As Nigeria prepares for another historic election in a few months, expectations are high as to who will ultimately take over from President Muhammadu Buhari for the next four to eight years.
Given the popularity of the leading presidential candidates put forward by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labor Party (LP), it is not unreasonable to argue that each of these candidates is constrained by one or more of them. more issues in their matches that have become determining factors in the contest.
While APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu is locked in the ongoing war of having to justify his reason for choosing a Muslim running mate, Peter Obi faces a party embroiled in crisis but determined to lead Nigeria out of the deadlock.
In the case of Atiku Abubakar, vice president for two terms between 1999 and 2007, what seems to be his biggest limitation is the internal crisis that is rocking his party as a result of the inability of its national president, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign as promised before of the primaries held in May 2022.
Key party members, including Governors Nyeson Wike of Rivers State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, decided to stay out of the activities that will shape the possibilities of Atiku. in the race. This has continued to dim the party’s chance to wrest power from the ruling party, as not all reconciliation strategies have been shown to tame the crisis.
Amid this volatile situation, the former Vice President of Awka, Anambra State, during a recent visit, drew his supporters. In what can be taken as a campaign strategy, Atiku reiterated his commitment to bequeath the presidency to the southeast, a region that he has always protested for his supposed exclusion from national politics, a consequence of which ignited the secessionist agitations taking place there.
Addressing his supporters, Atiku vowed to unite Nigerians by treating each area equally and providing security for all. He said: “My vision and mission as President is to unite Nigeria, bring peace and provide adequate security for the people of Nigeria.
“I am the springboard to an Igbo presidency. Vote for me and you will not regret it. I promise not to disappoint you.”
This was not unlike his words when he met stakeholders from the PDP’s south-eastern area in Enugu in September of the same year. The vice president insisted that he had chosen running mates in previous south-east election cycles, adding that he would support the process to secure an Igbo president if he wins the 2023 presidential election.
However, the chance of this important promise coming to fruition depends on how hard Atiku works to ensure that key members of his party close ranks before the polls. It is significant to say that the current state of the main opposition party sends the wrong signals to a large section of Nigerians that they will be willing to travel in different directions next year, having experienced the leadership of the ruling party for eight years.
Of course, this promise has been criticized by members of the other side. For example, Fani-Kayode in a reaction described the former vice president as arrogant and delusional. He taunted his former boss as an unsuspecting naked man running to dress others.
The former Aviation Minister said: “The insufferable arrogance and sheer nerve of this man is as sickening as it is appalling. Do the Igbo need you to become president? He’s been trying to be president for over 30 years and hasn’t been able to make it and now he says he’ll be the springboard for someone else.
“How far can you fool yourself? Your advisors have been so unfair to you! You are like a naked man running around without clothes and telling others that you are the springboard to get them nice new clothes!
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This criticism, harsh as it is, suggests the urgent need for the opposition to address its current crisis. One wonders what strategy Atiku plans to use to win the election, while five of the PDP-controlled states disagree with him. So the question is, between Atiku’s promise to hand over the presidency to the Southeast and reconciliation in the PDP, which is more important? The answer is not difficult.
Political analysts say Atiku needs to get his house in order before talking about helping others to become president. As someone who has run for president a couple of times and failed, Atiku had better work on quelling the war tearing his party apart before even thinking of handing over to a southeastern president. Only a president can talk about handing over power to someone else.
They believe that allowing the crisis in the party to fester would only further jeopardize his ambition to become the first democratic president of north-eastern Nigeria, so talk of handing over to another region may end up wishful thinking.
Many have also suggested that Atiku cannot be trusted to keep a promise or work with others to create a collective agreement based on fair play, equity and the need to give everyone a sense of ownership in the Nigerian project. The argument is that if he were, he wouldn’t even be running for president in 2023 in the first place.
In seeking to build a Nigeria that gave everyone a sense of belonging, political parties are understood to have worked out a system in which the various political positions in their parties and government are shared and rotated across the six geopolitical zones. through a north-south based arrangement. However, Atiku has refused to abide by this unwritten rule, as he is determined to be president, come what may. Since the north has had its share of the presidency for the past eight years under President Muhammadu Buhari, the expectation was that the next president would come from the southern part of the country.
Contrary to expectations, Atiku shrugged it off and took the PDP ticket. Many see his promise to hand over the southeast as a conciliatory move, knowing full well that the region, and indeed many Nigerians, are unhappy with his decision to avoid the zoning deal for his selfish course of action. One reason many see his promise as mere political speech meant to sway people in the region ahead of the 2023 general election. Because if he really did have as much love or respect for the Southeast as he wants people to believe, then he would not have disrespected the zoning agreement which should have facilitated the rise of a southern Nigerian president.
Analysts have also shown the internal crisis within the PDP as classic evidence of Atiku’s contempt for the need to share positions based on zones or regions. They also argue that the crisis also reflects how Atiku does not keep his words or promises. The group of five governors under the party platform that have continued to oppose Atiku’s presidential quest hints that he cannot be trusted. Governor Wike, in particular, said Atiku told him privately that Ayu would have to resign as the party’s presidential candidate and national chair should not come from the same northern region. But Atiku has refused to support moves to make Ayu resign.
Atiku’s supporters have made various arguments as to why the zoning agreement needs to be set aside in order for Atiku to get his way. But others have also questioned whether a man who has no regard for fairness and fair play can be trusted to keep his word. If he does win and becomes president, can the South East continue to trust him to work for the emergence of an Igbo Nigerian president?
By Ambali Abdulkabeer
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