Atiku: My whatsapp reply to 2019 posers By Sufuyan Ojeifo

On September 19, 2017, a prominent Nigerian and one-time member of the Nigerian senate asked me two questions via a whatsapp post. The questions were: “How do you see 2019?  What are your permutations in APC and PDP?”  I received the post at 9.31 am.  Initially, I wanted to answer the questions in one or two sentences, but by the time I decided to reply the post at 11.41 am after I was done with the task on my table, I ended up writing something close to a thesis.

As to the question on how I saw 2019, my answer was that “God is set to do a new thing in the affairs of Nigeria in 2019.”  But as to the question on the permutations within the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I provided the following answer: as for my permutations, I speak as a man: whether it is APC or PDP, the people power will be a determining factor.  After all, they say: “vox populi, vox dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God).

I proceeded to ask two critical questions: one, are the vast majority of Nigerians satisfied with their economic and social conditions?  Two, has there been any progress in tackling poverty, hunger, and unemployment in our nation?  I posited that the APC government has become very unpopular on those scores.  I further stated that the only thing it is selectively doing is its so-called anti-corruption war, which has become a whimsical tool of blackmailing the oppositional elements and stigmatising the PDP platform. I submitted that the war has lost the critical integrity capital.

The rest of my thought process on that day and in response to the questions reads: the APC government has also not been able to manage its electoral success. The greatest opposition to APC is itself. It is an agglomeration of disparate groups separately seeking to control the soul of the party.  The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), new PDP, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the super minority faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are fighting to stymie one another.

Unfortunately, the CPC which should have had an upper hand is encumbered on two fronts: its members are not tested politicians and their leader, Buhari, is unable to focus on governance due to his debilitating ailment.  And this is the crux of the matter and the greatest problem of the APC.  As long as Buhari remains and is encouraged to seek reelection in his doubtful state of health, the more attritional internal responses within the APC will be, moving towards 2019.

Sampler: Minister of women affairs, Senator Aishat Al-Hassan’s open declaration of support for former vice president Atiku Abubakar for the presidency in 2019 is just a tip of the iceberg of the bludgeoning internal resistance. Atiku is interested in the presidency. The senate president, Bukola Saraki is interested. Governor Abdulkadir Yari of Zamfara state is interested. The governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal and his Kaduna state counterpart, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, are hiding behind a finger.   In APC, Buhari’s underbelly is exposed. If he hangs on and the presidential power is mustered to present him as candidate in 2019, then the implosion will hit the APC and the opposition can harness the fallout to its advantage.

2019 presents an APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with the last opportunity to reinvent his waning factor.  He had already said he would seek the presidential ticket of the party if Buhari is not running.  If that scenario happens, he is not going to get the party ticket since the north is yet to exhaust its eight years.  His reaction to his loss at the party primary will be to recede into the southwest regional enclave to see how to control and use it for alignment and realignment in the context of a new presidential power bargain. If Buhari runs, Tinubu will still have to be prudent about how he deploys his critical southwest support in 2019. (He has recently echoed his position that there would be no automatic ticket for Buhari).

I see Atiku moving to the PDP. If he gets the critical support of the PDP governors, he is as good as becoming the candidate.  If he becomes the candidate, he will win. As it is, this is his last best chance of becoming president. The advantage Atiku will have over the like of former Jigawa state governor, Sule Lamido, governor of Gombe state, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, former Kano state governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, etc, is his cosmopolitan nature, whereas they are provincial in nature. To that extent, there is no difference, for instance, between Buhari on the one hand and Lamido on the other hand. Both are Hausa/Fulani hegemonists.  Shekarau and Dankwabbo do not present a nationalistic outlook either.

Atiku has experience and nationwide structure.  He is one presidential aspirant that is prepared and ready for the job, not an accidental aspirant. I understand he has always had an organic economic blueprint with which he plans to address Nigeria’s economic problems. I understand he is considering a single term in office given his age.  His restructuring advocacy is in sync with the position of the south.  If he has the support of the south, the north-central and his north-east zones, then the traditional opposition by the north-west’s Hausa/Fulani hegemony to his and northeast’s quest for presidential power will pale into insignificance.

I want to believe that the PDP will do everything that is possible to take advantage of the APC’s lingering bind to retrieve power at the centre. The APC succeeded in 2015.  The PDP can replicate the same in 2019 by taking advantage of popular sentiments that Buhari has failed to dazzle and is now encumbered.  The PDP needs to put its act together.

You must be strategic in the unfolding political alignments and realignments. There are no permanent enemies. There is permanent enlightened self interest.  Once PDP is able to get its act together and become a strategic hub to galvanize other opposition parties for a mega platform to wrest power in 2019 and with the certainty of support by the masses of Nigeria, then the APC can, as well, begin to sing its Nunc Dimittis.

By 11.52 am, my friend sent to me another poser: What about Markarfi (for president)?  At 11.56, I sent to him the following response: former governor of Kaduna state, Ahmed Makarfi does not fit the bill. He does not have the capacity beyond Kaduna.  Even if he has the capacity, I understand, he is managing a health situation that may get aggravated if saddled with the problems of leading Nigeria.

In 2019, I cannot see a better candidate than Atiku. Forget about former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s spurious narrative and invectives on Atiku as being corrupt. I laugh. It is sad that Obasanjo pontificates about corruption and sits in judgment over others..  But if he must sit, should he not be equitable?

I rounded off by saying that he should let  Atiku know that the 2019 presidency is in his kitty and that it is left for him to keep it or lose it.  I advised that Atiku should activate his structures and reconcile with all his former associates that are no longer with him. I surmised that he would need people to re-energize the Atiku brand; and, that working together with influential elements, Atiku will become an aspirant that political parties are looking for and not he looking for party platform on which to run.

The above were my quick responses, delivered in a staccato-like manner, but which nevertheless had a central theme that supports and sustains the Atiku brand.  And as Atiku  began to make his moves by resigning from the APC on Thursday, November 24, 2017, it does not require the crystal ball to know that he is headed for the PDP, which he helped to found in 1998 and on which platform he was vice president from 1999 to 2007.  The next few days will be exciting as the Waziri Adamawa perfects his movement back to his former abode ahead of the party’s December 9, 2017 national convention.