Former Vice-president Atiku Abubakar has consistently aspired to become president since 2007. He again joined the race for 2019 presidency against all odds, ADEBIYI ADEDAPO writes.
In the past weeks, the frenzy of ‘Atiku Naton’ rented the political space, as former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar indicate interest to run for presidency in 2019. Penultimate week, Atiku, as fondly called, declared his intention to run for president in 2019 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP). He announced his intention to aspire for the PDP ticket when he visited the Rivers state Governor, Nyeson Wike in Port Harcourt. The former Vice President said his decision to make the announcement in Rivers State was because he believe that Wike represents what he represented in 1998/99 as the live wire of the PDP. Atiku was accompanied to Rivers by political bigwigs including former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, Senator Abdul Ningi and others. Rivers state Governor, Wike in his reaction, described the former VP as a presidential candidate feared by the APC. Although, the governor played down his own position in the PDP, as he insisted that all genuine members of the party are its live wire. Wike boasted that the PDP was not just interested to getting power in 2019, but said the party was prepared and ready to rescue Nigeria from what he described as a period of maladministration.
Wike however encouraged all those aspiring for the PDP’s presidential ticket to advance their interest without allowing nothing to jeopardise its chances in the 2019 general elections. In this wise, the former vicepresident, is not a greenhorn in Nigeria’s politics. He has been around for too long and he understands the dynamics of Nigeria’s political terrain. His contribution to political alliances in the two political parties that has ruled the country since 1999 speaks a volume. Atiku Abubakar has in the past aspired to become President three times, but only stood for presidential election once, in 2007. nor of his home state, Adamawa, in 1999 on platform of the PDP. Before he could be sworn in as governor, he was picked as running mate by Olusegun Obasanjo who secured the PDP presidential ticket. The ticket proceeded to win the presidency, with Atiku becoming Vice President from May 29, 1999 and for a second term in 2003. But before the end of their second term in office, disgruntled Atiku left the PDP for the first time in 2006 and joined the defunct Action Congress (AC) after years of internal battle with Mr. Obasanjo. He picked the AC ticket to run for president in the 2007 election, but lost to late President Umaru Yar’adua. Atiku was in AC from 2006 to 2009 when he returned to the PDP, following rumour of disagreements with one of the leaders of the AC and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu. In 2010, he ran for the PDP presidential ticket prior to the 2011 election and lost to the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Atiku ceaseless ambition would soon lead him out of the PDP, as it was obvious he could not wrestle the presidential ticket with the incumbent, he, alongside seven governors eventually staged a walk out of a PDP national convention in August 2013, accusing the leadership of the party and then President Jonathan of impunity and formed a faction of he party called the ‘new PDP’. He led five of the governors alongside their supporters announced in November 2013 defected to the APC, where he ran for APC presidential ticket and lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. Sequel to his inconsistencies with political party affiliation, some political analysts fear that his biggest political achievement may count as a disadvantage for his 2019 ambition, as he is perceived to be a serial defector who uses and dump political parties at will. However, supporters of the former vice-president were quick to dismiss the fear, as they assured that his experience with political parties in Nigeria would not limit his chances in 2019. His supporters are of the opinion that President Muhammadu Buhari also contested on the platform of three different political parties until his ambition was realised in 2015.
Meanwhile, Atiku seems to be undeterred by his inconsistent political learnings, as he has been going around to make commitments on how to improve governance in the country. The former vice-president has also dangle very big carrots before electorates of different interest across the six geopolitical zones. For instance, the 72 years old Atiku, recently pledged to earmark 40 per cent of appointments in his cabinet to youths if he wins the 2019 presidential election. He made the pledge at the inauguration of the national and state executives of a pro Atiku group, Intellectual Think-Tank for Atiku (ITTA) in Abuja. He was represented at the inauguration by the Chairman of All Atiku Support Group (AASUG) Mr Oladimeji Fabiyi. “Having identified the critical role of youths in the emergence of any leader, I pledge to give youths 40 per cent of appointments in my cabinet if elected as the president of Nigeria in 2019. “As a youth friendly leader who thinks and understands the feelings of youth, I urge them to give me the chance to make their dreams possible,’’ Atiku said. Apparently to win confidence of pro-restructuring advocates, Abubakar has been a consistent voice in the struggle. The presidential hopeful reiterated his commitment to restructuring, while speaking at the “Mega Rally on Restructuring” organised by leaders from South South, South West and the Middle belt in Yenegua, the Bayelsa State capital. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, foremost Ijaw Leader, Chief Edwin Clark, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae and governors from the south south states were among political leaders in attendance. In his address, the Waziri Adamawa opined that calling for Nigeria to be restructured is not to the disadvantage of any region but it is an exercise that will benefit both north and south on the long run.
According to his presentation, titled; “A Restructured Nigeria is Good for the North and the south,” He aid those who support the calls for restructuring our federation are united in their desire to live in a society that works better and works for its people, and are also united by their love for their country, their patriotism. “Those who do not love their country would just want it to break up; they would not be interested in making Nigeria work better. And I want to believe that those who oppose restructuring, preferring instead the retention of our current structure, with all its challenges, are also driven by their love of the country. I just happen to think that they are wrong; they are mistaken in their views,” he said. Abubakar dismissed fears that restructuring was not a southern project, as he insisted that a new order would work for every region in the country.
The first misconception is that restructuring is a Southern project designed to put the North at an economic and political disadvantage. The fact is different segments of this country have clamoured for restructuring at different times in our history. Besides, even if the current clamour originated in the South it does not diminish the importance of restructuring for the survival and development of our country and the mutual coexistence our peoples.” “Obviously if it were against the interests of the North I would not be advocating for or supporting it. I am from the North, and I believe that I have, over the years, demonstrated through my deeds that I care about the North, and I care about Nigeria,” he stated. He also argued that the North region was not opposed to restructuring because it threatens its access to oil money from the South. “The fact is the North, like any other group is rightly concerned about its future place in the federation, especially because of the rhetoric of some advocates of restructuring, who present it as designed to punish the North.
In any case, while it is true that the bulk of the current opposition to restructuring comes from the North, there are also highly placed individuals from the South who oppose restructuring and diminish its importance. Besides, it is our responsibility as advocates of restructuring to reassure all sections of the country that their share of revenues from the Federation Account is not going to be reduced as a result of restructuring.” He however denied that his support for the restructuring debate was aimed at securing votes in future elections. “The third misconception is that those of us from the North who advocate for restructuring are pandering to the South for votes. The fact is there are more bloc votes in the North and therefore it would be politically easier for a Northern politician to oppose restructuring. But doing what is politically easy isn’t the same as doing what is right for the North and for Nigeria.”