Like President Muhammadu Buhari, who ran for president on four occasions before finally clinching it in 2015; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has tested the waters in 2007 and 2011. This is aside his sojourn as an aspirant in 1992 and 2015. MUSA SIMON REEF, with additional reports from AMOS DUNIA, unveils prominent Nigerians plotting against Atiku’s dream of realising his presidential ambition come 2019.
Politically savvy and a relentless dream chaser, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, remains a rallying political symbol since the dawn of this uninterrupted democracy in 1999. Many political watchers believe he has an irrevocable urge to wear the presidential crown this lifetime, but admit that he is equally surrounded by people who would rather die than see him achieve that age-long dream. Atiku’s dream of becoming president is not without stiff opposition. For this dream to be realised, the Turaki must work towards extinguishing the fireworks of opponents whose main mission is to truncate his plan of serving Nigeria at the highest level.
In this class are prominent political figures battle-ready and willing to deploy the entire arsenal at their disposal to truncate the emergence of an Atiku’s presidency. Below are some formidable Nigerians whose opposition to an Atiku Presidency may yet cast a pall on this dream.
Former president and boss to Atiku in his second shot at power, the Ota Farmer is considered a well-known and age-long antagonist of Atiku’s presidency. Despite numerous overtures for him to bless and support this project, the former president has remained adamant, alleging that the Turakin Adamawa is corrupt and cannot be trusted with power.
The initial rosy relationship between Obasanjo and his deputy had turned sour, shortly before the expiration of their first tenure. When Obasanjo declared for a second term without Atiku’s input ahead of the 2003 presidential poll, the clouds of uncertainty were thick on the prospects of the Ota farmer scaling through successfully without support from the well-oiled Yar’Adua political machine led by Atiku.
So, for him to easily gain a second term, he needed the support of the North and the South-south, especially the governors, to make things happen in his favour at the party primaries. Knowing that Atiku, the politician, was in charge of the governors, Obasanjo had no option but to bury his ego, swallow his pride and rode on Turaki’s expansive political back to scale the intimidating hurdles that almost consumed his ambition.
However, in the heat of Obasanjo’s tenure elongation campaign, Atiku clearly opposed attempts by few members of OBJ’s kitchen cabinet lobbying for the former military ruler to continue in office for an
unprecedented third term.
As Obasanjo’s plot against his deputy thickened, the alleged corruption in the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)’s contracts became subject of the Senate inquiry to determine Atiku’s culpability. When the report was finally released, it indicted both Obasanjo and Atiku for using their offices to perpetrate corruption.
The then Committee’s chairman, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, alleged that both men had abused their offices by “aiding and abetting the diversion of public funds either for other projects or for fraudulent deposit in banks.” Though, the report stated that Obasanjo gave approval for the money and other projects in 2006 and subsequently got the ratification of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), it concluded that the FEC ratification did not absolve the president, as the FEC was also accused of acting in disregard of the law establishing the PTDF.
According to the damning report, “The President, Chief Obasanjo, and the Federal Executive Council acted in disregard of the law establishing the PTDF. Though the ratification by the Federal Executive Council may mitigate this breach of the law, it, however, does not absolve the president and the Federal Executive Council.” The committee also said that Atiku “from 1999 to 2007, abused his office by aiding and abetting the diversion of public funds in the sums of $125 million and $20 million respectively approved for specific projects to deposits in banks, some of which were fraudulently
converted as loans to NDTV, Mofas Shipping Company Limited and Transvari Services Limited and should be sanctioned for any offences disclosed.”
Sadly, this episode proved to be another show of shame and typical political gerrymandering where the elite smartly got themselves out of trouble after delivering an alleged cheating blow on our common patrimony. As expected, flowery responses from the two embattled camps sounded the knell for the Senate’s report to the chagrin of many Nigerians.
Now, with Atiku set for a final onslaught on the presidency in 2019, he will have to deal with Obasanjo, a man who some believe never forgets or forgives infractions against him by people. The Ota warlord is said to be in possession of several packages of high-profile allegations against Atiku, though he failed woefully to substantiate some of these charges while in the corridors of power. Insiders hinted that Obasanjo may still attempt to resuscitate these allegations in a bid to portray the Adamawa-born politician as an unreliable person for the presidential seat. However, close allies of Atiku are quick to dismiss Obasanjo’s threat as leaky, since no court of law has ever declared the former Vice President guilty of any crime.
President Buhari easily snatched the 2015 APC’s presidential ticket from Atiku whose big war chest ahead of the party primaries gave him an edge over other contestants. Though he is yet to declare interest for 2019, Buhari is unlikely to support Atiku for the race. The former Vice President is not in the President’s camp and the so-called Aso Rock cabal may find in him a threat that should be kept far from the corridors of power.
Insiders posit that the 2014 APC primaries held in Lagos drove a huge wedge in the Buhari/Atiku relationship. It is on record that the Adamawa-born politician avoided the campaign trails in almost all of the states, and only showed up at Yola during the APC Presidential campaign. Between them, there is no love lost.
Governor Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai of Kaduna State is another fierce antagonist of Atiku’s ambition. Rumoured to be nurturing an interest in 2019, if Buhari declines to run, the governor and the former Vice President recently engaged themselves in a verbal war, accusing each other of being economical with the truth. It was Atiku that introduced El-Rufai to Obasanjo, who thereafter appointed him as Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). The former FCT Minster is accused of switching political loyalty in the heat of disagreement between Obasanjo and his deputy. Known as a dogged fighter with capacity to offload verbal dynamites where necessary, the Kaduna State governor sees the realisation of an Atiku’s presidency as a threat to his political growth and ultimate aspirations. On Obasanjo’s side, El-Rufai may soon return to the trenches in a desperate bid to finally eclipse the political fortunes of his former godfather.
Former Lagos State governor and de-facto APC National leader may secretly be nurturing presidential ambition. Though he recently debunked insinuations that he has subterranean plot to succeed Buhari, political insiders see Tinubu as a double-faced personality in the 2019 political chess game. He was at one time reported to be working with Atiku for a mega coalition; but close aides to the former Governor believe everything may soon become obvious after the APC primaries that will determine where the pendulum swings. At present, the Asiwaju is adopting the popular ‘siddon-look’ posture and keeping
his next moves close to his chest.
He has not hidden his dream of becoming Nigeria’s president since vacating office as the Kano State governor. This amiable leader of the Kwankwasiya movement has continued to hold nocturnal meetings towards realising his political dreams. Kwankwaso’s altercation with his former deputy and current Kano State governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, is linked to his presidential ambition project. The Senator is said to be at loggerheads with Ganduje over the latter’s refusal to openly support his ambition for 2019.
Having beaten Atiku in the 2015 Lagos primaries, the former Kano governor has reached out to several groups in all sections of the country to galvanise support for his aspiration. But first of all, he must work hard to neutralise and push Atiku aside to have a smooth sail.