By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Atiku Abubakar: A dogged fighterAtiku Abubakar  was born in 1946 and joined Nigeria Customs and Excise Department in 1969.  Atiku was a political godson of  late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua . He  joined  Nigerian politics in late 1989 after his  retirement from the Nigeria Customs Service  in the Peoples Front (PF), which later became the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

Atiku was the PF faction’s candidate for SDP’s Adamawa gubernatorial ticket which ended in chaotic primary. But his  journey to political  greatness began in  1999 when  he won the governorship of Adamawa State on the platform of  Peoples Democratic Party .

He was not sworn in as governor before  he was  nominated  as PDP’s Vice Presidential candidate, and he  resigned as governor-elect, handed the mandate to his deputy-elect and later became  Vice President of  Nigeria. His deputy-elect ,Boni Haruna who later became governor worked with him to maintain hold in his home state.

Before his recent emergence as the favourite of the Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) as  consensus candidate to seek the ruling PDP’s presidential ticket, his political base seemed to be in shambles, especially occasioned by what transpired in the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that saw him moving over to Action Congress on which platform he contested presidential election in 2007 and lost. Atiku Abubakar gradually lost bearing with opposition and retraced his steps to his old party, PDP.

Atiku’s journey back to PDP was not an easy one. His was a typical example of a man who swallowed the proverbial humble pie . Friends and foes nearly crucified him and  sour grapes were thrown at him when he made his controversial visit to Ota, in Abeokuta to visit his former boss, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.

That visit was aptly described as the road to perdition and this was almost true as the visit did not better the relationship between the two. Rather, they grew further apart and his boss was never known to have given his blessing to Atiku’s return to PDP or his presidential ambition.

Atiku and Jonathan

Atiku’s constituency in  Adamawa PDP branch led by Governor Murtala Nyako also blocked his return to the PDP, and in turn denied he ever returned to the  party at its ward level.  But if the former Vice President surmounted that difficulty, he was to face further challenges at  the national leadership of  PDP  which cited a section of its constitution that would block Atiku from contesting 2011 presidential election as a returnee. Severally, the PDP announced that Atiku had no waiver but he insisted the Ekwueme committee granted him waiver. The leadership of the party was to later let sleeping dogs lie.

The cat and dog relationship that existed between Atiku Abubakar and former President Obasanjo when Atiku was Vice President was not shrouded in secrecy. It was a relationship that was dogged by many court cases.

It was speculated that the quarrel which began before the second leg of their tenure as President and Vice President was sparked off  when a section of the North tried to use Atiku to subdue OBJ. Obasanjo allegedly got wind of the plot but couldn’t do anything because the second leg of their elections was fast approaching but after they secured victory at the polls, former President Obasanjo revealed to him the stuff he was made of.

He sacked some of  his aides,  rejected  his ministerial nominees and stripped him of all influence in their regime. He openly described him as disloyal. Their relationship went from bad to worse with the purported plan by  Obasanjo to secure another  term in office; a third term. Atiku  was one of those who stood against the plot and ensured that it did not succeed.

The way and manner the PDP was subsequently administered saw an exodus of a significant number of members  including governors, senators and other high profile members including the current National Chairman of the party, Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo who had a fling with All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.

All Atiku’s men left PDP and joined the Action Congess, AC. Obasanjo in turn made sure Atiku did not succeed him and gave his blessing to the then Governor of  Katsina state, Umaru Yar’adua. Atiku was to contest 2007 presidential elections on the platform of AC even still as Vice President. An attempt to stripe Atiku of  his position as Vice President failed.

Obasanjo’s continued use of power of incumbency frustrated Atiku Abubakar but he patiently prayed his way out of difficulties through the court. Many believed the 2007 presidential election was manipulated by Obsasanjo through INEC. The score sheet of results  revealed  Atiku  was allocated 2.6 million votes, against Umaru Yar’adua’s 24.6 million and General Buhari’s 6.6 million.

After the victory of  2007 elections which was ‘won’ by Umaru Yar’ Adua, many believe Atiku Abubakar was politically finished. But he is a man used to battles and never left undone anything he had to do to achieve victory.

Atiku Abubakar is perceived as a very detribilised Nigerian. He married his wives from the three major tribes in Nigeria: Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. He did not want to be addressed as an Alhaji and some of  his wives were Christains.

His strengths

He is the beneficiary of an elimination process based on the records of past heads of state produced by each of the three geo political zones of the North. Other geo political zones in the North have produced heads of state except North East where Atiku Abubakar comes from which has produced only Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the first Prime Minister.

If zoning in the PDP constitution should be taken at its face value, Atiku may be a favoured candidate. Atiku is known to be the consensus candidate of the North and if we go by the calculation that PDP would produce the next president, Atiku would be most favoured . Already, he has the support of the  Arewa power bloc.

If the North goes all out for him, Atiku could garner 69% of votes at PDP presidential primary because the North has more states, more local governments, more elected officials in government  and therefore more delegates to the PDP convention as aginst the South’s 31%.  Atiku could also garner some votes from the South due to personal relationships.

His first wife Titi is from the South West  and his last wife, Jennifer Iwenjora from the South East . Although Ohanaeze has thrown its weight behind Jonathan , that is not total. A large chunk of Igbos would still go all the way with Atiku Abubakar as a political leader and  son-in law. Being an in- law of the Yorubas and the Igbos projects him as a detribalised Nigerian which is what Nigeria is clamouring for : a leader without ethnic or relgious bias which he has proved by not going by the title of an’Alhaji’.

Atiku Abubakar is also using the campaign organisations of  former President Ibrahim Babangida, Bukola Saraki and General Gusau and that will take him a long way if properly applied.

His major political weakness could be his association with  former President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he worked with as Vice President. Atiku cannot be completely exonerated from what  administration did wrong and he is perceived to have joined the opposition for selfish reasons. His returning to his old party after a dismal outing and trying to make up with Obasanjo afterwards project him as an unstable politician.

What his opponents could use against him is his emergence as Northern consensus candidate which puts an ethnic clause to his candidacy. In that regards, he could be called an ethnic jingoist.

Moreover, although it is believed that Atiku has the backing of other consensus aspirants and would use their campaign organisations to advantage, that is not known to be a guarantee as Atiku has an issue from the past with  former President Ibrahim Babangida when  both were still young officers in Customs  and the Army respectively.

Except that has been forgotten, it may likely come up in the future of his presidential aspiration to work for or against him. And like a saying goes, in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies but interests, his co-travellers in comsensus could decide to try other political parties.

And there is the incumbency factor of Jonathan to reckon with.

Political backers
*Arewa groups
* Northern Political Leaders Forum

* Consensus aspirants
* Adamu Ciroma , Jemibewon, Audu Ogbe, MZ Anka, Bello Kirfi, Ricky Tarfa, Magaji Dambatta, MD Yusufu and Shaaba Lafiagi.

*Northern governors

Atiku’s Views on how to run government
Atiku Abubakar had at occasions voiced his opinion on how  government should be run .

The challenge, according to him  is achieving sustainable economic growth that  would translate into real change in the lives of the vast majority of Nigerians.  In doing so, a coherent set of policies is required and top on his list  are:

Job Creation
From surveys he conducted nationwide, Atiku concluded that the single most important issue for most Nigerians today is job creation. In spite of the economic growth recorded in recent years, the economy is simply not growing quickly enough to absorb the numbers joining the labour market each year.

Furthermore, economic growth recorded in the last five (5) years has had little effect in creating sustainable jobs, thereby leading to a reduction of public support for much needed economic reforms. The problem is made more acute by the fact that a significant number of seemingly employed individuals are under-employed and, therefore, not operating to their maximum potential.

To him, government must, directly play an active role in providing an enabling environment for:
1.    The development of entrepreneurs through high impact job creation initiatives, who will in turn employ others,

2.    Encouraging infrastructure development that is inherently labour intensive (especially in conjunction with the private sector);

3.    Resuscitation of industrial activity as a fall out of the improved infrastructure e.g. power
4.    Accelerating the growth/opening up other service sectors that are labour intensive
a.    Law and order
b.    Teaching
c.    Health services
d.    Sports and entertainment

Economic Transformation
Job creation, he believes , must be complemented with economic transformation. Economic transformation in this context refers to changes with the capacity to have a deep and meaningful impact on the Nigerian economy. Some of the economic transformation initiatives are outlined within the Infrastructure section (steady electricity supply and development of a modern road and rail network, development of a gas pipeline network). Others include restructuring the Federal Government and implementation of property reforms.

In achieving transformation, he opines that  attention needs to be paid to comparative advantage. In certain circumstances, comparative advantage can be created, and we need not therefore assume it a natural endowment.  The concept of comparative advantage should be linked with SMEs in order to develop value adding products/activities where Nigeria can develop a comparative advantage over a period. Government can create the enabling environment for this to be achieved.

Power Sector
The absence of a stable and effective power system is perhaps the single most important factor militating against a sustained growth of the Nigerian economy.  Governments have in the past made promises on improvements in electricity supplies all of which have failed to materialize. It is estimated that a stable electricity supply system will lead to a 25 percent increase in the rate of economic growth.

The power sector is presently in a crisis, and the Nigerian people expect the next government to ensure that the electricity supply situation records a significant year on year improvement within the shortest possible time.

Indeed the success or otherwise of the next government may be determined largely by whether or not it is able to improve the power supply crisis. The national grid presently operates on a radial system, which is extremely fragile and prone to breakdowns. Due to the fragility of the national grid, generation levels above 3,500MW frequently lead to national system collapses. Construction of new power stations, rehabilitation and expansion of transmission and distribution networks are currently underway to bridge the

I.    Continued restructuring of institutional and organizational structure of the industry premised on competition and choice

II.    Clear definition on the role of government to focus on policy formulation, direction for the industry, support and legislation, while the role of the private sector will focus on operation and development of the industry

III.    Independent and effective economic and technical regulation to attract private sector participation and investment while concomitantly protecting the public interest

IV.    Appropriate industry structure will have to be based on the overarching objective of providing electricity services to the generality of Nigerians at reasonable costs while ensuring the financial viability and long-term development of the industry
Law and Order

The deterioration in the country’s infrastructure is matched by a similar deterioration in the law and order system. The fact is that Nigeria today is a country in the midst of a social crisis – a crisis reflected in the increasing deterioration in the country’s law and order system. The most symbolic manifestation of this situation is the increasing inability of the Nigerian state to protect the lives and properties of its citizens, and to impose its authority over large swathes of armed groups of people across the length and breadth of the country.

Whether Ethnic militia, Area boys, Bakassi boys, Yan daba, Yan kallare etc, sizeable groups have emerged which molest and terrorise innocent people and boldly challenge the state’s authority, and with each successful mission, the groups become further emboldened. Where they are caught, the judicial system is not sufficiently configured to efficiently dispense justice while the prisons are in need of reform before they can reform prisoners.

A robust enforcement mechanism is needed for the improvement of the investment climate. Investors are deterred by the failure of dispute resolution.

It is therefore ironic that in the aftermath of a return to democracy, the nation’s institutions for and system of law and order should continue to deteriorate. It is even more ironic that in a democratic system, governments across all tiers (Federal; State and Local Government) should contribute to this state of affairs by consistently disobeying court orders/rulings thereby encouraging others in disregarding court orders/rulings.

All the major institutions (the Police, the Judiciary, the Prisons) are in need of structural transformation, that is., a concerted and well co-ordinated effort is needed to improve access to justice, law enforcement capabilities and the state of Nigerian prisons.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.