For Atiku, the political journey continues
For the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, it is a return to a familiar track. He is on the move again, the fourth in the series, since 2007.
His latest action, which saw him leaving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), took place on Friday, November 24, 2017.
In his letter of resignation, Atiku cited arbitrariness and unconstitutionality in the conduct of the affairs of the party as reasons for his exit.
There were strong indications that he was returning to the Peoples Democratic Party, the platform on which he had served as Vice President, even without saying so.
Many considerations gave rise to the assumption. Before his eventual movement from APC, there were speculations of behind the scene engagements between him and chieftains of PDP for his return to the fold.
It was even argued in some quarters that he had been assured the presidential ticket of the party in 2019.
Neither Atiku nor the PDP leadership had confirmed or debunked the speculation. But even before the insinuation on his movement eventually came to pass, there were clear indications that he was not having the best of times in his former party.
Atiku’s utterances on the affairs of the APC and his position on issues that the party had downplayed or prevaricated upon, showed him as one at variance with developments in it.
His pronounced stance in support of restructuring the country, which the APC had initially promoted but developed cold feet in putting into action, on coming to office, was seen in some quarters, as a direct affront on the party.
Perhaps more than that, his direct accusation at the party on lacking in democratic etiquettes was what convinced many that he was, undoubtedly, on his way out.
Atiku had in Hausa service of the Voice of America (VOA) in early September, remarked that having volunteered his resources and contacts to President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign, he had not been accorded commensurate recognition, thereafter.
“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 any relationship with the government”, he was quoted as saying.
Thus, by the time he walked out on the party on Friday, it did not come to keen followers of his actions and utterances as a surprise.
Road to the unknown?
Though the former vice president alleged high-handedness and unconstitutionality in the affairs of his former party as reasons for his movement, the impression by many is that he may, rather, be seeking a platform that would enable him actualise a presidential ambition he has nursed since 1993.
APC, by the last count, had not placed any ban on any of its members having eyes on the presidency in 2019. But given the litany of endorsements from its chieftains and governors in its fold, it is clear that Atiku realising his dream on its platform, would remain a pipedream.
In the absence of any other party with the spread and structure to confront Buhari and his ruling party, PDP is easily seen as Atiku’s next port of call.
Minister of Women Affairs and staunch Atiku supporter, Aisha Alhassan, eventually cleared the doubts on his real agenda, also in an interview with a foreign medium, few days after him, where she stated that she would work for the former vice president, if he declares interest in 2019 presidency.
“Let me tell you today that if Baba (Buhari) says 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 only Atiku because he is my godfather, if Atiku says he is going to contest”, she had declared.
With Atiku, apparently headed for PDP, the question that remains unsolved is how easy it would be for him to run on its ticket and even win at the main election.
Investigations by TheNiche, indicated that picking the PDP ticket for 2019 presidency, would not be an easy run for Atiku, going by the number and caliber of party chieftains from the North that have already indicated interest in the exercise.
Among these aspirants, former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido and erstwhile Sokoto State governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, are the most prominent. Given their experience in politics and network of contacts, it is not likely that any of them would step down for Atiku, without a fight.
Already, Bafarawa has fired what seems like a warning shot to Atiku, the Turakin Adamawa, when in an exclusive interview with this Newspaper, he described him as a political disaster, who cannot be entrusted with PDP ticket for the 2019 presidential election.
“Atiku is a disaster. He does not think anything is good for anybody but himself. He has been an opportunist since 1999 till date looking for those to call him and hand over ticket to him, and if he does not succeed he causes trouble and leaves. The truth is that there is no reserved ticket for anyone in the PDP”, he said.
Though the former vice president promptly put a lie to the charge by Bafarawa, explaining his earlier movement from PDP on his being deregistered from the party by then President Olusegun Obasanjo and on the second occasion, by the split in its fold, how far this would go in smoothening the road for him, remains to be seen.
This is especially as the remarks by the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, do not seem to be in his favour.
According to Jibrin, Atiku would not be granted automatic ticket to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the party.
He expressed the willingness of the party to welcome Atiku into its fold, but advised him to be prepared to slug it out with other aspirants for its presidential ticket.
“We are ready to accept him to our party but he should be ready to work for a waiver.
“If the PDP grants him a waiver, he should then join the cream of presidential aspirants in the party to fight for the ticket in 2019”, Jibrin stated.
How far can Atiku go?
This is the challenge presently confronting the former vice president. Currently 71 years of age, by 2019, he would be 73. Though he may find consolation in Buhari who would be 77, then, if he runs, the regularity of his face in major elections since he made his debut in national politics in the ill-fated General Ibrahim Babangida 1992/1993 political transition programme, may work against his aspiration.
Obviously not lacking in agenda and perspectives at repositioning the country especially its economic base, Atiku has however, perhaps, unwittingly, lent himself to critics as metaphor for corruption in the land.
Even without any established case against him in that regard, so far, Atiku’s critics usually accuse him of engagement in the untoward act, probably because he did not fight back when the allegation was injected into the public domain.
Obasanjo, set the tone on the wicked agenda. But because Atiku allowed it to sink, in carrying on without appearing bothered while it lasted, it has more or less, come to stay.
If this spectre of corruption allegation rears its head in the days ahead, it has the potential of working against his ambition, given that PDP may not want to risk confronting a seating president or ruling party with a candidate with deficient credibility profile in the court of public opinion.
In 2011, when Atiku returned from the Action Congress (AC) to contest the PDP ticket with former President Goodluck Jonathan, the allegation of corruption was the most potent dart his opponents threw at him.
Earlier, in 2007, when he ran on the platform of AC against late President Umaru Yar’Adua of PDP, Obasanjo was unrelenting in employing that strategy against him.
A repeat of that tendency may not entirely be ruled out as the former vice president squares up with other aspirants for the PDP ticket, next year.
Though credited with unyielding attitude that has seen him recover from major political upsets at various times, it is not certain how Atiku is working to ensure that the allegation of corruption that had been variously used against him in the past, is adequately handled, this time around.