By Chidi Chima
According to his children, Atiku Abubakar is always calm at home — no matter the situation and no matter the pressure. So cool that they adopted the title of Boney M’s 1976 hit song, Daddy Cool, to describe him. And so, “Daddy Cool” is Atiku’s nick-name among his children.
He must be cool indeed. For 25 years, he has sought to be president of Nigeria, and is considered in many quarters as the most prepared candidate ever. He has contested for presidential tickets five times and participated in a presidential election only once — in 2007. He will be on the ballot for only the second time now that he has secured the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
His first attempt at presidency was in 1993 when he came third in the primary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) — after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe. In the run-off between Abiola and Kingibe, he gave his delegates to Abiola on the understanding that he would be made running mate, but Abiola picked Kingibe instead after a particularly difficult decision-making process.
Atiku kept his cool and tried a second time in 2007, this time securing the ticket of the Action Congress (a legacy party of today’s All Progressives Congress). He came third in Nigeria’s “most fraudulent elections ever” (in his words) as Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP coasted to victory. Yar’Adua scored 24.6 million while Muhammadu Buhari, then of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (another legacy party of APC), got 6.6 million. Atiku managed 2.6 million votes.
He kept his cool again and gave the presidency another shot in 2011, failing to pick the PDP ticket in the race with President Goodluck Jonathan. Despite rallying the north behind himself in his “consensus” strategy, Atiku got only 805 out 3,542 delegate votes. Jonathan went him with 2,736; in fact, the majority of delegates from his home state, Adamawa, voted for Jonathan.
The fourth attempt was in 2015. Having lost his cool and left the PDP for the new opposition coalition, APC, Atiku threw his hat in the ring yet again. He came third behind Buhari and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. His 954 votes were far below Buhari’s 3,430. Kwankwaso’s tally was 974. That Atiku did not even come second was a surprise to many.
Those who thought it was over for him were mistaken — he returned to the PDP and has now won the party’s presidential ticket very convincingly.
By Chidi Chima