As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) prepares for national convention, gladiators eyeing the position of national chairmen are warming up. They are mainly from the South. This may have raised expectations that the main opposition party may zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the North. GBADE OGUNWALE reports
Atiku Abubakar: Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has not hidden his desire to contest for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 presidential election. While it may be too early in the day to weigh Atiku in the balance, developments in the party and projections in the months ahead will be crucial in determining his fate. For now, the terrain appears uncertain with the party embroiled in leadership crisis that is becoming difficult to resolve.
Born November 25, 1946, Atiku will be 77 in 2023. It’s a plus for him that his home state of Adamawa is in the firm control of the PDP. However, the preponderance of opinions among key stakeholders in the party do not favour a candidate in his age bracket. Similarly, not a few have come to tag him a “nomadic politician” for his numerous defections from one political party to the other in the course of his political career.
Also, he is widely considered detached from the PDP anytime the party is in turbulence, but only gets active in party affairs when it’s about time for presidential nominations. Several groups and individuals in the PDP have accused him of abandoning them shortly after he lost the 2019 presidential election. On the other hand, the present administration is widely perceived to have dealt several hard blows to his business interests and finances over alleged political differences. This is believed to have gravely sapped his political war chest and weakened his resource base. More so, many perceive that his political network and support base in different parts of the country may have diminished considerably.
The former Vice President has renewed his visibility in the public space in recent time. Given the mood of the nation, some analysts are of the view that his quest for the party’s 2023 presidential may not be as rewarding as it was the case in 2019. Atiku served as vice president to former President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007 on the platform of the PDP. He fell out with Obasanjo during the second tenure of the joint ticket and was forced to defect to the defunct Action Congress (AC) in 2006 while still serving as Vice President. Atiku got the presidential ticket of the AC and contested for president in 2007, but lost to the late Umaru Yar’Adua who ran on the platform of the PDP in a election the late Yar ‘Adua himself described as heavily flawed. Yar ‘Adua died in office in 2010 and was succeeded by his then deputy, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Atiku returned to the PDP shortly after Yar ‘Adua’s death and struggled in vain for the party’s presidential ticket in 2011. Jonathan picked the PDP ticket and went ahead to win the election.
Having perceived ahead of time that Jonathan was eying the PDP for the 2015 election, Atiku, again, in 2013, joined many other prominent PDP bigwigs to dump the PDP for the then newly formed mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). His quest for the APC presidential ticket for the 2015 election was frustrated by powerful forces within the APC who mobilised support for then General Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari had beaten other contestants to the APC ticket and had gone ahead to win the 2015 presidential election.
Having lost hope of getting the APC ticket for the 2019 election, Atiku, again returned to the PDP in 2017. He won the party’s presidential ticket and contested the election with incumbent President Buhari who got the APC ticket for a second term in 2019. Again, Atiku lost the election to Buhari. The former vice president had challenged Buhari’s victory up to the Supreme Court but eventually lost in his bid to have the election result upturned. Thereafter, the Waziri Adamawa went into political hibernation in Dubai where he stayed for about nine months. He returned to Nigeria in September 2020. His pubIic statements and interventions in topical national issues since his return suggest that he may vie for the PDP presidential ticket in 2023.
Atiku had, a few weeks ago, paid a visit to the Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt. Political event watchers perceive the visit as part of Atiku’s fence mending leg work towards the 2023 elections. He had clashed with Wike in the run up to the 2018 presidential primaries of the PDP when he outsmarted the Rivers Governor in the quest for the party’s 2019 ticket. Wike was widely believed to have mobilised support for his preferred candidate and political ally, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State.