The Sun News

2019: North-East and Atiku’s renewed quest for presidency

By Ismail Omipidan

On Sunday, December 3, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, formally rejoined his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), thereby confirming Daily Sun’s earlier exclusive report, which said the former vice president was expected to return to the PDP before the December 9 national convention of the party.

Barring any last minute change of programme, Atiku is expected to be formally received at a rally in Adamawa tomorrow, to enable him participate in this Saturday’s convention of the party.

Regardless, long before his defection, he had left no one in doubt that he has his eyes on 2019. This fact was reinforced as early as 2015, all through 2016 and even in early 2017 by the Adamawa State governor, Senator Jubrilla Bindow, when he publicly declared that Atiku was the state’s choice in 2019.

But by October this year, the story began to change. As part of preparations for 2019, stakeholders in Adamawa State All Progressives Congress (APC) met on Saturday, October 21, and formally dumped Atiku and declared support for President Muhammadu Buhari. The Adamawa APC reiterated that Buhari remains its candidate for the party’s presidential ticket in 2019.

Daily Sun gathered that the meeting where Buhari was endorsed for the 2019 presidential poll was convened at the instance of the Adamawa State government.

Although the governor was not physically present at the said meeting where the motion for Buhari’s endorsement was moved, his deputy, Martin Babale and his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abba-Jimeta, were present. But, one of Atiku’s aides, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak, told Daily Sun at the time that what happened at the said meeting did not in any way indicate there was a crack in Bindow and Atiku’s relationship.

“Anybody is free to endorse whoever. We know those who are for us and, at the appropriate time, they will show their faces. I am sure you don’t expect them to show their faces now, considering what followed Fayose’s declaration for the presidency, where his commissioners were picked up shortly after the event. I am not aware of any crack. When the Waziri (Atiku) was hosted in Abuja recently by Adamawa indigenes resident in the FCT, the governor was there. When the time comes, you will see for yourself,”  he said.

Regardless, at the Adamawa stakeholders meeting, which was attended by party elders, members of the National Assembly and House of Assembly, elected council chairmen and party executives from all levels in the state, the party passed a vote of confidence in president Buhari and governor Bindow. They urged the duo to go for another term in 2019.

The endorsement motion was moved by former deputy Senate leader, Jonathan Zwingina. Stakeholders argued, among other things, that the success recorded so far in the fight against insurgency, corruption and infrastructural development at the state and national levels were laudable and, as such, deserved to be sustained.

Addressing the gathering on behalf of the state government, Abba-Jimeta said Adamawa is interested in seeing that Buhari runs for a second term, to fully deliver on his programmes. He added that as far as “Adamawa is concerned, Buhari and Osinbajo are our candidates for 2019.”

He went on to say  that “the standard practice worldwide is for a performing president to serve two-terms in office.”

What this signifies is that Atiku will have to battle some interests in Adamawa State as he renews his battle for the country’s number one position.

History of his previous attempts

Atiku is not new to presidential primaries. Before 1999, he had attempted once, 1993 to be precise. After that, he ran again in 2007, where he was the sole candidate of the defunct Action Congress (AC).

Expectedly, he emerged the winner. That was the only time his name was on the ballot, as he lost two other attempts in 2011 and 2015 to former president, Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, respectively. Will he be this time lucky?

He is from the North-east, an area that has been longing to produce the country’s president. The last country’s leader the zone produced was Tafawa Balewa (late), Nigeria’s prime minister in 1957. The North-east, like the North-west, was never a complete enclave of the PDP, at the onset of the country’s current democratic experiment in 1999. After the 1999 polls, the six states were shared equally between the two parties the PDP and the defunct All Peoples Party (APP). While PDP controlled Adamawa, Bauchi and Taraba States, the APP was in control of Borno, Gombe and Yobe. But by 2003, Senator Danjuma Goje, with the strong influence and support of Atiku, dislodged the then APP government led by Adamu Hashidu, thus giving the PDP the lead in the zone. Borno and Yobe resisted the attempt to make it go the Gombe way.

By 2007, however, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) as it was then known, took charge of Bauchi, thus returning the zone to three apiece once again. But before the 2011 polls, the Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda defected back to the PDP. And after the polls, he only survived the Congress for Progressive Change’s (CPC) onslaught by mere whiskers.

After the 2011 elections, PDP again increased its tally in the zone, making it four against two.

However, following the crisis in the party in 2013 that saw some PDP governors leaving the party, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa pitched tent with the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC). But before APC could settle down to savour the victory, he was impeached, and the state returned to the PDP, thus making it four again, in favour of the PDP, against APC’s two, as the parties went into the 2015 elections.

Adamawa is one of the states in the zone that has been under the control of the ruling PDP since 1999, until 2015. But apart from 1999, when Atiku, then as the party’s governorship candidate won convincingly, intrigues and controversies have always dogged PDP’s victory, ever since.

Ironically, most of those who have always positioned themselves to challenge the party in the state have always been its former members, who became aggrieved and had to leave the party, for one reason or another.

Like in all previous elections since after the 1999 polls, the 2011 election was a straight fight between the PDP and the APC.

Incidentally, the APC’s candidate, who is now the governor, only defected to the APC from the PDP. Preparatory to the 2003 election, for instance, the electorate had become disenchanted with the then Governor Boni Haruna’s administration, and had vowed to kick it out. Interestingly, the plot for Haruna’s ouster began from within the PDP, following their disagreement then with Atiku. And the defunct APP came in handy for the prosecution of the project.

Buhari’s entry into the presidential race then complicated matters forthe PDP and Haruna. In the end, the electorate pronounced the APP as the winner of the poll, but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adjudged Haruna winner of the contest.

Unsatisfied with INEC’s verdict, the party’s candidate, Adamu Modibbo approached the tribunal to seek redress. After about one year, the tribunal ruled that Haruna was not “validly elected,” and therefore, annulled his election.

Justice Kashim Zanna, a no-nonsense judge from Borno State was chairman of that tribunal. He voided election results in 14 out of 21 councils and ordered for fresh election. However, reprieve came the way of Haruna and the PDP when the verdict was upturned by the Appeal Court. Till date, the memories of that election linger in the minds of an average Adamawa person, for it was the first time Atiku’s hold on Adamawa politics would be put to test.

In 2007, there was no much difference from what happened in 2003. The only difference being that majority of those who prosecuted the political war against the PDP had returned to the PDP. But again, PDP won the contest in a controversial circumstance.

Following the parting of ways between former President Obasanjo and his deputy, the state governor, Haruna too had to change party from the PDP to the defunct AC. But on the eve of the election, the AC’s candidate was disqualified from the contest.

Daily Sun recalls that the AC had covered enough grounds to ensure that it got the mandate of the people of Adamawa State to govern them at least for four years. But INEC put spanner in their works some few hours to the polls. By 7p.m of Friday, April 13, 2007, less than 24 hours to the election, the then INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Alhaji Suleiman Bello, assembled journalists and announced that the AC governorship candidate, Ibrahim Bapetel had been disqualified.

According to him, he only received the directive from Abuja that same Friday evening that Bapetel and a House of Assembly candidate from the ANPP and another one from the PDP were indicted by the Economic and

Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and would not continue the race.

He also disclosed that Bapetel’s name and photograph have been blotted on the ballot papers, adding that his name and photograph would no longer be on the ballot paper for the election.

It is also instructive to note that like Modibbo, Bapetel, also defected from the PDP, before the 2007 polls.

At the state’s collation centre, no vote was recorded for the AC’s candidate since he was no longer part of the contest, even though the

Adamawa electorate voted for him. That was how the PDP, through Nyako, again won the contest in a controversial circumstance.

Although the election was subsequently nullified, Nyako was able to return because he used the first six months in office to convince the electorate through his initial actions that he was different from the others that had govern the state before him.

Like all the other previous elections, the PDP in Adamawa State, Daily Sun’s investigations reveal, could not claim to have won the 2011 election convincingly. But unlike the previous elections, religion and ethnicity played significant role in the 2011 election, as the candidate of the opposition party, the defunct ACN, Markus Gundiri is a Christian. In the end, however, Nyako was returned as having been re-elected. But the Adamawa electorate knew that was not the correct interpretation of what transpired.

Again in 2015, the contest was between APC and PDP. PDP had Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC chairman, while APC had Senator Muhammad Jibrillah Bindow. Ribadu, who has since defected back to the APC, had defected from the party to the PDP, while Bindow defected from PDP to APC. Ironically, Bindow who was backed by Nyako, defeated Atiku’s candidate twice at the primary to emerge the party’s candidate. Also, in 2011 and 2015 in PDP and APC respectively, Atiku was unable to get Adamawa delegates on his side. Will 2019 be different? Only time will tell.

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