Former Vice-President, Abubakar Atiku’s long-foretold return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) occurred last Sunday, December 3. It was on the platform of the party that he had contested as a running mate to the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and became the vice president in 1999, staying in office for eight years. He, however, fell out with Obasanjo on account of the man’s bid for a third term in office as president, at a time that he (Atiku) had his eyes on succeeding him as president.
So much has been written about the Atiku/President Muhammadu Buhari/Obasanjo affair. The summary of it all is that Atiku, having probably felt let down and ignored by Buhari and noting the president’s seeming resolve to run for a second term in office, has decided to step out of Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and pitch his tent with his former party, the PDP, where he feels he would stand a better chance of clinching its presidential ticket.
This is the fifth time that Atiku will be moving from one party to the other since the return to civil rule in 1999. After his two terms as vice president, he had left the PDP because his ambition to become president did not enjoy the blessing of Obasanjo, who, it has now become apparent, hates him with passion. He, therefore, in 2006, left for the now defunct Action Congress, and successfully obtained its presidential ticket for the 2007 presidential poll, but he came third in the election which produced the now late Umoru Yar’Adua as president on the platform of the PDP, while Buhari, who was the flag-bearer of the also now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), came second.
Atiku later returned to the PDP in 2009, and urged all his supporters across the country to do so. He had then told the nation: “I am back for real and in it for the long run.” He was eventually picked as the North’s consensus candidate for the 2011 presidential election but he was floored at the party’s presidential primaries by Obasanjo’s protégé, the then little-known Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who went on to win the election.
He, however, again left the PDP over the attempt to make Goodluck Jonathan the automatic candidate of the PDP in the 2015 presidential poll. He and seven aggrieved governors walked out of the party’s special convention in Abuja and five of the governors eventually crossed over to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in November 2013, with Atiku joining them in February, 2014. He had then said that he would not be moving from the APC to any other party as the party was “his last bus stop.”
However, his attempt to be APC’s candidate for the 2015 poll failed as Buhari had a massive following on account of his anti-corruption antecedents. He got the support of many Nigerians as corruption had been widely recognised as the bane of the country’s development. Buhari, in a nutshell won the APC ticket, enjoyed the massive support of many Nigerians, and with the then widespread perception of the Goodluck Jonathan government as clueless, went on to win the 2015 election. Thus, again, ended Atiku’s bid to rule the country.
However, like a cat with nine lives, Atiku was again last year reported to be vigorously oiling his political machinery and holding clandestine meetings with his political associates. But, he stoutly denied all such insinuations. Then, followed an assault on his company, Intels, by the government, which tried to cancel his multi-billion naira contract with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
On November 24, apparently troubled by Buhari’s seeming interest in having a second term in office, Atiku decided to take the bull by the horns once again and call it a day with Buhari and the ruling party. He formally returned to the PDP on Sunday.
Since he called it quits with APC, tongues have not stopped wagging on the possibility of him beating Buhari in the 2019 presidential election. For one, he is one of the few Nigerians who have the financial muscle to take on the president in the election. Secondly, he has a large political following, having been building his political machinery for decades. He is also believed to be an astute administrator and businessman who succeeded in building a number of flourishing businesses, including Intels and the American University of Nigeria, which is one the county’s best universities. There is the widespread belief that a man who has been able to establish and successfully run big businesses will be able to make a success of administering a country like Nigeria.
He has also been passionate about his quest to rule the country for many years and it is believed that he would be better prepared for the office than someone who would just have the position foisted on him, or even President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been unlucky to be ruling the country at a very difficult period of serious economic challenges.
Indeed, Atiku has given the country’s current economic problems as a reason for launching his presidential bid, about fifteen months to the 2019 polls.
But then, he has some issues that may make his quest for the country’s leadership difficult. First, is what has been described in some quarters as his “desperation’ to rule the country, which may, however be borne out of his zeal to right the wrongs in our polity and put the economy on the right track. Atiku is also seen in some quarters as having a toga of corruption around his neck, on account of his huge health, having spent his career life in the Customs. But then, no one, not even his seeming arch-enemy, Obasanjo, who would be so glad to see him in jail, has been able to put a handle to his supposed corruption, prosecute him and bring him to justice. Instead, the much that Obasanjo has said is that Atiku believes in marabouts who had a long time ago told him that he would one day be president. Obasanjo has not been sufficiently forthcoming on the details of Atiku’s supposed “corruption”, other than to say that he was in charge of the privatisation programme and an international sporting event while he was the vice president.
Atiku, on his return to the PDP on Sunday, said Buhari had let the nation down. His return has divided the PDP and the talk is that he should not expect an automatic presidential ticket in 2019. His decision to leave the APC for the PDP has definitely made the 2019 election more interesting. It is left to be seen if his unending bid for the presidency will, at last, bear fruit in 2019.