The National President, All Atiku Support Groups, Oladimeji Fabiyi has urged the All Progressives Congress (APC) not to toy with the ambition of former vice president Atiku Abubakar if it wants to win the 2019 presidential election. He spoke to WILLY EYA in this interview.
From the way things are going especially with the obvious improvement in President Muhammadu Buhari’s health, do you think that the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar still has a chance against him in 2019?
Why not? It is an election and in an election, anything is possible. Atiku under the constitution of this country is qualified to run for an election at any time he deems fit. With regards to the improvement in the health of the president, we thank God that he is okay, but it has nothing to do with the vision of Atiku to run for the presidency. In 2015, Atiku contested against the president on the same platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and you know what happened. And it is not only Atiku that is aspiring to contest for the presidential seat. We have many others including former governor of Kano State Rabi’u Kwankwaso, former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and others. So, Mr President’s health is not a decider for Atiku or any of others aspiring for the presidential seat to contest or not.
There are insinuations in many quarters that the fire in Atiku’s ambition is waning since the miraculous recovery of the president from an ailment which appeared to have earlier foreclosed his chances of re-election. Any truth in that speculation especially with the possibility that the President would have the right of first refusal in the APC?
As far as I am concerned, the APC has not come out specifically to say that it would give automatic ticket to the president. If Atiku is going to run on the APC platform, the position of the party would definitely prevail. So the position of the party gives an opportunity to anyone who is aspiring for that position to contest. Although there is the issue of the right of first refusal but even if it is going to count, it does not stop anybody who wishes to contest from contesting. This is because that problem has been the bane of most of these political parties. I do not think the party is going to stop anybody; it is just for any aspirant wishing to contest to do his homework very well. Any party that imposes a candidate on the members would pay dearly for it. And besides, the APC as it stands has been divided into so many camps and they need to really work on that so that it would not affect the party in the general elections. The PDP is coming strongly and if they are able to put their acts together and learn from their past mistakes, the APC must wake up. They should not make the mistake of shutting anybody out. Whatever they want to do must be seen to be free, fair and credible. Atiku guaranteed that at the last election. If not for Atiku, there would not have been any primaries in the APC. I stand to be challenged on this. But because of the democratic credentials of Atiku and his understanding of democratic tenets and the way he displays it everywhere and every time, he ensured that the APC won the last general elections. And it was adjudged to be free and fair. That was what gave the APC that victory and they were able to do something different from the PDP.
What is your take on the position that Atiku is even more in the PDP now than in the APC and that the main opposition platform is where he is waiting to contest the election?
I do not know about that and as far as I am concerned, Atiku is still in the APC and he has never come out to say he is no more in the APC. But let me tell you this; Atiku is one of the founders of the PDP. Atiku was one of the few who built that party with their resources, energy, contacts and everything. But unfortunately, people who were not part of those who formed the party came and hijacked it. The PDP is a party with history and the history of the PDP can never be complete without the contribution of Atiku. Many people in the PDP today still respect Atiku because they know his contributions to the growth of the party. And when you look at the APC too, most of the members who made the party what it is today are from the PDP. The truth must be said. Atiku is the man they are talking about everywhere because his contacts cut across everywhere –religion, ethnic, gender, grassroots etc. So, he is a man that is known to all and they know what he is capable of doing with regards to democratic rule.
But in concrete terms, what do you think stands him out against the incumbent President Buhari in 2019?
This is a one million question. Every Nigerian knows and that is why everybody is calling him to come out at this critical time. Number one is that in terms of experience, you can never find him wanting. In terms of capacity and somebody who understands Nigeria, he has all it takes. Nigeria is a complex country and you must have the right qualities to lead the people. Atiku is a pure democrat and a lot of things stand him out. He understands Nigeria very well and one thing going for him is his ability to identify people with talents and brains. He can make it happen and it is on record. Again, look at his international contact. Today, Atiku can pick his telephone and call any leader or prominent person in the world and they would listen. He has cultivated this contact over a long period of time. So, a lot of things stand him out and he has a relationship that cuts across every barrier. Even today, about 20 of the registered political parties are already warming up to endorse him for 2019 and you also see the PDP calling him. It would be unfortunate if the APC should miss somebody like Atiku. If Atiku leaves their fold, it would be so unfortunate for the APC. If they are so careless and allow Atiku to go out of that party, it would be unfortunate.
But with President Buhari having the right of first refusal in the APC ticket, how do you think the ruling party can stop Atiku whose main ambition now is to take a possibly last shot at the presidency?
That is what I am saying that the mere fact that President Buhari would have the right of first refusal does not mean that any other person who has ambition on the same platform cannot run. I do not think that the APC can shut out anybody who can win an election for them. There are so many aspirants that are running but they are not the types that can win elections. Atiku is an aspirant who has all it takes to win elections. When you are in government, you carry lots of baggage unlike somebody who is not in government that is coming to contest with you. The APC members know and see what is happening in Nigeria but I do not want to talk more than that. An Atiku being on the ballot paper representing the APC is a sure win for the party. So, whether the president is running or not, I think what we should be concerned about is who can win the 2019 presidential election for them. We are talking about who has the capacity, dexterity and all it takes to win an election and Atiku any day is a winning candidate. The APC should look in his direction.
The immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan was recently quoted in the media as having said that if Atiku really wants to win the 2019 election, he should go and reconcile with his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo. Do you agree that without Obasanjo, he would not be able to make any serious impact in the election?
I am happy for this question but let me tell you, I am from the same place with former president Obasanjo. As a matter of fact, I am from the same local government with him. I have a different position on this matter and I have to be honest that President Obasanjo is not God. He has never ascribed himself to be God. It is God who gives power. What President Goodluck said is true to the extent that however you look at it, President Obasanjo is a leader and everybody who has ambition must definitely reach out to him. So, what Goodluck Jonathan said is not out of place. Of course anybody who is contesting would do a lot of consultation with many stakeholders including the former leaders. All the past leaders like Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida and so on are equally being consulted; it is not only Obasanjo. Atiku would reach out to many people but I do not think that if he does not reach out to Obasanjo that he would not win the presidency. Atiku would be president if God wants him to be president of Nigeria.