Atiku at the Starting Line


Despite the impression created by President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress that former Vice-President Atiku Abubabkar’s exit from their party was of no consequence, there had been subtle reactions, a strong indication that the camp of the president was indeed worried with Atiku already at the starting line. Iyobosa Uwugiaren writes

The exuding-buzz-swansong by some seemingly fidgety members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s exit from their party, fantasising that his move was of no consequence to their party, may not make sense to many political analysts and observers after all.

This could be seen from the energy, dynamism and time President Muhammadu Buhari’s spin-doctors/strategists and some of the former vice president’s political foes had deployed to demonise him since he announced his leaving the party a few days ago. For many, this suggests strongly that Atiku may have thrown spanner in the wheel of APC’s vehicle, ahead of the 2019 general election.
“When I consider the amount of negative energy the presidency is putting towards discrediting Atiku over his resignation from the ruling party, I wonder sometimes if Atiku has committed an unpardonable sin”, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesman, Mr. Reno Omokri, said recently.

Check out the many attacks on him in both the traditional and new media in the last few days: suddenly, a video interview in which former President Olusegun Obasanjo literarily tried Atiku and found him guilty of corrupt practice during his tenure has gone viral on the social media. In the video interview, the former president talked about why Atiku could not allegedly go to the US today, because according to him, his former deputy is being investigated by the US government for alleged financial crimes.

For seemingly self-seeking reason, THISDAY gathered that Obasanjo was personally hit by Atiku’s exit from APC – very apprehensive that his political foes may get the PDP presidential ticket for the 2019 general election.

An insider said apart from his current move to criminalise Atiku before the international community, where he has huge contact, Obasanjo is said to have reached out to his “political son”, a former governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to defect to the PDP in order to checkmate Atiku.
“If you check, there was a story they put out in one or two dailies during the week that there was mounting pressure from some PDP bigwigs on former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso to dump the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and re-join PDP’’, a close political associate of Obasanjo told THISDAY in Abuja.

The repeated call on the former governor of Kano State to go back to the PDP intensified few days after Atiku left the APC.
Those rooting for Kwankwaso are hiding under the cover that the current senator and some PDP bigwigs, including the party’s Interim National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and Abdul Ningi, had met in Kaduna and Abuja respectively, advising him to return to his original home – PDP – saying some of the party’s chieftains were more disposed to Kwankwaso than Atiku.

“APC and Atiku’s political foes are already jumpy. If Atiku’s exit is of no consequence to APC and his political enemies, as they made us to believe, why are they giving his exit attention in the media every day? Surely, nemesis has caught up with them”, an insider stated.

Again, President Buhari was quoted as sympathising with the National Chairman of APC, Dr. John Odigie Oyegun, recently for losing one of his members to the opposition, obviously referring to Atiku and pretending not to be bothered, but his jumpy political moves lately appears to have suggested he is actually worried.

To be sure, in what some political observers described as a new rapprochement with some aggrieved members of his party, as the 2019 general election conversation picks up, Buhari went to Abidjan for the 5th EU-AU Summit recently, accompanied by a national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

THISDAY quoted an insider as saying that Buhari’s decision to get Tinubu to accompany him on the trip, “fits into the thinking of the President’s political strategists on the urgent need to pacify all aggrieved leaders of the ruling party”, especially with the recent exist of Atiku from the APC.
At the recent National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, leaders of APC, including Tinubu, were said to have protested to the President, saying they had been marginalised in the APC-led federal government, especially in the federal government’s appointments. Atiku too said as much before he eventually left.

President Buhari was said to have promised to make more appointments to pacify the party leaders and reach out to others, who may have felt offended by his action or inaction. But the President has been foot-dragging over his promise. And in a statement Atiku personally signed recently, he said his reason for quitting the ruling party was because of arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that have gripped the party.

Defending his resignation, Atiku said the injustices and failure to abide by its own constitution, which had dogged the then PDP, have now been replicated in the APC, while the PDP appears to have purged itself of the malice.

“While other parties have purged themselves of the arbitrariness and unconstitutionality that led to fractionalisation, the All Progressives Congress has adopted those same practices and even gone beyond them to institute a regime of a draconian clampdown on all forms of democracy within the party and the government it produced”, the former Vice-President stated.

Apparently referring to Governor Nasiru El-Rufia of Kaduna State, Atiku said only last year, “a governor produced by the party wrote a secret memorandum to the president, which ended up being leaked, saying in that memo, he admitted that the APC had not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but had failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance.

Atiku added: “Of the party itself, that same governor said Mr. President, sir, your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN, is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties.”

He added that since the memorandum was written up until the time he left the APC, nothing had been done to reverse the treatment meted out to those of them invited to join the APC on the strength of a promise that has proven to be false, saying, “If anything, those behaviours have actually worsened.”

More importantly, Atiku said the party they put in place had failed and continues to fail the people, especially young people, wondering how the APC-led government can have a federal cabinet without even one single youth.

“A party that does not take the youth into account is a dying party. The future belongs to young people. I admit that I and others, who accepted the invitation to join the APC were eager to make positive changes for our country that we fell for a mirage. Can you blame us for wanting to put a speedy end to the sufferings of the masses of our people?”

Apparently still pushing in their attempts to cut the excitement that greeted Atiku’s plan to join PDP, the current campaign by Buhari’s men is that any opposition party bringing on board a Northern presidential candidate to challenge the President in the 2019 elections would not serve the interest of the Southern section of the country.

According to them, there will be concerns in the South that should Atiku win the 2019 presidential election it could amount to power remaining in the North for 12 years, as it was unlikely that Atiku or any other Northerner emerging president in 2019 would serve for only one term.
APC, sources also said, is premising its calculations on the fact that the South-west may have already committed to supporting Buhari’s second term bid, as this would boost the chances of the region getting the presidency in 2023 through Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.

But loyalists of the former vice-president informed THISDAY recently that they were not unaware of the permutations for 2019 and that their principal had that narrative covered in his quest for development should he win the presidential election.
Outside the desperate move by Buhari’s men and Obasanjo to demonilise Atiku, it is curious to know that the PDP and some people on the streets are genuinely excited about the former Vice-President’s plan to join the PDP.

“It is a huge joy to have a man like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar with powerful political base and wide-spread contact across the six geo-political zones, coming to our party. We believe that if he gets the ticket of our party, he would be able to give the ineffectual President, Muhammadu Buhari, a good fight. These are the feelings you get when you talk to the people on the streets”, a member of the National Executive Committee of PDP told THISDAY.

The chieftain of PDP added that apart from former President Goodluck Jonathan with a “cult-like followership in the South-east and South-South, the party does not have a leader, who has political perceptiveness like Atiku before now, saying “his coming to our party is a welcome development.”
Welcoming Atiku’s exit from APC, Omokri said the amount of negative energy the presidency is putting towards discrediting Atiku over his resignation from the ruling party was unnecessary.

According to him, a party is a vehicle that takes politician from point A to point B, adding that “If you are in a vehicle that breaks down along the way, you naturally will not stay stuck at that same place. You either fix the vehicle or you get into another vehicle. The vehicle is important, but it is the destination that is the whole point.”
Further defending Atiku’s move, Omokri added that the former vice president never left the PDP at any time in the past but rather, he had always been pushed out of the party.

“After fighting the unconstitutional Third Term Agenda, Atiku was pushed out in 2006 after the re-registration exercise, which stripped his supporters of their membership of the party. In Nigeria, other than the PDP, other parties are not real political parties in the true sense of the word. They are instead, vehicles cobbled together for the purpose of seizing political power.”

The APC which made promises to the Nigerian people during the elections, only to deny them after being elected, according to Omokri, has no moral right to accuse Atiku of abandoning the party.
“President Buhari and their rapidly sinking and shrinking party know that Atiku Abubakar has already defeated President Buhari should he decide to contest the 2019 Presidential election. That is why they are jittery”, he said.

Talking about how jumpy Buhari has been in the past few days over the former vice president, Omokri said on the same day that Atiku resigned from the APC, the president set up a committee to increase the national minimum wage.
To him, this is a classic knee jerk reaction and an indication that the president is jittery over his impending 2019 defeat and wants to seek the acceptance of Nigerians using salary increase.