The ‘Return’ of Atiku Abubakar


On Monday, June 8, 2020, many newspapers quoted Adamu Atiku Abubakar- the eldest son of Atiku Abubakar and Adamawa State commissioner for Works & Energy Development, said: “In 2023, my father will be aspiring to the number one office in the land because he has been an astute, strategic, master politician for almost four decades”.

If former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, decides to contest the 2023 presidential elections, it would be his sixth shot – 1992, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019 and 2023. Without a doubt, Atiku’s decision to contest will draw diverse reactions from many quarters. For instance, his opponents will be quick to describe him as opportunistic and a serial presidential contestant. His supporters will refute by describing the decision as sheer doggedness and a clear sign of Atiku’s passion to serve his fatherland. Whichever way anyone decides to see it, one thing that cannot be denied about Atiku is that he is the most prepared candidate for the post of the president. Atiku Abubakar has a well-drafted policy document loaded with fine policies, programs and projects, including what many of observers christened ‘The Atiku Abubakar Formula’. Atiku promised, if elected, that his medium-term strategy would be to ensure that recurrent expenditure is financed fully with non-oil revenues, while all oil proceeds will be invested in infrastructure, security, education and health.

In the PDP, there is no doubt that Atiku is the most grounded candidate for the 2023 presidential elections. However, there are many odds against him, as there are many in his favour, taking into consideration the present realities in the polity. By 2023 the north would have served eight years in power. Naturally, the next president is expected to be from the south. The issue of power shift to the south would be the number one topic in the polity.

The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum is championing the campaign for a northern president in 2023. In fact, the AYCF is more skewed towards Atiku’s ambition than any other candidate from the north. Atiku may, however, not go with the so-called ‘northern consensus candidate’ on the grounds that the 2011 northern consensus candidate ‘mark’ has affected his well-known national spread and political fortunes. Furthermore, there is no strong candidate from the north that can single-handedly challenge Atiku. Even if there is, it would be Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso or Sule Lamido. But one critical factor that would help Atiku to have an edge over any other candidate, especially from the north, is that he is already ahead of them in terms of political structure and thorough understanding of the politics of the north. Again, among all the possible PDP presidential contenders, Atiku is the only one that can freely decide to contest or not, while the decision of others is entirely centered on many things, the most important- war chest and political structures.

Let’s not forget that there are other possible presidential candidates apart from the aforementioned. For instance, at present, one person from the south who can comfortably confront the likes of Atiku and easily gain support within the PDP is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. But Wike is controversial and lacks national spread, but he can muster the needed resources.

One thing for sure is Atiku would wholeheartedly fight for the PDP presidential ticket. Nonetheless, being a typical Nigerian politician with an immense war chest that easily scares off his opponents, vast political network and connection, Atiku can comfortably contest on any platform other than the PDP.

It is not sheer luck that has kept Atiku very relevant in the politics of the presidential elections for about three decades. But from the beginning, he didn’t focus only on the ‘End Game’, but also on building a strong political organization and working with bright people. On the other hand, PDP presidential primaries that would feature Atiku vs candidates from both south and north won’t be an exciting one – Nigerians have seen such a battle. But Atiku vs all northern candidates would be very exciting. The probability of such a contest, however, is zero. As such, Atiku’s greatest obstacle to his presidential ambition will be the power shift issue

The 2019 presidential election was Atiku’s best outing in his over 27-year quest to be president of Nigeria. Atiku fought the 2019 battle with everything at his disposal. From the onset, Atiku had been on the offensive knowing fully well that it was his best moment for the presidency.

By 2023, Atiku will be 77 years old. Atiku does not have robust cult-like followership especially at his primary constituency- the north. Many that supported him for the 2019 election did so based on three reasons – some because they opposed the Buhari government; some did so because they are members or sympathizers of the PDP; while others had no option than Atiku. In 2023, the APC would be Atiku’s biggest obstacle and the nightmare because of the power of incumbency war-chest and the Almighty Tinubu that will match his Naira for Naira, politics for politics and brain for brain. Atiku Vs Tinubu would be an interesting big game. Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta, Adamawa State