Critical Conversations

Presidential Contenders Who May Succeed Buhari: Atiku Abubakar (Part 6)

Atiku Abubakar is a top-notch politician and businessman who served as Vice President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. He was elected governor of Adamawa State in 1998, but was invited to serve as Olusegun Obasanjo’s running mate during the 1999 presidential election. He was re-elected in 2003.

He has been in the presidential race since 1993 when he lost the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

Despite six attempts to get into the highest office in the land, he has not succeeded. Will he finally break the jinx and succeed President Buhari in 2023?

No doubt, Atiku is probably the most experienced among all the contenders for the coveted position. It is probably the strength of his candidacy that has made the ruling party scamper for real and imaginary grounds to keep him out of the ballot for 2023.

Presently he is facing a court case that would determine if he is truly a Nigerian by birth and if he is eligible to contest the 2023 presidential elections.

Atiku lost the 2007 election under the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). In 2011, he lost the bid to clinch the PDP ticket, and in 2014, Buhari defeated him at the APC presidential primary. In 2019, he ran against Buhari as candidate of the PDP but lost.

Political pundits have argued that one of the factors that worked against Atiku in his presidential bid is his constant defection as he is seen as someone whom the electorate cannot trust because he is desperate to get into office.

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In the last few years, Atiku seemed to have learnt his lessons by remaining in the PDP and making constant efforts to grow the party. His political ambition to be president is very much intact and he believes he has what it takes to lead the PDP to victory in the next general elections if he emerges as the presidential candidate of his party.

The Waziri of Adamawa believes he has vast experience from the public and private sector, to lead Nigeria to economic prosperity and national cohesion. He is a strong believer in the clamour for restructuring.

An interesting part of Atiku is his political and activism on social media. He understands how to engage the youth, particularly through his twitter account on issues in the country.

One thing that stands Atiku out is that he projects himself as a prepared contender for the position of president. He has a position on almost every national issue and he responds, proffers solutions, and offer pieces of advice depending on what he finds applicable.

As 2023 beckons, what are the political permutations in the PDP to determine his political future? Will the PDP offer him another opportunity? Are there other politicians within the PDP that could or would challenge him and succeed?

It seems there are a few; most of whom are from the North since the PDP might not limit her choice to the South as the ruling party is planning to do. Top on that list is the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who came second during the 2019 PDP primaries. Another name that is likely to make the list is former Senate President Bukola Saraki, who came third. A former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso, also contested at the primaries but came fourth.

This time around, there is no little or no certitude if the PDP would give Atiku the chance to fly its presidential flag? This is because there are many political permutations already on ground, which could be inimical to his going forward.

There are two or more camps fighting for the control of the PDP machinery. It also on record that Gov. Wike almost single-handedly installed the present national chairman, Uche Secondus. As a result of the battle to control the PDP leadership, key players in the party no longer frequent the ever-busy national secretariat due to the perception, that the party now belongs to Wike.

However, other second-term governors of the party from Benue, Taraba, Ebonyi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu and Delta are up in arms against their colleague from Rivers State, to neutralise his influence ostensibly, because of permutations for 2023.

There are speculations that Wike might still be plotting to bring back the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambawaal to contest the 2023 presidential elections or even throw his own hat into the ring to test the presidential waters. Wike has been a staunch supporter of Tambawal’s presidential aspiration.

It is a popular opinion that Tambuwal lost to Atiku at the PDP Port Harcourt convention, basically because some believed he was too inexperienced for the job. He was therefore asked to contest and complete his second term as governor.

Having won and now completing a second term as governor of Sokoto State, the ball appears to be in his court to step out again. It is even speculated that the main reason behind the perceived plot to control the party machinery is for Tambuwal’s 2023 presidency.

Many developments have shown that if the above has been the plan, Wike would not have his way easily without a fight from other governors and forces within the party.

There is also the governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, who is said to be interested in the 2023 presidential election on the understanding that if Atiku was not contesting, he is likely to inherit Atiiku’s political structures.

One permutation that may favour Atiku is that the attention of PDP would be on anyone that has money to finance their campaign as the former vice president did in 2019. It is believed that Atiku has the capacity to fund his campaign. This is what the PDP will be looking out for in 2023. This is where Atiku might come out strong.

However, in the mind of most party faithful, age might be a key determinant in their choice. This would not be quite favourable for the former VP who will be 77 years of age in 2023. Will Nigerians want another old man as president in 2023?

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Another very important question that stares Atiku and his team is, will sentiment and political expediency support the presidency staying in the North again, especially if the person is another Fulani northerner?

These are indeed a lot of battles on the ground that Atiku would have to surmount before achieving his dreams in 2023, while bearing in mind that the Southeast has not produced the President of the country. In all these, one thing that will work for the former Vice President is the fact that, unlike other contenders, he has not abandoned his political machinery.

It is not in doubt that Atiku Abubakar is a formidable contender for the position of Nigeria’s next president. However, getting the ticket of the PDP will depend a lot on what happens in the party in the next one year and other factors nationally. Atiku is, nonetheless, a formidable fighter. Getting the PDP ticket is a reality, but there will be hurdles to cross before he can succeed President Buhari.