It is a marriage across the political divide as a son of a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, is set to wed a daughter of a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu.
Aliyu Abubakar Atiku and Fatima Ribadu are billed to tie the knot on Saturday in what family sources described as a low-key event in Abuja.
A wedding notification sent out by Mr Ribadu, sighted by PREMIUM TIMES, indicate that the wedding would be attended by a small number of people in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The two young lovers found love despite their parents’ known longstanding personal and political differences.
Both Atiku and Mr Ribadu hailed from Adamawa State and served at the same time in the civilian government of Olusegun Obasanjo as vice president and head of the EFCC respectively.
While in that government, both men fell out after Mr Ribadu acted on the request by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations to the EFCC to help it investigate the relationship between Atiku and Congressman Thomas Jefferson who was then accused of bribery.
Although the then vice president was eventually not indicted by the FBI, the Nigerian end of the investigation soon broadened and he was accused of approving the mismanagement of funds belonging to the Petroleum Trust Fund.
He denied any wrongdoing saying the allegations were fabricated due to his political differences with then President Obasanjo who he accused of being desperate to eliminate him from the 2007 presidential contest.
Even after leaving government, both men remained implacable foes and remained in opposing camps.
Mr Ribadu joined politics in 2010 ahead of the 2011 presidential election in which he ran as the candidate of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Atiku was then in the PDP.
In the run up to the 2015 general elections, the ACN teamed up with the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Shortly before that election, Atiku soon crossed from the PDP to the APC, causing Mr Ribadu, already the leader of the party in Adamawa State, political discomfort.
Unable to dwell with Atiku in the same party, Mr Ribadu soon crossed to the PDP on which platform he later ran as governorship candidate for Adamawa State. He lost that election.
But soon after the 2015 election, Atiku returned to the PDP, a party then under Mr Ribadu’s control in Adamawa. Irritated by the development, Mr Ribadu quickly fled and returned to the APC.
Today, while Atiku is a heavyweight of the PDP, Mr Ribadu belongs to the ruling APC.
It is unclear how easy it was for the two opposing politicians to consent to the marriage of their kids, thereby becoming in-laws.
Mr Ribadu did not answer or return telephone calls made to him Wednesday. But a family member told this newspaper that Mr Ribadu did not attempt to stop the marriage.
“The girl is very important to him as his only daughter but that notwithstanding he understands that marriage is a personal decision,” said the source who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
“He (Mr Ribadu) believes that whatever Allah has ordained, no one can stop. He also believes that he must not capitalise on his own circumstances or personal situation to become an obstacle to anyone, not to talk of his own daughter. So he wished them the best and is now learning a new relationship as inlaw to his long-term political enemy.”
Atiku too could also not be reached Wednesday. His spokesperson, Paul Ibe, however said, “Sometimes we fans and supporters assume too much or try to cry more than the bereaved. Atiku Abubakar is in PDP, Nuhu Ribadu is in APC; how does that affect two young people?
“It is about their lives. People make choices and Atiku brought up his children to be independent minded, to have a mind of their own. They are educated, they are exposed. They share in the values of their father which include respect for people despite their religion, their customs or where they come from.
“They (the couples) are living the values that their parents have espoused and hold dear. This is what it is. If they met themselves and decided that they are compatible enough to spend the rest of their lives together, how would that bother you and I who have also made our independent choices?”
It is unclear how the would-be couple met but with roots deeply in the same native Yola, the capital of Adamawa State, and both living in the same city, Abuja, it may not be difficult to connect.
Like the fathers, the mothers of the couple are also from Adamawa.
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Mr Abubakar’s wife, Rukayya, is a Yola princess whose father was the late Lamido Adamawa, Aliyu Musdapha, after whom the young Aliyu Atiku is named.
Mr Ribadu’s wife, Zahra, is a daughter of Adamawa’s famed professor and politician, Iya Abubakar.
A NEW PHASE
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that both families let the young couple’s decision on life partner be theirs without letting the lives of their parents interfere.
The two Adamawa politicians now maintain a refreshingly better relationship despite their political differences, especially after they realised they would soon become in-laws.
In January, Atiku was among guests who attended the wedding of Mr Ribadu’s two sons in Abuja.
The former vice president is already in Nigeria from his Dubai base ahead of the wedding.
Despite the two families deciding to keep it low, the wedding is expected to draw dignitaries from both sides of the political divide.