was in AC from 2006 to 2009 but then he allegedly faced another round of altercation this time with one of the leaders of the AC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu, and again, the former Vice president left the AC and returned to the PDP in 2009.
Despite the crisis that engulfed the PDP, Abubakar remained in the PDP from 2009 till 2013 during which he contested the PDP presidential Primaries in the 2011 election, which was won by the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Towards the 2015 elections Abubakar alongside seven governors staged a walk out of a PDP national convention in August 2013, accusing the Bamanga Tukur-led PDP and then President Jonathan of impunity. They eventually formed the ‘new PDP.’
Abubakar and five of the governors and others in November 2013 defected to the APC, where he and former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who was also in the ‘new PDP’, ran for APC presidential ticket which Muhammadu Buhari won. Buhari went ahead to defeat Jonathan during the 2015 presidential election.
Atiku supported the APC government until it appears that the government of Buhari was derailing and failed to revamp the Nigerian economy as it promised. He complained of being marginalized in the APC and also accused the Buhari led government of impunity and lack of vision and on Thursday, November 24, 2017 Atiku dumped the APC and returned to the PDP following reports of commitment of the PDP to give him its platform to again run for president in 2019.
Stiff competition for PDP ticket
Despite the encumbrances strewn on his political path by opponents, Atiku has continued to soldier on looking for the people’s mandate to fulfill his desire. Atiku is one of very few privileged Nigerians with enormous wealth. The former boss of the Nigerian Customs Service is reputed for his philanthropy and is said to have a cosmopolitan perspective about Nigeria and its diversity. He is also acknowledged to have built bridges across the Nigerian divides and created jobs through his businesses scattered all over the country including his quest to educate the less privileged Nigerians. He has wide political connection and rich experience, which many believe will count to his advantage this time.
However, in this era of the clamour for a generational shift of political power to younger people, Atiku at over 70 could be affected by this frenzy of paradigm shift because the old guards have been so maligned for failing to provide an enduring legacy and ideology and are therefore under pressure to quit the stage.
Atiku perhaps has many other battles to fight in the PDP before he could clinch the party’s ticket. Pundits suggest that there are elements in the PDP who are angry that he abandoned the party in their hour of need in 2015 elections and contributed immensely to the loss the party suffered in the elections.
But the permutations are changing fast probably in his favour as his former political foes including Obasanjo, are beginning to change their hardened position against him on the presumption that Atiku is one of those with the clout to unseat Buhari, who many now perceive as a “divisive, clannish and incompetent leader.”
The PDP primaries slated for August is surely going to be a tough contest because other prominent people have shown interest in the PDP ticket are set to challenge Atiku in all ramifications. Some of the possible contestants include, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, who has shown enormous signs he will quit the ruling APC and return to the PDP; Former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former Governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi; former Minister of Special Duties, Tanimu Turaki; former Governor of Kano state, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, also said to be on his way back to the PDP may seek the PDP ticket. Governor of Sokoto State, Waziri Tambuwal and Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo are also said to be eyeing the PDP slot. So the stage is set for a fierce contest as all these heavyweights prepare to battle it with Atiku for the PDP ticket.
Two weeks ago, the PDP received a massive boost ahead of the general election when it successfully entered into a coalition with about 40 political parties, including the Buba Galadima –led breakaway faction of the APC-the nPDP, which had morphed into the Reformed APC(R-APC). The coalition produced the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), which the stakeholders believe had the capacity to unseat President Buhari in 2019.
Atiku in his nation-wide tour has met prominent leaders. According to a source, Atiku got strategic support from former military President, Ibrahim Babangida during a recent meeting in Minna, Niger State. Atiku also met former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a recent function at the Gusau Institute on “A New Era for China-Africa Cooperation,” in Abuja, which the source said is a boost for Atiku’s campaign for 2019 as Obasanjo is said to have lessened his much touted hardened position against the ambition of the former Vice President.
The source, who was privy to the meeting Atiku and Babangida had in Minna, told BusinessDay that the meeting was very “fruitful in furtherance of Atiku’s continued engagements and consultation, which has further strengthened the presidential bid of the former Vice President.”
“Some of those people angling for grand coalition have started looking at the direction of Atiku and I think it is the culmination of the interplay of forces, and the preponderance of opinion both of politicians and common people is that we are desirous of change and the person best wired to provide leadership is Atiku,” he said.
The source stressed that Atiku’s appeal cuts across regional and party lines and all manner of diversities adding that “Atiku is not a man you can pigeonhole in just one enclave, he is suited for the general desire of the Nigerian people to extricate the country from the backwardness the APC has plunged Nigerian masses.”ADVERTISEMENT
On the widely reported feud between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku, the source dismissed the purported feud is a “media creation”.
“politicians don’t make enemies, they don’t discountenance another. I think Obasanjo has realized the direction the pendulum is swinging and as a man who truly loves and has passion about Nigeria, he is also desirous to cast his lot with Atiku, who is best suited and best wired to extricate Nigeria from the pit into which the Buhari administration has thrown Nigeria politically, economically and socially.”