Atiku: Setting The Stage For 2019 Elections
Recent developments within the Nigerian polity suggests that there are obvious signs that serious politicking have began ahead of 2019 general elections and one name that is already featuring prominently is the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
The comments credited to the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan during an interview she granted BBC Hausa service and a sallah homage she later paid the ex-Vice President even while still serving in the Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet may have set the stage for the forth coming elections in 2019.
Alhassan, a frontline female politician from Taraba State was captured in a video during an interview with BBC Hausa as saying she would support Atiku even if President Muhammadu Buhari decides to re-contest the 2019 election.
She has been alleged to have used the Sallah visit to Atiku in Yola as a support strategy for the latter’s 2019 Presidential ambition prompting her to tag her critics as being “mischievous,”.
She has also insisted that her visit to Atiku was hinged on the need to maintain a long standing relationship with the ex-VP.
Both Alhassan and Atiku currently belongs to the All Progressive Congress camp but there has been some insinuations that her actions speaks of disloyalty to the current President, particularly the fact that her comments have unsettled the ruling party.
Although recent developments has signaled Atiku’s interest in the 2019 presidential elections, his antecedents in politics calls for some introspection, especially among his loyalists.
Abubakar and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo were icons in the dispensation that brought about Nigeria’s nascent democracy in the late 1990s.
Obasanjo who had just regained freedom from prison, picked the Peoples Democratic Party ticket to run for President, upon winning the election, he invited Atiku who had also clinched the governorship seat of Adamawa State to be his Vice, things went well initially until their relationship got soured towards the end of their first term.
Atiku is reported to be one politician that is very versatile with a high degree of intelligence, experience, charisma and steadfastness but his shots at the presidency has eluded him over the years.
His sojourn in politics dates back to his days in the Nigeria Customs Service where he rose through the rank and file to become an Assistant Comptroller General.
When he bid fare well to the civil service, he joined politics big time pitching tent with the Social Democratic Party (PDP) at a time Nigeria’s former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) still held the reins of power.
Atiku contested the SDP presidential primaries with the late symbol of truncated democracy in Nigeria, Chief Moshood Abiola.
He lost the SDP primaries to Abiola, even with his longstanding association with the man who was arguably the greatest political gladiator of the era, late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua.
Pressures On Atiku To Return To PDP:
Meanwhile there are subtle pressures being mounted on the Adamawa State born politician, to return to the Peoples Democratic Party, a party he was also instrumental in founding in the late 1990s.
Saturday INDEPENDENT gathered that the stalwarts in the PDP and other interest groups have began moves to woo him back to the party’s fold ahead of the 2019 elections.
One of such group is the National Progressive Coalition(NAPCO) which have been working underground for the former number two citizen to join the race.
Another prominent figure is Chief Sunny Onuesoke, one time governorship aspirant in Delta State.
Mobilisation Of Campaign Groups
According to our sources, the road towards 2019 campaigns is very much on the way for Atiku’s supporters. While others are still undecided on their candidacy, the Atiku team is now up and running. Our source disclosed that funds and vehicles to be used for campaign are already being disbursed to various teams from all geo political zones in the country.
Supporters and campaign leaders we hear are meeting regularly at a hotel owned by one of the friends of the former president in Abuja. “They are not playing. Everything has been set in motion. There are already media teams, social media handlers, and canvasser. The next step is for him to meet the royal fathers across the country, he would soon commence that,” a source tells SATURDAY INDEPENDENT.
The Alhassan Debacle
In what appears to be a war of words, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufa’i who was at the Presidential Villa on Friday to pay sallah homage to the President and to worship with him, seized the opportunity to tongue lash Alhassan over her comments.
He said the Minister ought to be grateful to President Buhari for throwing away sentiments and incorporating her in his cabinet even when she never merited it.
According to the Governor, who is believed to be one of Buhari’s die hard loyalist,Alhassan never voted for Buhari during the primaries and subsequent election that brought him to power.
He told State House reporters, “The Minister was never in the Buhari camp, she did not support our candidates during the National Convention, she didn’t vote for Buhari during the Primaries. But out of largeness of the President’s heart and to encourage women in politics he brought her on board.
“Even though she was never a supporter of his politics or what he believes in, his ideology. He still believed that to encourage women in politics , what she has tried to do in Taraba earned her being nominated as a Minister.
“Many in Buhari camp did not support it but he overode everybody, the President tries to consider every Nigerian as his own son or daughter and he nominated her.
“Her comments are not surprising, she has never been a supporter, she has never believed in Buhari ideology. So, I am not surprised, as a Nigerian, as an individual she has every right to express her views and support whoever she wants.
“What I am saying is Nigerians should not be surprised or shocked. This has always been her position because from time she has never supported Buharism or what Buhari stands for. Being part of Buhari government is a different thing because government sets policies and if you are a minister you execute the policies. You can execute those policies while pursuing a different brand of politics”.
Possibility Of Retaining Alhassan In The Cabinet Or Sack:
The minister who had visited the presidential villa on Thursday to see the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari had stated that Buhari was not naïve to take any decision concerning her appointment.
She had stated in clear terms when reporters accosted her and asked her, if she saw her relationship with the President as being strained following the BBC interview?
“How will I know. I have not seen the President but I don’t think the president is a naive person,”she had said.
But in a response to that,El Rufa’I said it was in the President’s prerogative to sack or retain her.
“Look, you can retain a person in the cabinet even if he doesn’t support you, if he adds value to the country. Because this is a government, it is not a political group fighting for some political progress. If Jummai Alhassan is coming as Minister of Women Afairs and adding value to the government and the people of Nigeria, it is the President’s prerogative to retain her in spite of her political views.
“But if she is not adding value in spite of her political views she can be dispensed with, people shouldn’t get worried about it.
“I have worked closely with the President, I know him and I know how he thinks. He doesn’t take this things personally. What is primary to him is Nigeria’s progress, that is what matters ultimately”.