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Atiku Abubakar has set out his stall rather nicely as he braces for yet another presidential run in 2019.
As usual, his media team is working overtime—issuing those barnstorming tweets, making sure their principal is in the news daily, issuing more press statements by the day and taking pictures of Atiku hunched over in a farm, drinking sachet water, watching Arsenal play or eating Jollof rice with school kids.
These guys do photo-ops better than most!
In the last couple of days, Atiku has erased all doubts concerning whether he’s going to run or not.
It all picked up steam when Aisha Alhassan who is serving as a minister in the Buhari cabinet referred to Atiku as “the next president of Nigeria come 2019”. As September nears its half way mark, Atiku has challenged anyone who considers him corrupt to come forth with evidence.
Atiku’s reputation as an alleged ‘thief’ has gone before him since Olusegun Obasanjo cut his then deputy to size between 1999 to 2007.
The strategy from Atiku’s camp appears to be to keep their candidate in the news well into the political party conventions of 2018 and 2019.
Atiku is a perennial presidential aspirant. He’s been looking for the top job since 1992. In 2014, he lost the APC presidential ticket to Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos. As a matter of fact, Atiku came third at the APC primary convention behind Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and the incumbent president.
Everything points to Buhari hurling his hat into the presidential ring again. You only need to listen carefully to the voices of Governors Nasir El-Rufai and Ibikunle Amosun to know that the president is seriously considering a re-election even with all the question marks surrounding his health. Some APC chieftains have also gone on the record to say they are backing a Buhari re-election.
If most of the Governors and APC chieftains are going to be rooting for Buhari at the convention, then Atiku has to begin looking for another platform from whence he can pit his wits against an incumbent president.
The smart money is on Atiku defecting to the PDP before 2015. When the man lamented that he has been sidelined by the APC controlled federal government he helped put in place, he was literally showing his hand. He’s not happy with the APC–simple.
Of course there are other political parties who’ll love to have Atiku launch his presidential bid from their rostrum but the PDP is Nigeria’s biggest opposition party at the moment with a chunk of States in its kitty. Atiku will want to go for a political party that already has a workable structure spread across the country as opposed to all the other parties; some of whom have no local government councilors to their names.
And there’s nothing the PDP will love more than Atiku going against Buhari, considering that Atiku’s support base spans across Nigeria and he’s considered urbane. Having a northerner with plenty of appeal and name recognition going against Buhari could be what the Doctor ordered for the PDP.
In the unlikely event that Buhari doesn’t seek a re-election, Atiku will still find it difficult rallying the APC base behind him. Most of the APC top brass still consider Atiku unelectable and loathe his guts. Some say he’s not a dyed-in-the-wool progressive—whatever that means.
Atiku has swapped political parties in the past just so he could realise his presidential ambition. He’ll likely do so again. The man desperately wants to lead Nigeria and if swapping political parties is a means to that end, you bet he’ll take that route without giving a hoot.
It’s still early days, though. There’ll be plenty of developments in the political circuit in the months before 2019. Permutations at this point could be wide of the mark and premature. There’s still plenty of alignment and realignment ahead.
But here’s something you can take to the bank: the ‘Atiku for president’ campaign has since set sail and may be heading to a harbour near you.