Atiku is touted as the most experienced presidential candidate by his supporters; but what actually is the substance of this experience, others ask
By Dr. Rufus Omeire
The PDP Action 2023, a pressure group for good governance within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) views with consternation the recent letter sent to PDP governors by Mr. Segun Sowunmi, the erstwhile spokesman of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria, rejecting what he called a “kindergarten President and Commander-in-Chief” for PDP.
Sowunmi further said in the letter that: “Everyone wants to be President after Buhari but not everyone can do the work that a postBuhari President will be called upon to do. Presidential powers and privileges mean nothing if the prerequisite experience is absent. We cannot jump from frying pan to fire.”
His reference to a kindergarten President could mean abhorrence of a young man as President, preferring instead a septuagenarian like Atiku to lead Nigeria, or preference for an experienced political leader, rather than a relatively new person. But is Atiku’s experience more relevant than his competitors?
In the media, some of the following are speculated to be interested in running for President under the PDP banner. They include Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Bala Mohammed. Some have mentioned Governor Nyesom Wike as a possible contender too.
Of course, we also have Mr. Sam Ohuabunwa and Ovation boss, Dele Momodu. Apart from Atiku who is 75, others are mostly in their 50s. Is Sowunmi saying that only those in their 70s are preferred presidential candidates rather than the relatively younger ones he described as kindergarten candidates? With respect to relevant experience for the top job, let us x-ray the candidates.
Atiku Abubakar’s public sector experience consists of Deputy Director of Customs, a subordinate position. He never became Chief Executive of Customs and Excise Department. The buck never for one day stopped on his table in the Customs Service.
He became Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a highly exalted office, but he was never a Chief Executive. He only carried out instructions of his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. He never had the experience of a Chief Executive. The buck never stopped on his table. The President could accept or reject his recommendations.
He didn’t have relevant direct experience of the top job. So wherein lies the famed experience of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar? He clearly doesn’t have the requisite public sector experience. Does he have private sector experience? Atiku is not Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Jim Ovia, Tony Elumelu or Mike Adenuga. He is not a known manufacturer of goods and services.
His well-known company is INTELS which he set up with others; hardly a recommendation for presidential office. One thing he has done very well is to run a winning primaries campaign in defunct political party, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and PDP.
Is that enough experience for President? Other candidates seem to have better public sector experience, some have solid private sector experience as chief executives. Tambuwal, Saraki and Anyim headed houses of the legislature at the federal level as chief executives. The buck stopped on their tables as Speaker and Presidents of the Senate.
Talking about experience on the job, maybe Sowunmi should have also talked about his boss’ attitude on abandoning ship mid sea, the way he did to PDP after the 2019 presidential election, in which the PDP invested its ticket and hopes in him which he wasted partly because of the argument of experience and inevitability.
He even lost four of the six states in the North East, winning his home State of Adamawa with only 30,000 votes. Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed, Wike and Saraki have relevant executive experience as governors. They have seen it all from the executive point of view.
They took decisions at the executive level in their states and have direct and first-hand experience in formulation and execution of government policies. Ohuabunwa was chief executive of a publicly quoted company, NEIMETH, and helmsman at Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria (MAN).
Sowunmi should find other grounds to market Atiku, his boss, rather than flaunting his old age and questionable relevant experience. He should further desist from this unnecessary insults on other aspirants whom Atiku might have to support after the primaries.
Hon Dr. Omeire, National Chairman of the PDP ACTION 2023, wrote in from Abuja