Atiku at 67: All His Sides, from Every Angle

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On Monday November 25, 2013, Atiku Abubakar turns 67 years old; his presidential ambition 21 years; while his years of politicking 33. Atiku so far has spent nearly half of his age doing politics. And he means different things to his critics and supporters.

Atiku’s critics often argue that the core reason he ventured into politics was not different from that of a typical Nigerian politician- the quest for power and self enrichment. But his supporters say, mere politics is not what only defines Atiku, but the way he does it. Atiku is politically adventurous and his strategies in politics are always audacious- they surpass those of ordinary Nigerian politicians. In 1992 he doggedly supported the late MKO Abiola, despite MKO’s breach of the gentleman agreement to pick Atiku as his running mate. In 2003, despite having all odds in his favour, he refused to succumb to pressure to dump former President Obasanjo. 

Over the years, Atiku has been the most visible politician, especially in the politics of Nigeria’s presidency. His opponents are always quick to describe him as opportunistic and a desperate serial presidential contestant. His supporters see his unrelenting participation in party politics as a clear sign of Atiku’s passion to serve his fatherland. Atiku’s supporters always boast that Atiku is one of the few top-notch politicians in Nigeria that never partook in any military government, thus making him a true democrat.

Atiku has fought many tough political battles; the most daring being the one against his former boss- Obasanjo. Atiku was labelled a disloyal vice president. Despite provocations from many directions, Atiku remained calm, unmoved and composed. His supporters say, his ‘no-shaking’ approach to the whole saga is a sign of him being a real democrat. However, critics disprove this saying, being a democrat goes beyond such traits. Nevertheless, the general belief is, the ultimate measure of a democrat is not how he stands at the moment of comfort and convenience, but how he stands at times of challenges and controversies. Atiku always stands firm.

Atiku’s numerous political decisions were excellent and sound, but not without flaws, especially regarding his relationship with the PDP. For instance, despite several overtures, Atiku refused to fully integrate himself into the PDP family after the 2007 elections. Atiku should have supported the late Yar’Adua’s government. Again, after losing the 2011 PDP presidential primaries, it took Atiku very longtime to congratulate Jonathan and he never showed his face even once in the PDP nationwide presidential campaign tour. Such political errors of judgement still hunt his political influence especially in the government at the centre. On the other hand, had he given-in cheaply to either late Yar’Adua or Jonathan, his ‘political charisma’ could have diminished seriously. So, for his ‘tenacious’ style, any political calculation especially by those aspiring to contest the 2015 presidential election, Atiku must be the first to be factored-in in the equations. 

Atiku presently is the most prepared candidate for the 2015 presidential election. Atiku Abubakar has a well-drafted policy document loaded with fine, programs and projects, christened ‘The Atiku Abubakar Formula’. Atiku promised, if elected, his medium-term strategy would be to ensure that recurrent expenditure is financed fully with non-oil revenues, while all oil proceeds will be invested in infrastructure, security, education and health. Though, Atiku is the most grounded candidate for the 2015 presidential elections, there are many odds against him, compared to those in his favour, taking into consideration the present realities in the polity.

Atiku’s unique style of politics may have favoured him; but he has lost his rightful place in the ruling PDP. Therefore, Atiku’s greatest obstacle to his presidential ambition will still be on how to get a strong party platform to contest on. But Atiku has immense war chest that easily scares off his opponents- vast political network and connections.

2015 elections would surely be another defining moment for Atiku; he is a strong candidate who is already ahead of many would-be contestants in terms of political structure, thorough understanding of national political terrain as well as the capacity to single-handedly take on President Goodluck Jonathan. Many people believe, it is part of Atiku’s calculations to realize his presidential ambition that he registered the PDM as a political party and engineered the biggest revolt shaking the PDP. 

Atiku is a man of destiny; his first taste of politics was when he took part in the radical students union politics of the 1960s, serving as president emeritus of the students’ union of the School of Hygiene, Kano, and later as the assistant secretary general of the Ahmadu Bello University Students Union, as well as deputy speaker of the Students’ Parliament. By 2015 Atiku would be 69 years old, and would surely put in a strong fight for presidency. After all, politics has become Atiku’s number one hobby. Happy birthday Turaki Adamawa.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, zaymohd@yahoo.com, 08036070980.

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