Hamisu Abubakar: Atiku Abubakar & His Desperation For Presidential Power

Atiku Abubakar does not deserve any empathy. His actions since he first emerged as vice president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in 1999 up till now, have shown that a better part of him has been consumed by desperation for presidential power or that he has been largely overrated while, in fact, he is not imbued with a good measure of political savvy.

Consider his odyssey: he tactlessly mismanaged his leadership of the political machinery of the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua under the Obasanjo presidency; and he has continued to suffer from the consequences of his indiscretion. Atiku has been paying the wages of his political sins since 2003 after he moved against his boss, (Obasanjo), in the build-up to that year’s presidential nomination primary in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In a rash of reckless desperation way back in 2000, Atiku, right under the nose of Obasanjo in Aso Rock, had begun plotting how to supplant his boss. His media minders, apparently with his endorsement, had flown the Mandela option kite to prepare the ground for the game of treachery against Obasanjo. But when the chips were down, Atiku could not push through his political schema of intimidating Obasanjo out of the race and railroading himself on the party as its presidential candidate.

It had taken the presidency and the PDP leadership, in a counter-offensive coordinated by Chief Tony Anenih, who had just left the cabinet as Minister of Works in October 2002 to oversee Obasanjo’s electioneering for a second term in office, to whip the Adamawa-born politician back into line. He was possibly cajoled to moderate his desperation and sink his ambition: he did and was rewarded with the vice presidential ticket.

In fact, his fear that he might lose the ticket for re-election as vice president due to his proven cases of disloyalty to his boss was at the roots of his brinkmanship for the party’s presidential ticket. In a grand conspiratorial alliance with some twenty-one PDP governors, he had exerted enormous pressure on Obasanjo and the PDP leadership. There were even reports that he brought Obasanjo down to his knees, to ensure he got the party ticket for the 2003 presidential election. That was the extent of Atiku’s desperation and imperfect calculations that analysts wondered if Obasanjo and the PDP would survive the reckless onslaught. But Obasanjo and the PDP did.

There was, in any case, a concession received on the platform of blackmail: Atiku was retained on the presidential ticket of the PDP. However, the post-election years experience by Atiku as vice president in the hands of Obasanjo is fresh in the minds of watchers of the developments in the presidency. He was effectively neutralized by Obasanjo in their second term in office. The powers that Obasanjo gave to him in their first term to oversee the party while he (Obasanjo) was tending to the rebuilding of the nation’s image abroad were withdrawn. It was a tough period for the Turaki Adamawa.

Towards the terminus of the Obasanjo second term, Atiku, whose influence had waned considerably, latched on the platform of the fight against Obasanjo’s planned third term agenda, to win some public sympathy. But rather than prosecute the anti-third term fight altruistically, he once again allowed desperation to manifest. He deployed his so-called fight in defence of democracy and constitutionalism to further his inordinate presidential ambition. Right from inside the PDP, he promoted and funded the Action Congress (AC), in concert with former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

He eventually appeared on the ballot as AC presidential candidate in the 2007 presidential election, in which he lost to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Atiku was in the cold for about three years until he navigated his way back into the PDP for a single-minded purpose of contesting for the presidency on the party platform. He acted in cahoots with the Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Elders group to emerge as the consensus candidate of the north in the PDP, purportedly beating Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau and Bukola Saraki to the mark.

But Atiku’s sectional, regional and divisive presidential aspiration was overwhelmingly rejected by the party delegates at the primaries held at the Eagle Square. Jonathan secured an emphatic victory over him and went ahead to defeat, in the general election, another serial presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, whose candidature has always provoked volatile followership in the north, threatened national unity and divided the citizenry along the fault-lines of religion and region.

The Turaki Adamawa’s place in the PDP had, no doubt, been diminished. He caused himself the damage and he began to complain of being sidelined in the affairs of the party. How was he expecting the presidency and the PDP leadership to relate with his treacherous and unstable disposition towards them? It was thus not surprising when another opportunity to defect came up and he jumped at it. Moving into the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku, knew full well that the APC leaders were not comfortable with his desperation for the presidency.

And, in a bid to assuage their worries, he said that he was going to sacrifice his ambition in the interest of the APC and Nigeria. It was a strategic gambit. But many people who know him well doubt his sincerity. The belief in circles of those who are familiar with his politics and desperation for the presidency is that Atiku is either dissimulating or, perhaps, getting to the end of the road as far as the presidency is concerned.

But for those who believe that he is dissimulating, they see Atiku, when he realizes he has a good chance to emerge as APC candidate, throwing his hat in the ring and unsettling the party in his characteristic Machiavellian fashion. No one doubts that he has the capacity to cause an implosion within the APC.

If, however, he is not keen on presenting himself, feelers have indicated that he may throw his weight behind General Buhari to see how power could be wrested from the behemoth-PDP and its formidable presidential candidate-in-waiting, President Jonathan; and, if he does so, and he (Atiku) is out of the presidential equation, he will be kissing the presidency a final good bye: his denouement happening sadly in the enclave of the opposition; whereas, he was vice president on the platform of the ruling PDP.

His bowing out-if that is what his sacrifice not to contest the presidential election this time round represents-should have been on the pan-Nigerian political platform of the PDP. He would have been celebrated as a statesman and not as regional political lord that he has now become in the APC. What an inglorious ending this is turning out to be for a rapacious power-monger!

Written By Hamisu Abubakar

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