By Rotimi Fasan
WHEN during the run-up to the 2007 general elections former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, left the Peoples Democratic Party he must have been convinced of the rightness of his action. For someone who had nursed the ambition to be president for as long as when he first announced his entry into party politics in the early 1990s, perhaps the only path left for him after the rebuff from his party was the one that led out of it.
He was clearly enveloped in a feeling of righteous anger denied, as he had been, of the presidential ticket that until then seemed his for the asking. But he had not reckoned with the vaulting ambition of his boss, then president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjoâ€™s desire to create yet another record for himself in Nigerian politics, seeking an unconstitutional third term, as he approached the end of his second four-year term would pitch him in a do-or-die battle with his deputy. It was a dirty encounter that led to even dirtier revelations- revelations bordering on corrupt use and abuse of office that could have easily earned both combatants several years behind the bars in saner societies.
But this was Nigeria where anything and everything is excusable once it carries the tag of politics. And so it was that Obasanjo played the dog in a manger and passed a ticket Atiku had all but concluded was his to the obscure governor from Katsina, Umaru Yarâ€™Adua.
In true sour-grape mood Atiku poured scorn on both Obasanjo and the PDP and left in a huff for the rival Action Congress to pursue his presidential ambition.
The disagreement between Atiku and Obasanjo on one hand and the one between Atiku and the PDP on the other hand did not end with the departure of Atiku from PDP. It would be accentuated by the grubby performance of the opposition parties, including Atikuâ€™s AC in the 2007 elections against the background of what many considered the highly exaggerated victory of the PDP.
A hurried alliance between Mohammadu Buhari and Atiku shortly after the latter left the PDP would not hold largely due to the unwillingness of either men to accept the leadership of the other. Atiku would continue in the AC even as he actively campaigned against the PDP. But since there are no permanent enemies in politics except permanent interests Atiku would, in due course, make peace with Obasanjo, even holding hands with the man as in happier times.
This earned him the anger and scorn of some of his supporters and other â€˜victimsâ€™ of Obasanjoâ€™s highhandedness who saw his action as a betrayal of their shared disdain if not outright hatred of the farmer in Ota.
There is no doubt that Atikuâ€™s peace moves were motivated with an eye on 2011. Even while he was in the AC he was always associated with the PDP which many in the party and, indeed, some of his supporters believed he would return to at the appropriate hour.
He had never given up on his desire to be president and since the PDP, â€˜Africaâ€™s largest partyâ€™,Â seemed best positioned to bring this about and Obasanjoâ€™s hold on the party after eight years as party leader cannot be discounted, it was understandable that Atiku would take a trip to Obasanjoâ€™s home. But this move, as much as anything else he had ever done to drive his presidential aspirations, showed Atiku as yet just another politician- one who would do anything to realise his ambition.
As Atiku made the round of his â€˜enemiesâ€™â€™ homes so did he play down his links with the AC and speculations increased that he was about returning to the PDP. The Turaki kept quiet, said as little as he could and continued with his moves which culminated in a return to the PDP a couple of weeks back.
With many long salivating on the possibility of Atiku, power house of pre-2007 PDP, returning to a home he founded alongside others, the question seemed to be when he would be going back not if he would be allowed back into the fold of his old party. Atiku, it seemed, only needed to say he was ready to return to the PDP and he would be welcomed, prodigal-child style, with both hands.
The story is, however, turning out to be different as â€˜enemiesâ€™ determined to thwart him appear to be mushrooming along his way back. This time itâ€™s not Obasanjo but the former Vice Presidentâ€™s own kinsmen and women in Adamawa that are after him.
The local PDP in the State seemed bent on keeping Atiku out of their fold. For them there could be no better place for their former mentor than the Biblical outer darkness where there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Itâ€™s ironic that this would be happening to Atiku, and at this hour of his political life.
The tendency among Nigerian politicians to both cross and crisscross carpet is one that should be deplored by all right thinking people. But even more dangerous is the arrogant presumption on the part of some that they can deny a fellow citizen the right of association. Itâ€™s true that there is no love lost between Atiku and many leading politicians from his State.
That is, however, no reason why he should be barred from associating with those who still wish to be with him. The PDP should recognise that a party that cannot be trusted to live by civilised standards in its dealings with one of its own cannot be trusted to do so by the rest of Nigerians.
There is a limit to this kind of destructive politics and it would seem the PDP is at that point right now. For a party whose leadership is at present harried and gasping for survival, continuing in its destructive ways of old might just be the last nail in its coffin. Indeed, the ongoing infighting in the PDP gives one the impression that by the time the likes of Atiku return to it what theyâ€™ll find might be worse than the shadow of â€˜Africaâ€™s largest partyâ€™.
That if nothing else might be some consolation for those whoâ€™d longed looked forward to the expiration of one of Africaâ€™s most inept parties.