Nigeria‘s first Vice-President in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Government at inception in 1999, Mr. Atiku Abubakar is once again back in his beloved PDP. It is important we have a clear and critical look at former customs officer Mr. Atiku, the politician, to appreciate what 2019 could turn out to be in Nigerian politics. This is because his political history is inextricably linked to that of the party he was a key architect of.
Mr. Atiku has been a prominent stakeholder shaping developments in the polity since the return to civilian rule in 1999. He was later at the forefront of the battle to return power to the people by tackling the impunity of his party in the National Assembly, in court and in the court of public opinion. Ironically, he is a leader and hitman of the team that in the first place seized it from the people under the guise of civil democracy in PDP.
This morning we shall start the first part of the journey to trace what we can of that history on these pages.
His earliest entry into Nigerian politics that we know of was as a member of Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua’s Patriotic Front (PF). The PF became Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) in General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB)’s transition to civil democracy of the late 1980s.
That meandering transition was chaotically truncated by the gap-toothed Military President in June 1993, forcing him to “step aside” leaving us to the untidy Ernest Shonekan Interim contraption sacked by General Sani Abacha after a mere 83 days in office.
Before then, Mr. Atiku Abubakar had risen rapidly to prominence in politics and in the SDP, as the literally unknown alternative to General Shehu Musa Yar’adua presented at the Jos Convention as a presidential candidate of the PDM camp in the “little to the left” Social Democratic Party (SDP), one of the two political parties allowed by IBB. His camp was to be forced to work with the core of the SDP progressives led by the old breed, the Muhammad Abubakar Rimis, the Solomon Daushep Lars, the Sule Lamidos etc. Most of these politicians had been banned by then and more were to be banned again.
IBB got to terminate his transition to civil rule after numerous experiments with the nation’s political class in which he had banned, unbanned and re-banned all manner of persons, creating the “New Greed” New Breed politician the Nigerian military wanted to foist on the rest of us. Mr. Atiku was one of the earliest beneficiaries of that New Breed concept who ended up as merely a caricature of the semi-original that his leader, General Yar’adua himself represented.
Mr. Atiku Abubakar was of the PDP founding team spawned by G-34, sponsored by a faction of the Nigerian military with the support of the naturally aggrieved politicians, mainly of the progressive camp who had battled the military for annulling the SDP’s MKO Abiola vs NRC’s Bashir Tofa elections on June 12 of 1992.
Mr. Atiku, a key actor in Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua’s political camp in SDP benefited from his political group’s goodwill in the permutations that established the Obasanjo PDP Presidency. As VP he was to provide the needed political muscle for the military politicians in the PDP who used Obasanjo to snatch power from the more established civilian politicians who’d sweated and suffered persecution, jail and loss of life and limb in numerous cases, to force the transition.
Right from take off of the Government, Mr. Atiku made to prove himself a loyal hireling of Obasanjo and the military politicians behind the PDP. These overly secular militarist and insecure politicians led by IBB and his retired military boys, had by then gotten the upper hand against the largely Muslim North, using the PDP and government political machine’s tentacles to effectively manipulate all other political parties, suborning them to the will of the PDP. They enthroned the jackboot impunity that PDP was to present as its face and no doubt its dubious principal contribution to Nigerian politics in all of its 16 years of its form of “civilian democracy”, a practise that was to lead to its final (?) undoing in 2015.
Despite holding the prestigious Islamic Sakkwato Caliphate traditional title of Turakin Adamawa, Mr. Atiku Abubakar as Vice President issued a Public Press Statement asking that he should be called “Mister” Atiku. This was obviously a move to distance himself from what some of the western educated elite of the North see as Islamic Northern conservative which they point to as the culprit in the North’s stagnation since the massacre of its first generation of leaders, the Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Ribadu and co. They wouldn’t look to their roles, their failings, their disconnect with their base as a more likely culprit.
Anyway, the VP said he preferred “Simply Mr” to “Alhaji” or even “Malam”, a tag most of us regular Muslim Northerners cherish for its portrayal of humility and the respect it conjures. Atiku preferred “Mr” to “Alhaji”, the title he sported to get elected as Governor and get promoted Vice President to Obasanjo.