2023 Presidential Elections: Awaiting Atiku’s crowning glory

Victor-Marie Hugo, 19th Century French writer and politician, once said that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

These words come to mind within the context of Nigeria’s current political dispensation when one considers the massive support from all over the country being extended to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming election.

Indeed, the way Atiku Abubakar’s campaign is going, not many would dispute the fact that when it comes to the 2023 presidential election, the Turakin Adamawa is that idea whose time has come. He is the man to beat. The Atiku campaign is like a tide; and nothing stands in the way of a tide.

Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the PDP’s flag-bearer at the party’s presidential primaries in May 2022 was divinely orchestrated just like the choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate, as attested to by the massive support and endorsements that have followed the Atiku-Okowa campaign trail across the country.

Everywhere Atiku Abubakar’s campaign trail has stopped in this electioneering season, the PDP presidential candidate has received overwhelming support from the people. When the Atiku-Okowa campaign stopped at Asaba, the Delta State capital, recently, the city was on total shutdown as the electorate trooped out to show their support for the ticket. In his speech, Atiku acknowledged the support the PDP has received from the Delta people since 1999.

“We are here because of the support we have received all along, particularly myself. In all my political career, from 1999 to date, Delta State has never failed me,” Atiku said.

The PDP presidential candidate said his choice of Governor Okowa as running mate was also due to longstanding support from the state, noting that the campaign team was not in the state to campaign but to show gratitude and identify with the Delta people in all respects.

Just on Thursday, January 26, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), an alliance of 40 political parties formed in July 2018 with the sole aim of taking power from the ruling APC in 2019, announced its endorsement of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Gov. Okowa of Delta State, as their choice for president and vice-president in the coming election.

The CUPP in the 11 states in the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones said they arrived at the decision after scrutinizing the presidential candidates of the political parties for the 2023 general elections with a view to adopting one of them as a consensus presidential candidate in line with the vision of the CUPP founding fathers.

“The CUPP, arising from a critical assessment meeting, therefore gladly endorsed the candidacy of Atiku Abubakar- Ifeanyi Okowa joint ticket as our consensus choice for the 2023 presidential election,” Mr. Ken Ikeh, zonal chairman of CUPP, said.

“This geopolitical zone of Nigeria has always joined the rest of the country to advocate for restructuring of this economy. Atiku is an advocate of restructuring and has promised to champion devolution of power to federating states.

“Atiku, having been the Vice President of Nigeria, is the most experienced of all the presidential candidates and besides, his joint ticket with Okowa satisfies the criteria of a Muslim-Christian ticket.

“Atiku’s choice of Okowa as running mate is an indication that the PDP presidential candidate cares for the Igbo people. In 1999, Atiku demonstrated his preference by choosing his running mate from the South-East. Both Atiku and Okowa are proven and tested unifiers.

“We urge all political stakeholders, opinion leaders and elders of the geopolitical zone and all Nigerians of good conscience to support Atiku,” he said.

Similarly, a former director in the Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Hajia Naja’atu Mohammed, also resigned her position and threw the weight of her support behind Atiku Abubakar.

In the Northern region, Atiku Abubakar’s home region, everyone is speaking with one voice in support of the PDP candidate. Indeed, a group, the Northern Liberal Democratic Movement (NLDM), is calling on the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to withdraw from race and support Atiku Abubakar.

“Apart from the mood of the people of the region, there is a current defections of many chieftains and members of the NNPP across the three Northern zones to PDP across the region in anticipation of a likely Atiku’s victory in February,” the National Secretary of NLDM, Balarabe Ali Bello, said in a statement.

“The NNPP had in the last few weeks lost its chieftains to the PDP, with the recent being the deputy governorship candidates of the party in Niger and Yobe States, as well as the state chairman of the party in Kaduna and the zonal secretary of the party in the North East zone who defected with scores of their supporters. No fewer than 700,000 members of the party are also said to have defected to PDP in Bauchi State, North East zone of the country, prompting many stakeholders in the region to urge Kwankwaso to withdraw in favour of the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, who many see as well-placed to win the February election,” the statement further stated.

Earlier in January, a drama had ensued during the official flag-off of Governor Seyi Makinde’s second term bid in Ibadan, Oyo State. Makinde is among the G-5, a group of five aggrieved PDP governors who are asking the party to sack its chairman, Iyorcha Ayu, as their pre-condition for joining the Atiku campaign train

At the event, the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who is the leader of the G-5, told the party supporters, “Vote for Seyi, vote for the House of Representatives, vote for the House of Assembly. The other one, Seyi would talk to you. No be so?”

But in response, shouts of “Atiku, Atiku, Atiku” rented the air from the crowd, sending embarrassing shocks to the G-5 governors and their supporters. It was the same thing when Makinde mounted the podium and tried to douse the strong opposition chants by shouting “PDP”.

Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, is also among the G-5 governors. But while Ikpeazu is opposed to Atiku’s emergence, PDP supporters in his hometown affirmed their backing for Atiku. PDP supporters in Obingwa Local Government Area said they had not only adopted, but also vowed to deliver Atiku in next month’s election.

But perhaps it is Dele Momodu, veteran journalist and Director of Strategic Communications for the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, that has captured the tidal nature of the Atiku movement most succinctly in a recent article titled “How Atiku Abubakar will become the next president of Nigeria”. In the said article, Momodu argued that a presidential candidate cannot depend totally on votes from outside his home base to win the election, noting that historically, whenever the South produced two strong candidates, the dominant Northern candidate won, such as in 1979 and 1983 which pitted Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe against Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

Clearly, there are two strong candidates from the South in the 2023 election – Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the South West and Labour Party’s Peter Obi from the South East. Given this scenario, Momodu projected that Atiku Abubakar will dominate the North East, North West, North Central and South-South. Tinubu may pick a few states in the North and South West but won’t have enough to win, but Atiku will still be competitive in the South East and South West.

Momodu further argued that winning a presidential election in Nigeria requires a handshake across regions and Atiku Abubakar has spent the past 30 years building these bridges required to cross to victory. Come February 25, he said, the entire North and the South-South will make Atiku the next President.

“I predict that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is the most prepared and experienced candidate in the race who’s ready to hit the ground running from day one,” Momodu said.

Indeed, Momodu’s brilliant analysis is shared by many expert watchers of the unfolding politics of the 2023 presidential election, including public affairs analysts and commentators with unbiased disposition

There is a portion in the Holy Book that talks about a time to sow and a time to reap. Another portion promises that those who sow in tears will rejoice when they reap. For Atiku Abubakar, who was the Vice-President of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 during which the country experienced what many consider as its golden years, the time of sowing is over, it is now time to reap. Atiku’s hour of glory, from what is unfolding before our very eyes, is surely here in a few weeks’ time!

Aribatise, a commentator on national affairs wrote from Abuja.

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