Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, recently hugged the headlines when he formally decamped from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and pitched tent with his erstwhile political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which ruled Nigeria for 16 unbroken years, 1999-2015. Atiku, who left the PDP to team up with APC before the 2015 general elections, is no longer at ease with what is going on with the ruling party.
Among other things, Atiku sees APC as a dying party and that is why he has come back to his former party under whose umbrella he held sway as the Vice President under President Olusegun Obasanjo for eight years. Since rejoining his former party, Atiku is talking tough claiming that he will beat President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 general poll if he re-contests.
He has been singing high praises of PDP achievements while in power. Remember this is a party he derided before joining the APC in 2014. He is waxing lyrically like someone who has found a new love. His speeches now flourish with poetic undertones, common among our politicians. Nobody knows how far Atiku’s new romance with PDP will go.
It is only time that will tell us how far the romance will go. And the way tomorrow’s PDP convention goes will significantly show the way forward for the one-time biggest political party in Africa. Atiku’s exit from the APC did not come to many ardent observers of the nation’s politics as a big surprise. His exit was long anticipated but nobody knew when he will do so.
Mama Taraba, Aisha Alhassan’s assertion some time ago that she will not support Buhari’s second term bid and that she will follow whereever her political godfather (Atiku) goes, was an early sign that Atiku will defect to another political party to realize his political ambition of contesting the 2019 general poll. Whether he will win or not is open to debate.
Atiku might have sensed that Buhari will like to contest in 2019. Even when Buhari has not indicated interest to contest in 2019, some of his supporters have endorsed him to do so. If Buhari’s interest in 2019 is in doubt, his recent utterances in Ivory Coast and Kano have shown that the Daura-born politician is warming up for 2019 election.
Also, his health challenges seemed to have disappeared since his last return from London and he is bubbling with renewed vigour and energy.
His recent working tours across the country, Ebonyi, Anambra and Kano, have shown that the president is strong enough to go for a second term. There is no stopping him to do so if he wishes to contest. And no Nigerian sitting president has refused to re-contest. It is also within his constitutional right to seek for reelection. Nobody can stop him from doing so.
Not even the APC can do so. He has the right of first refusal. His visits to Ebonyi, Anambra and Kano are part of the 2019 political game plan. They represent a popularity testing ground for what to expect in 2019. With APC failing to fulfill most of its promises, it needs to test grounds again to make sure that its marriage with Nigerian voters is still intact.
More of such visits are expected before the 2019 election campaigns start. With much suffering in the land due to recession and inability of the ruling party to remedy the situation, it will not be a surprise if Nigerians look another direction other than APC come 2019.
The party in power should not be deceived by its praise singers and lapdogs who always assure it that all is well with the polity. Let it not be deceived by its media propagandists as well. Nigerians now know the difference. Atiku’s exit is a sure sign that all is indeed not well with APC. This should provide the party an opportunity to reexamine itself and amend its leaking house before the walls start falling apart. Although Atiku’s exit was initially dismissed as a non-issue by the APC but many Nigerians think otherwise. Atiku’s exit should not be waved aside as if nothing happened. The APC loss is indeed the PDP gain. It is hoped that the PDP does not bungle such an advantage under the altar of politics. Hopefully, the PDP must have learnt its bitter lessons.
Therefore, the APC should also learn from the PDP mistakes and correct itself before it is too late. That Atiku can leave APC confirmed the cracks early commented upon about the new ruling behemoth. That a politician of Atiku’s worth was allowed to leave APC is a clear indication that all is indeed not well with the party, especially coming very close to the 2019 poll. No matter what anybody thinks, Atiku is an astute politician that should not be toyed with. He has supporters all over the country.
His exit can lead to the defection of some party chieftains from APC to PDP. Atiku’s defection to PDP might lead to implosion in APC just in the same proportion that was witnessed in PDP before the 2015 poll. This is one fact that the APC should come to terms with before boasting that it will win the 2019 election. It should bear in mind that boasts alone do not win any election. If in doubt, let it ask the PDP. Winning the 2019 general election depends on the party/candidate the electorate swing their votes.
There is no doubt that APC and PDP are now Nigeria’s dominant political parties just like the Democrats and the Republicans in the US. If the APC cannot give Nigerians what they want, they must swing support to the PDP. Under this unwritten arrangement, politicians are likely to sit up and fulfill their electoral promises. How Atiku’s exit will affect the outcome of the 2019 poll is too early to predict.
Atiku is yet to secure a ticket for the 2019 election. Some PDP leaders have said that there will be no special concession to Atiku and other returnees. In other words, there will be no automatic ticket to anyone. If Atiku gets the PDP nod to run for the presidential election in 2019, there is no doubt that the party might go far in the poll against President Muhammadu Buhari.
But, this will be so if the election is transparent, free and fair. Good enough, we are in an era of free and fair polls. We have witnessed an incumbent president being defeated and accepting results and congratulating the winner.
While the political gladiators are entertaining us with their brands of politics and how they will fare at the polls, the voters must scrutinize them and vote in those they believe can rescue the country from decades of misrule, injustice and nepotism.
The year 2019 is still too far to predict what will happen in our politics. All we want is fair play and level playing field for all the contestants as recently witnessed in Anambra gubernatorial poll.