Prior to the nomination of Atiku Abubakar as the presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Saturday May 27 2022, it was extremely difficult to draw a conclusion that could easily point to what has now become the outcome of the party’s presidential primary election. Even with the wide acknowledgement of the edge that he had over the other bidders, certain intrigues that characterised the contest for the ticket made clear prediction in his favour difficult.
Although he had never, in the course of the campaign, succumbed to the various forms of intimidation that were deployed to decimate his will, it was clear that he recognized the utmost force with which his opponents attempted to make his success an impossibility. At almost every stage, Atiku suffered one kind of threat or another that seemed to have pushed him further away from victory.
His emergence as the PDP’s presidential candidate is therefore a triumph that has brought out most clearly both the abundant capacity and huge luck of Atiku whose past similar attempts were terminated at either primary election level or during the general election. Even if this is not the prettiest of all his outings, it, certainly, is the one that holds the loftiest promises for him and the PDP.
The rising consciousness that Atiku and the PDP, considering the major issues about the 2023 elections, have greater chances of success is manifesting in the attitudes of the candidate and the party leadership. As, arguably, the most powerful vice president that Nigeria has ever had, contesting for the fifth time on the platform of a party that produced three presidents within 16 years, Atiku is widely seen as a power seeker whose goals now look quite achievable.
Atiku must have have carried out a comprehensive assessment of himself as a serial contender and consequently arrived at some conclusions that have strongly informed his decision to re-contest. He must have, in other words, realized the need for, as the case might be, the re-enforcement, amendment and replacement of his styles in a way that will maximize his chances.
He began to show his readiness for the jostle for the ticket and mastery of the game long before the time of the primary election when he noticeably influenced the decision of the party leadership to throw the presidential slot open for contest by all eligible party members. It was a development that unsettled a lot of interests groups within the PDP and, at the same time, necessitated a design of new campaign formulae by the contenders, many of whom earlier canvassed for the zoning or even micro-zoning of the slot to their respective places of origin.
Even though he was a Northern consensus presidential aspirant of the PDP in 2011 when he ran against former President Goodluck Jonathan for the party’s ticket, Atiku however differed with a lot of the other aspirants as he denounced the clamour for the nomination of the presidential candidate of the PDP for 2023 election purely on the basis of regional considerations. The clear plan is to continuously project himself as a candidate with the kind of national outlook that will openly and reasonably appeal to voters in any part of the country.
The unmistakable desperation of the PDP to recapture power which has rhymed with the Atiku’s implacable desire to clinch the presidency explains the belief in some critical quarters within the party and even beyond that victory is now foreseen. There appears a conviction that the calculations of the PDP towards the possible takeover of power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) are in order and are, therefore, most likely to produce the desired results.
But even while such an optimism continuously thickens in some minds, certain inadequacies of the candidate are a matter of grave concern for a lot of the party members and all those other Nigerians who have preference for an alternative to the current APC government. The particular realization that a lot of the factors that have continued to militate against the attainment of his goal are yet to be satisfactorily addressed worries all his sympathizers
It has, for example, been validly established that he is yet to sufficiently connect with the critical segments of the conservative Muslim population in the North; those segments which perennially gave President Muhammadu Buhari the fanatical support that served as his strongest instrument for negotiation with other contestants and the eventual capture of power. Why should Atiku, as both a Muslim and Fulani, who, as testified by a Kaduna-based popular Islamic preacher, Sheikh Yusuf Sambo Rigachikun, made immense contributions to the religion, be continuously dismissed as a strange believer?
The inability, on his part, to address the obvious disconnect between him and those communities that are truly his most immediate constituencies is terribly inimical to his ambition. It is fairly expected that Atiku will now take over the space hitherto occupied by President Muhammadu Buhari through the necessary cultivation of support or even extraction of commitment of the core Northern communities towards the execution of his political project.
Even at a national level, the former vice president is a victim of a lot of negative perceptions that are clearly products of a poor understanding of his plans for the country. The various groups of thinkers and image makers that he keeps for the consistent articulation, projection and promotion of his personality and politics have, up till now, not been able to deal with the considerable apprehension over both.
Perhaps, the Atiku Project has now begun to appear to many more Nigerians as a very serious business to which they should pay attention, especially having been victims of some flaws in some aspects of the approach of the APC-led government to the management of the affairs of the country. The widespread complaints over the failure of the government to salvage the country indicate a possibility of a much more favourable consideration of the bid of the former vice president by the electorates.
The ruling APC is not unaware or unmindful of the huge threat that the emergence, once again, of Atiku as the presidential candidate of PDP portends for it and is therefore desperately trying to effectively minimize the dangers this development can cause to its chances. The combination of the well-acknowledged war chest, financial muscle and political visibility of the candidate as well as the wide spread of the party is making the APC to show some signs of fear.