- Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha ask what the political future holds for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar
He has seen and had it all. Well, almost! Rising to the designation of Vice President of Nigeria, between 1999 and 2007, there is only one rung left on the ladder to becoming Nigeria’s No. 1 Citizen. And Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has sought the office of President of Nigeria with everything available to him: His enormous wealth, extensive contacts and huge goodwill.
But every time it looks like he has it locked in his grip, it slips through his fingers like one attempting to grab water.
Yesterday, yet again, another Abubakar quest for the country’s presidency ended in disappointment, as the Supreme Court dismissed his contention against the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. The verdict of the apex court has prompted many to wonder what his political future holds.
That question lingered on the lips of many observers of the political landscape in Nigeria after the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election.
Abubakar challenged the outcome of the election which saw President Muhammadu Buhari leading with 56 percent against his 41 percent. Calling the results a sham, Abubakar headed to the tribunal where he tasted the first rejection. Despite his claims that the election was marred with irregularities and that Buhari lacked the educational competence to run the country, his petition was thrown out.
Notwithstanding the big blow that Justice Mohammed Lawal Garba who presided over the ruling alongside four other judges dealt him, the 72 year-old politician and businessman who will turn 73 on November 25, proceeded to file an appeal against the tribunal ruling at the country’s Supreme Court.
For a moment, a slight hope was harboured by votaries of Abubakar that perhaps, the apex court will overturn the ubiquitous outcome of such contested elections as none has recorded success since the country returned to Democratic rule in 1999. That hope turned to shock and then fury when the judgment of Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad and other six judges reverberated around the country.
“We have examined all the briefs and the exhibits for over two weeks and we agree that there is no merit in this appeal,” Muhammad said at the ruling.
Speaking after the ruling, the former Anambra state governor and Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi thanked the supporters of the candidate while pointing out that the judgment was not about “President Buhari or His Excellency Atiku Abubakar, it’s about the future of Nigeria, what we are going to bequeath our children.”
On Twitter, a myriad of opinions from fans and detractors were expressed. It was jubilation in the camp of All Progressive Congress (APC) which later released a statement, hailing the judiciary for “standing firm in the face of the PDP and Atiku’s subterfuge.” Others mocked the PDP for their lofty campaign that Atiku will overthrow the sitting president. The clairvoyants in the micro-blogging site were swift to point out that the handwritings have always been visible on the wall.
The affected candidate visibly hurt by the judgment in his statement accepted the judgment by the Supreme Court but not without some provocative thoughts for the opposition as well as the apex court.
“It is said that the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but that it is infallible because it is final. While I believe that only God is infallible everywhere, and only Nigerians are infallible in our democracy, I must accept that the judicial route I chose to take, as a democrat, has come to a conclusion.
Whether justice was done, it’s left to the Nigerian people to decide. As a democrat, I fought a good fight for the Nigerian people. I will keep on fighting for Nigeria and for democracy, and also for justice. The judgement is part of democratic challenges we must face as a nation.
The Nigerian judiciary, just like every estate of our realm, has been sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal, who have undone almost all the democratic progress the PDP and its administrations nurtured for 16 years, up until 2015.
“Can Nigeria continue like this? Recently, former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, averred that Nigeria had rolled back the democratic gains she made in 2015. When democracy is rolled back, the economy, the society and the judiciary will not be far behind. Today, the nail has been put on the coffin and the gains we collectively made since 1999 are evaporating, and a requiem is at hand.
In a democracy, you need a strong judiciary, a free press and an impartial electoral umpire. Nigeria has none of those three elements as at today.
One man, one woman, one youth, one vote, should be the only way to make gains in a democracy. And when that is thwarted, the clock starts to tick.
Two and a half millennia ago, Sophocles said ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice. Nigeria will do well to observe this warning. “
“To those who think they have broken my spirit, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am too focused on Nigeria to think about myself. I gave up that luxury twenty years ago. The question is not if I am broken. The question is if Nigeria is whole? This is not a time for too many words. It will suffice for me to remind Nigeria of this – we are an independent nation and we are the architects of our fate. If we do not build a free Nigeria, we may end up destroying her, and God forbid that that should be the case.
I was a democrat, I am a democrat, and I will always continue to be a democrat.”
Once a Vice President to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku’s political ambition became conspicuous after he expressed his intention to run for presidency in 2003, challenging his superior in office at the time. Many active actors on the political claim that 2003 was Abubakar’s golden chance to become President. All the governors of the PDP supported his dream, but at the crucial time, he gave in to Obasanjo’s plea to allow him serve a second term. Subsequently, he has run under different political flags and is one of the brains behind the formation of APC.
His decision to contest in the February presidential election was expected to be the turning point for the Adamawa state indigene, having employed all political intelligence to win the support of the electorates. He swayed the South-east voters by choosing an Igbo man and revered political stalwart Obi as his running mate. Having studied the political landscape in Nigeria to find loopholes which he could easily fill, he won the heart of many youths, selling lofty ideas of entrepreneurship and innovation. Little wonder that he was seen as the next Messiah that would save Nigerians from bad leadership.
With his latest defeat, it is evident that the shrewd businessman may not have the opportunity to run for office again. While critics argue that he has run out of dates with luck, Abubakar who is credited for strengthening political institutions may have to find a willing politician to pass the baton. The PDP already has possible candidates who are furiously eyeing the party’s presidential ticket. Perhaps, the businessman may find solace in his vast business interests and philanthropy.
If anything, Abubakar has no intention to rest on his oars. He is determined to change the course of politics in this country, whether he is holding the magic wand or not. Arguably, one of the very few Nigerians whose influence and acceptance cuts across ethnic, partisan and religious lines, there is a tiny window of opportunity open for another presidential quest. On his own steam, Abubakar has the capacity to pull a surprise if he chooses to walk that path again.
His decision to contest in the February presidential election was expected to be the turning point for the Adamawa state indigene, having employed all political intelligence to win the support of the electorates. He swayed the South-east voters by choosing an Igbo man and revered political stalwart Obi as his running mate