With Uche Nnadozie
Former Vice president Atiku Abubakar has been in the news in the last couple of days. He appeared to have ticked the right boxes. In the United States media, they call it post convention bounce. It is that good perception you get after doing some good stuff in an event during an election year. In this case, after snatching victory at the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP convention about a week ago, the serial presidential aspirant got good reviews around the country both in the mainstream media and the social media. It appears he is made for this season. Everything seemed to be working out for him at the moment. And he also looked like someone who has a plan of how he wants to run his campaign.
Coming from him, I am not particularly surprised. This man has been on this since 1992. He was among aspirants on the platform of the then Social Democratic Party, SDP. He was in the lead up to the 1993 election. The same primary which MKO Abiola won had him come third. Also, in 2011, he brokered a deal among fellow aspirants during the PDP primary election. Although he lost to Goodluck Jonathan, but the fact that he could pull off unanimity between aspirants from northern Nigeria at the time showed he is good with deals. This was after he was defeated in the 2007 presidential election won by Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He tried again in 2015. This time he came third in the primary of the All Progressives Congress, APC in Lagos.
Before this last week’s presidential primary in Port Harcourt there were signs of weaknesses within the PDP. The governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike had threatened the party about an impending doom should the shadow election be moved from his state capital. Wike was angry because some of the dozen and one aspirants had complained about the venue being too close to one of the aspirants. Wike did not hide his preference for the Governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwal. He confirmed that after he voted and showcased his preference on the ballot paper. Wike and a few other governors of the party had up till that time privatised the party. They called the shots and said what happened. For them, they funded the party while others abandoned it. But Atiku being an experienced politician found a formula to outfox the Wikes of this world and succeeded in grabbing the party’s most important ticket from Wike’s backyard.
Next was the well publicised trip to Abeokuta. Having succeeded in Port Harcourt, he took that momentum to meet his former boss, former president Olusegun Obasanjo. Both men have not had a rosy relationship since they left power in 2007. As a matter of fact, left to Obasanjo, Atiku would have been impeached around 2005. Their soured relationship was so toxic that he devoted many pages in his book, My Watch to expose and disparage Atiku. Up till last month, the former president still swore that he will be committing sin against God if he ever supported Atiku in his presidential bid. But all that anger melted when Atiku got some eminent Nigerians to fix a reconciliatory meeting in Abeokuta. In spite of Obasanjo’s misgivings as cited in his written address during the meeting, he endorsed his former deputy nonetheless. That meeting again cemented his growing profile and public perception.
However, his nomination of Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra state as his running mate jolted what was thus far a smooth sailing post convention bounce. Unfortunately for Atiku, it is not that he made a wrong choice but how he went about it. Although I am not a PDP supporter but I have always fancied Peter Obi. He did reposition his state and returned it to the comity of descent progress and civility. Hitherto, the state was very chaotic and without a proper trajectory. He also posses a frugal persona and appear as a good man. He is a successful entrepreneur and is a dogged fighter. His tenacious fight to reclaim his mandate after he was rigged out under APGA was a first in this part. His pick was an easy one.
But then, politics stepped in. the South East PDP leaders stepped in and announced that they were not consulted. This salvo by the governor of Ebonyi state Dave Umahi who doubles as the chairman of South East governors’ forum jolted Atiku’s roller coaster ride. Even after they held meeting among themselves they still did not back down. They insisted that Atiku did not follow the right channel. In a democracy you can’t really fault them. It has since emerged that the South East apparently voted for the PDP standard bearer en block. They say they deserved some respect. Even if he will still pick Obi, they deserved a buy-in. and for me, this jolt is a cause for concern. Atiku should not because he wants to appear to like to take quick actions end up embarrassing and relegating people. His astuteness in politics should have show brightly in taking such a decision rather than this knee jerk approach which has exposed him as a man that likes to play to the gallery.
Although I know that the pick will not be dropped. Atiku will consult and they will resolve their differences. However, a seed has been sowed. Knowing our politicians in this country, the PDP candidate will pay for this gaffe in due time. No matter the assurances he will receive, this innocuous crack will give space for little lizards. By the next time you check, it will become a hole, a gaping hole. Atiku must redefine his campaign right away to continue to enjoy this bounce. He must not allow the glitch with Obi’s nomination drown his effort so far. The days ahead will show if he means business or not.