Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar seems to have a penchant for jumping from one political party to the other. Last Friday, he formally disengaged from the APC and as a beautiful bride does not lack suitors. PATRICK ANDREW and ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU examine the implications for both the APC and his destination, the PDP.
Journey so far
In 2002 following alleged failed attempt to get his boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo impeached and handover the presidency to him as the deputy in the “Mandela style”, Turaki Adamawa quickly cemented a political relationship with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to form the Action Congress (AC) and contested the 2007 presidential election under its banner.
He lost both at the poll and tribunal. As usual, the former Vice President, hurriedly, crept back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in 2010 shortly after the demise of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, in the hope of bullying out the former Vice President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who assumed the mantle of leadership following the demise of President Yar’Adua.
But again he failed to secure the PDP’s party ticket at the December presidential primary as Jonathan walloped him with 2000 votes to 800. Just like a well digger in search of water, Atiku in August 2013, in company of others, desperately left the PDP at its national convention in Abuja and ceremoniously joined the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC). As at then, he said the APC was his is final political bus stop. But, many political analysts believed that the Turaki of Adamawa will soon leave once the party failed to give him what he wanted.
As envisaged, after he was humbled by the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankoso at the APC Presidential Primary in Lagos, Atiku and his group became the opposition within the ruling party (APC). This was a signal that all was not well with the wealthy politician and that with time he will soon take is usual leave. After he failed in his attempt to pocket the party, Atiku became one of the crusaders of restructuring. At every opportunity, he did not only preach restructuring but also criticized the ruling party and the even the Presidency.
However, with the body language of some members of the APC National Executive Council (NEC), at the party’s recent NEC meeting signally that President Muhammadu Buhari would have its support for second term, Atiku then started parking all is political belongings to continue in his search for power.
Interestingly, on 25th November, Atiku announced his resignation from the APC. Though he is yet to announce his new platform, but there are indications that the Turaki Adamawa might be heading back to the PDP. Notably, almost all Nigerians politician have left one political party to the other in search of power, including the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who contested for the President for four consecutive times under 3 political party (ANPP, CPC and APC). So the case of Atiku is not new in our political sphere, as the 2019 Presidential election might be the last shot for the over seventy years old politician.
However, just like popular politicians generate controversies, Atiku recent resignation from the APC will continue to generate controversies across the length and breadth of Nigeria. Many APC stalwarts, including the President makes mockery of his resignation and even limits Atiku’s influence. Other Nigerians and political pundits argued that Atiku’s resignation from APC is not just a great blow on the ruling party, but it spells doom for the APC.
Shehu Sani’s alarm
Contrary to the position of many APC stalwarts, the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, has warned that what destroyed the PDP in 2015 could also tear the ruling APC apart. He said “the umbrella of the PDP was torn by internal injustice. The ruling party should be careful. Many people who helped in bringing this administration on board are not being carried along. Now, Atiku has left the APC for the PDP. Those that contributed to this government before getting to power were not accorded courtesy”.
He explained that “it is left for Buhari to decide who loves him and who loves the throne. For Buhari to be rescued from the claws of the cabal, he needs the concerted efforts of all Nigerians, regardless of their religion, tribe and political parties”.
Senator Sani’s comment not only confirmed the statement of Atiku, that he was not been carried along in the APC government, but also restates that the President might not be in charge. Just like what many political pundits have said, the Senator also confirmed that Atiku contributed lot resources for the success of the current ruling party and his departure would not only put a huge hole in its finances but spells doom for the APC.
After Atiku, more to leave
Since his resignation news broke, many bigwigs in the APC have described him as a weightless politician. But contrary to what they want Nigerians to believe many analysts argued that Atiku is one of the most popular and loved politician in Nigeria. And that over the years he has build more connection across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to further increase his support base. They said, though he might have lost many Presidential primaries, but he has used those primaries to win the support of more Nigerians. Among his supporters are many Nigerians promoting the “Atikulate and Atikulation” projects, past and even present political office holders.
One of the Atiku supporters is the current Minister of Women Affairs, Senator Aisha Alhassan, who even while serving in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration declared her total support for former vice president, Atiku Abubakar even if his current boss still seems interested in the job come 2019. She courageously revealed that the former Vice President is her “political godfather”.
She said “Atiku is my godfather even before I joined politics. And again, Baba Buhari did not tell us that he is going to run in 2019. Let me tell you today that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that ‘Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister, but Baba just like you know, I will support Atiku because he is my godfather”.
This, according to many Nigerians, confirmed that the Turaki Adamawa, a most influential politician, has many courageous godson and goddaughters that will go anywhere with him at any point in time. Even before his resignation, many of his loyalists have been reported to have defected back to the PDP. So it is visible to even the blind, that many powerful politicians and even ordinary Nigerians will follow Atiku to the PDP. Atiku is no doubt a leader with many followers. So the APC has not just lost a great politician, but they will in few days loose many more.
Atiku leave, money follow
In Nigeria politics and even in some other parts of the world, money remains an important factor. Aside being a politician, Turaki has been into business immediately after he left the Nigeria Custom Service. Atiku’s business investments cut across probably all aspects of our national economy. This, according to pundits, is why he contributed financially to the successes of ruling parties but gain that little respect while his relationship with the party lasted.
Boastfully, Atiku recently said “I was part of all the processes, including campaigns until success was achieved. But sadly, soon after the formation of government; I was side-lined, I have no relationship with the government, I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they are but three years down the lane, this is where we are.” This is a clear indication that, Atiku had invested in the APC during the struggle.
However, political observers are of the view that since money is part of our politic and considering his contribution to the success of the APC in general elections, the implication is that the ruling party has lost a very influential politician and one of its great financers. With Turaki’s exit from the ruling party, the bank account will to a large extend feel it. The intra party crises of the ruling party are gradually becoming obvious to Nigerians. Now, most political actors know that all is not well with the ruling party. It will be a difficult task for the ruling party to finance some of its activities and get an influential person to wear the big shoe that Atiku has left behind.
Journey back to his root?
Atiku’s return to the PDP no doubt is a huge plus in terms of electoral capital and commanding political influence. His presence in all ramifications represents reasonable sanity in the party and a pronouncement that the party may have or is seriously on the way to a clean bill of health.
Of course, Atiku is no political neophyte but an astute political strategist who through experience has accumulated enough insight to discern when the stage is set to embark on a political journey, especially one that is likely to have huge political implications.
In the words of a former member of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker Adamawa State House of Assembly, Hon. Laori Kwamoti, he is not in lack of resourcefulness and surely knows when to throw his hat into the ring.
That said, there are fears that his return will upset the applecart, engender some trouble for the PDP that is gradually regaining some level of stability and unity, trait the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would rather it does not have. Keen political watchers think Atiku could either be genuinely returning to the PDP to try and redeem his almost battered political image.
Leaving none on doubt about his political objective, Atiku in his letter of resignation said: “I am resigning from a party we formed and worked so hard with fellow compatriots across the country to place in government. I had hope that the APC government will make improvements to the lives of our people and the continued existence and development of Nigeria as one indivisible nation. This hope has now been dashed.
“I am unable to reconcile myself with the dismal performance of the party in government, especially in relation to the continued polarization of our people along ethnic and religious lines, which is threatening our unity more than any other time in the recent past, and the unbearable hardship that our people are currently undergoing.
“As I said in 2006, it is the struggle for democracy, constitutionalism and service to my country and my people that are driving my choice. Let me emphasize, again, that this is not about me. We have to have a country before people can aspire to lead it.”
In other word, Atiku is pursuing a vision and having failed to actualise that vision through collective governance has withdrawn from the APC and wants to transfer, as it were, his allegiance to another political entity that he hopes would facilitate his political ambition either as a collective endeavour or where he will directly takes the driving wheel.
Is PDP the destination?
Ordinarily the question seems pedestrian. The Turaki Adamawa is a founding father of the PDP, a house whose foundation and other structures he helped set up, nurtured and on whose pedestal he became the number two citizen of Nigeria. That he has embarked on series of consultations with relevant political heavyweights in the PDP from the ward level to the immediate past President of the country, Goodluck Jonathan, who by reputation and party loyalty and right is an unassuming leader of the party and desires to reposition the party to recapture the power the APC stole from under his watch.
Besides, Atiku has consulted the North east caucus of the PDP clear signal that he is bent on reuniting with his political siblings where he’s likely to receive warm embrace unlike the cold romance with strange bed fellows.
Atiku has met with all the state caucuses of the PDP across the nation and reportedly been assured of convivial reception back to the party.
It is confirmed he met with the executives of the PDP in his ward and engaged them in “fruitful deliberations” that same day, then convened with all state chairmen of the PDP in the six states of the North East along with the National Vice Chairman, PDP North East, Ambassador Emmanuel Njiwah, in attendance.
The meeting unanimously resolved to meet with the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) ahead of the December 9 elective congress where it would be decided when exactly he would join the party in a ceremony.
Aside from the PDP, Atiku has interests or rather is assumed to have huge investments in other associations such as the Action Democratic Party (ADP), the PDM, ACN and others and therefore has enough to choose from should opt to join a party other than the PDP. However, the PDP offers greater vintage, clout and massive structure that even the APC does not boast of.
But will he find solace in the PDP?
According to political analysts, it would depend on what ambition is driving Atiku. If he is willing to sacrifice his long held disposition to contest for the office of the president, then his return yet unsettle the party even as presidential ambition may be thrown into asunder.
In 2003, he literally had serious issues with President Obasanjo over his presidential ambition and had to be ‘pushed’ out of the party. He found no solace in 2012 two years following his return and had again enlisted the support of the nPDP to form the APC. He contended with Musa Kwankwoso and Rochas Okorocha who some alleged were sponsored specifically into the race to truncate Atiku’s ambition by snatching delegates from the South West, South East where he had hoped to make some gains against Buhari at the primaries.
But has the situation changed? Hardly! Atiku will be contending with some seen as PDP core loyalists who in moments of conflict stayed put to salvage the situation rather take the easy out unlike the former Vee Pee that only to return to attempt to seek the highest office through the same platform that one had disparaged and held in contempt.
According to a serving governor some of them are not favourably disposed to his presidential ambition and would rather he remains a mere member than pursue the ambition.
“Not all the PDP governors have bought into the Atiku agenda, we are not united on him. If we have our way, some of us will go for Makarfi who has shown uncommon leadership in reuniting PDP. And those of us in this group are encouraging him to join the presidential race.
“Some of our leaders also prefer Lamido or Shekarau. If we have any issue with Makarfi, it is about rumours on his health and we have conducted our research, the ex-governor is as fit as a fiddle. It is all propaganda.
“We will follow the rule of law, the party’s constitution and go to the field to elect a presidential candidate. What if our members decide not to grant Atiku a waiver to contest the presidential primaries? ”He is a new member, he can as well queue like others.
“Some of our leaders speak about Atiku as a political asset in the North but he was a distant third in the APC presidential primaries. We won’t be blind on our choice this time around. I think programmes and not personality should matter to PDP.”
Even if he enjoys reasonable support and breached the party procedures to seek the PDP ticket, he must contend with others that have harboured and nurtured their presidential ambitions as hard core party loyalists and these includes former Governors Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shekarau, Ibrahim Shema, of Jigawa, Kano and Katsina
Rumour is rife that the current National Caretaker Committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi is equally interested and he is yet to either implicitly or explicitly discountenance the media report on this. In recent interview Makarfi he won’t be distracted by personal ambition as he is focused on conducting a hitch-free national convention.
Will they concede grounds for him to take on Buhari a fellow Northerner or will loyalty to the PDP wield overwhelming influence in deciding who eventually bears the PDP presidential flag come 2019? In this regard, Atiku’s return may after all be a pain in the neck to the PDP.