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I was in a phone conversation, on Friday morning, with a compatriot currently holidaying in Dubai when the news popped up on TV that one of the oldest cats in Nigeria’s political arena, Atiku Abubakar, has “resigned” from the All Progressives Congress (APC), ending what a commentator aplty captured as a ‘loan transfer’ from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Pushed by sheer eagerness, I broke the story to the fellow in Dubai, who shocked me with her unemotional retort: “That’s nothing new. Didn’t Nigerians know he (Atiku) would find his way out of APC before 2019?”
Scanning through the plethora of reactions that dominated the blogosphere after the announcement, it was apparent that Nigerians, irrespective of their political orientations, were not jolted by the latest move of the Adamawa-born former Customs’ officer. To many of them, it was – all along – a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’, at least going by antecedence.
Nonetheless, as unsurprising as Atiku’s severance of political ties with the APC may look to the viewing audience of Nigeria’s sporadic nay unending political theatre, it seems the only takeaway from his inconsistent trajectory is the consistency of his personal ambition. The former vice president has a long chequered history of eyeing the top job in the country.
From the early 1990s when he first impressed himself in the minds of politically conscious Nigerians, young Atiku journeyed from a presidential aspirant in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), to becoming Olusegun Obasanjo’s deputy in 1999, to contesting the presidency in 2007 under the Action Congress of Nigeria (after falling out with Obasanjo), before losing the PDP ticket to the then incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in 2010; and most recently losing the APC ticket to Muhammadu Buhari in 2014.
GOOD OMEN FOR THE APC?
Perhaps, Abubakar had prepared the minds of the Nigerian populace to what was to come with his seeming hostile disposition to the government enthroned by his party, post 2015 elections. He appeared clearly at variance with the direction of the Buhari-led government and the persistent voicing of dissent gave him away as an ‘enemy within’ the APC.
But for the APC, Atiku’s desertion from its fold may be considered a huge relief, if one considers his destabilizing effects within the party. During the last Eid-Kabir celebrations, Minister of Women Affairs, Jummai Alhassan sent tongues wagging when she openly declared support for Atiku in the race for 2019. While leading a delegation to pay Salah homage to her political benefactor, she reffered to the Turakin Adamawa as, “The incoming president in 2019, Insha Allah”.
More than few saw this, rightly so, as not only politically contradictory and capitulating, but an equally unpardonable aberration unbecoming of a highly placed public official.
Now that the chicken has gone home to roost, it is expected that loyalists like Mrs Alhassan and others would, in turn, vacate the APC since their tenancy has expired, while the ruling party is cleansed of irredentists rocking its ship.
On a personal note, President Buhari would do himself and his government some favour by consulting the ‘resignation letter’ of Abubakar Atiku. Therein, the former vice president made what looked like salient points against the APC, a party he described as a “mirage”, over its failure to, on the one hand engender internal democracy, and on the other hand, deliver dividends of good governance to Nigerians. Specifically, as Buhari prepares the ground for his promised appointment of new Ministers, Atiku’s jab that youths have not been well represented in this government should not be jettisoned. That is a red flag which should be adequately taken care of.
RENEWED ROMANCE BETWEEN ATIKU AND PDP?
After successful spells in Italy and Spain, one of the most celebrated managers in football in the 21st century, Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea FC in 2013. Granting an interview as prelude to his second coming, having managed the same outfit between 2004 and 2007, the Portuguese summed up his departure from the London giants as a “perfect divorce”, since they disengaged on mutual consent.
The return of Abubakar Atiku to the opposition PDP, at this point, is of course a carefully calculated risk which, if things manifested as scripted, is aimed at uprooting the APC from power in 2019. There is no gainsaying the obvious that this remains the immediate attraction for both Atiku and the PDP. The former’s known financial clouts and his appreciable followership would come handy for the latter, even as it struggles to put the hallucination and hangover of the past to rest. Exactly the sort of tonic needed by a resurging political movement.
In doing this, however, both Atiku and his new found love, the PDP, must be aware that scepticism of theirs remains with the electorates who regarded the umbrella party’s reign as years of locusts which led to the current economic famine in the land. Fortunately for the PDP, as things stand, Nigerians are condemned to – once again – choose between it and the APC come the general elections in about 16 months time, so long the realisation of the much hyped ‘third force’ is elusive.
To this end, the first hurdle to be negotiated by the PDP would be its national convention, scheduled to hold in Abuja on December 9. Allegations similar to past experiences of manipulations are already emerging among aspirants for the National Chairmanship seat of the party, who accused the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee of bias. How they manage this latest eruption would go a long way in revealing what lies ahead.
ATIKU AND 2019 AT A GLANCE
On Thursday, September 28, 2017, Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose became the first politician to formally launch campaign for presidency in 2019. At his declaration in Abuja, the firebrand governor indicated that his interest, asides being a fundamental right, emanates from lack of enthusiasm so far displayed by members of the political class in the North to contest against Buhari in the next election. It is on record that the PDP had zoned its presidential ticket to the region, hoping that this would help divide the votes between the itself and the APC at the polls. Yet, none in the region has summoned enough courage to dare Buhari for the coveted keys to the Aso Villa. With Atiku’s eventual return to the PDP, the calculus is expected to change.
In his reaction to the u-turn made by Atiku, a former associate and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai labeled the ex-veepee a “serial contestant” for the presidency, who could make his way back to the broom caucus before 2019, if his ambition would be guaranteed.
Sadly, there would be major impediments which may truncate Atiku’s eternal aspiration to rule Nigeria; two of such, though not new, are:
In the eyes of many, Atiku not only represents the political oligarchs which continually hold the country by the throat, but the face of the corrupt juggernauts that foisted extreme poverty on the hapless masses. He has had to constantly defend himself against, though unprovened, allegations of grafts in the court of public opinion. Still, many would easily point at the stupendous estimates of his wealth – spread across countless business ventures – as a comfortable signpost of a strong nexus to financial impropriety.
It remains to be seen how Atiku washes himself clean of such negative and injurious perception.
It was widely reported few weeks back how former President Goodluck Jonathan welcomed the possibility of Atiku’s return to the PDP. However, in what seems a narration of lessons from a personal trauma, Jonathan identified former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a god which Atiku must appease if his presidential desire would ever see the light of the day.
This is a statement of fact Atiku can only ignore at his own peril. He knows too well how the ‘Ebora Owu’ had contributed to frustrating him in time past, hence Jonathan’s advice can only serve as a reiteration of a known reality. At least for one last time, Atiku may have to literally prostrate to ‘Baba’, to have him say just a word of positivity. Again, achieving that may be tantamount to pushing a Carmel through the eye of the needle.
2019 IS HERE!
In concluding this essay, it worthy of note that recent political events in the country tend to confirm a wider dichotomy (both in social stratification and pragmatic thinking) between the ruling elites and the dissolutioned masses.
Analysts of political happenstances often chastised ‘professional’ politicians for their impatience in talking 2019 as if we were there already. Such thoughts come only from glaring limitations to the dictates of the Gregorian calendar, whereas political actors’ minds are configured to the constant cyclical nature of politicking – everytime, at all times.
From all indications, 2019 is already upon us.