OPINION: Atiku, PDP, And Sheriff’s Allegation, by Tunde Rahman

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Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has denied the accusation linking him with the current crisis tearing at the heart of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The factional Chairman of the opposition party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, claimed the quest for the party’s presidential ticket for the 2019 election was the main cause of the PDP crisis.

He had also alleged that one of the party’s founding fathers had a hand in it all.  In a recent interview with African Independent Television (AIT), the embattled chairman accused Governor Nyesom Wike and former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, of plotting to hand over the party’s presidential ticket to a prominent leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“Wike and Secondus are working to give the party’s ticket in 2019 to a man in APC, a man that is not even bold enough to leave the APC and join us. He was in the PDP before. He was a founding father of the PDP,” Sheriff said, adding, “I don’t have to mention him (his name). Secondus himself told me that he and Wike always meet this man to strategise on 2019. I told him that it is wrong; if the man is bold enough, let him come and join us now”.

Sheriff was apparently referring to Atiku. And the former vice president knows this that much, which was why he quickly responded to the allegation. He said he had no hand in the PDP crisis. Sheriff has not provided any evidence yet to contradict Atiku’s denial.

He did not even tender any evidence to back his statement beyond his claim that Secondus allegedly told him that he (Secondus) and Wike had been meeting Atiku to strategise on 2019. While it may be true that Atiku has no hand in the crisis rocking PDP at present, it may not be true that Atiku has no eye on 2019 presidential race, and the former vice president has not said so either.

Denying Sheriff’s allegation, Atiku, in a terse statement on his Twitter handle @ Atiku, merely said:”Former VP @ Atiku has no hand in PDP crisis”.

The former vice president nurses a burning ambition to occupy the topmost office in the land. He is a veteran of presidential contests in the country.

There is hardly any race for the nation’s presidency he didn’t enlist in since he first indicated interest in the job in 1992 on the platform of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).

That year, he ran a tight race with late business mogul, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, for SDP’s ticket, eventually losing the ticket to Abiola after a second ballot. Atiku’s undying ambition to be president is widely known. That ambition is believed to have played a part in the ill-tempered face-off between him and President Obasanjo, which rocked their administration from the beginning of Obasanjo’s second term in 2003 till the very end of that regime. Also, that presidential ambition has seen Atiku in and out of PDP like Sheriff said.

In 2007, he contested for the presidency on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the party he ran to when President Olusegun Obasanjo completely annihilated him in PDP and muscled him out of the party, not without putting up a ferocious resistance though. Four years earlier, the time many political analysts saw as his biggest opportunity because Obasanjo’s fabled magnificence was already downhill, Atiku failed to join the race because he was largely indecisive.

Instead, he accepted to be Obasanjo’s running mate on PDP platform, even though the strain was already noticeable in their union. He returned again to PDP in 2011 to contest for the party’s ticket with a sitting President Goodluck Jonathan. Of course, he lost woefully.

In 2015 and as one of the political heavyweights that birthed the then-opposition All Progressives Congress, Atiku again came out to contest for the party’s presidential ticket at a time the clamour for General Muhammadu Buhari to mount the saddle was at its zenith. He came a distant third, behind Buhari and former Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa kwankwanso. Buhari won the ensuing presidential poll, defeating incumbent President Jonathan.

Now, will Atiku throw his hat into the ring for the 2019 presidential contest? Big question! Let me first say that whatever Atiku decides to do in respect of 2019 is his choice.

If he decides to run, he will be exercising his fundamental human right. He is eminently qualified for the office. He knows his onions. He is articulate and has wide network of contacts nationally and internationally. He is clear-headed and has outstanding ideas about what he wants to do for this country if he emerges president. His prescription on restructuring as a panacea for resolving the nation’s political problems, which he unfolded the other day in Abuja, was profound and insightful.

I had argued elsewhere before that I would prefer leaders like Atiku who over the years had laboured laboriously, fought courageously to be president and prepared elaborately for the office to mount the saddle some day as opposed to some others like Obasanjo, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan who had to be goaded into the race and foisted on us when they did not struggle for the office and appeared ill- prepared for it.

But my sense is though the present administration is still battling to make the desired impact and the people are yet to get the ‘change’ they voted for and also we do not know yet what Buhari will do in respect of 2019 race (whether he will do a Mandela option), Atiku will be embarking on another wild goose chase if he ventures into the 2019 presidential race. Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade, even with its alleged imperfection, is been waged stubbornly and the president is being applauded at home and abroad for it.

That trend seems irreversible and the crusade may sound the death knell of those who have corruption baggage in their bid to occupy leadership positions in future. Atiku is battling the public perception that he is generally corrupt, which may hunt him in 2019, the same albatross that may hunt former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, to his grave.

Obasanjo’s rare rejoinder

It’s not usually in the character of former President Obasanjo to say something and turn round to deny it. He would say something and would stand by what he said. So when the former president denied the statement credited to him in the media that three or four of them from different parts of the country got together and brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power in 2015 (perhaps the same way three or four Northerners brought him (Obasanjo) to power in 1999 from prison), I verily believed him.

But the statement credited to him is also believable. Obasanjo was reported to have made the statement at a reception organised for him in Jalingo, Taraba State capital where he went on a visit. He has, however, issued a denial, saying nobody can claim glory for Buhari’s election. The problem, as I indicated earlier, is the statement credited to him is believable.

It is in synch with the former president’s character to revel in incredulous vain-glory, in moral righteousness. He likes to see himself as that super being that knows all the nation’s problems and the solutions to them. The sad thing, however, is when he was catapulted to power again in 1999, 20 years after he voluntarily handed over power to a civilian as a military leader, it was n’t a jolly ride to Eldorado for the country as many had expected. Obasanjo tried his best but through some self-conceited decisions and actions, which again was a throw-back to his persona; his era turned out not exactly a glorious one.

It’s all well and good that Obasanjo acknowledged that Buhari was brought to power by the collective will of the people, not by any single person or group. A majority of Nigerians voted for Buhari because they were yearning for ‘change’ from the clueless government of President Goodluck Jonathan. More than one year after that historic vote, have the people gotten the ‘change’ they happily voted for? Big question!

Rahman, former Editor Thisday on Sunday, is Managing Editor of Western Post. Follow him on Twitter @tunderahmanu.

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