Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has never hidden his ambition to be Nigeria’s president. In 1992, during the Babangida transition under what was called Option A4, he even took his first shot at the seat, under the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Chief MKO Abiola eventually emerged the presidential candidate of that party with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as his running mate. Under the guidance of his political mentor, General Shehu Yar’Adua, Atiku rightly kept his cool and bidded for another time.
Politically, Atiku has always been a creation of Generals since he joined late Gen Yar’Adua. And so it happened that when the Nigerian establishment who are indeed the Generals that were victorious during the Nigerian civil war decided in their wisdom to hand over power to one of their own, General Obasanjo, during the 1998/1999 transition to civil rule organized by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, they invited Atiku, who was then already the governor- elect of Adamawa state, to become the Vice President to Obasanjo.
Effortlessly the Generals made Atiku Nigeria’s Vice President for eight years, the longest serving VP so far. That first political seat Atiku occupied brought out his true colours. The VP seat which could have made Atiku ended up unmaking him. In the first term, Obasanjo, that ultimate master of the game, gave him free hand. Atiku even assumed he was the de facto president of Nigeria. He virtually formed that government at least in the first term appointments.
In 2003 when it was time for Obasanjo to seek for second term, Atiku aligned with some of the governors of the ruling party with the aim of challenging Obasanjo. Obasanjo stooped for them, as it turned out, to conquer them forever. Atiku forgot that ambition and treachery are two sides of the same coin. He broke the thirteenth commandment which says thou shall not get caught. As it turned out, those whom he helped to make helped in unmaking him. In his efforts to satisfy personal and vested interests he found too late that he had no constituency anymore.
In Obasanjo’s second term, Atiku’s wings were clipped. He was side-lined and frustrated, so frustrated that he left the PDP on which platform he became Vice President to Obasanjo and joined a new party, the Action Congress (AC). By joining the AC, for the first time, Atiku was not under any General but independent. The AC offered him a platform on which he contested for the presidency for the first time in 2007 as a candidate. But, as a sitting Vice President, with his protégé Boni Haruna as sitting governor of Adamawa, the AC could not even get Adamawa governorship as Admiral Nyako defeated it hands down to emerge governor under the PDP in that 2007 election.
The 2007 elections marked the beginning of the demystification of Atiku as a politician since it became obvious that without the support of the Generals who made him what he is, Atiku is politically inconsequential. He subsequently returned to the PDP and even quietly went to Obasanjo to beg for forgiveness. Obasanjo made sure the media publicized the visit. Since then Atiku never had any real platform as he keeps jumping from one party to another, conclusively proving that he has neither political ideology nor philosophy but joined politics just to seek for raw power and patronage.
And so it soon turned out that he went back to the PDP to contest for the presidency again. The AC supporters and leaders felt betrayed by his going back to PDP after they gave him their platform. With some old brigade regionalists, they concocted what they termed a “northern consensus candidate” to enable Atiku become the sole northern contender in the PDP presidential primaries against President Jonathan in 2010/11. With the Generals behind Jonathan, Atiku could not even muster one third of the PDP delegates’ votes. Thus a former presidential candidate in one party has turned out to be a failed presidential aspirant in another.
Not done with his burning presidential ambition, Atiku engineered a rebellion within President Jonathan’s PDP and pulled the faction to join the merger talks that gave birth to the APC. Atiku the perennial presidential aspirant contested for the APC presidential primaries in 2015. It turned out that Atiku could not even beat Governor, now Senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano not to talk of General Buhari who eventually emerged as the APC flag bearer. Was the last APC presidential primary not enough indicator for Atiku to call it quits as far as this ambition is concerned? No one thinks so as Atiku wants to be a recurring decimal as far as presidential contest is concerned.
For the first time in Nigeria’s history an incumbent president was defeated when Buhari led the APC to victory in the 2015 presidential election. But, since Buhari became the President, Atiku has become an unofficial opposition to the government. He attacks government policies at the slightest opportunity. He claims that he has been side-lined even though Buhari’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, was Atiku’s spokeman for years, and at least one cabinet minister was honest enough to say she belongs to the Atiku camp. Atiku is set to commit a final political harakiri as he prepares to re-join the PDP one more time clearly to contest again in 2019. This is despite the fact that in its entire history, PDP has never offered Atiku its presidential ticket tried as he did to get it.
Meanwhile, in his official biography written by late Dr. Onukaba Ojo, Atiku claimed that his father was from Wurno in Sokoto and mother was from Jigawa, all in the northwest. There is a crisis of identity here as people get confused as to what Atiku really mean by all these claims. Atiku must come to terms with the fact that Adamawa in particular and the northeast in general provided him with a comfortable home and base. But if he thinks he is not from there or does not belong there he should relocate to where he thinks he belongs. After all migration is a function of push and pull factors.
Although Atiku has legitimate right to aspire to any office he wants, the mood of the nation is not for any 70 year old anymore and Buhari may be the last president from that generation. At over 70 years now, Atiku should give support and mentor the younger ones and pray for his children and grandchildren if he really loves Nigeria. He has amassed so much wealth to make him and his family comfortable for life. He joined the Customs Service and retired as No 2 in Nigeria. He joined politics and emerged the No 2 citizen in Nigeria for eight years. He joined the traditional institution and has recently been appointed the No 2 in Adamawa Emirate. He should thank God as he appears to be destined for No 2 positions with or without the support of Senator Aisha Alhassan. This is an honest advice from one who wishes him well. History is on the side of the oppressed.