By Dirisu Yakubu
It started in the Garden City last week when in the full glare of thousands of Nigerians and millions of others watching live on television screens, he beat 11 others to the sole Presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to run for the office of the President in the 2019 general elections. But Atiku Abubakar, is gradually morphing into a national figure capable of ousting the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2019.
Against all odds stashed against him by some governors elected on the platform of the PDP, Atiku clinched the PDP ticket in grand style, almost tripling the votes garnered by bookmakers’ favourite and governor of Sokoto State Aminu Tambuwal, who came second on the log.
On Thursday, Atiku, accompanied by top religious leaders including ace Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah and the Presiding Bishop of Living Faith Church Worldwide, David Oyedepo and PDP chieftains, made up of the national chairman Prince Uche Second us and ex-Ogun state governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, met with his former principal, President Olusegun Obasanjo at his Abeokuta residence.
Obasanjo who had before now, stood in the way of Atiku’s aspiration to the highest elective office in the land, not only forgave Atiku for his “wrongdoing” in the frosty relationship that characterised their relationship in the past, but also described him as Nigeria’s President in waiting.
“Let me start by congratulating President-to-be, Atiku Abubakar, for his success at the recent PDP primaries and I took note of his gracious remarks in his acceptance speech that it all started here.
“Yes, when it started, it was meant for Atiku to succeed Obasanjo. In the presence of these distinguished leaders of goodwill today, let me say it openly that we have reviewed what went wrong on the side of Atiku. And in all honesty, my former Vice-President has re-discovered and re-positioned himself. As I have repeatedly said, it is not so much what you did against me that was the issue but what you did against the party, the government and the country.
“I took the stand I had taken based on the character and attributes you exhibited in the position you found yourself. I strongly believe that I was right. It was in the overall interest of everyone and everything to take such a position.
“From what transpired in the last couple of hours or so, you have shown remorse; you have asked for forgiveness and you have indicated that you have learnt some good lessons and you will mend fences and make amends as necessary and as desirable.
“Whenever or wherever you might have offended me, as a Christian who asks for God’s forgiveness of my sins and inadequacies on daily basis, I forgive and I sincerely advise you to learn from the past and do what is right and it will be well with you.
“Obviously, you have mended fences with the party and fully reconciled with the party. That’s why today, you are the Presidential candidate of the party. In addition to appreciating all that the party has done for you, may I advise you to work together with all those who contested for the party’s flag with you as a team for your campaign,” Obasanjo stated.
Obasanjo, who many argued spoke for the nation”s retired military power base, further notified Atiku that though there were areas at home and abroad left to be addressed; he would do his level best to make sure the field is made level for the PDP candidate to test his popularity at the polls.
He added: “There are still areas, nationally and internationally, where you have to mend fences and make amends. You will know how to handle what is already out and what may yet be put out by the opposition. But, I am convinced that if you continue with the attitude that brought you here with these distinguished leaders of goodwill, with remorse and contrite heart, the rest of the coast within and outside the country can be cleared. And if there is anything I can do and you want me to do in that respect, I will do.
“I am sure with the right attitude for change where necessary, and by putting lessons learned by you to work, you will get the understanding, cooperation, support and mandate – all at the national level. With Nigerians voting for you, it will mean that you secure their forgiveness and regain their confidence.
“It will be with the hope or assurance of a Paul on the road to Damascus conversion. After all, change and conversion are of man. I believe that with a contrite heart, change is possible in everybody’s life and situation.
“For me, relatively and of all the aspirants in the PDP, you have the widest and greatest exposure, experience, outreach and possibly the best machinery and preparation for seeing the tough and likely dirty campaign ahead through. From what I personally know of you, you have capacity to perform better than the incumbent. You surely understand the economy better; you have business experience, which can make your administration business-friendly and boost the economy and provide jobs.”
“You have better outreach nationally and internationally and that can translate to better management of foreign affairs. You are more accessible and less inflexible and more open to all parts of the country in many ways. As Pastor Bakare, one-time running mate of the incumbent President said, “You are a wazobia man.” And that should help you in confronting the confrontable and shunning nepotism,” he added.
Speaking as if Atiku has been confirmed the President of the country after the elections, Obasanjo charged him to “uphold truth, integrity, principles, morality and fight corruption, crimes and insurgency. The fundamental law of the land, our constitution must be scrupulously defended. I make one demand and one demand on you today. I need you to say before God and man that you will always remain irrevocably committed to upholding all the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the whole country will remain your single indivisible constituency.”
Atiku has been enjoining Nigerians to settle for a candidate with knowledge of the economy and job creation, stating that in private and public life; he has left his marks in that regards. Are Nigerians set to witness a change in the leadership of their country with the election of Atiku in 2019?