Editor's note: Rahaman Abiola of Legit.ng, in this piece, briefly explores the political career of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the factors possibly responsible for his emergency as the presidential flag-bearer of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the national presidential convention of the party held in Port Harcourt on October 6 and 7, 2018.
Riding a proverbial horse in the stomach of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will come with a pleasing satisfaction as the former vice president’s life time longing for the country’s driver seat took a new turn towards the path of reality.
On Sunday, October 7, amidst a legion of party members he rode his way to victory during the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s presidential primary election held in Port Harcourt.
The 72-year old, of course, won with a sweeping margin of 1, 532 votes, defeating his close challengers, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state who polled 693 votes to place the Senate president Bukola Saraki to the third position with 317 votes. Other who threw their hats in the ring with Atiku are: Jonah Jang who scored 19 votes, Datti-Ahmed who scored 5 votes, Rabiu Musa kwakwaso, a former governor of Kano state who scored 158 votes and other candidates.
But for the Waziri of Adamawa state, winning the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s presidential ticket for the 2019 general election is not about defeating other strong political contenders in the race with him. Rather, it is about a dream coming true after a long wait spanning a decade.
Recall that before the October 7 PDP’s presidential primary, Atiku has established himself as a familiar face in the polity of the country. From 1999 which signposts the flight of Nigeria's transition into a democratic state to 2003, the former Customs Service boss served as the vice-president to the former president Olusegun Obasanjo under the umbrella of PDP.
However, he left the party for the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to contest the 2011 election where he lost to Obasanjo-backed Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. He would later cross to the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of 2015 general election, for him to lose again to the then General Muhammadu Buhari in the party’s primary.
In May 2018, with indications and speculations that President Buhari would seek re-election in 2019 as contrary to his promise in 2015, Atiku found his ambition dangle into oblivion again. And in June he set the record straight by becoming the first political bigwig in the country to toe the path of defection. He (re) joined PDP, citing negligence and other differences.
And come February 14 2019, he will be the main challenger to President Buhari in 2019 for the Aso-Rock seat of power.
Yours truly identifies the possible reasons that helped Atiku win the presidential ticket of PDP.
1. Restructuring debate
Recently, there has never been a major point of discussion in the political sphere of the country other than restructuring. With different allegation of nepotism, insensitivity and tribal bias levelled against the Buhari-led government, Atiku becomes the darling of Nigerians, especially minority groups from the south-east and south-south region of the country because of his promise to restructure the country if elected.
Although tagged a political villain whose promises are manifestation of selfish interest, Atiku has been able to channel the restructuring debate to his advantage.
During an event held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the former vice president Atiku was reported to have said: “epidemic of federal take-over of state and voluntary organisations, schools and hospitals which began in the 1970s must be reversed.
“Some of what my ideas of restructuring involve require constitutional amendment; some do not. Take education and roads for instance. The federal government can immediately start the process of transferring federal roads to the state governments along with the resources it expends on them.
“The federal government does not need a constitutional amendment to start that process. The same goes for education and health care. We do not need a constitutional amendment to transfer federal universities and colleges as well as hospitals to the states where they are located.
“The country can be restructured in six months, all you have to do is return the items on the concurrent list to the states.”
2. Political strength
As often said, the race for the presidency of Nigeria is not meant for people with little or no political strength and acceptability. Atiku’s emergence as PDP’s flag-bearer for the 2019 presidential election is an attestation to this.
Without any doubt, among the array of aspirants that threw the ring into the presidential race under PDP, it was only the Adamawa chieftain that has the big bicep of political strength and nation-wide acceptability.
Going by his career, he has served as the vice-president of the country—a position that has not been held by those in the race with him. Close to him in rank are Senator David Mark and Bukola Saraki who served (Saraki is till serving) as the president of Senate, the third powerful seat in the country. Beyond this, no candidate toured almost every part of the country seeking for political endorsement like him.
He has made himself ubiquitous from physical presence to social media interaction. His media team is doing well on Twitter, Facebook and of course, Medium.
While we can say Atiku is synonymous with the captain Lemuel Gulliver (an eponymous character in Jonathan Swift Gulliver’s Travel), the only difference is that while Guliver is just a representation of meaninglessness of life, Atiku’s tours are warming up for the 2019 race.
3. Money speaks
A newspaper in Nigeria reported that it was a show of moneybags during the PDP’s presidential convention in Port Harcourt. Reports claim that for the PDP delegates across the country, votes were for the highest bidders as brown envelops containing dollars from $4,000 to $10, 000 dollars were presented to the delegates by each of the aspirants.
So, with his financial worth, it will be wrong to assume that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar's victory came from a mere political sympathy.
4. Need for new name.
The presidential race in Nigerian is now bipolar. While kudos and encomiums are being given to President Muhammadu Bahari over his reign from 2015, some quarters across the country see the president as unfit for 2019. They alleged that there is a big pothole of bias and incompetence in the way he handles appointments and security issues of the country respectively.
But with Atiku in the race, aggrieved Nigerians see Buhari’s reign coming to an end. They see Atiku as a better alternative with the political strength to give the president a tough fight.
5.Standing on the shoulders of the giants
Before the PDP’s presidential convention, no candidates made wider consultations from the big men and political stakeholders across the country like Atiku. From visiting Babangida in his top-hill mansion in Minna to visits to notable and influential monarchs in the country, Atiku’s victory was easily predicted.
And despite the conflict between his former president Olusegun Obasanjo and him, Atiku, in his acceptance speech, did not waste time to appreciate the man he called as his ‘boss’.
Differences apart, Atiku knows the influence of the former president Obasanjo who they eulogise as Ebora Owu (Owu demon). He knows he is a god sitting in his room seeing it all. He knows that any presidential aspirant who overlooks him does it at his peril. And he understands that both can only fight, Obasanjo’s blessing on his presidential dream is a great boost.
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