In what must be close to Clash of the Titans, the leading opposition party, PDP, has hrown up Atiku Abubakar a familiar old war horse as its presidential candidate, to unseat the incumbent, and APC candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in next year’s elections. But can the PDP reclaim Aso Rock? KEHINDE OSASONA asks in this report.
Proving bookmakers and hordes of analysts in the nation’s political sphere wrong recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared support for his former deputy Atiku Abubakar to become president on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019.
The former president, Blueprint Weekend recalls, openly made his declaration while hosting Atiku and members of his presidential campaign team at his Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) residence in Abeokuta.
While the truce lasted, Obasanjo told the media that he was supporting Atiku’s presidential ambition on the ground that his former deputy has the capacity to perform better in office than the incumbent, and that “he has perfect understanding of the nation’s economy better and as such would make his “administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.”
He said: “You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs. You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways.”
Obasanjo had observed that Nigeria’s presidency under the PDP administration which he headed was designed in such a way that Atiku would have taken over from him in 2007.
“From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs. You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways.”
Atiku relishes moment
Meanwhile, while addressing journalists at the end of the closed-door meeting with Obasanjo, Atiku described the meeting with his former boss as a “historic one” that afforded the two of them to “unite and work together towards repositioning Nigeria on the path of unity, growth and prosperity.”
He had said: “Today’s meeting is historic one for both of us and for this country because, like I said last Sunday when I paid tribute to him, I couldn’t have been where I am today without his wise counsel; without his picking me as his Vice President for eight years and without the training that I got from his tutelage and his leadership.
“I believe the time has come for all of us to unite and work together so that this country can be repositioned on the path of unity, growth and prosperity.
“Today is one of the happiest days of my life. I said a few moments ago, after your presidency, we have had three presidencies in this country. The only president you have trained is myself. And I said I am going to commit my presidency, if I become one, to the continuation of your own presidency, a legacy.”
Ahead of the February 2019 presidential election, the PDP a few days ago kicked off its campaign in Sokoto, with a commitment to focus on issues of governance.
But before the kick-off, the Director, Media and Publicity of the Presidential Campaign Council, Kola Ologbondiyan, had in a statement issued by the campaign council fired a barrage when he said the PDP Presidential campaign was on the verge building national consensus to rescue the nation from the misrule of the Muhammadu Buhari-led Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The statement partly read in part: “The campaign notes that the North-west bears heavy imprints of neglect by President Buhari administration,” adding that the President and the APC “cannot point to any key development project articulated and completed by it in the last three and half years, despite the huge resources it claims to have channeled to the zone.
“The campaign reveals that the zone is hugely disappointed in President Buhari, who has failed to fulfill any of his 2015 campaign promises even as it is piqued by his 2019 ‘Next Level’ campaign mantra which shows Mr. President’s lack of remorse for his failures.
“It notes that the North-west zone has completely lost confidence in President Buhari and is now rallying with the PDP’s Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who has demonstrated an unrivalled competence and political will to reposition the nation and return her to the path of national cohesion and economic prosperity.”
Opposition on the prowl
In defence of PDP’s brand of politics recently, an ex-media aide to ormer president Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, had in a press statement criticised former governor of Lagos state and APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for dismissing Atiku Abubakar’s chances of becoming the president.
He said: “The comments made by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national leader of the APC concerning Alhaji Atiku’s prospects in the coming 2019 presidential elections are essentially not meant for the serious minded, and quite unexpected from the leader of a party in power whose popularity and national acceptability are receding faster than the waters of Lake Chad.
“Asiwaju’s statement is extremely presumptuous. It assumes that he as a person or whatever political platform he stands on will have anything to do with who emerges as president in 2019.
“I assure Asiwaju that he does not, and will not have any serious influence on who will emerge as president after the 2019 elections. He had such opportunity in 2015, but it was wasted on a moribund, unproductive and lacklustre Presidency.
“Hence, it is a fact that Asiwaju had a tremendous influence and did play a significant role in the emergence of president Muhammadu Buhari in 2015,” he said.
In furtherance of his arguments, Okupe was quoted as having said: “Asiwaju should not worry about where Atiku is holding meetings to unseat Buhari, or where Atiku is “going” in 2019. Rather, he should seriously give urgent thoughts to his own destination after 2019.
“For certain, I want to assure him that the PDP will retire him gracefully to his political shrine at Bourdillon. While the expired and rejected product he is dutifully carrying to the political market.”
While still ruing the 2015 defeat, Okupe continued: “The defeat in 2015 was due to the fact that Tinubu and the APC were able to successfully hoodwink the Nigerian electorates into wrongly believing that the incumbent at that time was weak, inept and clueless.
“The prevailing feeling in Nigeria then was that a change was necessary to “save” the country. However, things are quite different now. Without prompting, propaganda or mass-brainwashing, Nigerians have come to realise that a victory for Buhari in 2019 is an existential threat not only to the peaceful coexistence of the nation, but also to individual wellbeing and survival of families, breadwinners and jobs across the country,”
In furtherance of his arguments, Okupe was quoted as having said: “Asiwaju should not worry about where Atiku is holding meetings to unseat Buhari, or where Atiku is ‘going’ in 2019. Rather, he should seriously give urgent thoughts to his own destination after 2019.
“For certain, I want to assure him that the PDP will retire him gracefully to his political shrine at Bourdillon. While the expired and rejected product he is dutifully carrying to the political market in 2019 heads to Daura, hale and hearty.”
Tinubu, Oshiomhole fire back
Meanwhile, as the leading opposition party intensifies its campaign, the duo of the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the party Chairman, Comrade Adam Oshiomhole, had in separate reactions cautioned Nigerians from being deceived by the PDP for the second time.
While countering PDP at a forum organised by the National Committee of Buhari Support Groups in Abuja during the week, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, recently dismissed the presidential ambition of former vice-president Atiku Abubukar, when he declared him unfit to lead the nation.
Tinubu went on to say that the former vice-president lacks focus so much that he has changed parties many times to push his personal interest.
On PDP’s planned return, Tinubu waved it, arguing that the party has greatly failed to transform and improve the country in the past and, as punishment, isn’t yet deserving of a return to power.
He said: “Their candidate, who is supposed to beat Buhari, has been in our party and many other parties. He has more party membership cards to build a house. All you have to do is to go out there and tell him that a house built on cards will be collapsed with a single stroke of broom. He said they are reformed, but reformed what? Reformed PDP? No.”
Toeing the same path, the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, has castigated the PDP’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s promise of 2.5 million jobs per annum as contained in his policy document, as deceitful.
The verbal missile is an apparent reaction to the opposition’s party position that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level campaign slogan was dead on arrival.
Oshiomhole, who made the statement after a meeting with the APC National Working Committee (NWC), said Atiku’s annual job pledge was an empty promise and urged Nigerians to demand from the PDP presidential candidate and his party what they did with the promises earlier contained in the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) document when they were in office.
“If you are going to create 10 million of jobs, how come that when you were in government before and you produced a (NEEDS) document, where you promised to create seven million jobs, by the time when the government was out, we had lost Michelin; Dunlop closed down; entire textiles industries closed down; we witnessed unprecedented industrial obituary,” he said.