By Eric Elezuo
The loud whispers surrounding the supposed defection of the two times former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, from the All Progressives Congress (APC) continues to take a new turn each passing day.
Though the Turaki Adamawa is yet to come out publicly to say if he was bent on leaving the APC or not, or where he may be pitching his tent in the event of a defection, rumour mills have continued to link the former Customs’ boss with a move to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party he ditched during the buildup to the 2015 general elections.
Atiku’s body language ever since he became the Vice President to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, has left no one in doubt as to his ultimate ambition, and he has sought every means, crooked and straight, to see it come to past. However, so far, fortune has failed to smile on him in that regard.
In 2015, having discovered that the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, was bent on running for a second term in office, Atiku immediately defected to the party of the moment – the Bola Ahmed Tinubu and company formed APC. The APC was a conglomeration of the old Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), a part of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Imo State, the breakaway PDP faction comprising five serving governors and Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Atiku’s acceptance into the APC fold was not without the usual grandstanding. He was coming with a retinue of followers, and whatever could demystify the invincibility of Goodluck Jonathan was welcomed, and so one of the few men, who are known by their first names, was inducted into the House of APC.
It did not take long before the Adamawa first born realized that he arrived late at the house of APC, or rather, he had no place in the fold.
“May be he forgot that former President Obasanjo had a stake in the new party, having abandoned and openly criticized Jonathan, and going as far as tearing his PDP membership card,” intoned a political analyst.
The marriage of strange bedfellows was to express its inadequacy when the buildup to party primaries took centre stage. It was purely money politics, and Atiku was ‘loaded’, but the game went beyond money. Unfortunately, he lost out, coming a distant third, behind Buhari and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwazo. The Turaki did not understand what or how it happened. But political followers knew that Obasanjo has sworn not to see Atiku become president, citing excessive corruption and disloyalty.
Today, as the race for the 2019 elections gains momentum, Atiku Abubakar is on the march again, a march to actualize his life dream – becoming Nigeria’s president at all cost.
During the week, it was reported that the political followers of Atiku, under the aegis of Atiku Support Group (ASG), under the leadership of Mr. Wosi, massively defected to the opposition PDP. The defection was said to be nationwide. However, Atiku has not come out to say whether it was his instruction or not.
“There is no way the supporters of a politician will massively defect to another political under the same name without the knowledge of the principal. If you ask me, Atiku is completely aware of the move, and is strategizing politically for the next step. There is no way he can claim innocent or ignorant of the massive defection.
Atiku has been known to play the lamb when issues of national political importance are in the front burner, especially when it even has a direct effect and impact on him.
Recall that in the not too distant past, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Mohammed, publicly declared her preference for Atiku Abubakar against Muhammadu Buhari. Much as the declaration raised dust in the APC house and caused untold brouhaha, the Turaki did not make a sound. He was satisfied with having people read his body language, which was very obvious, to know the direction of his thoughts and mind. He hardly speaks, even as actions around him speak volume.
TheBoss investigations reveal that in cities and remote parts of the country, the Atiku consciousness has been revived. Fast spreading is the Atiku Youth Initiative Forum (AYIFO), which has political branches in all the regions as well as the states and local governments in the country. The forum is recruiting stalwarts from every available party, and with the creation of a structure motivated by ‘stomach infrastructure’, the possibility of the forum covering much ground before 2019 is not in doubt.
“But what can confidently be in doubt at the moment is if the Turaki can match the powers that be with enough intrigues as money may not have the capacity to play all the roles. Can he battle the likes of Obasanjo, Tinubu and the likes? Not forgetting Buhari, who may be harbouring some misgivings against him since the Aisha Mohammed outburst,” the analyst, who chose not to be named, said.
As Atiku march on towards what may prove to be his last attempt at a shot to the presidency, it is worthy of note that the coast is not yet clear.
This is as the PDP, through its chairman, Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, has ruled out granting him automatic ticket to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the party.
He said should Atiku return to the party as being speculated in some quarters, he and other aspirants would struggle for the party’s presidential ticket.
According to him, the former vice-president is free to dump the governing All Progressives Congress and return to the PDP, saying that the party was ready for Atiku’s return and would warmly accept him and his supporters back to the PDP fold.
If and when Atiku throws his hat into the presidency ring, he would be on the roughest journey of his career as some prominent northern politicians are already warming up for the duel. Some of them include a former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido; a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and so on preparing to vie for the PDP presidential ticket.
Jibrin added: “If the PDP grants Atiku a waiver, he should then join the cream of presidential aspirants in the party to fight for the ticket in 2019.
“If the PDP considers Atiku for the automatic presidential ticket, what about those in the party who are showing interest? Should we throw them away? If he is coming, he should come as an equal partner.
“We are ready to accept him. But, he must follow the rules of the game. First, he must undergo primaries like any other person, and he must fight for the presidential ticket.”
Those seem like very tough hurdles which Atiku Abubakar may find difficult to scale when the time comes, and if for any reason he finds a way around them, analysts believe that the much expected dream may just come to reality.
For now, the march continues for the double chief.