By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s victory yesterday, clinching the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential ticket for 2019 general elections must have come as a huge milestone for him, having bid unsuccessfully for the flag at two previous times. And this landslide victory seems to be his brightest chance to fulfill his lifelong political ambition. But Atiku has been trying to be president as far back as 1992.
First Presidential Run
His long-time presidential ambition dates back to 1992 during the botched Third Republic. In 1992, he contested the presidential primary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the two parties decreed into existence by military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida rtd., and came third in the primary behind late Chief Moshood Abiola.
However, because Abiola, the winner, had won by only about 400 votes, a run-off was due. Atiku, however, stepped down for Abiola, asking his supporters to cast their votes for him, with an unwritten agreement that Abiola would announce Atiku as his running mate. Abiola won the SDP ticket but announced Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, the runner-up, as his running mate.
Second Presidential Run
In his quest to fulfil his burning desire to rule the country, on 25th November 2006, Atiku announced that he would run for president, and on 20th December 2006, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on 14th March, 2007, released the final list of 24 aspirants for the April 21 presidential election. Atiku’s name was missing from the ballot. INEC issued a statement, stating that Atiku’s name was missing because he was on a list of persons indicted for corruption by a panel set up by the government. The former vice president herded to the courts on 16th March to have his disqualification overturned.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on 16th April that INEC had no power to disqualify candidates. The ruling, therefore, allowed Atiku to contest the election. Though, official results revealed that Atiku came third with 2.8 million votes behind PDP candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua, and All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Third Presidential Run
Following the 2007 elections, Atiku returned to the PDP. In October 2010, he announced his intention to contest for the presidency. On November 22nd, a Committee of Northern Elders selected him as the Northern Consensus Candidate, over Babangida, former National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State.
In January 2011, Atiku contested for the Presidential ticket of his party alongside President Jonathan and Sarah Jibril, and lost the primary, garnering 805 votes to President Jonathan’s 3,542.
Fourth Presidential Run
The never say die Atiku again in 2015 gave a shot at the number one position by contesting the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The incumbent President, Mohammadu Buhari, polled 3,430 votes, Kwankwaso came second scoring 974 votes and while Atiku came third with 954 votes.
Fifth Presidential Run
On November 24, 2017, Atiku was on the move again when he dumped the ruling APC for PDP. Prior to the Port Harcourt convention, the former vice president had alleged that the conspiracy of the political elite has been thwarting his presidential ambition.
However, the Port Harcourt convention has proven that Atiku is a cat with nine lives. While Atiku appeared to be the most prepared, also having a network of friends across the divides, wider acceptability, his age initially appeared to be a stumbling block.
The keenly contested presidential primary saw a total of 3,274 delegates accredited. At the end of the voting exercise, 68 votes were voided, while former governor of Plateau state, Jonah Jang scored 19 votes, Prof. Datti Baba-Ahmed scored 5 votes, former Senate President, David Mark got 35 votes, former Minister of Special Duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki scored 65 votes, former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido got 96 votes, former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa scored 48 votes, Governor of Gombe state, Dr. Ibrahim Dankwambo got 111 votes, former PDP caretaker chairman, Ahmed Makarfi scored 74 votes, former governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso scored 158 votes, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki scored 317 votes, Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal scored 693 votes, while Atiku scored 1,585.
Born in November 25, 1946, Atiku served in the Nigeria Customs Service for 20 years rising to the rank of Deputy Director, the then second highest position. He retired in April 1989 and went into full-time business and politics. In 1999, PDP’s presidential candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chose him as running mate whilst Atiku was the governor-elect of Adamawa State. He went on to serve as Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007.