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2023 PRESIDENCY: Between PDP’s Atiku Abubakar & APC’s Bola Tinubu By Kassim Afegbua.

Atiku Abubakar & Bola Tinubu.

This is the era of political campaigns where all manner of subterfuge are allowed to flourish to confuse and convince the undiscerning mind in a bid to raking up votes for the election. I have listened to, and dissected both personalities of Atiku Abubakar and Asiwaju Tinubu in terms of experience and capacity to deliver on electoral promises. I worked for the PDP presidential campaign Council when Atiku Abubakar emerged as the candidate of the party in 2018 at the Port Harcourt convention. At that time, I was bound by Party loyalty to play along even though my choice was Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto state Governor. We tried to market Atiku Abubakar as a lesser evil than  Buhari, the incumbent President. We interrogated Atiku's manifesto which spoke of welfarism and capacity to coordinate all the centripetal and centrifugal forces to drive the type of development we desire as a nation in confronting the challenges that stare us in the face. I had thought Atiku Abubakar will experiment his beliefs and manifesto within the ambits of the campaigns and those foot soldiers who were all over the place marketing him; sadly, as soon as the elections were over, he ran away through the back door to Dubai and stayed there for two full years leaving all of us exposed to the vagaries of Buhari's attack dogs who intimidated us to the tilt. 

On a couple of occasions, I was chased by security goons on my way from Television stations for reasons only God knows. I survived three close range assaults all in the name of trying to cow me to back off from sustaining the PDP presidential candidate's agitation through the electoral tribunal. Atiku Abubakar ran away like a General would; abandoning his troops in the battle field, leaving them to their fate, while he enjoyed the oleageneous paeans in far away Dubai, even reportedly married a new wife to compliment his exotic lifestyle. We were left rudderless! Not a single telephone call of appreciation came from a man who desired to become the leader of Nigeria's 200m population. Rather than be on ground to chart the roadmap, he got PDP executives and chieftains running to Dubai to pay homage to him. The tribunal ran from the beginning to the end without seeing the candidate's break light; as is commonly said. As abandoned troops, Atiku on his return wanted us to go to the battlefield again with him; even when the PDP constitution supported a shift to the Southern part of the country in the spirit of zoning. Atiku Abubakar started behaving like a comedian, warmed his way into the party apparachik of the Ayu-led executive, and they ended up jettisoning the zoning arrangement. Plot after plot, PDP's internal conspiracies and contradictions became manifestly embarrassing. The chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, who ought to be non-partisan became the chief plotter of a convention that exposed the rotten underbelly of the system. 

The outcome was pre-meditated. Atiku emerged because he wants to be Nigeria's president by fire, by force! A man who would be a good leader, must show signs of his abilities and capacities at every given opportunity. For running away at a critical time of the struggle, and thereby exposing all his foot soldiers was to me, the lowest level a leader can go. It is all about himself and his entitlements alone and alone. Fact is, the so-called experience he touts about, pales into insignificance when you realize that he hasn't held any executive position in the politics of the nation. He was a Vice President under tumultuous circumstances as the then president Obasanjo, knowing Atiku Abubakar's desperation, tried to cut him to size. His plots were unclothed by president Obasanjo, who as a General, understood the art of war. He was able to cut Atiku to size before he lobbied his way into the then Action Congress piloted by Asiwaju Tinubu, to amongst other things rescue the former from the grip of dictatorial politics of Olusegun Obasanjo. Just in the manner of Atiku's peculiar politics of self, he granted interview on Arise TV last week, and assumed the position of a Landlord of a party whose formation he knew practically nothing about. He said he frowned at the lure to have him paired up with Asiwaju Tinubu, a muslim in the presidential contest. Such opportunism was quite expected, because the level of Atiku's desperation presently to get into Aso Rock is worse than reproachful. But it shouldn't be a matter of telling lies to score cheap political point. If he lobbied so voraciously to become MKO Abiola's running mate in 1993, what may have changed in 2007 to refuse to accommodate a fellow Muslim too? 

Politics they say is full of conspiracies. While Atiku has been contesting for president since 1992, a period of 30 years, this is the first time that Asiwaju Tinubu has indicated interest in running for the same office even though he says it was a life time ambition. Given such background, it is understandable why Atiku's desperation for the coveted seat has become a matter of life and death. Asiwaju Tinubu is a team player; unlike Atiku, who wants to be venerated as the only "good" thing that has happened to Nigeria. Out of desperation, Atiku left PDP in 2007, ran under Action Congress, returned to PDP, contested with President Jonathan, he was beaten flat, and later ran to APC at formation to try his.luck again. President Buhari and the Tinubu camp, demolished him at the Lagos convention in 2015, where he came a distant third position. Undone, he exited the APC and joined PDP again to try his luck in 2018. Unable to strike the right chord, he escaped to Dubai leaving his foot soldiers to suffer the pains of "war". Tinubu on the other hand, has been disruptor of military hegemony, fought his way through their self-imposed system, contested and won as a Senator, before the third Republic became ill-fated. Even in exile, Tinubu coordinated a well oiled campaign for the return of democracy, at personal risk and cost, and succeeded in pushing the military back to the barracks. He returned to the country and emerged as the duly democratically elected Governor of Lagos state. 

As a Governor, and given his exposure to global affairs and the world of work, he assembled a pan-quality team that recharted the roadmap of Lagos administration, introduced a lot of far-reaching reforms that have endured the test of time and placed Lagos at the epicentre of Nigeria's commercial city. Not done, he teamed up with other like minds to birth a merger of four political parties into what is today known as All Progressives' Congress, APC. Tinubu's political ingenuity was again put to action when the newly registered party, broke the back of.incumbency to return General Buhari as Nigeria's president. Rather than for Atiku to remain within the APC and assist the new president Buhari pursue his electoral promises, he absconded by relocating to Dubai, and by the time he returned, he jumped ship again to seek refuge in PDP. In terms of consistency, Tinubu has been one remarkable, consistent, dogged and rugged political fighter, who also survived Obasanjo's dictatorial politics of the millennium years. Tinubu stood his ground and delivered Lagos state to his Action Congress party when President Obasanjo railroaded the entire South-West to embrace the PDP post 2003. Only Lagos state remained unbowed. Tinubu was not just the last man standing, he also offered his platform to Atiku in 2007 as a shield, when he was played out of the power equation of the PDP. Tinubu's consistency also contributed to his success at the APC convention even when it became apparent that certain persons wanted to pull the rug from beneath his feet. His ability to network his array of friends and recruit solid minds to champion his cause, are some of his credentials that cannot be ignored.

2023 has now become a year and time when the leaderships ability to rally round forces and persons to set up a solid team for delivering the promises become more compelling. Tinubu has the cutting edge skill to do that more than any of the candidates. He has been a Senator and a Governor. That means he has both legislative and executive experiences more than Atiku. As a Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was only actively involved in governance for the first four years. The second term was characterised by brickbats between him and the president. The plots of who controls the PDP leadership and political structure caused a major setback in the affairs of state. President Obasanjo admittedly spoke of how he tried successfully to cage Atiku's vaulting ambition. How he visited Audu Ogbeh as Chairman of the PDP and asked him to resign his position before he introduced Ahmadu Alli, who could not be controlled by Atiku Abubakar. As 2023 draws nearer, a Tinubu presidency will be able to rally round credible minds with the technical know-how to combat the challenges confronting the country. Give Tinubu the credit of being able to identify brains just like General Babangida did; persons who can deliver the responsibility of governance and make a difference in the affairs of the nation. It is in recognition of this and other factors that made the APC consider him worthy of her ticket. His ability to reach out to all is an attribute that distinguishes Tinubu out amongst all others who are contesting with him.


Kassim Afegbua is a member of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP and a former Commissioner for Information in Edo State.


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