Buhari, Atiku, and 2019 presidential elections

Buhari, Atiku, and 2019 presidential elections

By Yemi Esho, Abuja

To the ordinary man on the street, 2019 is just two years away, but to Nigerian politicians, the 2019 general elections are here. There is no gain saying in the fact that politicians in this clime are desperate, power-craving and will do anything to achieve their desires at all cost.

Another election is looming, and 2019 will provide another platform for some politicians to come on board while few will retain their positions. Some governors will finish their second term tenure in 2019 and would want to ‘come and have a deserved rest’ at the Nigerian Senate which has now become ‘nest of former governors’. In like manner, some senators have agreed in principles, to offer their seats to the governors to become the ‘new sheriff’ in their various states. These are clear indications that the politicians do not have the interest of the masses at heart but to achieve their political and selfish goals.

At the federal level, it is going to be a big fight for the topmost position in the land between the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) who will want to consolidate on its hold to power, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is gradually picking back its pieces, warming itself back into Nigerians mind albeit through sentiments.

But for now, the Presidency battle is within the APC as the camps of President Muhammadu Buhari and former vice president Atiku Abubakar are not leaving anything to chances. To those in the President’s camp, there is no vacancy in Aso Rock Presidential Villa in 2019 until when their master completes his second term in 2023.

Just last year, the national caucus of the APC which comprises of serving and former governors, the National Assembly leadership, and selected members of the national executive of the party, during a meeting with the President at the Villa, had said that there would be no vacancy in the Presidency come 2019. The statement, AljazirahNigeria gathered, was to douse tension among party leaders who were divided over who will contest on the platform of the APC in 2019.

“With Buhari contesting in 2019, those who have been squabbling will now have to queue up behind him and put the interest of the party ahead”, a source was quoted.

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But the story seemed to have changed a year after as there have been alignments and realignments among party leaders who are worried about the health status of the President­­- Buhari has been in and out of hospitals for most part of 2017. Given the fact that the PDP has zoned its presidential ticket to the North, there are calls from some quarters that the President should take a bow in 2019 to allow a fitter and younger candidate to fly the party’s flag in the next general election. The PDP is leaving no stone unturned to reclaim the Presidency it lost in 2015, and this leaves the APC to put on its thinking cap, and come out with a candidate that will be acceptable to every geo-political zone in the country.

The ‘bombshell’ dropped by the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Jummai Alhassan, last month has shown that there is a division in the APC on who the 2019 presidential candidate of the party will be. The minister clearly stated that she would support Atiku Abubakar who she referred to as ‘godfather’ in 2019 whether the President Buhari contests or not.

Alhassan had professed her unalloyed loyalty for the former vice president when she led a delegation to visit Atiku. It is believed that the support of ‘Mama Taraba’ for the former number two man is not unconnected with the fact that Atiku is a big factor in APC North East, and a pillar of support from party members in the zone.

“Atiku is my godfather even before I joined politics.  And again, Baba Buhari did not tell us that he is going to run in 2019.

“Let me tell you today, that if Baba said he is going to contest in 2019, I swear to Allah, I will go before him and kneel and tell him that ‘Baba I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve in your government as a minister, but Baba, just like you know, I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather.

“If Atiku said he is going to contest. If because of what I said, I am sacked, it will not bother me because I believe in Allah, that my time has elapsed that is why,” she said.

For political analysts, it is glaring that the contest for the APC presidential ticket is strictly between Buhari and Atiku. However, they have a word of caution for Atiku, who, though has not declared his intention to run in 2019 but his comments and body language have confirmed this.

Atiku, they advised, should not be desperate for the Presidency as his desperation has landed him nowhere in the past because of his movement from one party to another. Atiku was advised to take a cue from Buhari who remained in the opposition, and contested for the Presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011, but realized his ambition in 2015.

“If I were Atiku, with due respect, I will not be desperate about power. It is God that gives power to whosoever he wishes. He should go for consultations with relevant stakeholders and if the coast is clear, he can throw his hats into the ring.

“He said he has been marginalized by those he helped to power. In fact, this is the time for him to meet with President Buhari and tell him about his plans, he may be able to convince Mr President to support his ambition, and that is why I said, ‘if the coast is clear’.

“Atiku should not deceive himself, whether he remains in the APC or jumps back to the PDP, Nigerians knows a lot about him,” says a political analyst who craved for anonymity.

 AljazirahNigeria recall that Atiku came third in the APC presidential primaries held in Lagos in December 2014 behind President Buhari and former Kano State governor and now senator, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. While Buhari got 3,430, Kwankwaso and Atiku got 974 and votes respectively. But for Atiku supporters, the time has come for Atiku to be compensated for the sacrifices he has made for Nigerian democracy to blossom, and his commitment to democratic ideals.

The loyalists and supporters argued that it was Atiku who stepped down for the late MKO Abiola at the defunct SDP presidential primaries in 1992. Also in 2003, Atiku allowed his boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for second term in office, even when he had the backing of the governors to contest. It was a decision Atiku will not forget in his lifetime as it continued to haunt him after Obasanjo betrayed his trust. He went further to contest the 2007 presidential election against Umaru Yar’Adua of PDP, and Muhammadu Buhari of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). They argued that it might be Atiku’s last shot at the Presidency at over 70 plus if he is denied the top job again. They described Atiku as a detribalized Nigerian who has built bridges across the length and breadth of the divides, AljazirahNigeria gathered.

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Atiku has systematically been making statements to warm his way into the consciousness of Nigerians, particularly as it relates to restructuring. He has said Nigeria will not progress if those at the helms of affairs refuse to do the necessary restructuring to move the country forward.

Atiku is experienced in politics, and he is the master of the game, coupled with his heavy financial war chest. He is secretly leaning towards the camp of Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu who, unarguably, helped Buhari realized his presidential ambition. Atiku and Asiwaju have come a long way since the days at the defunct Action Congress (AC) the platform which Atiku used to contest the presidency in 2007. There are unconfirmed reports that the two leading politicians are not happy with the way they have been schemed out of the present government by those who contributed nothing to how Buhari administration came to power.

AljazirahNigeria can also authoritatively report that the Atiku’s camp is also working on plan B should APC settles for the incumbent President in 2019. There are plans by Atiku to move back to the PDP to pick the presidential ticket. The PDP has not hidden its plan to hand Atiku the party’s presidential ticket as the party sees the former vice president as the only formidable Northern politician that can give President Buhari and APC a run for their money in 2019.

A confirmation of this was the statement released on Tuesday in Abuja by the PDP Renaissances Group (PDP-RG) saying the party is already clearing the coast for Atiku’s return. The national coordinator of the group, Chief Chyna Iwuanyanwu, said Atiku will be welcomed back to the party’s fold whenever he is ready to do so. He said the PDP has learnt a lot from the leadership crisis that rocked the party to its foundation and look forward with optimism.

“With the Olive branch being waved and the magnanimity of the present leadership of the PDP, the coast is being cleared for Atiku’s triumphant return. Vice President Atiku Abubakar has been in a political wilderness, in a strange land, cohabiting with strange bed fellows who are ideologically incompatible with his patriotic vision for Nigeria and his democratic antecedents and credentials,” he said.

There a lot of bridges to be crossed by the APC and the PDP as it relates to the 2019 general election. The question is; Will President Buhari do the ‘Mandela’ and allows Atiku to run or Atiku as usual will find his ‘level’ in the PDP? Only time will tell!


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