Thursday’s Supreme Court judgment has once again dashed the hope of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of becoming the President of the most populous black nation, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes
The Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of all courts in Nigeria, on Thursday laid to rest the claim by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar; that the 2023 presidential election was rigged in favour of the All Progressives Congress.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the APC’s candidate, President Bola Tinubu, and dismissed the former Vice-President’s appeal for lacking merit.
Atiku, who was born in November 1946, started his five-time failed attempts for the office of the President in 2007.
Atiku, a product of consultation and political calculation, became the Vice President to former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who won on the platform of the PDP after the return of the country to democratic rule in 1999. Expectedly, things did not go as planned, as the ambitious Atiku and his boss were at each other’s throats.
Dumped by the former President and a few stakeholders in the PDP, Atiku sought cover and defected to the defunct Action Congress, a party formed and solely financed by the former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu. Favoured by Tinubu’s group and the financial muscle, Atiku emerged as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress.
Interestingly, Atiku lost the election to late President Umaru Yar’adua of the PDP, Obasanjo’s anointed candidate. Atiku came a distant third with over 2.4 million votes in the controversial 2007 election which many observers described as a charade.
After his unsuccessful presidential bid, Atiku dumped the AC and retraced his step back to the PDP. Expectedly, in 2011, the Adamawa-born politician, again, threw his hat into the ring. Though he emerged as the PDP’s most favoured candidate in the North; he was roundly defeated by former President, Goodluck Jonathan, who was backed by Obasanjo and some other Nigerians at the Eagle Square in Abuja.
In a quest to fulfill his long-time dream, Atiku, whom many political pundits described as a serial defector, discovered that the outing would favour ex-President Jonathan. In 2013, Atiku led about five governors and walked out of the PDP convention.
In 2014, after the Congress for Progressives Change, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria People’s Party, and All Progressives Grand Alliance through a coalition formed the APC, Atiku and his co-travellers strolled in. The former Vice President announced his defection from the PDP to the newly formed APC in a press statement.
A few months after joining the APC, Atiku again declared for President. In 2015, Atiku sought the APC ticket along with the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari, and former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso in the party’s primary in Lagos. Atiku and his huge financial war chest were roundly defeated by a rebranded ‘poor’ Buhari.
Understanding that President Buhari was going to seek re-election through the APC in 2019, a man many Nigerians described as impatient in 2017 again dumped the APC and returned to the PDP. Atiku muscled his way and grabbed the PDP’s 2019 presidential ticket.
Reluctantly supported by stakeholders in the PDP, Atiku lost the presidential election to former President Buhari. Though Atiku claimed he won the election, he quietly travelled to Dubai and abandoned the legal tussle with his running mate, former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, to shoulder. They also lost, as the court upheld Buhari’s victory.
Predictably, Atiku returned in the build-up to the 2023 election. Against all odds, he, again, emerged as PDP’s standard flag bearer at the party’s convention held in the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja.
One of the major contenders for the 2023 election, his political naivety thwarted the PDP’s chances in the February presidential poll. Before Atiku’s eyes, his running mate Obi, who hails from the PDP’s most loyal zone, the South-East; left to seek the same office on the platform of the Labour Party. Also, he failed to reach a compromise with former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s G5 group (a group that comprises five PDP governors and countless party members).
Abandoned by major election stakeholders in the PDP, Atiku who thought he would inherit Buhari’s northern supporters paved the way for the emergence of his former friend, Tinubu of the APC. President Tinubu, who was supported by some members of the G5 and major northern stakeholders, defeated Atiku in the North and South. If Atiku, Obi, and the G5 had worked together with the umbrella party, analysts believe President Tinubu wouldn’t have won.
When queried about the desperation to become Nigerian President, Atiku declared that as long as he remained alive, he would continue to pursue his ambition of becoming president.
He said, “It is a life-long ambition and as long as I’m alive and strong and healthy, I will continue pursuing it.”
Atiku, who will be 81 in the next Electoral cycle, (2027) has in the last 16 years lost five attempts to become Nigeria’s president both at the level of the ballot box and the temple of justice. Consequently, many Nigerians wonder what is next for the Waziri Adamawa.
‘Jettison presidential ambition’
A political scientist and President of the Nigerian Political Science Association, Professor Hassan Saliu, said it was time for Atiku to jettison his presidential ambition and devote more time to rebuilding the PDP.
Professor Saliu, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, said the former VP must realise that he had fought a gallant fight, especially concerning the last political war upon which the Supreme Court had delivered judgment.
The NPSA president, who urged Atiku to take the outcome like the previous ones that he lost, also charged him to help in mentoring young Nigerians.
He stated, “So, in terms of the next line of action for Atiku. He should devote his time to uniting the PDP. You know that the umbrella is already torn. The former vice president should now see how he can repair the umbrella by reconciliation with the support of others.
“As an elder statesman, Atiku will now work his part to see how the PDP can become a formidable opposition between now and 2027 when we will have another election.
“He should not think everything has ended. Everything has not ended, Atiku can still be in politics but he needs to change his goal; he should be a statesman to bring back the PDP to be an effective opposition probably jettisoning his ambition and then become a statesman to walk for an effective opposition political party.
“In advanced countries, people of his age will sit back to mentor younger citizens, but in Africa, people don’t get tired. It is also good to focus on mentoring young Nigerians, sponsoring and supporting credible candidates and even becoming chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees to remain relevant in Nigeria politics.”
On his part, a political analyst, Dr Gabriel Nwambu, said it was time for Atiku to be a statesman by mentoring youths and suggesting solutions to Nigeria’s problems. Nwambu in an interview with Saturday PUNCH described the court as the hope of the common man.
Nwambu, who declared that the Supreme Court was the last court after which you could only report to God, added, “So, Atiku Abubakar must understand that the matter has finally been laid to rest.”
He continued, “What I will advise Atiku is that he should not run back to Dubai; he should stay put in Nigeria and build his political party for which he has been exiting and coming back. All the time, he keeps exiting; he has exited twice and came back.
“So, it is time for Atiku to play the godfather he ought to be in the PDP and then groom younger ones, to raise a very good opposition political party in the country. He shouldn’t run to Dubai. That is a position he has been evading for too long.
“Now, he should know that he cannot even contest in the next eight years, because even right now, he is very old. So, my advice is that he should take it in the spirit of sportsmanship; he should know that that is the end. So, he should embrace it in good faith. And then he should continue as a father, giving the requisite advice to younger ones.
“Also, as a statesman, Atiku should be more interested in advice, including giving pieces of advice to the President (Bola Tinubu), advice to the nation, give advice that will help develop and bring the country together. So, what Atiku should be doing now is to give fatherly advice to the younger ones and the upcoming ones. I advise Atiku to do the needful so that as time passes, he will be happy he did.”
Lending his voice to the matter, the President of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Shettima Yerima, said it was time for Atiku to realise that maybe he wasn’t destined to be the president of Nigeria.
Yerima, in an interview with our correspondent, said after about 30 years of seeking to lead Nigeria, Atiku should now quit the stage to support youths to become better leaders.
The AYCF president declared that what was expected of the Waziri Adamawa as an elder statesman who had contributed in the past and who truly believed in the country was to join hands with the President for the benefit of Nigerians.
“Only God gives and takes power. God has given it to Tinubu. So, Atiku should support him so that the country can move forward and that is what is expected of a responsible elder statesman because President Tinubu alone cannot do it without their support,” he added.
Yerima continued, “I have to be honest with Atiku, probably he is not destined to be the president of Nigeria because, in the next four years, he will be close to 80 years old. So, I do not think it would be right for him to want to contest the position of president at that age; any right-thinking Nigerian would not want to bring a person of that age as president.
“There are younger elements that are currently occupying the political space. Atiku should support, encourage, and mentor more of these young Nigerians to become better leaders.
“Atiku must also realise that all is not well with his party, the PDP. The party needs Atiku now to undertake a total overhaul. He should embark on internal reconciliation with the party because a lot of things have gone out of control.”
Many analysts want Atiku to channel his energy into mentoring young Nigerians, rebuilding the PDP into a formidable opposition, and remaining a statesman who will consistently provide recommendations to the nation’s problems.
However, a few others want Atiku to pursue his dreams as long as he is convinced he can. In the coming days, weeks, and months, Atiku will have to decide whether to contest for the President for the seventh time and to take the advice of Nigerians who want him to go into mentoring and building the PDP.