By William-Charles Rotimi
The political space is again heated up as expected when elections are approaching. Both the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, and its major challenger, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are all over the place but yet to decide who will bear their flags at the 2023 Presidential poll.
Some political observers say it’s imperative both parties decide on time, noting there’s much to cover before Nigerians head to the polls in fourteen months time.
At the moment, words and gestures from politicians or their cronies; events attended and the ones shunned are being interpreted to suggest who is running and who is not; those that have been endorsed and those that are still consulting.
As many are yet to declare their interest in Nigeria’s numero uno position, numerous groups, whether overzealous or genuine, have flooded the media with endorsement statements. On the other hand, a few have subtly registered their intentions.
For instance, Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo, had in October, hinted that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto, have indicated interest in contesting in the 2023 presidential election. Both are top PDP Generals and they’ve not refuted Makinde’s claims.
The duo are household names in Nigeria’s ‘politicosphere’ but one that stirs controversy is Atiku Abubakar’s interest in the office after five unsuccessful attempts.
One could have misconstrued that to mean passion and willingness to serve but the Buhari example has shown that relentlessly running for offices even after several failed attempts does not guarantee quality leadership.
Since he bowed out as the Vice-president in 2007, Abubakar has been dancing around the Presidential seat, however, fighting for his turn. In fact, several accounts have alluded to the fact that he has eyed the office right from the 90s.
In 1993, Abubakar contested the SDP presidential primaries but Moshood Abiola beat him to it with a wide margin of over 1000 votes. For Abubakar, the Presidency is not just an opportunity to serve but an avenue to feed his age-long quest for power.
Of course, the quest didn’t start when he first contested the SDP presidential primaries or when he ventured into partisan politics. He had priotised his lust for the two decades he spent in the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS).
“I told myself that if by the time I was 40 years old I did not head the organisation, I would quit,” he said in his authorised biography, “ATIKU: The Story of Atiku Abubakar” which was written and published by his late Senior Special Assistant on Media, Adinoyi Onukaba.
Despite rising to become the Deputy Director, the second highest position in the NCS was then known; Abubakar voluntarily retired in April 1989 after all efforts to become the Head of the agency didn’t yield. As a desperate one, he lobbied everyone in the corridor of power but all to no avail.
Mr Abubakar was confident of bagging the appointment so much that he counted on his friendship with Ibrahim Babangida, a former military ruler.
“Atiku had known Babangida since 1974 when he was just a Major. They met at a party in Lagos, and became good friends. In 1982 when Babangida, then a Major-General, imported a BMW car into the country, it was his friend, Atiku, who helped him to clear it from the Lagos ports. Babangida was not the only top military officer or prominent civil servant that Atiku had assisted,” Onukaba wrote.
This desperation makes it easy to decipher that an Atiku Presidency has nothing genuine to offer the populace beyond fulfilling selfish interest. Little wonder why he called for the privatisation of the nation’s biggest oil corporation. Recall that under the Obasanjo-led administration, which Abubakar played a key role in, some of the government’s assets were privatised and that began the story of how they went moribund.
Beyond his political trajectories and hobnobbing with corruption, the overwhelming acceptance of the zoning arrangement that favours a Southern Presidency is a stumbling block on Abubakar’s way to the Aso Villa. Political commentators have suggested that any attempt to disregard the arrangement may spell the doom of any party in the forthcoming election.