Last week Thursday, April 26, the highly efficient media team of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar issued a statement to the effect that Atiku would contest the next presidential election come 2015. As it was mentioned in the statement, he is eminently qualified and had indicated much interest in the job. Atiku first contested for the presidency in the aborted Third Republic under the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). He attempted to contest in 2003 using the governors under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but shelved the idea at the last minute to allow for the second term of Obasanjo. That was his main strategic blunder from which he has yet to recover.
When Obasanjo came back to power for his second term in 2003, with Atiku as Vice President, Obasanjo embarked upon the clipping of Atiku’s wings politically, attacking his business interests with a view to crippling him economically, and ostracizing and maligning him socially. Atiku went to court many times to enforce his rights which led to many landmark judgements, most of which were in his favour. In the end, he had to look elsewhere to actualize his presidential ambition in 2007. He ended up contesting for the presidency in 2007 under the Action Congress Party now ACN. That was his renowned strategic blunder.
Atiku may well have known that when he left a party he helped to build for a party that had not even a councillor at the time, he was just trying his luck at a time when Goodluck is the running mate of the PDP presidential candidate, Mallam Umaru Yar’Adua. The 2007 election was thoroughly rigged but even if it was not rigged the incumbent Vice President would only have been a distant third after Yar’Adua and Buhari. In a way, the rigging skills perfected by Atiku and Co for the 2003 election were ultimately used to defeat Atiku. He was paid back in his own coin.
Instead of Atiku to remain in the ACN and help to build it into a strong formidable national platform to enable him to contest again, he made the mistake of going back to the PDP and even paying a courtesy visit to his nemesis, Obasanjo, who made maximum use of that the opportunity by getting the media to cover the visit and trumpet it to the world that Atiku came to beg him. That was his third strategic blunder.
Obasanjo has helped to demystify Atiku. As sitting vice president, his then political party, the ACN, was not able to win his home state of Adamawa or anywhere else in the whole north. It just went to prove that he was a creation of the military and cannot do without the backing of the Generals. Gen. Yar’Adua brought him to political limelight and Gen Obasanjo made him Vice President. He even mentioned in a Weekly Trust interview after becoming Obasanjo’s VP that Gen Obasanjo asked him “Will you be loyal to me?” and Atiku answered “Yes Sir!” and that was how he emerged as VP in 1999.
The political machine established by late Gen Shehu Yar’Adua on which Atiku leaned was first known as the People Front and later the People Democratic Movement. Atiku made the mistake of suppressing some of its key pillars when he came to office as Vice President. At a point he was so carried away by the grandeur of office that he had the audacity to castigate northern elders at Arewa House during the launching of a book in memory of Maluugur, in the presence of that legendary men of integrity. He had forgotten that even Obasanjo’s main constituency at the time was the same northern establishment. They waited for him.
Conspiracy is a game of generals. In the real power game, a customs man is just an onlooker. When Obasanjo was absolutely convinced that Atiku had no more power or any strong constituency that he could call his own, he started dealing with him squarely and diagonally. He had no where to run to and even though he was the victim there was no public sympathy from anywhere, having alienated himself from those who could give him cover.
With the demise of President Yar’Adua in 2010 and with him back in the PDP, Atiku became a champion of zoning but he committed his fourth strategic blunder by making zoning a sectional issue of the north. The generals in the race simply conducted a safe exit strategy called consensus, using the old war horse, Mallam Adamu Ciroma. They allowed General Obasanjo to consolidate on his demystification of Atiku by making sure that Jonathan defeated him in the primaries even in his home state of Adamawa. It was a befitting end to an inordinate presidential ambition using the moribund regional platform.
Atiku does not want to face reality and those who want to get a bit of his awesome bonuses are urging him to make one more strategic blunder. He has refused to come to term with the fact that PDP is still the same and in the same hands. He has refused to understand that everyone has his time and that he had squandered his best chance of being president in 2003 when he had all the aces. He has refused to accept the fact that in Africa, it is a taboo for an elder to inherit his younger brother’s assets -Yar’Adua was 57 when he became president while Jonathan was 53 when be assumed office as President. Atiku is approaching seventy!
Atiku was Vice President for eight years – one of the most powerful VPs in the nation’s history. Many people are wondering what he wants again. To become president for eight years after Jonathan? Others are wondering, if as VP, with no final power of approval, Atiku became this powerful and this wealthy, what will he be as president? One does not need to be president to be relevant. Atiku should thank God and take a bow unless he wants to be ungrateful to God.