The invitation extended to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, by the All Progressives Congress and the appointment of Adamu Mu?azu as national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, appears to have put the famed political strategist in a fix, writes OLUSOLA FABIYI.
A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, is not a new swimmer in the Nigeria?s murky political waters. He has been in politics for long enough to know how unpredictable Nigerian politicians could be.
Followers of history would recall how Atiku was forced out of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party by his former boss, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, prior to the 2007 presidential election. Desirous of a shot at the Presidency, Atiku teamed up with politicians in the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, where he was handed the party?s ticket.
He lost the final contest to late President Umaru Yar?Adua, who was the candidate of the PDP.
As the race for the 2011 presidential election drew nearer, Atiku dumped the ACN and returned to the PDP.
He was accommodated and allowed to contest for the party?s presidential ticket. This did not happen without drama.
When it dawned on the northern elders that President Goodluck Jonathan was keen on contesting the party?s primaries, they called on their sons to invoke an unwritten power rotation agreement in an attempt to stop Jonathan. They were schooled on the need to have a sole candidate who would slug it out with Jonathan at Eagles Square, Abuja for the PDP?s sole ticket.
Among northerners who showed interest in the race were a former military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; a former National Security Adviser, Gen. Muhammad Gusau; a former Governor of Kwara State, Bukola Saraki; and Atiku. The northern elders, led by a former Minister of Finance, Adamu Ciroma, met and perused the credentials of all the aspirants. That of Atiku suited them most. Thus, he became the anointed candidate of the group.
Atiku must have been surprised to learn that despite his seeming popularity among fellow northerners who chose him ahead of other contenders from the zone, this did not translate into victory during the presidential primaries.
When the Returning Officer for the PDP Presidential primaries, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, announced the results, Atiku, who is considered a master strategist in Nigeria?s political circles, lost woefully.
According to Adeniran, 3,542 delegates voted. Jonathan received the highest number of votes?2,736?representing 78 per cent of the total votes cast while Atiku came a distant second with 805 votes.
The third contestant, Mrs. Sarah Jubril, received only one vote which pre-supposes that she was the only person who voted for herself, 61 votes were voided.
Many northerners who wanted one of their own on the saddle faulted Atiku?s return to the PDP at the time. Many believed that if he had remained in the ACN, he would probably have been the party?s sole candidate for the 2011 presidential election.
However, the ACN was accused of being a sectional party at the time with its sphere of influence confined to the South-West geo-political zone. A lot has changed since then. The decision of the party?s leaders to team up with other opposition political parties such as the Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigeria Peoples Party to form the All Progressives Congress has not only enlarged its coast, it has empowered it to pose a significant threat to the dominance of the ruling PDP.
Herein lays Atiku?s dilemma. The APC delegation led by its Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, felt the Turakin Adamawa still has a lot to offer in terms of political capital. Akande and his team pointedly asked Atiku to leave the PDP and join their fold.
Ever the strategist, Atiku had asked his guests for time to consult his friends and associates before making a commitment.
He said, ?I have given them an indication that I will call a meeting of all my stakeholders across the country and we will take a decision and tell the press.?
Roll call of the delegation at the parley include; a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; Governor of Borno State, Ibrahim Shettima; a former Speaker of House of Representatives, Bello Masari; Senator George Akume, a former minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, a former chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu and Senator Kabiru Gaya.
Akande said the party decided to meet Atiku, against the background that ?our country is being rubbished; we feel that it is necessary to meet people of like minds to rise up and salvage the country. All of us that met here were comrades in politics from time to time, we only met today to cement that comradeship, and all is well cemented and we are moving together to work for this country.?
Atiku recalled that he and some of the members of the delegation had been in politics together for about 24years. He said,?It is time we realise we have responsibility to our generation and those yet unborn.?
He referred to the African National Congress in South Africa, reiterating that ?as strong as the ANC is, its internal democracy is unparallel. I have seen where there is healthy competition without bitterness. If the South Africans faced apartheid, Nigeria is facing colonialism, the struggle has been long for the enthronement of democracy.?
The former Vice-President said he had started the consultations he promised. In a statement, which he personally signed, he said, ?As we begin the New Year, our nation has to begin anew. As you are aware, I have been engaged in formal and informal meetings with Nigerians for a while. And for the next few weeks, I will be travelling across the country in continuation of the consultative process.
?I will continue to listen to the hopes and fears of our people, so that together, we can build a future that we all can be proud of. The times we are in call for hard work because Nigerians matter and our country matters, too. I believe that this consultative process will reinforce our shared values and throw up a new way forward for our dear country.?
Sources close to the Turaki Adamawa said that he had met with political associates and key stakeholders in Abuja, Dubai and London. However, he is said to be skeptical about happenings in the ruling party just as he is not sure of his chances in APC.
For example, the selection of the new chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Mu?azu, is said to be drawing him back. The former governor of Bauchi State, who is said to be his political son and an in-law, is being considered in his calculation as an olive branch extended to him by PDP, just as there are hints of high profile meetings at party and government levels.
It was also gathered that there had been a directive that his grievances against the party should be studied. In his letter to the former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, Atiku noted that as a member of the party?s Board of Trustees, he was never invited to board meetings as such he did not attend. He also complained about not being invited to the National Executive Committee of the party. Under normal circumstances, by virtue of being a former Vice-President and a leading party member, he is entitled to invitations to attend its caucus just like his counterpart, former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, who receives invitations and attends such meetings regularly.
Those in Atiku?s camp believe that there is a sustained effort by the party?s managers and those in government to entrench impunity and not to open up the party for democratic competition. Because of this, a source close to him said Atiku believes that if ?he decides to leave at this point, it is clear that it is the PDP that left him, in the same way the party left the country.? He is also said to have expressed worry that the governors who remained in the party had given Jonathan an automatic ticket for the 2015 election.
In the APC, where he is said to have most of his friends as members, Atiku has the impression that the party offers a real chance for change and reform in the country.
He is also convinced that Nigerians are tired of business- as-usual policy and seem determined to change their situation for the better. Moreover, he is also said to be angling to be on the side of the people. One of his aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, ?From his days in the Patriotic Front, and the defunct Social Democratic Party, Atiku is in favour of the social democratic philosophy. His team sees a real chance for harmony between his personal goals and philosophy and party politics. There is genuine commitment to pursue and ensure internal democracy within the party (APC) and stabilise the Nigerian polity, a value Atiku is passionately committed to.?
Torn between Mu?azu his political son and in-law in the PDP and his friends in the APC, only he can solve the dilemma in which he has found himself.