2019: Atiku, mega party and the presidency
Since the secret moves by some politicians across the political parties to float a new mega opposition party was made public, one name that has featured prominently is former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. This is despite consistent denials by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, that his boss remains a loyal All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain.
Already trending on the Social Media like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are inscriptions like: Nigerians Earnestly Ask For Atiku (NECA) 2019 with Atiku’s picture. A New Dawn “19; a Prosperous Nigeria Is Possible with Atiku and Ngozi Okonji-Iweala picture courtesy of Atiku/Ngozi Support Campaign Group. Even though, it has not been confirmed or denied that Atiku is behind it or not, it is a pointer that Atiku may contest the 2019 presidency.
The Guardian investigation reveals that there are moves by aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC to form a mega party before the 2019 polls.
One of the arrowheads of the plan and ex-governor from the North West zone disclosed that the promoters of the plan have different options they are weighing and consultations are on now.
According to the ex-governor, “the options include merging Ahmed Makarfi led-faction of the PDP with the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), registration of a new political party or going into alliance with some political parties like All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Alliance for Democracy (AD) and others.
“Promoters of the mega party cut across many political parties, including the ruling APC. Prominent among them include Atiku, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Senator Adamu Aliero, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and others.
“The problem that the mega party formation may have is that of clashes of political ambitions. Majority of those behind it, especially from the North are nursing presidential ambition. This has become a source of concerns to the promoters.”
On the allegation that Atiku is pressuring majority of the promoters to use the PDM as the major platform for the mega party, the ex-governor said: “It is true, but some of the stakeholders are skeptical about the idea, because of Atiku’s stronghold on the party before now.
“We are aware that the leadership of the party was recently removed with the alleged support of Atiku. Even though, his spin-doctors have continued to deny his role in the PDM, but we politicians know the truth. The denials are part of the politics. Majority is of the opinion that there should be merger of the parties, instead of using one party as the mega party platform.”
Speaking to The Guardian, the ousted national chairman of PDM, Bashir Ibrahim Yusuf alleged that Atiku sponsored his removal to pave way for him Atiku to use the party to contest the 2019 presidency.
Yusuf said: “I know that Atiku is behind my recent removal. He wants to use the party as an alternative platform for 2019 if he fails to get the APC ticket. We will not allow it to happen. I know that Atiku has been desperate to be president of the country, but he cannot be president by force or through the back door.”
On Atiku’s role in the party formation, Yusuf said that he founded the party alongside other like minds. “The only thing Atiku did for us is that he hired an office and furnished it for the party. He has not been putting money in the party, until recently that he stage-managed my ouster.
“We are not going to allow him to have his way in the party. We welcome any Nigerian who wishes to contest election on our party platform, but we are not for sale and will not be intimidated by anyone. We will not allow a desperate and serial presidential candidate to destroy our party by enticing hungry members of the National Executive Committee to precipitate crisis within our ranks,” Yusuf said.
A source close to Atiku, who pleaded anonymity, described Yusuf allegations as baseless and cheap blackmail. The source insisted that Atiku is a bona fide and committed member of the ruling APC. It would be recalled that recently Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai alleged that Atiku was already planning to contest the 2019 presidency.
The question now is, is it not obvious that Atiku has been desirous of becoming Nigeria president, even when he was a vice president? Having tried to be the president three-time (2006, 2011 and 2015) and failed, will he succeed in 2019, if he decides to run? Does Atiku has the followership, political clout and grassroots support to make a difference this time? Have all the impediments that stood against his presidential ambition before now been cleared, especially his former boss, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s consistent opposition to it?
Recently Obasanjo was quoted as claiming one major condition for him to support the mega party in the offing is the non emergence of Atiku as the party’s presidential candidate. This is not surprising because Obasanjo has never hidden his opposition against Atiku’s presidential ambition. So far, Obasanjo has been having his way. Will Obasanjo have his way again if Atiku steps into the race in 2019?
An estranged political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, who pleaded anonymity, maintained that Atiku is an elite politician that lacks strong grassroots support, especially in the North.
“Winning elections especially presidential election goes beyond money. It is all about strong grassroots support, and integrity. If it is about money, there is no way President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP would have lost the 2015 presidency.
“Ahead of the 2019 poll, the man to watch in the North no matter the party platform is Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso. He has more grassroots support more than any other politician in the North.”
When reminded of the political row between Kwankwaso and his successor, Umar Ganduje, the politician said: “That is not an issue, because Ganduje is not a political match to Kwankwaso. If you go to Kano and other parts of the North today most Hausa men wearing red cap are Kwankwaso supporters. The man has tremendous grassroots support. If he decides to run for presidency in 2019, he will garner more votes than any other aspirants from the North.”
Similarly, a former minister from the North Central and Atiku’s one-time political ally said that Atiku’s presidential ambition has always hit the rock, because of poor approach and political miscalculation.
The former minister said: “When he lost the presidential election on the platform of the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2007, we advised him to remain in the party and build the party in the North, while Bola Ahmed Tinubu take charge of Southwest zone. He refused and moved into political hibernation for some years.
“Ahead of the 2011 polls, he fought his way back to the PDP amidst strong opposition from his home State, Adamawa and the national level. While the dust of his sudden reappearing has not settled, he jumped into the presidential race against the then president of the country, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. He lost the party ticket and was schemed out of the PDP again.
“When he led the five PDP governors out of the party ahead of the 2015 polls, the governors left him behind, while joining the APC. A development that saw Atiku join the APC almost very late. While in the APC and seeing the handwritings on the wall, he joined the presidential race and lost out. I am very worried that if he decides to run again in 2019 no matter the party platform, it may be difficult for him to make an inroad, unless he changes approach and strategy,” the ex-minister said.
On why Obasanjo has remained opposed to Atiku’s presidential ambition, the former minister, said that he could explain, stressing that having worked together for years, it expected that they should be close.
“It seems that there is something between them that Nigerians did not know. Nigeria is bigger than their personal differences.”
Investigation reveals that even in Adamawa State, where Atiku appears to have some level of influence over the state governor, Jibrilla Bindow and the APC in the state, the Presidency is doing everything possible to whittle it down before 2019 polls.
Being positioned to checkmate Bindow and Atiku include Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Engr. David Babachir Lawal, ex-EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, former governor of the state Murtala Nyako and others. It was alleged that Atiku’s sudden visit to the party national secretariat in Abuja early this year was to protest and possibly stopped Ribadu’s return to the party.
With this, it seems that the road to Turaki Adamawa’s presidential ambition may still not be an easy one if he decides to join the race. But who knows, just like Buhari after three failed attempts, Atiku may make a difference in 2019.