A 78 year old former Vice President of the United States of America, Senator Joe Biden, took oath of office as the country’s 46th President following an history triumph at the November 2020 Presidential election. Americans queued behind Biden despite his old age because they believe that he was the kind of president the country needs as at that time to address issues bedeviling the country as at that time, especially as it relates to white supremacism and alleged racial discrimination. They defied age, but elected their choice.
In February 2023, Nigeria electorates, who have been plagued with hardship, insecurity, poor education, collapsed economy and poverty, will head to the poll to elect a new leader, who they believe will turn the fortunes of the country around for the better. These myriad of issues are believed can only be solved by a leader who understand the foundational problems and possess the capacity and ability to seamlessly address these issues without passing the blame to a predecessor administration; like is common with the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although several politicians within and outside the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have either shown interest in the presidential seat or rumoured to be interested, one name that has kept featuring is that of the Waziri Adamawa and former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and the reason is not farfetched – he is seen as by many as the man with the right credentials, experience and antecedents to rescue Nigeria.
As Vice President of Nigeria and Chairman of National Economic Committee between 1999 and 2007, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar led the transformation of Nigeria economy from the sorry state the then administration inherited from the military, to a working economy. The administration successfully privatised moribund public institutions, and bequeathed thriving banking, insurance, telecommunications and other sectors to Nigerians. Atiku is also credited to deepening democracy, birthing institutions of government and furthering the Nigerian state. His prodemocratic credential came to bare when as an incumbent Vice President, he led other democrats and progressives to ensure the defeat of a constitutional amendment to elongate the term limits of President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies popularly known as third term agenda. The irony of the situation is that Atiku Abubakar as the Vice President was eligible to benefit from the third term agenda if successful, but he made sacrifice, and stood against it in the overall interest of Nigeria’s democracy.
Apart from his democratic credentials, Atiku is considered a political leader that is pan-Nigerian whose belief in the oneness of every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of whether his origin is Sagbama of Bayelsa state, Tiv of Benue state or Fulani of Kwara state is never in doubt. Nigerians see need of him at a point where the country is almost divided along ethnic and religious lines. He is the only politician in Nigeria that enjoys acceptability in the Southeast, Southsouth, Southwest, Northeast, Northwest and Northcentral, this acceptability is a testament of the faith majority Nigerians have in his leadership.
Beyond these, Atiku is seen as the leader that has the finesse, charisma and political will to address Nigeria’s insecurity challenges. Many don’t know that the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua adopted Atiku’s template to address the Niger Delta insurgency during his administration.
In fact, the strength and acceptance of Atiku was witnessed in 2019 when the opposition PDP elected him as the Party’s candidate for the Presidential election. Atiku, who ran a very robust and issue based campaign, secured the majority votes of Nigerians across the entire six geopolitical zones, but the mandate was unfortunately hijacked by the candidate of the APC and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, using the apparatchik of the country at his disposal.
Unlike in 2019, Nigerians are well prepared to not only ensure that victory of Atiku, but to ensure that the mandate is secured and not stolen in 2023.
Conclusively, if PDP leaders truly care about Nigeria and desire to return to government to rescue and rebuild Nigeria, they must shelve parochialism and mushroom sentiments, they must put the interest of Nigeria above that of enemies of the country, and ensure that Atiku Abubakar is not shortchanged on account of age or zoning.
Mr John Audu
Writes from Lokoja