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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Can Atiku Get It Right This Time Around?

his adventure into politics after his retirement from the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty years, where he rose up to become the deputy director and joined politics during the Babangida regime. Few days ago, he declared his intention to run for the presidency again under the platform of his new party, APC. But could he get it right this time around? Asks BAYO OLADEJI who also identifies his strengths and weaknesses in this discourse.

Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, 67, has, once again, thrown his hat into the ring for the 2015 presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as he declares formally his intention to contest on September 24.
Garba Shehu, his media adviser, in a statement in Abuja, last week, said Atikus campaign will be anchored by a former minister, Babalola Borishade.
Borishade is also a well-known political strategist who worked for the victory of the late Gen Shehu Musa YarAdua and thereafter, the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). Borisade also worked as the strategist for President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 and 2003 elections, both of which were won resoundingly.
This is not about me; it is about our young people. It is about Nigerians. It is their future, not the past. It is about reforming government, securing the people and reconciling the nation. We need to seize the moment; to give every Nigerian a chance to help redefine Nigeria as a place for them and their children to prosper and feel safe, the statement quoted Atiku as saying.
Abubakar had worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty years, rising to become a deputy director. He retired in April 1989 and took up full-time business and politics. He ran for the office of governor in the Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) in 1991.
Abubakar has made three unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1993, 2007 and 2011. His first experience in the race was under the political transition under the Babangida military presidency when he placed third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primaries.
In 1998, he was elected governor of Adamawa State. While still governor-elect, he was selected by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate as his running mate. The duo went on to win the elections in February 1999, and Abubakar was sworn-in as Nigerias second democratically elected vice president on May 29, 1999.
It was his ambition that made him parted ways with his former principal, Obasanjo, who stopped him from succeeding him in 2007 and Turaki was subsequently frustrated out of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He joined the Tinubu led- Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) when he contested but lost and came third behind the late President, Umaru Yar Adua and General Muhammadu Buhari. But Turaki argued that it was his opposition to the third term bid of Obasanjo that made him fall out of favour with him but Obasanjo was accusing him of having inordinate ambition.
He returned to the PDP after the much-touted reconciliation under the Alex Ekwueme panel but the party he returned to was not the same he left as he was denied the membership of the board of trustees of the party as former vice president. He became a stranger as virtually, all the PDP governors had no sympathy for him unlike before.
After the demise of Yar Adua, Atiku and some political elites in the north rose up against President Goodluck Jonathan, who wanted to contest for a fresh term after completing the Yar Adua tenure. To them, the north should be allowed to regain the power but Jonathan and his supporters asked whoever wanted to run to join but he would contest.
The polity was heated and there were threats against the corporate existence of the country but Jonathan with the aid of Obasanjo and the party leadership defeated Atiku who was sponsored as the northern consensus candidate. Jonathan proceeded to defeat Buhari who ran under the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
After the 2011 general election, Jonathan hijacked the party machinery and kicked out those who could be opposition against his second term ambition and replaced them with his cronies through the last national convention of the PDP. This, once again, forced him to defect from the party to the mainstream opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), where he is hoping to realize his dream to become Number One citizen.
But his media team would not accept that Atiku lost the 2011 presidential primaries to Jonathan. According to his spokesman, Garba Shehu, the 2011 PDP presidential primaries were everything but free and fair.
The PDP didnt give him a fair chance. Dont forget that many PDP governors locked him out of their states. He was barred from states such as Ebonyi, Bayelsa and Gombe. Many others locked their delegates from him. He was not allowed to canvass his candidacy with delegates.
When he protested that his agents were not allowed to see sample ballot papers and that many of them were barred from the venue, the PDP leadership ignored him and went ahead to confer victory on Dr Jonathan, their anointed. Live on TV, Nigerians saw governors seizing ballot papers and filling them out on behalf of delegates from their own states. Yet, in spite of these obstacles, Turaki walked away with about a third of the total votes. The PDP primary in 2011 was transparently rigged, Garba Shehu said
Could Atiku get it right this time around? The answer is not as straightforward as the question. There are some obstacles that are standing between him and his ambition. But Atiku too, is a team player and a political strategist who sees the obstacles as stepping stones to the presidency.
THE STRENGTH: HOW HIS CAMPAIGN ORGANISATION RATES HIM:
This is what people are saying: Nigeria is in crisis. Atiku is a religious moderate and yet a true Muslem. Atiku is electable. He is APCs best bet against President Goodluck Jonathan. Moslems and Christians are comfortable with him. Atiku is the most prepared for the job. Nigerians are tired of people stepping into the presidency unprepared.
Atiku is a major player in APC. He is a force to reckon with in the party. He has the clout to form major coalitions. The younger elements in the party want a progressive, forward thinking candidate. Muhammadu Buhari is a strong candidate but people are afraid of the Christian vote backlash because of past utterances
EXPERIENCE: Atiku, as stated earlier, has taken part thrice in the presidential primaries and whatever option is adopted would never be a problem. When the Adamu Ciroma-led consensus committee was inaugurated, and he was to be considered along with people like General Ibrahim Babangida and General Mohammed Aliyu Gussau, yet he crossed all the huddles and emerged the candidate. Some pundits are of the opinion that chosing Atiku as the APC candidate could be a threat to the PDP dream to retain the power since he knows them too well.
POLITICAL STRUCTURE: Atiku as a bridge builder has friends and political associates that cut across all the divides and they are always willing to help him when the need arises. For example, the political heritage of the late General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), which has now become a full fledge party rightly or wrongly, belongs to him and the party would never work against him. He has some political heavyweights in his camp who would not let him down. One of them is former Aviation Minister, Prof Babalola Borishade, who has been named the DG of Atiku campaign organization.
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