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A rich political history

Atiku Abubakar used to be called Abubakar Atiku — until he became vice-president in 1999. Then his media office issued a statement to make things clear: the man from Jada, Adamawa state, should be addressed as Atiku Abubakar. For editors, “Atiku” was acceptable for headline purposes. Using his surname, “Abubakar”, in headlines would be confusing because of all the equally popular Abubakars in the land.
But irrespective of what name came first, Nigerians already knew him, even if fleetingly. In 1991, he wanted to be governor of Adamawa state on the SDP platform, but was disqualified by the military government in the era of “banning” and “unbanning” of politicians.
He was an associate, or protege, of Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, retired general and Nigeria’s No. 2 man from 1976 to 1979. Yar’Adau himself wanted to be president but was banned as “old breed” by the government of Ibrahim Babangida after he had secured SDP’s ticket, so he backed Atiku for the 1993 race that ultimately ended in annulment by the military. Yar’Adua would later be framed for a coup plot by the military government of Sani Abacha. He was sentenced to death — reduced to life imprisonment by presidential mercy — but he died in prison all the same. Atiku took over Yar’Adua’s political machinery.
When Abacha died in 1998 and the military prepared to return Nigeria to civil rule, Atiku opted to contest for Adamawa governorship again despite being in charge of the biggest political association in Nigeria, called the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM). He contested and won, but Candidate Olusegun Obasanjo picked him as running mate in the presidential race. He had to forgo the governorship. Together, they won the 1999 presidential election and he was vice-president for eight years.
Atiku fell out of favour with Obasanjo before their 2003 re-election bid — allegedly because he did not want Obasanjo to do more than one term. Their relationship had gone completely south and by the time Obasanjo eventually picked him as running mate again for the second term, it was a journey into acrimony.
Obasanjo did everything to stop Atiku from becoming president in 2007, setting up an administrative panel to indict him. The panel, headed by Ignatius Ayua, a professor, also had Oby Ezekwesili as member. The panel duly indicted him and INEC disqualified him, but the supreme court overruled the electoral body. Since then, INEC has lost the power to disqualify candidates. Obasanjo famously declared a public holiday in April 2016, apparently to make sure the court would not sit to rule in Atiku’s favour since the deadline for submission of candidates’ list to INEC was fast approaching.
Bola Tinubu, then governor of Lagos, was an ally of Atiku, so he offered the presidential ticket of AC to Atiku on a platter of gold. It was very clear that PDP was a no-go area for Atiku. He defected to AC but his presidential bid was a waste of time. He soon parted with AC and returned to PDP, and many began to classify him as desperate.
It has been a very long and rocky journey for him; he left PDP again in 2013, for APC, and returned to the party he helped co-found in 1998 yet again. His return to PDP in 2017 was less glamorous but now he has the party’s ticket. Many would argue that 2019 is his best chance yet to be president of Nigeria. He will be 72 when the presidential election holds.
He may be Daddy Cool to his children, but he has lost his cool in the political intrigues several times. Will 2019 be his year?
-Courtesy: The Cable

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