By Eric Elezuo
The story below was first published in February 2018…
A former Vice President and long time Presidential hopeful, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is leaving no stone unturned in what seems his final battle to occupy the Aso Rock Presidential villa in Nigeria’s Federal capital, Abuja.
According to authoritative and impeccable sources, the Wazirin Adamawa is set to pick his running mate from the South East of Nigeria like he did in previous attempts as the race for 2019 Presidential election gathers momentum.
We are told that he has narrowed his choice to two highly formidable and accomplished Igbo leaders; the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu and former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi.
Atiku, as he is popularly referred to, who is reputed as the most formidable of all the current Presidential aspirants in terms of clout and connection has over the years proved that he has a soft spot for the people of the South East, having created alliances with them in many areas and he even went further by marrying a wife from the region.
A detribalized Nigerian, Atiku’s last wife, Jamilah Jennifer Atiku Abubakar, Nee Iwenjiora, is from Onitsha, Anambra State.
She was formerly a television broadcaster, and had her Doctoral degree in the United States where she lives. She is said to be the apple of Atiku’s eyes, and between them they have three children: Abdulmalik, Zahra and Faisal.
This his unabashed affection for Ndigbo explains the rousing welcome he received when he landed in Enugu during the week for the funeral obsequies of late former Vice President of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, who died at the age of 86.
Apart from marriage bond with the Igbo race, Atiku’s penchant for the Igbo was obvious when he chose Senator Ben Obi as his running mate during one of his campaigns for the presidency.
Born in Ibadan, Obi’s many sterling qualities include his dogged determination in pursuing any cause for which he is summarily convinced about, of course with a refreshing dose of patience and humility.
In addition, getting various appointments by succeeding governments is a clear attestation to his astute organisational and managerial abilities, and Atiku being a man who has a talent for spotting good qualities picked him as his Vice Presidential aspirant.
The preference for either Ekweremadu or Obi by the former Customs boss, who has since the days of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1993 nurtured the intention to be President, is connected with their intimidating credentials, their exposure, acumen, vast political network and for being the bridge between the old and new generations among other compelling factors.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, for example is seen by many as a man who is brimming with the fountain of youth and can bring his energy to bear in the role of Vice President .
He is also seen as a loyal and stable gentleman who possesses a lot of political clout, as the current Deputy Senate President and No. 5 citizen in Nigeria.
Born in 1962, in Amachara Mpu in Aninri Local Government Area of Enugu State, Ekweremadu holds both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Law from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.
A seasoned politician, the Doctor of Philosophy holder from the University of Abuja, has been occupying the Deputy Presidency of the Senate for three consecutive terms, serving under Senator David Mark of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for eight straight years, and currently with Dr. Bukola Saraki in the last three years. Cumulatively, Ekweremadu has so far served as Deputy Senate President for about 11 uninterrupted years in addition to the four years he spent in the chamber before assuming high ranking
Prior to his stint in the legislature Ekweremadu served as the elected chairman of Aninri Local Government, winning the best LGA chairman’s award at the time.
His superlative performance led to his appointment as Chief of Staff of Enugu State Government House, and steadily, he rose to become the Secretary to the Enugu State Government in 2002.
In 2003, and having walked through the ropes of experience, perfection and gargantuan political recognition, he was elected to the Nigerian Senate. In the same year, as a legislative neophyte, he landed the position of Vice Chairman of the senate committee on Information. Two years into the business of law making, he tried his hands at the senate Presidency. Though he lost the race to Ken Nnamani, he became a force to reckon among his peers.
When he was returned to the senate and to his position in 2007, he was given the job of handing out committee chairmanship positions allocated to the southeast zone, making landmark decisions.
A onetime leader of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ad hoc committee for the return of Constitutional order in the Niger Republic, first elected Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and Speaker of the Regional Parliament in August 2011, Ekweremadu can be said to have seen it all.
His ability to manage men and materials as well as stay loyal was once fully tested while the Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki was dragged to the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He kept the Senate running with ease.
He is a strong believer in the Nigerian project, and has argued that the country, as currently constituted, is not working and needs urgent restructuring and rehabilitation.
Mr. Peter Obi on his part is the unassuming former Governor of Anambra State, who has a track record of prudence, performance and achievement.
Evidence of his shrewd administrative skills is the claim that when he was leaving as Governor of Anambra State, a whopping $230 billion was sitting in the treasury to be inherited by his successor, Willie Obiano. The amount was broken down as follows: $156 million in bank, N25 billion cash and N25 billion in local investment.
The soft-spoken businessman born in 1961, is the Chairman of Nigeria Security and Exchange Commission. Obi is known to have swam in the murky waters of Nigerian politics and came out smelling like roses. He fought the godfathers of Anambra politics and dealt decisively with rogue elements who have been feeding fat on government.
A 1980 Philosophy graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Obi is an all-rounder, having his hand in as many pies as there are available including trading, real estate and financial services.
A corporate titan, he has held such positions as Chairman of Next International Nigeria Ltd, Chairman and Director of Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd, Guardian Express Bank Plc, Future View Securities Ltd, Paymaster Nigeria Ltd, Chams Nigeria Ltd, Data Corp Ltd and Card Centre Ltd.
At the twilight of his professional financial career, he became the youngest Chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc. Atiku’s consideration of Obi is hinged on his very amiable disposition, uncanny acumen for stopping unnecessary spending, never-say-die spirit and ability to connect effortlessly with the youths.
- The general belief, which Alhaji Atiku also shares, is the fact that it is time again for an Igbo man to occupy the Vice Presidency as compensation for their perceived marginalization.
Despite his age, Atiku, 71, based on his political sagacity and sterling achievement as businessman is one of those who is fully prepared and can hit the ground running from day one as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.