With former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the race for 2019 presidential election following his return to his former party the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, there appears to be hope for the country’s ailing democracy.
Since inception of this present democratic dispensation, many have argued that the dividends of democracy is far from being enjoyed by citizens due to bad leadership
Atiku, who announced his defection last year December, said his return to the PDP came following what he called his consultations with party leaders and stakeholders from across the country.
For many, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress, APC has been a disappointment to the electorate who massively threw their weights behind the president in 2015.
Many have argued that the APC government has failed in its agenda, especially in the area of economy, infrastructure development, power, employment, security amongst others.
The ex-Vice President is particularly concerned about youth unemployment as he promised to tackle the issue by providing permanent solution to the crisis.
Atiku, in his statement while announcing his defection, said he wanted to specifically reach as many of young people as possible as he had an important announcement to make about the future of Nigeria.
His words: “As it is, you, our youths, who represent the future of our nation, I have found in my travels across the country that whenever I get into conversations with young people their number one concern is whether they will be able to get a job for without a job they have no means of sustaining themselves or begin a family.
“And without the security of a job we cannot have security in our country. So without jobs there is no future for you or for Nigeria.
“And I also know as a parent that the older generation is also concerned about jobs for their children and, too often today, for themselves as well.”
Atiku said following his experience in the public service, creating enabling environment for jobs is not a challenge.
“Creating jobs is something I know about as I have created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect jobs in my own State of Adamawa.
“And I also know how the Government can help create the right environment for businesses to create jobs. When I was Vice President in 1999 I was responsible for liberalising the telecoms sector which enabled us to increase the number of people who could access a phone from less than 1 million then to over 100 million today.
“This transformation resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of new jobs from the top-up card vendors you see on every street corner to the many new businesses that fed off the mobile phone revolution.”
Explaining why he left the party for the ruling APC, the ex-Vice President said his decision was informed by his passion to improve the life of youths and Nigerians in general.
According to him, he had hoped the party would be the new force that would bring about the expected positive change in the country, adding that he was excited with the party’s manifesto to create three million new jobs in a year.
However he said he was disappointed by the APC administration following its failures to fulfil its promises, a development that prompted his return to his former party, PDP.
“Some of you may know that I was elected Vice President under the banner of the PDP, which is the political party I had helped to found some ten years before.
“And some of you may also know that I left the PDP four years ago when I believed it was no longer aligned to the principles of equity, democracy and social justice upon which we had founded it.
“I joined the APC as I had hoped it would be the new force that would help improve life for our people and I was excited about the party’s manifesto to create 3 million new jobs a year.
“The result has not been the change people had been promised or voted for, as in the last two years almost 3 million Nigerians have lost their jobs.
“And today with a record 25% of people aged 18-25 unemployed I can see how difficult it is for our youths to find a job.
“The key to creating jobs is a strong economy and that is what we are currently lacking.
“I want to let you know that I am returning home to the PDP as the issues that led me to leave it have now been resolved and it is clear that the APC has let the Nigerian people, and especially our young people, down.
“I meet young people every day. I have children and grandchildren and most of my employees are youths. The key to knowing what young people want is to listen to them. I’m good at that.
“Sometimes when I am on the phone with my kids they ask me are you still there, because I just listen to them without interrupting. Young people are on social media and so I go there. They tell me that their number one challenge is jobs.
“Terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, and other forms of exuberance they may lead to criminality are a symptom of the disease of joblessness.
“Once you can get Nigeria working again and get Nigerians working again, youth restiveness will ease and gradually disappear,” he concluded.
Atiku, like President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC who contested presidential elections four times before he finally clinched the position, is contesting the presidency for the fourth time, with much optimism to emerge winner.
But while the defection of Atiku ahead of the election may not be greeted with much enthusiasm by many political gladiators and watchers, especially those strongly linked with the ruling party, others however have expressed satisfaction in the development.
Of course expected mechanisms are beginning to be set in motions, as the ex-Vice President has started visiting various relevant political clouts in a bid to win their support.
And apart from this, the compacted fusion of the PDP, where Atiku is expected to contest a primary election in order to stand as the party’s flag bearer or at least being fielded as a consensus candidate if the party so concluded, is a major determinant to pave way for his emergence as president in 2019.
PDP had had a turbulent storm that rented the party apart as stalwarts and other members began to defect en masse to the ruling APC following a leadership crisis which left it in factions. But it managed to put its house in order and gradually emerging as a viable opposition to challenge the ruling party. And this has been climaxed in the convention which produced its national chairman Prince Uche Secondus.
Hurdles to surmount
Although the coast seems clearer for the Adamawa-born politician with the performance of the APC in the last two years, which many have decried, noting that the party failed in its expectations to provide the desired changed being championed in the build up to the last general election.
But there are more huddles for the former vice president to scale. The Rabiu Kwankwaso-factor and a host of others are confrontations for Atiku to address, which he must urgently subdue with to have an aggressive font
There are indications that the former Kano state governor is mobilizing supports to his ranks. While Arewa Youth Consultative Forum led by Yerima Shettima had also asked aspirants above the age of 60 to perish the thought of becoming president, Northern Youth Forum For National Development, Turaki Yahaya Abubakar, said he and his team have pitched tents with Kwankwaso.
His argument was that Kwankwaso being the youngest of Buhari and Atiku, would have the vigour and would be able to carry the weight of governance if elected as president.
His words: “The Northern Youth Forum For National Development is more interested in Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso due to some reasons including his youthful age. Age is no longer in favour of Atiku. Buhari spent many months in London on medical grounds with civil society groups and Nigerians divided on whether he should resign or remain in office.
“Kwankwaso is very hard working, philanthropic, charismatic, faithful and sincere concerning all his commitments. He will also take everybody along. He has so many leadership qualities unlike other northern leaders regardless of party affliction. If elected, he will certainly transform our nation economically and otherwise. He is our choice and the best of all,” he said.
If there is anything to go by with the argument of the norther youth leader, the emphasis on vigour which is largely predicated on age, apparently cannot be jettisoned.
Many have come to terms with the saying that being young in age and at heart have corresponding effects on output, and this perhaps could be noted in Kwankwaso, who according to records, delivered considerably well while he was Kano state governor.
But even if Atiku managed to surmount Kwankwaso factor, he is not widely accepted by a vast majority of Nigerians, who are of the opinion that the former vice president was one of those very many politicians that plunged the country deep into its present quagmire.
A political historian and social commentator, Oladele Akinlabi, while reliving the country’s political antecedents, submitted that Atiku was a major player who has shaped the polity, especially in the present democratic dispensation with its ailing phenomena.
“Atiku has contributed to where we are as a nation today. He is part of those who looted our funds while he was the Comptroller General of customs, and when he was the vice president. He is one of the politicians who use our money to build private universities, own investments outside the country and create fertile ground for corruption to flourish.
“As if that was not enough he still wants to come and impoverish us further to pack away the little money this present government is trying to recover for the good of all. And no wonder because the APC is not fertile for him to amass wealth he has jumped back to the PDP, a party which for 16 years wasted our resources,” he said.
Akinlabi’s argument in many quarters among watchers of political events found footings as more reactions negatively trail the opposition PDP, which is believed to be the bane of the country’s sorry state.
Meanwhile former president Olusegun Obasanjo remains resolute in his stand against Atiku’s ambition.
Obasanjo, who insisted that Atiku would not become president while he is alive, has been drawing attention from political events enthusiasts, who are expecting the former president to comment on the development.
There are indications that PDP bigwigs in northern region are awaiting for the verdict of Obasanjo on Atiku before they determine if he would be given the ticket or not.
Corroborating, former president Goodluck Jonathan clearly told Atiku to beg Obasanjo if he wants to get the ticket. “Atiku must beg or apologise to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo to get the 2019 presidential ticket of the PDP on a ‘platter of gold’. Although he has quit partisan politics but he still a strong factor in shaping the future of the party and who might eventually become president,” Jonathan stressed.
Atiku recently had a closed-door meeting with former military leader, Ibrahim Babangida. And the meeting, according to political pundits, may not be unconnected with his ambition and how to get the support of his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo.
However, as the challenges to Atiku’s presidential dream continue to fester ahead of the election, there is a need for the former vice president if indeed he wants to win the contest to maintain his focus in order to contain the growing tensions, which are capable of dousing his ambition.