By Eric Elezuo
The former Vice President and long time Presidential hopeful, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is leaving no stone unturned in what seems his final battle to become Nigeria’s numero uno citizen.
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 learnt 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 even went further to marry a wife from the region.
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 unabashed affection of his 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 came to fore when he chose Senator Ben Obi as his running mate during one of his failed presidential bid.
Born in Ibadan, Obi’s many sterling qualities include his dogged determination to pursue 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 reasons the former Customs top shot is looking in he direction of Ekweremadu and Obi as running mate have to do with their intimidating credentials, exposure, experience, vast political network and being an excellent bridge between the old and new generations among other compelling factors.
The astute politician who has been on the presidential journey since 1993 as a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is convinced that any of these two gems will swing votes in his favour.
In his own case, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, 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 under Dr. Bukola Saraki for 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 being elevated to a principal officer.
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.
Sen Ben ObiIn 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 with among his peers.
When he was returned to the senate in 2007, he was given the job of handing out committee chairmanship positions allocated to the southeast zone.
A one-time 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 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.
Former Vice President Atiku AbubakarMr. 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 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 current Chairman of Nigeria Security and Exchange Commission. Obi is one of the very few men 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 were feeding fat on government.
A 1980 Philosophy graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Obi is an all-rounder, having his hands in as many pies 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 wastage in government, 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 was 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 sterling achievements as businessman and political sagacity is certainly one of those who is fully prepared for the office and can hit the ground running from day one as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.