NIGERIA DECIDES…NIGERIA DECIDES
The political journey of the Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar may end this year if he fails to win today’s Presidential election. He will be too old in 2027 for a presidential campaign. In the buildup to the 2019 presidential election, political pundits predicted that the candidate of the opposition PDP, Atiku, would emerge victorious. They had predicted that he would defeat the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, with a small margin. At the end of the day, Buhari coasted home to victory with over 15 million votes.
Although Buhari is not going to be on the ballot in today’s presidential election, Atiku has three powerful candidates to contend with – Tinubu, Obi and Kwankwaso. Can Atiku be lucky this time around? Nigerian voters determine this today.
Atiku’s foray into politics was in the early 1980s when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of 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 regime that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. Atiku was drawn by Yar’Adua into the political meetings that were 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. The Peoples Front of Nigeria included politicians such as Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Babalola Borishade, Bola Tinubu, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Sabo Bakin Zuwo.
Atiku won a seat to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly, set up to decide a new constitution of 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 September 1, 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. Atiku fell into the new Adamawa State. After the contest, he won SDP primaries in November 1991 but was soon disqualified by the 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. He 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.
His second gubernatorial run was in 1998 when he launched a bid for the governorship seat on the platform of the PDP. Atiku won the December 1998 elections, but before he could be sworn-in, he was tapped by the PDP’s presidential candidate, former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, as his vice-presidential candidate. The Obasanjo-Atiku ticket won the February 27, 1999 presidential election with 62.78 per cent of the votes.
Atiku was sworn-in as Vice President of Nigeria on May 29, 1999. He presided over the National Council on Privatisation, overseeing the sale of hundreds of loss-making and poorly managed public enterprises.
In 2003, he was involved in a bitter public battle with his boss, Obasanjo, ostensibly arising from the latter’s bid for a second term. Atiku wanted to run, claiming Obasanjo promised to do only one term. They also clashed over the failed constitutional amendment aimed at allowing Obasanjo to run for another term. Atiku-Obasanjo face-off damaged the once chummy relationship between both men.
Atiku’s second attempt at the presidency was in 2007. On December 20, 2006, he was chosen as the presidential candidate of the then Action Congress (AC).
On March 14, 2007, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the final list of 24 candidates for April 21 presidential election. Atiku’s name was missing from the ballot. The electoral body issued a statement stating that his name was missing because he was on a list of persons indicted for corruption by a panel set up by the government. Atiku headed to the courts on March 16 to have his disqualification overturned. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on April 16 that INEC had no power to disqualify candidates. The ruling allowed Atiku to contest the election.
According to official results, Atiku took third place, behind the PDP candidate, late Umaru Yar’Adua and All Nigeria Peoples Party’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, with approximately seven per cent of the votes (2.6 million votes). Atiku rejected the election results and called for its cancellation, describing as Nigeria’s “worst election ever.”
On February 2, 2014, Atiku left the PDP to join the APC, with the intent of contesting the elusive Nigerian presidency in 2015 on the party’s platform. Incumbent President Buhari emerged as APC’s standard bearer.
Atiku, on November 24, 2017, announced his exit from APC, a party he helped to form.
On December 3, 2017, via a Facebook Live broadcast, Atiku announced his return to the PDP.
Again, he declared his candidacy for presidential nomination of the PDP mid-2018 and won the nomination at its convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on October 7. Atiku defeated 11 other contestants and got 1,532 votes, 839 more than the runner-up, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal.
The Adamawa-born politician lost the keenly contested 2019 presidential election to President Buhari of APC.