By Babajide Balogun
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has no better option than former Vice President and the Waziri of Adamawa, Mr. Atiku Abubakar as its presidential flag bearer in 2023. As oxygen is needed to burn the fuel (sugars and fatty acids), in our cells to produce energy; Atiku is also the only political juggernaut who can crush the lesser political mortals in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to lead his party to victory in 2023. No time in the history of his political career the road to Aso Rock will be a smooth sailing for Atiku Abubakar than the 2023 presidential race. Why did I say so?
The APC is in quandary. It is a political party whose days are numbered. Political pundits predicted that the party can hardly exist beyond 2023. Between now and up to the time campaign for 2023 election begins, the APC, as usual, will engulf in conflicts more divisive than the recent attempt to remove Adams Oshiomhole from the chairmanship of the party. The 2023 election will further expose the weaknesses and the inherent problem within the APC. These predictable fault lines will continue to play out in the party as political events unfold.
APC’s life saver, president Muhammadu Buhari is in his second and last tenure in office. He will not seek for reelection because the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria limits presidential tenure in office to two terms of four years each. Buhari, the only man on whom the APC lean6 on to hoodwink the masses has lost popularity and following. The 2019 election had debunked and demystified the so-called “Buhari personality cult.” His party could not win states, inarguably his former strongholds. The PDP won the guber race in Bauchi, Adamawa and Sokoto among other electoral victories in APC states. As it is now in Nigeria, if President Buhari were to contest an election with the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, it is obvious that the Wazirin Adamawa will win a landslide victory.
There’s no telling that Nigerians are unhappy and disenchanted with Buhari leadership style, his bogus populism and unfulfilled promises. Whoever among the APC presidential candidates Buhari supports in 2023 cannot match Atiku’s brand, his national spread and adroitness in politics. Unlike others, the former Vice President has been a well-focused, savvy and consummate politician who consistently has boasted of a well-designed programme, a robust manifesto and full grasp of what it takes to lead a complex country like Nigeria. He has an impressive and influential national network of friends and associates. He is tested and trusted. He has the vision and knows the feelings of Nigerians and their problems. He is well-wired to rescue our country from disintegration. Atiku is a successful businessman who can run the economy better than those who led the country before him. He was at the centre of driving Obasanjo’s economic team and policies. He scouted and brought some of the best brains into the government: former ministers Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Malam Nasiru Ahmed el-Rufai and the pioneer boss of EFCC Malam Nuhu Ribadu, among others.
Wazirin Adamawa is not one who hides his feelings on issues of concern to the people. He speaks on issues which most would dare not because of political expediency. He loudly speaks about restructuring which he believes is at the core of the solution to the contentious and acrimonious issue of marginalization and lopsidedness among the constituent federating units. This bold initiative has “increased his electability value in southern Nigeria as well as among the marginalized minorities of the North who see a restructured Nigeria as the solution to the country’s many maladies.”
Atiku believes that “political and civic leaders from across the country must come together, discuss, negotiate and make the necessary compromises and sacrifices needed to restructure our federation to make the nation a stronger, more united, productive, and competitive country.” He believes that no part of the country is satisfied with the current structure of the country, reason why there has been clamour for succession and mutual mistrust among Nigerians.
With his generosity, patience and good listening skills, calm mien, Atiku is the structural tour de force, master stroke and life force of the PDP. He is a politician who absorbs all virulent attacks from opponents. Unlike some politicians, vengeance is not his way of settling scores, but tolerance is. Politicians have opponents and enemies in excess. Atiku reduces the number of his adversaries by courting them to be friends and supporters. He was the stabilizing force on whom the different opposition groups in the former APC rallied around prior to his cross carpeting to the PDP, before the 2019 election. His support for worthy causes and altruism have endeared him to the people in the grass roots. In every political party which Atiku joined, from the time when he served as the VP to president Obasanjo to the time he became the PDP’s presidential candidate in 2019, Atiku had always been the kingpin.
I have not seen his equal in popularity, resources, leadership quality, competence and ability to deliver in the PDP, the party he helped to create. He built a career circling the summits of public life. He had been a governor elect way back in 1999, a top civil servant, and a prominent business man and a philanthropist, making his fortunes in the logistics sector and deploying a chunk of it the service of humanitarian causes. The landmark decision which the Wazirin Adamawa took in the historic 1993 Jos Social Democratic Party (SDP) convention to step down for Chief MKO Abiola gave him political mileage. It paved the way for MKO to become the flag bearer of the SDP. This act of political maturity endeared him to the Yoruba. It also portrayed Atiku as a selfless politician who subordinated his personal ambition for the sake of democracy and survival of Nigeria.
The former VP’s greatest ambition in life was to end military rule in Nigeria. He went to the 1994 constitutional conference with the ideals of strong, united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria. These were the traits he showed at the conference in Abuja. His invaluable contributions in the constitutional conference and the the events that followed later in the struggle to end Abacha military junta led to the return of majoritarian democracy to Nigeria in 1999. Atiku Abubakar is the man to beat in 2023. No politician in the PDP has his clouts. It will therefore be a miscalculation and suicidal to contemplate fielding a candidate other than Atiku as the presidential flag bearer of the PDP come 2023 if the party intends to be taken seriously by Nigerians and the international community.
*Babajide Balogun, a political analyst, writes from Ibadan.
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