PDP’s botched zoning and Atiku’s perennial presidential ambition
By Law Mefor
Initially, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stated that the fate of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition would be decided by zoning regardless of the party constitution, which dictates that presidential power has to move South in 2023. The PDP has also claimed that since the party is not in power at the centre, it has nothing to really zone.
Coupled with nomination form the party sold at prohibitive cost to aspirants from both North and South, it was almost certain that the work of the Governor Samuel Ortom zoning committee is just to fulfill all righteousness. Fact has emerged from the so-called PDP Zoning Committee that there will be no zoning after all; it is all but set up as a smokescreen. The PDP presidential ticket is now up for auctioning to the highest bidders.
Let’s look at Atiku Abubakar’s perennial presidential ambition, which like a recurring decimal, is again a major factor in the PDP equation. Recall that Atiku is geared to contest for the position of President for a record six (6) times, having lost the 5 previous attempts.
Since his entry into politics in 1993, Atiku Abubakar has unsuccessfully contested five times for the Office of President of Nigeria in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In 1993, he contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries, losing to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe.
Today, Atiku is gunning for the same office for a record 6th time, which may earn him an enviable place in the Guinness Book of Records. There is something wrong with his perennial presidential ambition.
In 2015, Atiku left the PDP and supported General Muhammadu Buhari because of zoning. He also canvassed for zoning in 2011. But now, zoning doesn’t matter to him for the simple reason that it does not favour him.
He is not alone though. In 2014, a faction of the PDP going by the name, nPDP, broke away from the parent body for the same reason of perceived violation of the zoning principle. Instructively, among the men who broke away on account of zoning are those who today, are saying that zoning should be jettisoned.
So, the inconvenient truth is that the proponents of zoning only yesterday are the same characters saying there should be no zoning today and Atiku is chief among those who are both proponents and opponents of zoning, depending on which serves their interests.
Atiku Abubakar, a former customs officer and former Vice President of Nigeria, has become a veteran of the Presidential race in Nigeria. His ambition to rule Nigeria however unbridled is legitimate but there is something improper about it.
The convention since the return of Nigeria to the current democratic dispensation in 1999, is that presidential power rotates between North and South Nigeria. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, wrote this same convention into their party constitution in 2009. Yet, the party has been pressured to violate the express and quintessential rule and damn the consequences.
This convention also led to the formation of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its subsequent victory over the then incumbent PDP, which refused to zone its presidential ticket to the North in 2015 as required by the said convention and the extant constitutional provision. The same history is about repeating itself now that the PDP has thrown its presidential ticket open for grabs by the highest bidder.
Men like Atiku Abubakar ought to be patriots and statesmen who should help to stabilize the polity by ensuring equity, social justice, and national cohesion. Instead, Atiku and his cohorts chose to muzzle their way into the ring and to run against a popular and prevailing national sentiment of the necessity of power moving South in 2023.
Granted, his ambition is legitimate and constitutional but it is not expedient for the reason that it runs against the grain of natural justice. His running is reminiscent of what saw Dr. Goodluck Jonathan out of power in 2015. Personal interest should always give way when national interest is at stake.
Thrice, Atiku attempted to unseat an incumbent, including Olusegun Obasanjo who made him Vice President when he was only governor-elect. Atiku has always chosen the wrong moment to launch his presidential bid thus often finds himself swimming against a formidable tide.
The last Presidential election was not also such a good moment either. Buhari was running for his second term and they both share a common power base with Buhari clearly having an upper hand. Predictably, Atiku lost the core North and had to rely on southern Nigeria to deliver him.
Whether by divine providence or political calculations, Atiku was an in-law to Ndigbo as at 2015 and to the Yoruba also. He was married to Jennifer Iwenjiora Douglas-Abubakar from Onitsha Anambra State (they are now divorced) and Titi Abubakar from Ijesha, Osun State. Atiku also wisely picked Peter Obi, a well-respected achiever and former Governor of Anambra State, as his running mate.
Ndigbo, as expected, rallied for Atiku/Obi ticket aka ‘Atikulate Team’. The South South queued behind them too. The election came and Atiku won his own state only by the whisker (though Atiku won by a small majority, Buhari still won 11 LGs of Atiku’s Adamawa state while Atiku won 10 LGs).
When watchers knew that Atiku’s base was shaken to the core was when his own governor Bindo Umaru Jibrilla refused to endorse him, let alone defect to the PDP in his honour and support as expected.
On the whole, zonally, Atiku won only the South East and South South. The South West followed the side where their bread was buttered – the APC – where their son, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was and still is, Vice President. Surprisingly (though some say, as usual), the Middle Belt played the northern card and voted for Buhari, including Plateau.
Now, amidst the growing clamour for Nigerian President of Igbo extraction, Atiku is coming out again. What he is invariably telling the South East is to commit political hara-kiri and asphyxiation by burying their ambition until his is fulfilled despite trying for the umpteenth time. Better still, they can go to hell.
But one thing anybody can take to the bank is that the South East will take their chance with the 2023 Presidential election by supporting one of their own against whatever outcome. Peter Obi and Anyim Pius Anyim are already in the ring and ready to remove the gloves.
The South-East interest has not changed and will not be obliterated by Atiku’s perennial presidential ambition. Let him not be deceived by political jobbers who may be telling him that the South East route is ever pliable for the PDP. Besides, Ndigbo want to produce the President of Nigeria, having waited in the wings for over 50 years since the end of the civil war.
Atiku Abubakar should be advised to support the South East as they have always supported him. But if he insists on his ambition, it will be naturally, ‘to your tents oh Israel’ and everybody will have to answer his father’s name this time around.
Ndigbo see 2023 as a magic year for their dream to lead Nigeria. It is the season when power should be returning to Southern Nigeria and the two other zones in the South have already taken their turns. Natural justice and equity require the other two zones in the South to cede power to the remaining zone – the South East.
There is a justification for this great expectation. South East supported Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to become President in 1999 and 2003, even when his own people deserted him. The South-East supported Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to be elected President in 2010 and in 2011.
Even when the whole country seemed to turn against the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, the South East stuck with him.
It is therefore not out of sync for the South East to expect to reap some goodwill from the two zones of the South in the zone’s quest for 2023.
In the unlikely event that the other zones would connive and deny the Igbo man his right to lead Nigeria, a country they co-founded and played a pivotal role in its liberation, it will be a redefining moment for them and they shall factor such new reality and oddity into their future calculations and survival strategies.
Dr. Law Mefor is an Abuja based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: email@example.com; Tel.: +234-905 642 4375; tweet: @LawMefor1.