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2023 Presidency: Situating Atiku’s chances amid political past, Southeast’s agitation

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
06 February 2022   |   4:13 am
Fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, knows too well that year 2023 holds a final verdict for his 30-year-long aspiration to lead Nigeria.

Atiku Abubakar PHOTOTwitter

Fourth Republic Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, knows too well that year 2023 holds a final verdict for his 30-year-long aspiration to lead Nigeria.
   
During President Ibrahim Babangida’s convoluted transition to civil rule, the former Customs officer from Jada, Adamawa State contested alongside Ambassador Babagana Kingibe and late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola for the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) Presidential ticket in 1992.
   

 
Although he has not yet equaled President Muhammadu Buhari’s record of being on the presidential ballot, things are not looking quite bright that the former Vice President would clinch the coveted seat in 2023.
    
Even within himself and his camp of supporters, it is possible that Atiku knows the vim is lacking this time around in his chase of the nation’s Presidency. That perception must have informed the mandate he gave to the Atiku Campaign Technical Committee (ACTC), led by media mogul, Alegho Raymond Dokpesi.
   
Dokpesi steps into the shoe left by former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD), who took Atiku round the country in the course of his consultations towards the 2019 Presidential poll.
  
The fact that OGD has shifted ground and joined the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), is part of the tell tale signals that AA’s ambition has developed some chink in its armour.
 
But, perhaps the worst blow to the former Vice President’s Presidential aspiration came from a former member of his Media Directorate, Prince Kassim Afegbua.  
    

In a statement penultimate weekend, Prince Afegbua, dismissed Atiku’s renewed interest in the Presidency as an expired product, stressing that the former Vice President has demonstrated procedural disconnect to recommend him for the leadership of a new Nigeria.
  
The Edo-born PDP stalwart noted that the calibre of leaders elected into the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) is enough to remind Atiku that he should respect himself and look for a younger Southern politician to support.
  
Pleading with his former principal to reconsider his intention to contest the 2023 Presidential ticket, Afegbua contended that doing so would be tantamount to the man from Jada presenting himself as “a perpetual candidate.”
  
While recalling that Atiku has been associated with Presidential quest for the past 30 years, especially having appeared on the ballot in 2007 and 2019, Afegbua stated: “It is immoral for such an old man to attempt another round of political contestation…
      
“Having concluded the convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with a new leadership that looks promising, the party will have to rise above board to produce a presidential candidate from the southern part of the country to complete the narrative,” the statement reads in part.
  
Afegbua insisted that the fact that Atiku relocated to the United Arab Emirates, Dubai precisely, after the 2019 Presidential election left the impression that he (Atiku) had waved final bye-bye to Presidential electoral contest.
  
However, appearing on Channels Television programme, Segun Showunmi, who was on the 2019 Atiku Media Campaign Committee with Afegbua, disclosed that Atiku went to Dubai (UAE) to acquire new knowledge after the Presidential polls.
 
Showunmi, who was reacting to Afegbua’s statement, contended that the former vice-president could not have stayed in Nigeria doing nothing.
   
His words: “It is the height of political immaturity, meddlesomeness and irresponsibility to imagine that you are going to be in politics for four years round the clock doing nothing else: don’t go to school; don’t get a job; don’t do anything; just sit on the same spot and be destabilising the country,” he said.
“Everybody should not be a professional politician without any other thing to do with his time.
 

“A democratic leader understands that election ends once it ends. To stay in the country energising young people, to torpedo the country, is not the way of someone who loves the country. A general has to understand when the war is won and lost. He went to Dubai; he got another degree; new knowledge.”

History Of Missed Opportunities
TALKING about Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s political past, his tendency to crisscross political parties and renege on agreements seem to be haunting his latest aspiration.
  
In an interview with The Guardian when the former Vice President left APC and returned to PDP, Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, described Atiku as a nomadic politician, stressing that since “a rolling stone gathers no moss, it would be hard for voters to stand by him to win the Presidency.”
  
Afegbua’s principled stance against the sustained ambition seems to validate Masari’s postulation.  Yet, although many political actors like Masari associate Atiku’s political calculations with desperation for power, in 2003, perhaps, in a bid to rebuff the desperation elements, the then Vice President back-pedalled from a proposition to pair him up with second Republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, at the expense of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was expected to serve just a single term of four years.
  
Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieseigha, the then Governor of Bayelsa State, led by Governor James Ibori, Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia State and 13 other PDP governors had approached Atiku with the plan to have him share the 2003 Presidential ticket with Ekwueme.
  


The governors were said to have explained to the then Vice President that if he deputises Ekwueme, by 2007, he (Atiku) would take the turn of Northeast as President and thereafter the slot would move to Northwest, South/South and North Central in that order, to stabilise the country.
   
However, it was gathered that after consenting to the arrangement, which would have spurred a single Presidential term for the six geopolitical zones, Atiku reneged after Obasanjo assured him of retaining his VP position for the 2003 Presidential poll.
   
Alamieseigha and the group of 16 PDP governors that orchestrated the geopolitical rotation of the Presidency, especially Ibori and Kalu, were put to the grinding stone by the then President Obasanjo.
  
In his famous letter urging Atiku to review his participation in the 2023 poll, Afegbua broached the aspect of the arrangement between Atiku and former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in which the initial understanding of posting a repeat of the Muslim/Muslim ticket that berthed the MKO Abiola/Babagana Kingibe ticket. The disagreement over fielding Tinubu as running mate was said to have torpedoed the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Presidential run, which had Atiku as the standard bearer.
  
In the build-up to the 2019 Presidential election, Atiku embarked on shuttle diplomacy, reaching out to potential PDP aspirants, including, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Alhaji Sule Lamido and Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, to support him for the contest, based on his capacity to battle the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari.
  
Gbenga Daniel, who was performing the current role assigned to Dopkesi, had pleaded with Dankwambo to yield his ambition for Atiku, contending that since both are from Northeast, Dankwambo has more years ahead for him than Atiku.

Dokpesi’s Sales Pitch
HIGH Chief Raymond Dokpesi has been touring the Southeast geopolitical zone with his committee to sell Atiku’s aspiration to fly the PDP flag once again during the 2023 Presidential poll.
  
Dokpesi and his contact team believes that the north had yet to complete its term on the Presidency, given that Presidential Goodluck Jonathan served out not only the extra year of the President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s four years, but also went ahead to contest for another term.
  
Further, the Media mogul told stakeholders that he would ensure that Atiku serves for only one term of four years and thereafter support the Southeast to take over in 2027.
 
In making his sales pitch, however, Dokpesi was said to have willfully glossed over the fact that Atiku joined other politicians to move away from PDP in 2014 to push through the power rotation arrangement between North and South.
  
It was perhaps based on that twisted logic that Afegbua described Atiku’s 2023 ambition as not only immoral, but also attempt at selling an expired drug that was dead on arrival.
  
Could it be that the one-term mandate put forward by G16 PDP governors in 2003 is coming to haunt the former Vice President? Dokpesi would rather that Southeast waits for another five years to access the Presidency.
    
He argued that that would afford the North the opportunity to complete former President Umaru Musa Y’Ardua’s tenure, who died in office and was succeeded by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
 


But peeved by the obvious attempt to stand logic on its head regarding the position of the zoning convention in the country, a prominent chieftain of Plateau State PDP, Da Jonathan Sunday Akuns, maintained that retaining the party’s Presidential slot in the North is a recipe for disintegration.
   
He faulted leaders of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Campaign Technical Committee over their stance on zoning of the party’s 2023 Presidential ticket, saying that the zoning arrangement between North and South is limited to political parties.
 
He stated: “I hear some talk about former Presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan grossing 13 years for the South as against late Umaru Yar’Adua’s three years in office for the north.
   
“But, they neglect the expected eight years of President Buhari from the north. The chronology is Obasanjo, two terms; Yar’Adua, one term; Jonathan, one term and Buhari, two terms; thereby propelling the next swing to the South.
   
“So, why split hair? Maybe hair splitting in PDP is a decoy to surreptitiously retain Presidency in the north again.”
 
Also dismissing Dokpesi’s threat to go naked if Atiku fails to serve just one term, a senior Lawyer, Empero Gabriel Ogbonna said the media mogul could not be trusted with such flimsy promise.
   
Ogbonna recalled how he joined others to purchase shares in DAAR Communications PLC, owners of AIT based on Dokpsei’s assurances that he and his company shall establish African Independent Television in all state capitals in Nigeria.
  
“We believed him. I personally used all the money I saved as a young lawyer to buy those shares. Years after buying those shares, I have not seen even a kobo from AIT as dividends. DAAR HOLDING has not even given me a share certificate. I am not alone in this, millions of Nigerians.
 
“Yet Raymond Dokpesi would have the effrontery to tell Nigerians that Atiku will do one tenure and hand over to an Igbo. A man who we all belived in, and gave him our money. If he cannot keep his promise on our money, how do we believe him with our votes? He stated.

Also, the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo world wide, Ambassador George Obiozor, said Igbo are prepared for the 2023 Presidency and prepared to listen contrary voices.
   


In a statement, Obiozor declared: “The General opinion of patriotic Nigerians or as Ahmadu Bello would put it those with ‘Conscience Nurtured by Truth’ the “Yoruba have had  a fair share of power since 1999, with eight years of former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Yemi Osibanjo who would be completing eight years as  Vice President in 2023 under Buhari’s presidency.    
 
“It will be unfair, unjust and unpatriotic as well as against the national spirit and interest to deny Ndigbo their own opportunity and pretend as if they do not exist as part of Nigerian nation.”
  
The Ohanaeze leader noted that, “no leader in history was ever indifferent about who would succeed him and President Buhari will not be an exception.”
 
He said the President must have a critical role in the emergence of his own successor, stressing: “To this effect, it is important for the President not to lose sight of political developments that may be injurious to national unity and corporate existence of the country. It is the national expectation that Mr. President continues his policy of national healing and reconciliation to logical conclusion.”
 
It is possible that Dokpesi’s committee would harvest all the bad weather reports against Atiku’s Presidential aspiration, but what the former Vice President and other leaders make of the mood of the nation and his party would help to chart the path to 2023 General Elections.