Africa AfricaAsia  Politics Report Special Report

POLITICS: Atiku Begins Work on 2023 Presidential Race

•He Has Been Holding Political Meetings In DUBAI

The 2023 presidential elections in Nigeria promises to be very interesting. This is because some of the political juggernauts, who will be contesting have already begun work on the project.

One of them is former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. He has not only begun work on his bid to run, he is ready for the race. He has spent the last few months planning new strategies to make him win. Once he lost out at the courts to President Muhammadu  Buhari, a few months ago, Atiku had started work on 2023. And he is quite convinced that he will beat whoever the other candidates are. And he has been consulting widely, across all the political camps.

He is leaving no stone unturned. He is quite sure he would beat any candidate that comes out. He is banking on the fact that he has a formidable network that any other political player can’t match. He has a formidable war chest only very few can match on the scene right now. Atiku believes there is no other high ranking Northerner who is eminently qualified to run more than him.

So, he has worked out many permutations, which he hopes will work for him.

Not only does he have a battle-ready political machine that is working at full throttle, but he also has a team of researchers and media consultants who are working day and night to smoothen the rough edges of his game plan. He is operating out of Dubai which is like his operational base. Over the last few months, he has been holding meetings.

What are the perceived challenges City People asked some of his aides, recently. They don’t seem to see any form of unusual challenge.  In the last few years, Atiku had taken to social media to engage Nigerians directly. He has been very active on Twitter. And unlike many politicians, who engage IT whizkids to manage their account, he creates time to tweet himself. As people confront him with all sorts of allegations he instantly replies them.

Atiku has a wealth of experience to bank on. Don’t forget that Atiku’s first foray into Politics was in the early 1980s, when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who at that time was Managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority.

He canvassed for votes on behalf of Tukur, and also donated to the campaign. Towards the end of his Customs career, he met Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who had been second-in-command of the military government that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. Atiku was drawn by Yar’Adua into the political meetings that were now happening regularly in Yar’Adua’s Lagos home. In 1989 Atiku was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria, the political association led by Yar’Adua, to participate in the transition programme initiated by Head of State Ibrahim Babangida.

Atiku won a seat to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly, set up to decide a new constitution for Nigeria. The People’s Front was eventually denied registration by the government (none of the groups that applied was registered), and found a place within the Social Democratic Party, one of the two parties decreed into existence by the regime.

On 1 September 1990, Atiku announced his Gongola State gubernatorial bid. A year later, before the elections could hold, Gongola State was broken up into two – Adamawa and Taraba States – by the Federal Government. Atiku fell into the new Adamawa State. After an acrimonious contest, he won the SDP Primaries in November 1991, but was soon disqualified by government from contesting the elections.

A similar fate – disqualification by the military – would befall Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Atiku’s friend and political mentor, in his 1992 bid for the presidential primary of the SDP. With no chance of contesting for the presidency, Yar’Adua decided to push Atiku forward as the focal point of SDP’s ambitions.

Atiku came third in the convention primary. But because MKO Abiola, the winner, had won by only about 400 votes a run-off was due. Atiku stepped down for Abiola, asking his supporters to cast their votes for him, with an unwritten agreement that Abiola would announce Atiku as his running mate. Abiola won the SDP ticket and announced Babagana Kingibe, the runner-up, as his running mate.

In 1998 Atiku launched a bid for the governorship of Adamawa State on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party. He won the December 1998 elections, but before he could be sworn in, he was tapped by the PDP’s presidential candidate, a former Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo, as his vice-presidential candidate. The Obasanjo-Atiku ticket won the 27 February 1999 presidential election with 62.78 per cent of the vote.

Atiku Abubakar was sworn in as Vice-President of Nigeria on 29 May 1999. He presided over the National Council on Privatization, overseeing the sale of hundreds of loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises.

In 1999 he, alongside South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, launched the South Africa Nigeria Bi-national Commission.

In 2006, Atiku was involved in a bitter public battle with his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, ostensibly arising from the latter’s bid to amend certain provisions of the constitution to take another shot at the presidency (for the third consecutive time).

In a November 2013 interview Atiku is quoted as saying, regarding Obasanjo’s alleged attempts to justify his third term bid: “[He] informed me that ‘I left power twenty years ago, I left Mubarak in office, I left Mugabe in office, I left Eyadema in office, I left Umar Bongo, and even Paul Biya and I came back and they are still in power; and I just did eight years and you are asking me to go; why?’ And I responded to him by telling him that Nigeria is not Libya, not Egypt, not Cameroun, and not Togo; I said you must leave; even if it means both of us lose out, but you cannot stay.”

The debate and acrimony generated by the failed constitutional amendment momentarily caused a rift in the People’s Democratic Party. The Nigerian National Assembly eventually voted against any amendments allowing Obasanjo to run for another term.

The Atiku-Obasanjo face-off damaged the personal relationship between both men.

On 25 November 2006, Abubakar announced that he would run for president. On 20 December 2006, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress (AC).

On 14 March 2007, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the final list of 24 candidates for 21 April presidential election. Abubakar’s name was missing from the ballot. INEC issued a statement stating that Abubakar’s name was missing because he was on a list of persons indicted for corruption by a panel set up by the government. Abubakar headed for the courts on 16 March to have his disqualification overturned. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on 16 April that INEC had no power to disqualify candidates.

The ruling allowed Abubakar to contest the election, although there were concerns that it might not be possible to provide ballots with Abubakar’s name by 21 April, the date of the election. On 17 April, a spokesman for INEC said that Abubakar would be on the ballot.

According to official results, Abubakar took third place, behind PDP’s candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua and ANPP’s candidate Muhammadu Buhari, with approximately 7% of the vote (2.6 million votes). Abubakar rejected the election results and called for its cancellation, describing it as Nigeria’s “worst election ever.”

He stated that he would not attend Umaru Yar’Adua’s inauguration on 29 May owing to his view that the election was not credible, saying that he did not want to “dignify such a hollow ritual with my presence.”

Following the 2007 elections, Atiku returned to the People’s Democratic Party. In October 2010 he announced his intention to contest for the Presidency. On 22 November, a Committee of Northern Elders selected him as the Northern Consensus Candidate, over former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser Aliyu Gusau and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State.

In January 2011, Atiku contested for the Presidential ticket of his party alongside President Jonathan and Sarah Jubril, and lost the primary, garnering 805 votes to President Jonathan’s 2736.

In August 2013, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registered two new political parties. One of them was the Peoples Democratic Movement. Local media reports suggested that the party was formed by Atiku as a back-up plan in case he was unable to fulfil his rumoured presidential ambitions on the PDP’s platform. In a statement, Atiku acknowledged that the PDM was founded by his “political associates”, but that he remained a member of the PDP.

On 2 February 2014, Atiku left the People’s Democratic Party to join All Progressives Congress the platform he sought to contest for the Nigerian presidency in 2015, on the party’s platform but lost at the primaries.



About the author

Adewale Adenrele Muhideen

Journalist ,PR, Researcher, Culture and Tourism promoter, Business Development Consultant.

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