The 2023 general election is fast approaching and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is one of the leading political parties in the race seeking to produce the next president of the country
In this article, Naija News will be looking at Atiku’s journey to the Presidency and his chance in the 2023 Presidential election.
Atiku, who had worked with the Nigeria Customs Service for about two decades, ventured into politics far back in 1989. The Adamawa-State-born politician has, however, made five unsuccessfully attempts at the Presidency.
He made his first attempt to clinch the presidency in 1993 under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), but he lost. The PDP chieftain continued to pursue his presidential ambition and lost consecutively in 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019.
Atiku, however, accepted the offer of running mate to General Olusegun Obasanjo, who later won the 1999 presidential election. In 2006, Atiku fell out with Obasanjo over the former’s third term agenda.
The politician then dumped PDP and joined the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) ahead of the 2007 general elections and finished third in the election proper behind the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).Atiku Abubakar
Years passed, and Atiku returned to PDP in 2010 and lost in the presidential primary to President Goodluck Jonathan. Atiku left the PDP again ahead of the 2015 election for the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).
He finished fourth in the party’s 2014 presidential primary won by President Buhari and returned to the PDP again before the 2019 general elections. Atiku won the PDP presidential primary held in 2018 but lost in the 2019 presidential election to President Buhari by more than four million votes.
Despite all, Atiku refused to let go of his presidential aspiration and began a solidarity awareness and galvanization of support for his presidential bid in December 2021.
Atiku received rallying support from a PDP chieftain and media mogul, Raymond Dokpesi. Dokpesi, who was appointed as the leader of the technical committee of the Atiku Support Group, started the solidarity awareness for Atiku in Gombe, the North East region of the country, Naija News recalls.
After months of rallying support, Atiku on March 23, 2022, officially declared his intention to contest the presidential election in 2023 under the platform of the PDP. The former Vice President declared his presidential ambition at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
During his official declaration, Atiku said if elected, his administration would focus on five priority areas: Unity, security, economy, education, and devolving more powers to the federating units.
On April 29, Atiku asked the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to grant him the right of first refusal for the 2023 ticket after the party threw the presidential ticket open to all contestants. The former vice president said he had over 11 million ready votes to make the party victorious in next year’s election if he emerged as the party’s presidential candidate.
Atiku said this to members of the PDP leadership at the party’s national secretariat when he formally informed the leadership of his decision to contest for the party’s presidential ticket. He urged the NWC to ensure the emergence of only the best candidate.Atiku Abubakar receives PDP certificate of return
On May 28, 2022, Atiku emerged as the PDP presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections. He defeated 12 other aspirants, including the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, and Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, to win the election.
Atiku polled 371 votes to brush aside competition from Wike, who polled 237 votes. Saraki recorded 70 votes, while Mohammed got 20 votes. The duo of former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim, and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel secured 14 and 38 votes, respectively.
On June 16, Atiku officially announced Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate for the 2023 general election after a series of intrigues and suspense. The PDP NWC had backed Wike as the party’s vice-presidential candidate and supported the report of an advisory panel set up to help select Atiku’s running mate, who had voted in favor of Wike over Okowa and Emmanuel.
The River state governor, however, eventually lost out in the race.
The big question is, Does the PDP stand a chance of winning the 2023 election and returning itself as a ruling party?
This is a question whose answer lies squarely in the hands of the Nigerian voting population. The trend of political shifts and movements in the country will also shape the outcome of the 2023 election.
One of the stumbling blocks against Atiku is the claim that he is not a Nigerian. Naija News understands that the PDP Presidential flagbearer was born on November 25, 1946, in Jada, a village that was then under the administration of the British Cameroons.
With these records, some political big wigs have severally exploited this development to silence his ambition, and the matter has been a subject of judicial interpretation.
Atiku’s most significant opposition seems to be the All Progressives Congress which already has its candidate, Bola Tinubu. However, while the APC is celebrating the emergence of their standard flag bearer, the party is still looking for a substantive running mate.
Amid the confusion in the ruling party, Atiku chose Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate. This development means Atiku and the PDP are running a Muslim-Christian ticket for the 2023 election.Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa
Okowa: The South-South, South-East Effect
The debate earlier on zoning was that the Southern part of the country should produce the next president of Nigeria. However, after a series of deliberations, political parties made choices they feel is best for the interest of their camps to win the 2023 election.
In PDP, the South had lost the chance of producing a presidential candidate for the 2023 polls after Atiku emerged as its flag-bearer in the presidential primary election held weeks ago.
However, the choice of Okowa, a Southerner, as the party’s Vice presidential candidate gave both the South-South and the South-East a sense of belonging and the fact that he is a Christian. Okowa’s choice, however, came with solid opposition from socio-cultural groups in the region like the Pan Delta Forum, PANDEF, Afenifere, and the Southern Middle Belt Forum (SMBLF), who had called for a Southern presidency. A group like Ohanaeze Ndigbo has applauded the choice of the Delta governor as Atiku’s running mate.
It is expected that the choice of Okowa by Atiku and the PDP would positively impact the party as more people may show interest in supporting the opposition camp come February 2023 because of the balance.
Although the South-East had lost the chance of getting a vice-presidential slot following the withdrawal of former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, from the PDP, some citizens from the region would inarguably support the candidacy of Atiku, considering the choice of Okowa, a southerner, and a Christian as his running mate.
Expectations from the Northern region
Atiku, who won in 17 states and the FCT in the 2019 presidential election, would have to work behind the scene to woo more people from the North to add to his already encouraging support base.
Regarding voter turn-outs, the Northern part of the country is known for pulling a massive number of votes, considering their population and commitment to politics from the grassroots, which is usually different from other regions. It is expected that Atiku would penetrate the North West region, which has the highest voting population, and secure substantial votes due to his ethnicity and religion.
Atiku, from the North East region, would expect that more than half of the region will vote for him, bearing in mind that the region has not produced a Nigerian President before. Atiku and the PDP have always done fairly in the North Central during previous elections and will be hoping to do more in 2023.
The Wazirin-Adamawa, with the understanding that politics is a game of numbers, had boasted in previous publications that he would defeat his opponents in the 2023 polls with a wide margin.
In one of his usual boasts ahead of the polls, Atiku, in April 2022, told PDP that he is the best candidate to lead the party to victory in 2023.
Addressing the party’s chairman in one of his statements, Atiku said: “Under normal circumstances, Mr. Chairman, this is a guy who already has 11 million votes in his kitty. And I think, as a party, you should give me the right of first refusal, but we are in a democracy.
“All I can urge you is to make sure that the way you have started, you also conclude by being very fair, very credible, giving every contestant the opportunity to face the electorate.”
Atiku said Nigerians should expect excellent leadership from the PDP based on how the NWC handles the affairs of the party, adding that “we all know that the APC has failed, but we should not take Nigerians for granted. We should go all out to let them know APC has failed and PDP has not failed on our comparative analysis. If you compare the achievements of PDP and the failure of APC, you know that you have no other choice than PDP.”
Selling himself to the Nigerian populace, Atiku promised to devolve more powers and resources to the states “because I believe that is the best way to get Nigeria developed to its fullest capacity by giving autonomy and resources to the various components.”
However, until February 2023, when the presidential election would be conducted in the country, all presidential candidates, including Atiku, have an equal chance to emerge as Nigeria’s next president – the chances will, however, be tested and confirmed at the polls by Nigerians.
This article was originally published on Naija News