Saturday, July 21, 2018 2:16 pm
By Richard Elesho/ Lokoja
With less than a year to the general election, Nigeria is on the move again. So, also are many of the citizens traversing her length and breadth in search of votes. One figure stands out among the wayfarers. He is Atiku Abubakar, GCON, former Vice President and Waziri Adamawa. Aside being the one with the oldest ambition for the presidency, he maintains the most enduring political structure for that purpose. Recently, in continuation of its sensitization visits to states controlled by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the Atiku political machine berthed on the shores of Bayelsa State. He had earlier visited Ekiti, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River States.
Over the years, Atiku’s ambition has seen him traversing nearly all major political parties in the country. His aspiration first budded in the aborted Third Republic when he pitched tent with the Social Democratic Party, SDP. In the current dispensation, he was a founding member of the PDP. He has also romanced and tasted life with other political transmutations notably, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, All Progressives Congress, APC. Indeed, he was among the group which formed the APC from different political associations in 2014. He has since detoured, and is currently a leading light in the PDP, his first love.
It is instructive that the party struck a major victory in the newly formed Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP. The PDP, a splinter arm of the APC (Reformed-APC), All Democrats Coalition, ADC, led 35 other political parties first week of July 2018 to sign an agreement on the birth of the coalition. The agreement is designed to kick out President Muhammudu Buhari and the ruling APC from Aso Rock, the nation’s seat of power in next year’s presidential election. Political analysts opine that the coalition has increased the chances of opposition in the imminent polls.
It may be true. Since signing the coalition agreement, leaders of the group have been holding regular consultations and meetings to galvanize support of stakeholders across the country. Last week, the coalition visited former President Obasanjo in his Abeokuta home. Briefing newsmen at the end of the meeting, Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of PDP and Alhaji Buba Galadima leader of R-APC with other leaders confirmed that they had fruitful deliberations with the elder statesman. They disclosed that Obasanjo had accepted to lead the campaign for Buhari’s sack.
Ironically, Atiku’s indiscreet sojourn across party lines, have turned out to be both a burden and a blessing. To his traducers, he is akin to a desperate infidel and a man without political ideology. In simple terms, they say, he is inconsistent. But, his supporters believe his exposure to different parties and manifestos have better equipped him for the task he seeks. One thing is certain though, that wherever he camped, Atiku had been laying his political eggs with the frequency of a vampire bat. This is evident in his present familiarization tours, as anywhere he went, people across party lines have given him robust welcome. His message? True federalism and restructuring.
Atiku’s campaign hinged on restructuring seems to strike on the right cord. With the country trudging under the weight of poor economic management laced with flashing security challenges, Nigerians seem eager to experiment with a new hypothesis. As the Waziri builds bridges across the divides with his visits he has added flavor to the restructuring debate and has been receiving massive endorsement for his stand on true federalism. “Political decentralization will also help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability. True Federalism will encourage states to compete to attract investments and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocation from Abuja.” He recently enthused.
It is perhaps this new voice for federalism aside other considerations that endeared him to the crowd that attended a not too distant PDP rally in Osogbo, the Osun State capital. Atiku’s presence, literally electrified the rally. His political trajectories have made him a formidable opposition In any contest for power. Over the ages, he had known the joy of victories and endured several pains of defeat. Indeed, the Waziri is not new to the slippery terrain of political contest.
Let us consider his resume. The retired customs officer cut his political teeth in the Third Republic in People’s Front of Nigeria, PFN, when he worked for the presidential aspiration of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua a retired Army General. When the junta, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, proscribed political parties and decreed, the SDP and National Republican Convention, NRC, into being in 1990, Atiku joined the former and aspired to govern the old Gongola State. Although he won the SDP governorship primary for newly created Adamawa State, his ambition suffered a hitch because he was disqualified from contesting the general election. He betrayed no emotions.
The junta also eventually used the big stick on Yar’Adua, readily paving the way for Atiku who was the heir-apparent of Yar’Adua’s political family to pursue a presidential ambition. It was during this period, that Atiku’s profile as a detribalized Nigerian came to the fore. At the Jos presidential primary of the party, Atiku came third position, after Babagana Kingibe and Bashorun MKO Abiola who came second and first respectively.
However, as the margin of victory between Abiola and Kingibe was less than 400 votes, a run-off between the leading contenders became inevitable.
Not a few people expected Atiku to play the ethnic card by endorsing Kingibe, a fellow northerner, as politicians are known to do. How wrong they were. Contrary to this, the Waziri endorsed Abiola, a Yoruba man. He then stepped down for the Ogun State born colorful politician and asked his supporters to vote for him, with an unwritten agreement that Abiola would make Atiku his running mate. Abiola won the SDP ticket, and announced Kingibe as his running mate. Till date, Atiku’s fans make reference to the sacrifice of his personal ambition, as crucial to Abiola’s political victory.
“Atiku is a foremost Nigerian patriot and seasoned democrat. In fact, he exemplifies loyalty both to friends, associates and all those who, through destiny, have come across his path. From his early struggles to the present time, The Turaki never forsakes friends which explains why he is the most well-connected politician in Nigeria today. This is a trait that distinguishes him from the other use-and-dump politicians.” Said Moses Obajemu, a public affairs analyst.
Atiku was to reap the reward of his 1993 sacrifices nearly two decades later. At the return of democracy in 1999, after already winning governorship election in his Adamawa State, Atiku was nominated running mate to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, presidential candidate of the PDP. Of course they won the election and were both sworn in as President and Vice-President respectively. Atiku had a splendid first tenure with his boss and was practically in charge of the economy. However, the men parted ways ostensibly over his opposition to an alleged Third term bid of his boss.
Atiku earned his reputation as a dogged fighter and patient seeker of Justice during the acrimonies that attended Obasanjo’s latter days in office. Determined to contest the presidential election, Atiku dumped PDP and picked the ticket of Action Congress, AC. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, disqualified him on the basis of an alleged indictment for corruption. Atiku took his case to the Supreme Court which vindicated him. He eventually came third in the election after Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Muhammudu Buhari of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP who came first and second respectively.
Atiku had a great career in the Nigeria Customs Service where he rose to the position of Deputy Comptroller General before his retirement. He thereafter launched into the world of business where God’s benevolence and mercy have made his endeavours a huge success story. His business credentials became handy in public service. As Chairman of the National Council on Privatization, he successfully superintended over the sale of some loss-making national assets and the repositioning of several others pursuant to their sale. A man with incredible talent for head hunting, Turaki was responsible for the appointment of diaspora technocrats in the Obasanjo administration, all of whom added invaluable value to the administration.
Apart from a flourishing business empire, Waziri is a lover of education. He is the founder and Visitor to the Abti-American University of Nigeria, Yola, which is a leading tertiary institution in Nigeria. The school has produced thousands of graduates in various disciplines who are contributing to the development of the country.
Atiku has been a regular in almost all presidential elections in the country since 1993. His return to the PDP which he appropriately tagged ‘return home’ in a December 2017 Facebook Live broadcast, is without doubts exciting the ruling APC. In the same token, his political activities have added requisite energy to contemporary political dynamics. Perhaps like never before, this is the time to explore his contacts in the large and formidable Yar’Adua political machinery, harvest his eggs in the various political parties where he had sojourned and harness his vast network in the business world for the desired gains. Most importantly, will the Waziri be able to take advantage of the general clamor for a more prosperous political clime to actualize his aged presidential ambition?
Time will tell