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Published On: Sun, Sep 3rd, 2017

2019 : The Turaki’s last dance

AYOOLA OLAOLUWA |
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s ultimate retirement from active politics had been predicted on several occasions by political analysts. Virtually everyone, except himself, had written him off after his failed bid to upstage his former boss president Obasanjo.
The pundits could however be forgiven in their assessment of his future chances. He is a serial presidential candidate. He had contested to be president of Nigeria five different times since 1993, and failed to win the seat on each occasion despite his deft calculations.
However, their predictions of his political death seem to be grossly exaggerated.
Rather than disappearing from the nation’s political landscape, the former vice president is returning to the front burner of national politics in furtherance of his presidential ambition. He has consistently lent his voice to the call for the restructuring of the federation by advocating changes to the allocation of powers, responsibilities, and resources among the states or zones and between them and the federal government.
BusinessHallmark reliably gathered from close associates that the 71-year-old politician still nurses presidential ambition and may have in fact started his campaign.
According to a close associate in Lagos, Chief Dapo Sarumi, “You only dismiss Atiku at your own peril, as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo would privately testify, even if he would openly deny being rattled by his VP for at least five of the eight years both of them shared in Aso Rock. He is still one of Nigeria’s foremost architects of political strategy.”
In 2003, Obasanjo tried to drop him as running mate, but Atiku successfully rallied the PDP governors against him at the party’s presidential primary that Obasanjo had to beg before getting the return ticket. He had to retain Atiku in a deal that followed.
Master strategist
Atiku is a master strategist who effortlessly settles differences with his adversaries. Many Nigerians could still not understand why Atiku would work so closely with former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida during the 2015 polls, given their previous acrimonies. He had teamed up with the two former military rulers and others to defeat Goodluck Jonathan at the polls.
This singular move shows that Atiku is a game reader. He looks out for the currents and rides the wave, as he is currently doing with the support for restructuring.
When he did not leave the party after the APC primaries that produced Buhari in 2014, many Nigerians were surprised that he was willing to wait and bid his time in APC in spite of his advancing age.
He is currently playing the loyal party man and has avoided criticising Buhari’s government even though he is said to be against some of his policies.
However, with every opportunity he has not failed to identify with the common people thereby making some of his friends in power enraged. This perhaps must have explained his decision to personally chair the presentation of a book on Biafra last year. At a time when not many people within the ruling APC would dare talk about it, Atiku came out to support restructuring, maintaining that there was the need to tinker with the Nigerian federation.
Though, his support for restructuring rattled the North, he struck a chord with Nigerians who have been looking for a person of his stature to throw the issue back into the socio-political domain and Atiku did just that.
Sources said the bold public call by Atiku on the need to restructure the country has also increased his electability value in the South as well as among the marginalised minorities of the North who see a restructured Nigeria as the solution to the country’s many problems.

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Atiku, it was learnt, is fronting a coalition right inside the Presidency, the ruling APC and from outside in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in preparation for the 2019 elections.
According to a source, he is currently trying to rebuild old alliances and forge new ones to mount a successful charge for his party’s ticket.
BH reliably gartered that he is going for a last and all-out push for the presidency and will contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the APC or the PDP, or on some other platform, depending on circumstances at that time.
According to a close aide, Chief Bayo Olurunyomi, a major factor that will determine his platform of choice is the likelihood of ultimate success.
“The APC presents a tricky situation. Should the ailing president be available to contest in 2019, the platform will be unavailable to anyone else. But if Buhari is not in the picture, he will be able to stake his claim.
“On the other hand, the PDP is wooing him and dangling the ticket as a carrot for him to rejoin the party. Yes, the PDP is a possibility. Yet, other options are being accessed. We will cross the bridge when we get there,” Olurunyomi noted.
Nationwide network/Deep pocket
The Turaki Adamawa has built a massive nationwide network that is difficult to ignore. He has friends across ethnic and religious boundaries. A few Nigerians can match his structure and wealth. He has been the power behind some of the Northern governors especially those of Kogi, Adamawa. Sokoto and Bauchi.
Adamawa governor, Jibrila Bindow, recently declared openly at a forum that Atiku’s influence and money won him the elections.
More than any of his contemporaries, he is a politician with a deft touch and knowledge of how to prevail in intra-party elections. It took the personal intervention of his mentor, the late Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua before he could concede the SDP presidential ticket to the late M.K.O Abiola in the early 90s.
His greatest asset is his ability to build political and social bridges across the Niger. He has continued to use the most formidable political machinery in post military rule Nigeria – the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) – a group he inherited from Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua to maximum benefits.
Members of the movement include serving and past governors, retired military officers, senators, businessman and top government officials.
To him, image matters a lot. He employed tested professionals that work for him as public relations consultants who ensure that he has good rapport with the media. When President Buhari picked his former media director, Garba Shehu, as his spokesperson, he quickly employed another capable hand, Paul Ibe, to take over the job. That shows how much he values his public image.
Atiku is also at home in any part of Nigeria, not only by factor of marriage (he is wedded to a Yoruba and Igbo women from from Osun and Anambra States respectively), but as a result of his appealing personality. He has incurably loyal political associates and friends in all parts of the country.
He was the controller of the economic reforms of the administration of ex-President Obasanjo. He was the driver of the privatization programmes which led to the GSM revolution in the country.
Armed with modest education, Abubakar is gifted with shopping for eggheads to work for him. He brought the likes of CBN Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and others into the government of Obasanjo.
He is stupendously wealthy, making him a formidable opponent to take on. From his beginnings in real estate, Atiku’s businesses include Intels, an oil-servicing firm, as well as the American University of Nigeria (AUN).
BH reliably gathered that apart from his own presidential campaigns, he had bankrolled the campaigns of several politicians across the country, including that of governors and senators.
It is also on record that he contributed tremendously to the campaign purse of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 election.
However, his strengths are also his weaknesses. His political reputation over the years has been harmed by his frequent change of political parties in pursuit of his presidential ambition. He also has a reputation for double speak, disloyalty and being corrupt (an allegation yet to be proven in court).
Despite the negatives, some of his political rivals even agree that Atiku is perhaps the most prepared and organized politician in Nigeria. They point to his well-oiled and coordinated media machine, detailed policy proposals, star-studded advisory committees, and his sustained relevance in the socio-political landscape owing to timely and insightful contributions to unfolding developments.
“I can at least point to his publicly touted progressive stand on the restructuring debate, even going as far as shaming his party, the North, and other political elites for either being hypocritical or cowardly in their approach to it. He was in government for eight years and didn’t do anything about it.
“Atiku is too smart, even for himself. He does noting by accident. All his actions are well thought-out. While most people look out for only their tomorrow, Atiku plans several years ahead. That is why he remains relevant. I won’t say he will one day succeed in his quest to be the president, but I know he will continue to be relevant,” says a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, Alhaji Inaolaji Bakare,
Though Atiku has failed to achieve his ultimate ambition of becoming president, he had survived several political games and treacheries hatched in the past against him.
He is now again on what possibly may be his last march to advance his ambition, as he will be 73 years old in 2019 and 77 in 2023.
Will he survive the blustery, stormy political journey this time around? Only time will tell.

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