The Sun News

Fireworks over Buhari, Atiku

Nigerians place president, ex-VP on the spot in 2019 battle prelude

  • Blame APC for dogfight –Makarfi, Shehu Sani
  • Why we’re angry with Atiku –Inuwa Abdulkadir

By KENNY ASHAKA (Kaduna), ENYERIBE EJIOGU  and ONYEDIKA AGBEDO

President Muhammadu Buhari and ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar have come under the scrutiny of Nigerians in a prelude to the 2019 presidential election battle.

The sensational declaration by the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Jummai Alhassan, last Wednesday, that she would be supporting former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whom she described as her godfather, in 2019 and not President Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed her into his cabinet, if both men choose to contest the presidential election; and Atiku’s outburst that the Buhari administration had sidelined him even though he helped to install it, sparked debates. Amid the discourse, an online medium, SaharaReporters, conducted a mock poll asking Nigerians who they would vote for if the presidential election were to hold now. In the poll conducted and the final result declared yesterday, 43 per cent of the 20,253 Nigerians that participated said they would vote for Buhari, 12 per cent said they would vote for Atiku, while 45 per cent said neither Buhari nor Atiku deserve their votes. 

Many Nigerians also took to other social media platforms to express their opinions on the issue:

Romla: This Minister should show loyalty or step down. Atiku for me from his records even within his home state Adamawa has always been a self-interest leader. However, Buhari should step down at least for health reasons. It is time for more people of African descent to show honour and dignity by leaving positions voluntarily for whatever reason, while there is still some ovation. Mr President, don’t contest in 2019 and bring honour to yourself, your family, Nigeria and all people of African descent.

Sarah: This is very likely to be the tipping point from which Buhari cannot bounce back. Atiku has publicly complained about how he felt used and ignored after Buhari’s 2015 victory. At this rate, if any of OBJ or Abdulsalami makes a negative comment/letter to Buhari, then he becomes a ‘dead man walking’. Buhari is frail and should now focus on completing his tenure and stepping down at 2019 to look after his health.

Dele Awogbeoba: In the core North and Niger (14 states in total), Buhari still remains a very potent force. There is no evidence yet that the Yoruba (with seven states and a third of Kogi) have abandoned the APC for the PDP. That is 21 states already. Then the remaining four states of the Middle Belt will have to be examined. Edo is likely to stay with APC if PDP fields a northerner. That leaves Atiku with five states of the South-south and five states of the South-east plus possibly Adamawa. Atiku has no chance of winning.

Avatar B.B: To be clear, I am neither an Atiku nor a Buhari supporter. Your analysis however is bereft of facts. The South-west has six states to start with. There is widespread loathing of the present administration across the land. Please note that I am not saying Buhari doesn’t still have a strong following, just that the strength of that following has been depleted by his abysmal performance as president.

Dele Awogbeoba: I mentioned the Yoruba states are seven and a third of Kogi. I made no mention of zones. Kwara is not part of the unofficial South-west but is 85 per cent Yoruba. Kogi is not part of the South-west but is about 35 per cent Yoruba. The PDP is an anti Yoruba party. Already they are moving to consigning the Yoruba to party chairman and therefore irrelevance. Buhari will still win 14 states of the North whether he improves his economic performance or he does not. At the moment, the Nigerian economy is improving and chances are by the time of the election, the Nigerian economy will be back to growth levels of at least three to four per cent if not better. The Yoruba will still opt for APC, which means the seven states, which they dominate, will be added to the 14 states that Buhari holds sway. That leaves four states of the North-central and 11 states of the South-south and South-east. Edo is more likely to stay with APC if PDP runs with a northerner.

Sarah: Buhari’s challenge is neither core North support nor South-west support. Buhari’s challenge is Allah/God. He is evidently not well, severely emaciated. Buhari is definitely NOT capable, for health reasons, of governing Nigeria beyond mediocre status quo. Should he attempt to contest in 2019, it is highly likely that OBJ will advise against it and lobby our foreign friends too.

Arinze Ibeagwa: Is anybody with just an ordinary common sense ever thinking that Buhari will contest the 2019 election? That will defeat common sense and natural law of logic if ever he does. The rest will be history as they say.

Dele Awogbeoba: OBJ will support Buhari when faced with a choice between Atiku and Buhari. Buhari will be voted for despite his health issues if Nigerians know that he is running with Osinbajo as vice. OBJ is critical if the head of state is unpopular and want to rig. Then OBJ can help de-legitimise that head of state using his foreign contacts. Buhari is not in that mould yet. Buhari will run and will win re-election and will probably not complete his term.

Felicia Akinwale:  Madam has forced Buhari to critically begin to reshuffle his cabinet.

  Meanwhile, Sunday Sun followed Atiku on his Twitter handle @atiku and discovered that he had been responding to those asking probing questions about his wealth and acclaimed leadership potentials on the platform. The exchanges went thus:

@Izz_Korede: After I heard that Atiku is the owner of Mikano, it dawned on me that if he becomes president, the whole Nigeria will be in pitch darkness.

@atiku: Young friend, this is not true, but you tweet it all the same. I own bigger companies and they are known publicly, why would I deny this one.

@adewoleade: The companies you own were set up by (sic) looted funds. From 1999 – 2007.

@atiku: 1. NICOTES – (now Intels) founded in 1989, 2. Prodeco, 1996, 3. My farm, 1982, ABTI schools, 1992

@ola2all: Above all listed companies were not viable until you became VP. Only the gullible will fall for your tricks and sweet talk.

@atiku: Intels was already Nigeria’s biggest indigenous oil and gas logistics firm before 1994. This is why military government tried to seize it.

@osquare78: All of a sudden, @atiku knows all of Nigeria’s problems. Surprisingly, he already has followers who believe he can solve all. Naija kena.

@atiku: I have never claimed to know all of Nigeria’s problems. But my experience in business and leadership means I have more insight than most. 

Sunday Sun also spoke with some eminent personalities in the country across party lines on the issue. Below are their views:

Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central)

On Atiku’s ambition: “There is nothing wrong with anybody having an ambition and if Atiku has an ambition there is nothing wrong with it and if Alhassan also has an opinion there is nothing wrong with it. The only problem is that as a Minister, she has a job to do at hand and if we are now to talk about 2019, it would affect the complete issue of governance. But I think the President has two choices and they all have implications. If he announces that he would contest then certainly his supporters will bring an end to governance because it will all be about campaigns. And if he says he will not contest then certainly politicians with ambition will bring government to its knee. So these are the two dilemmas before the president. So, as far as I am concerned he has a right to aspire to any position.”

On Atiku’s pronouncements as signs of anti-party activity: “I think if you have people that are aggrieved in a party, the best thing for the party to do is to bring people to the table and address the problem. If you don’t do that, a crack can become a gulf and it is not simply for Atiku alone. It is high time the party reached out to Bola Ahmed Tinubu and any other persons and closed any gap that may exist. But I think Atiku has the freedom. If he wants to exploit his ambition he can do that. But what we have to understand is that we have not yet fulfilled our promises to all Nigerians. In other words, Nigerians should blame the party for all that is happening as far as the Atiku affair is concerned and for not bringing about cohesion within the party and among its warring members.”

Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, APC’s Vice-Chairman, North-west 

On Atiku’s ambition and posturing: “Atiku has his own stature and I do not want to believe that he is being used by somebody else in order to foment trouble. In any case, APC is a strong party with high calibre of people, who really are capable of taking their own decisions and no one individual can distract the party or bring it down because it is a combination of so many factors and comprise so many groups and distinguished Nigerians that led to the victory of APC. So, Atiku is only one out of many of those who contributed to the victory of APC and made it formidable. Don’t forget some political parties merged with APC to form a political party and along the line there were five governors at that time that came together to add value to make the party strong. That was a faction of the PDP at that time, the New PDP which came together. In any case Atiku was not part of the New PDP.”

On whether Atiku’s posturing does not amount to anti-party activity: “I think Atiku by virtue of his position as former vice president of Nigeria and also considering his age as a person, he has attained the status of a statesman. But when you attain such status, there are certain etiquettes and decorum that is expected from you. You don’t talk anyhow or anywhere and you don’t advise or complain about something you feel strongly about in public. He has access to the President and has visited the President on a number of occasions. He has had private discussions with him. If he has any misgivings about the way and manner Buhari is running his administration, he has the privilege, which many Nigerians do not have. So, for him to go through the media and make such complaints, which are not factual, I think it is unbecoming of an elder statesman that he is.”

On whether APC is to blame: “Do you complain to the party through newspapers? He is a leader in his own right. If you are one of the de facto leaders of the party even by virtue of the constitution of the party there are certain organs of the party as a former vice president of the country you belong to, NEC, for instance, which is the most important organ of the party apart from the convention. There is also the caucus of the party. These meetings, you allege, are not taking place. But I know there were leadership meetings that were held and he attended and made contributions. I could remember the last NEC meeting where he spoke extensively. I think he even spoke more than the President at that meeting. As I said, even by virtue of his position in this country as a former vice president, he must be listened to if he comes through the normal way. But we can’t just respond to complaints that come through the media because anybody can go through the media and complain.”

Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman, PDP National Caretaker Committee

On whether PDP is the brain behind Atiku’s outbursts:  “My response is that many people in APC are talking to us and some people in PDP are talking to people in the APC. Is that not politics? So is there any Berlin Wall that prevents people? Even if there is a Berlin Wall, people will cross it. Isn’t it? So, that is the nature of Nigerian politics and I can’t be specific as to who in APC we are talking to just as the APC cannot be specific as to who in PDP they are talking to. That’s the nature of politics.

  I have been in talks with many people and I will not be specific as to who and who. Let them worry. Let them sort it out. We are not going to say who we are talking to but we are talking to many people. Let them sort it out.”

His advice for the APC:  “APC is not a party. It is an alliance of political interests. That’s just what it is. It may be a registered party in name but in origin it is not a single party. It is a combination of parties and that is what is manifesting. So, APC shouldn’t blame the PDP. They should blame themselves because they have not made enough efforts towards blending as a single political party. They still remain with their micro identity even though under the name of a political party, APC. And that is their problem, not our own.”

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