As predicted, the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar would continue to resonate attention as the race for 2019 gathers momentum. The choice between Atiku and the other candidates appears to be a defining issue that would shape the outcome of 2019 presidential election. Notwithstanding the multiple options before Nigerians, it is evident the choice between the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would determine the journey to the next political dispensation.
The debate about Atiku and the possibility of his emerging Nigeria’s next president or otherwise has been ignited by debates regarding the viability and credibility of his candidacy. Interestingly, the formidability of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could no longer be dismissed in spite of the self-inflicted crises that has taken toll on the party and yet remains a burden rather than an asset. The kernel of the debate ahead of 2019, now more or else, centres around preference for the former vice president or disapproval of his personality as the race enters a definitive as well as ultimate stage.
Perhaps more than any other presidential candidate in the history of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar has come under more vitrolous attacks on account of perception of corruption. Riding on the accusations of his hitherto estranged boss when he was Nigeria’s Vice President, the PDP candidate is daily under barrage of attacks by those who claim he’s irredeemably corrupt. Even in the absence of substantiated charges, it would seem Atiku Abubakar has been arraigned, tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Vociferous traducers insist the PDP’s candidate is unfit to govern the country on account of corruption.
The refusal of the US Embassy to renew his Visa has become a major issue so far exploited by his opponents. As expected, his inability to travel to the US since he left office twelve years ago on account of denial of his Visa’s application has armed his opponents with the linchpin for hanging the corruption tag on their opponent. It is however interesting that those who had dared Atiku Abubakar to visit the US also turned around to kick against the likelihood of granting his visa application. The ruling APC leadership would rather the US ensure the opposition arrowhead is not issued a visa in furtherance of the desire to sustain the perception of corruption against the main challenger to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
But more instructive is that Atiku Abubakar faces a tough battle ahead precisely because amongst the actors within his PDP platforms are vested interest largely driven by exigencies of self-serving political preservation rather than loyalty to the cause of the party; and in particular the quest to win the presidential race. The PDP candidate faces possible disappointment from individuals who are not at home with his emergence at the Portharcourt Convention. But how the actions or inactions of the aggrieved and yet to be pacified individuals would affect his chances is however left to be seen. No doubt, Atiku Abubakar must have realised defeating the incumbent is not going to be a tea party. Following from the convention where he emerged as candidate, the posturing of some actors in PDP suggests the house is not as united as one would have expected from a party determined to take power from the jaw of a lion; so to say. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Atiku who ought to know that Nigerian politicians are quick to jump at anything that guarantees immediate and foreseeable relevance at the corridors of power.
But beyond this, who says Atiku Abubakar is not an option in 2019; and a serious one at that? Of course, those who insist the name Atiku Abubakar sounds sacrilegious should be free to express their views. How much the haze against Atiku would translate into votes against him is left to be seen when the D-day eventually comes. But what is patently intriguing regarding the Atiku debate is the rather momentous and time-serving predilection by all-knowing but largely arm-chair political commentators who indulge in negative profiling as though democracy is all about professing sanctimoniously and by indulging in wild goose search for saints in the murky terrain of politics.
It is recalled that as a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar had a running battle with his boss and had to fight a widely publicised legal battle to remain in office. It then boils down to the hypocrisy of the political class that Atiku Abubakar who became the ‘face’ of democracy of some sorts in the estimation of the falconers of the then opposition has suddenly become a subject of ridicule by the very forces that celebrated him as hero in 2007. It is recalled that influential actors in the main opposition platform at the time in concert with vociferous and ever available tribe of hailers rallied round Atiku and urged him on in pursuit of his ambition of succeeding his boss. How time flies!
Ultimately, Nigerians would decide what to do with Atiku Abubakar and several other choices before them when the time comes in less than a month ahead. However, a fact that can’t be denied even by those opposed to Atiku’s ambition is that only the momentum of the race ahead could determine how far Atiku can go in the coming race. Unlike six months ago, when the possibility of a viable challenger to President Buhari was almost inconceivable, the situation today suggests Buhari would be fighting harder than hitherto anticipated. With Atiku finally showing up in the US , it would no longer amount to exaggeration to say the race could go either way; depending on how political events play out in the last three weeks to the election.
Expectation by the ruling APC that opposition to Atiku Abubakar’s ambition would probably be led by his estranged principal, former president Olusegun Obasanjo has since proven otherwise. Not only has Obasanjo settled his rift with his former subordinate, he has shown considerable support for his ambition. But how readily the electorate would be swayed by perception of corruption against Atiku Abubakar could only be determined by the outcome of the election. The truth remains Nigerians have had enough of the blame game from Atiku Abubakar’s main opponent. It would then be left to the electorate to properly weigh the merits as well as the consequences of the options before them.
This piece, which first featured last month, has again become relevant in the wake of the uproar generated by the visit of the PDP Presidential candidate to the US.
Before you Run (1)
“Whatever political level you have laced up to run for: presidential, governorship, senatorial, house, local government, or ward, before you run, hear now what you are coming in to run or govern.”