By Taiwo Adisa.
Friday, the airwaves got hit by the big news of the resignation of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar from the ruling All Progressives Congress.
In this clime, just as it is in the American presidential system, the incumbent is hardly denied a second term ticket except in cases of obvious disability or death. His leaving the APC shows he has something to offer contrary to what presently obtains. It shows he still harbours the desire to lead his country 24 years after he first gave the position a shot.
The Atiku story is certainly a big story to tell. It already offers good literature to students of politics and scholars around issues of societal development. The man Atiku is a big name in the polity any day, ever since he hit the political train under the tutelage of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who backed him as a presidential candidate against two other heavyweights, the late Chief MKO Abiola and Ambasador Babagana Kingibe during the buildup to the June 12, 1993 election.
Atiku has since remained a constant name in the polity, especially as he emerged the vice-president to President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999.
On record, he was the busiest vice-president, a deputy, who was really not living in the shadows of his boss. He was colourful in his own rights and commanded power everywhere he went. He clearly filled the space and Nigerians did not feel the absence of his principal, another larger than life character, Obasanjo, even when the then president was almost every week of his first term in the air as he hopped from one state visit to the other.
As a result of the freedom he enjoyed heading the political structure of the Presidential Villa from 1999, Atiku’s influence grew among governors who regularly met under his chairmanship at the National Economic Council.
It was not long before some of them concluded that he was a man they felt safe with and that led to the famous “Mandela option” that tore the duo of Obasanjo and Atiku apart. He went on to fight the battle to sustain himself in a divided presidency and could only hang in with the lifelines granted by the different courts he ran to.
Years after the massive battle between Obasanjo and Atiku, the Waziri Adamawa still remains in the public eye. He has tried his hand as presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC) in 2007, he also tried the contest in 2011, when he attempted to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was defeated by former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was also in the race for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, when the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari took the prize
Many expected Atiku to jump ship from the APC in 2015, following his defeat at the Lagos primaries of the coalition party. He stayed put and contributed his quota to the eventual victory of the APC.
As 2019 beckons, everyone expected Atiku to take a shot at the Presidency once again, especially as the incumbent leaders have decided to operate on a winner takes all mode. His decision to quit the APC has not come as a surprise.
And his reasons as expressed in his resignation letter cannot be seriously faulted. The reasons he did not voice out also speak loud. He said in his resignation letter that he had been sidelined as a leader of the APC. We knew he wanted to lead the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), the idea got muted, he had no appointees in the cabinet and lately, his business interests have been targeted by the establishment. He was said to have commissioned and submitted an economic blueprint to President Buhari at the start of the administration but the president chose to do the exact opposite of the submissions in that blueprint. If he is treated as an enemy within, he can’t possibly be worse off as an outsider.
Though he did not announce his party of choice in that resignation letter, Atiku is almost certainly heading for the PDP, his original party. It is well known that chieftains of that party have been wooing him for some time. Recently, former President Goodluck Jonathan publicly stated that Atiku would compete better in the PDP. He is right.
The best thing the political actors would do in 2019 is to give us a two-horse race that would be nail-biting and exciting. It would definitely be interesting if it is Buhari versus Atiku. Two almost extreme personalities. One is taciturn and the other is outspoken. Unlike the prospect of North versus South in 2015, the contest of 2019 would be North-West versus North-East. The debilitating sounds of dichotomy would clearly be absent while there won’t also be religious issues. Then we will be forced to focus on issues of performance, capability and development. It will also be interesting to see the PDP faithful borrow a leave from the APC strategy of 2015 when all eyes were on the ball. Almost everyone worked for Buhari’s success, even when it is known he made the least financial contributions. It is true that some ‘landlords’ of PDP would feel slighted that Atiku was coming to ride over them just because he had abandoned the ship on different occasions, but in 2015, Buhari had his liabilities forgiven and all APC faithful dressed him in angelic robes.
I support Atiku’s decision to quit the ruling party particularly at this stage. It is possible the decision would return us to a vibrant polity and energise political actors. The gloom and doom of recession could take the back stage of discourse at least. Should Atiku end up in the PDP, the party can do well by making him its Messi or Ronaldo; the heart of the search for laurels.
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