Can Atiku Run for Presidency at 76?


With the Supreme Court judgment putting paid to the 2019 presidential election petition last Wednesday, what possibly is the next political move of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar? Chuks Okocha asks

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, what next? This is a multi million naira question begging for answers. What will be the political future of the Adamawa State-born politician? Will he contest the 2023 presidential elections or retire from politics for good? For the records, Atiku Abubakar had attempted the presidential elections in the country a few times.

He was the presidential candidate of the Action Congress in 2007, and when the party transformed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he contested in 2011. Again, he contested in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) but came third. He later defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and was again defeated by the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

With the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, which dismissed his petition, the question doing the rounds now amongst Nigerians is, will the Turaki Adamawa contest the 2023 presidential election and if he would, on which political party’s platform will he consider contesting again?

But if he would contest again, which is most likely, what are the political permutations in the PDP to determine his decision and future? Will the PDP offer him the next opportunity? Are there other politicians within the PDP that could or would challenge him?

Yes, there are a few, amongst them, the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who came second during the 2019 PDP primaries. Also, among those that contested against Atiku was former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who came third among others. A former governor of Kano State, Senator Rafiu Kwankwanso, also contested against him but came fourth.
So, this time around, will Atiku contest and even if he would contest the 2023 presidential ticket, how is he sure that the PDP would give him the chance to fly its presidential flag? This is because there are many political permutations already on ground, which could be inimical to his decision, going forward.

Even before the Supreme Court gave the final verdict on his ambition, many presidential hopefuls were believed to be warming up and ready to throw their hats in the ring. They were only waiting for the final verdict, which came Wednesday October 30.
To many PDP observers, they were not surprised. They knew it would happen, not because Atiku didn’t have a case, but because the judiciary had been so intimidated that the outcome was predictable. Most of them had therefore sheath their presidential ambition waiting for the verdict to come as it did.

Hitherto, the party was divided into two noticeable camps. It was just a matter of where you belong. The party was divided into two camps of the second term governors and the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.

The two camps had been fighting bitter over the control of the party machinery. It was on record that Wike almost single-handedly installed the present national chairman of PDP, Uche Secondus. It would only take a keen observer to know where the leadership of the party, that is, the National Working Committee NWC belongs.

As a result of the battle to control the PDP leadership, the governors of the party no longer frequent the ever-busy national secretariat due to the perception, rightly or wrongly, that the party belongs to Wike.

The second term governors are from Sokoto, Benue, Taraba, Ebonyi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Delta and Rivers States. Though all of them are running the second lap of their race, they are up in arms against their colleague from Rivers State ostensibly, because of the 2023 permutations.

It is being speculated that Wike was still plotting to bring back the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambawaal to contest the 2023 presidential elections. Wike was one of the main supporters of Tambawal’s presidential aspiration.

Tambuwal, who lost to Atiku at the PDP Port Harcourt convention, lost basically, because some believed he was too inexperienced for the job. He was therefore asked to contest and complete his second term as governor.

So, he has won as a second term as governor of Sokoto State, so the ball appears now in his camp to declare for a presidential election. And it is being seen that Wike, who supported him, might likely support him again. That, first, is the reason behind the perceived plot to control the party machinery.

Again, the way the PDP minority leadership of the House of Representatives emerged also showed that Wike would not have his way easily without a fight. This was because, his choice person for the position, Kingsley Chinda, was defeated by Ndudi Elumelu, who secured the support of other second term governors in the party.

Then, there is the governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, who is said to be interested in the 2023 presidential election on the understanding that if Afiku was not contesting. He is likely to inherit Turaki’s political structures, if is not contesting.

Then, there is the Kwankwanso factor. Within the PDP circle, he is still said to be interested in the 2023 presidential election and was allegedly encouraged into the race by a former governor of Edo State, Lucky Igbinedion and other former governors of the party, loyal to him.

Within the PDP, there is the understanding that the APC won the presidential election, because of the personality of Muhammadu Buhari and his amajiri supporters. But come 2023, Buhari would not be contesting again and the field would be free for all. They believe that without the personality of Buhari, that anyone put forward would be defeated by the PDP.

So, in the permutations of the PDP, attention would be on anyone that has money to finance his campaign as Atiku did in 2019. It is believed that Atiku has the capacity to fund his campaign. This is what the PDP will be looking out for in 2023. This is where Afiku might come in again.

But again, age might be a major determinant between Atiku and Tambuwal. The former vice will be about 77 years while Tambuwal would be in his mid fifties. Now, by 2023, Atiku would be 76 going to 77. Will Nigerians want another old man? Importantly, will sentiment and political expediency support presidency remaining in the North especially if the north chooses to play up its strength of numbers?

Another veritable ground for the test of where the PDP candidate might come from is in whoever emerges the chairman of the PDP governors’ forum, a post currently held by outgoing Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State. He is expected to quit in February next year, when he completes his second term in office. This is where another problem will yet come among the PDP governors.

Already, some of the PDP forces are gradually throwing up the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, because of his industry. But some others are challenging him, insisting that it should be based on seniority.

They argued that it was seniority that saw Godswill Akpabio, Olusegun Mimiko, Ibrahim Dankwanmbo, Ayo Fayose and Dickson becoming the chairman of the party’s governors’ forum. But a second term governor from the south is said to be behind Makinde.
These are some of the battles on the ground that Atiku might have to surmount before the next move, bearing in mind that both the Southeast and Northeast have not produced the President of the country.

In all these permutations, one thing that is unknown to many observers is that Atiku has not abandoned his political machinery. He still oils it regularly and has an office in Jabi, Abuja. And for what purposes if anyone cares to ask?

The decision of Atiku’s next political move will, to a great extent, depend on what is happening in the party now and who controls the party leadership. For now, Wike has an upper hand and has not hidden whom he is supporting. Indeed, only time will tell.